I really had a hard time coming up with a name for these bars because there are so many ingredients inside which should be stated in the title (I need to come up with a better naming system.) The more I read it, the more I realize that it sounds very long and a bit annoying. Like placing a Mr. or Sir. before the actual name of a cat or dog. But it's the holidays and my usual creativity is wearing thin after trying to come up with ideas for various gifts. So the obnoxiously long title will remain.
These are the perfect blondies for this time of year. Of course I love my dark chocolate but sometimes I crave something that's simply nutty, salty, and sweet. For that reason I browned butter for both the bars and the eggnog frosting. Browned butter takes the rich flavour of plain butter up several degrees. It takes on a deeper, almost nutty taste. And these blondies are loaded with nuts! I used a can of mixed nuts which included peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts. Feel free to use any combination you prefer or simply go with one kind.
The bars have a chewy texture with the ground nuts and plump figs giving them just enough crunchy softness to keep the texture interesting. I used sea salted nuts and added a bit of sea salt to the batter itself. I think you really need a degree of saltiness for this recipe, it really draws out all the various flavours and keeps the taste from becoming flat. These are also quite rich. A lot of butter is involved for a small 8x8 inch pan. I only used brown sugar so with the help of the browned butter, they have a deep, caramel-like flavour.
These offer a unique twist on the classic blondie and I think people will be delightfully surprised if you use this recipe for any cookie/bar exchanges!
* printer friendly Recipe *
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. of baking Powder
1/2 tsp. of sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) of *butter*, cut into pieces
1 cup of packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
2 eggs (separated and beaten)
1/2 cup of your favourite salted mixed nuts (toasted and run through food processor or mini-food prep.)
1/2 cup of figs (cut into small pieces)
*I always use unsalted butter but it is especially important to for this recipe since there is already salt in the nuts*
Eggnog Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1/4 cup of butter, cut into pieces
4-5 Tbsp. of eggnog
2 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. of ground nuts for garnish (optional)
If you want to toast the nuts: preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the nuts (before processing) onto a cookie sheet a bake for about 10 minutes or until they become slightly fragrant. Shake the pan around once half-way through the baking time. Remove and allow to cool before running them through the food processor.
Leave the oven temp. at 350F. Line an 8x8 inch square pan with foil and butter both the bottom and sides. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large, heavy saucepan, place the pieces of butter and melt over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted turn the heat up to medium. Cook the butter while stirring constantly. Eventually the bubbles will begin to turn brown, when it reaches this stage continue to cook for about 3 more minutes or until the butter itself turns light brown. The whole process may take 10 minutes. Set the butter aside to cool for at least 3 minutes. Using a large whisk, stir in the brown sugar until well mixed. Add the vanilla. Stir in the eggs, one at a time and mix well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients and, using a large spatula, fold it into the batter until all the flour streaks have disappeared. Fold in the nuts and figs.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the colour is a golden brown and the bars begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and place on a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.
Frosting: Place the pieces of butter into a small saucepan and melt over low heat. Continue to cook over medium-low heat until the butter just begins to brown (it will be a faster process than the blondie batter since you are not using as much butter). Stir constantly and stop soon after the bubbles are a light brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
In a large bowl, pour in the cool, melted butter. On low speed, very slowly add the confectioners sugar, alternating with the eggnog until the frosting is smooth, even and spreadable. If you find that you need to add more eggnog, add it in increments of 1/2 teaspoons until you have the right consistency.
Using the edges of the foil, carefully remove the cooled bars out of the pan and frost evenly. Garnish with chopped nuts if desired.