Blondies, the lighter cousin of the chocolate brownie, won our vote for easiest-to-make holiday square. Then we came up with endless variations and finally whittled them down to our top four.
1 1/4 cups
, about 1 cup
PREHEAT oven to 350F (180C). Lightly butter or spray an 8-in. (2-L) square baking dish. In a small bowl, stir flour with salt. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter with sugar for 1 min. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture. (If you don’t have a mixer, use a wooden spoon. Beat butter with sugar for 2 min. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture.) Stir in pecans and chocolate chips just until evenly distributed. Turn into prepared baking dish and smooth the top as best you can.
BAKE in centre of preheated 350F (180C) oven until top is deep golden and blondies come away from sides of pan, 30 to 35 min. Remove dish to a rack to cool slightly.
WHILE still warm, cut into 16 squares or 32 bars. Store in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper at room temperature. Blondies will keep well for 3 days or freeze up to 2 months.
Baking tip: Creaming butter and sugar
Nutrition (per serving)
CHOCOLATE-TOFFEE BLONDIE SQUARES
Omit white-chocolate chips. Add 1/2 cup (125 mL) each dark-chocolate chips and Skor toffee bits along with nuts. Continue as in main recipe. Just before serving, drizzle top with a little caramel sundae sauce. Makes 16.
CRANBERRY-WHITE-CHOCOLATE BLONDIE SQUARES
Replace pecan pieces with chopped walnuts and add 1 cup (250 mL) coarsely chopped frozen or fresh cranberries along with white-chocolate chips. Continue as in main recipe. When cool, place 1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped white chocolate in a small bowl. Microwave on medium until almost melted, 2 min. Stir until melted. Using the tines of a fork, drizzle over blondie. Makes 16.
GLACÉ-CHERRY-AND-CHOCOLATE BLONDIE BARS
Omit white-chocolate chips and pecan pieces. Stir 1 cup (250 mL) chopped mixed or green glacé cherries and 1/2 cup (125 mL) semi-sweet chocolate chips into dough instead. Continue as in main recipe. Just before serving, place 1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped dark chocolate in a small bowl. Microwave on medium until almost melted, 2 min. Stir until melted. Lightly spread overtop. Makes 32.
PINEAPPLE-CASHEW BLONDIE BARS
Omit chocolate chips and pecan pieces. Stir 1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped candied pineapple and 1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely chopped toasted cashews into dough instead. Continue as in main recipe. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup (125 mL) shredded sweetened coconut for the last 10 min of baking. Makes 32.