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Sunday
Jun082008

Blonde on Blondies: Ballad for the Brownie's Albino Cousin

Bad News Brownies
When we recently polled Cakespy readers on which iconic bar they preferred, the blondie or the brownie, we found the results staggering: out of our respondents, 174 vs 49 preferred the brownie.

Now, we understand why brownies ought to be loved. They're soft. They're gooey. They take to a variety of fillings. But are they really so superior to the blondie? Surely, we figure, once people get to know the honey-hued confection they'll show a little more love--so, we took some time to get to know the blondie better, and share it here, so that our readers can see that while it may not be the same as a brownie, it sure ought to be loved:

Brownies and BlondiesBut first things first. What is a blondie? Generally, a blondie is accepted as a type of brownie--but not so much a brownie flavor, more like an identical cousin. An identical, albino cousin. Generally, it uses vanilla or butterscotch base instead of chocolate, and thus has a lighter hue which gives it its name. In our opinion, the finest blondies will have a texture (though not taste) halfway between a cakey and a fudgy brownie: that is to say, delightfully chewy, rich, and dense.

But whatever you may call a blondie, don't call it a brownie wannabe. For as we discovered on foodtimeline.org:

According to old cookbooks, blonde brownies (also known as "Blondies") predated chocolate brownies, though under different names. The primary ingredients of blondies (brown sugar/molasses and butter) compose butterscotch, a candy that was popular in America in the mid-19th century. Some 19th century American cookbooks contain recipes that combined traditional butterscotch ingredients with flour and a leavening agent (baking powder or soda). Presumably, these recipes would have produced something similar to the blonde brownies we enjoy today.
Bullies!Furthermore, aforementioned recipes are thought to be descendants of gingerbread cakes which dated back to Renaissance times, which eventually evolved to cakes which were baked in shallow pans and included nuts and brown sugar.
Blame the blondie's status as second-class citizen on the genius branding and extreme popularity of brownies when they started to pick up steam as a favored American baked good starting in the early 1900's (learn more about the brownie's history here); for as we also learned from The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America,
By the 1950s, butterscotch or vanilla brownies were described as "blonde brownies," underscoring the primacy of chocolate.
Aren't you starting to feel a little bit for the dear blondie now?
Of course, as much as history talks, here are some of our own observations on the finer points of blondies:

 

Blondies, the taste of chocolate chips in: Because of the lack of chocolate in the base, it is our opinion that the addition of chocolate chips is better appreciated in the blondie--while we certainly wouldn't say they detract from a brownie's taste (oh, not at all), the contrasting flavor that they add to the blondie's mellow butterscotch taste is beyond compare, each little chocolatey morsel a pleasant surprise and miniature treasure for the tastebuds.

Oh no!Blondies, lack of frosting atop: With brownies, it seems as though there are two primary types--dense, fudgy, moist brownies, which usually remain unfrosted--and more cakey, slightly fluffier versions, which sometimes have frosting. As much as we love frosting, we have to admit that some frosted brownies make us just a little bit suspicious--like they've got something to hide perhaps? However, we have never before seen a frosted blondie. Naturally, the only conclusion to be drawn is that our dear blondies have nothing to hide. (Cakespy Note: Naturally, when we make some bold statement soon about how everything benefits from the addition of frosting, we expect to be called hypocrites).


Blondies, the color of: Now, don't get us wrong, we love brownies. But regardless of deliciousness, they're not always the cutest-looking treats: dark, lumpy and not very exciting in palette. Not that this stops any of us from enjoying brownies, but we're just saying, the warm golden hue of the humble blondie is definitely more welcoming, and far cuter.
Want to make some awesome blondies? Well, here are some recipes that we love.
If you, like Thursday Night Smackdown, believe that blondies, "should be a brownie counterpart, which means a brownie equal - rich, moist, chewy, flavorful bars, not cookie-like or overly fluffy...the fudgy texture of a brownie sans actual fudge"--then you should check out their great recipe here.
Or perhaps you'd like to explore adding coconut to your blondies? Check out the delicious variation at ReTorte.

MudhenIf it sounds good to you to have blondies that are "denser than chocolate chip cookies, more complex than brownies and in the classic Minimalist style" that you can "customize anywhere from a cranberry almond coconut bar to...gunky atery-cloggers"...then it sounds like you'd better check out this one by Smitten Kitchen.
(Photo Left) If you feel adventurous and want to try a blondie derivation, why not acquaint yourself with the mudhen bar, a sweet which is Southern in origin, a meringue-topped blondie-esque confection that we've recently fallen in love with? 

 

As for our final word? Well, we realize that we may not have turned you into blondie devotees. Certainly brownies are packing in more ways than one: they're classic, they're iconic, they're nostalgic--and, most importantly, they're delicious.
However, we do hope that having learned more about the dear blondie and its plight, you'll give it another chance--because if nothing else, just like it's not easy being green, it can't be easy to be the brownie's albino cousin.


 

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Reader Comments (48)

i voted for the brownie but after reading this piece and thinking about a gooey butterscotch blondie... i am not so sure what I prefer... maybe instead of being cousins they could be conjoined twins? Maybe like when you order a pizza it can be half full meat half vegetarian... well maybe half a brownie half a blondie...?

June 8 | Unregistered CommenterAran

I just don't understand the image problem the Blondie suffers from. As a society, don't we always say that "Blondes have more fun?" Maybe the Blondie needs a Farrah Fawcett-style pin-up poster? Your photos are hysterical - maybe YOU should create the pin-up poster!

Ooooh, now i have to make blondies soon -- something I love but never think to mkae. Now I will have to!!!!

June 8 | Unregistered CommenterBethany

I'm a total Blondie fan... and I'll go so far as to say I like them better than (gasp!) chocolate. So thank you, dear Jessie, for the (ahem) blond highlights. :-)

June 8 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Oh, this is such a toss up for me...Sorry I didn't participate in your poll; I've been away.

While I LOVE a brownie, I also adore a good blondie.

In fact, I just posted a killer recipe for Coconut Blondies over at ReTorte - they were to die for! There is also a link in that post to a recipe I frequently have made in more commercial situations - also to die for!

I am a chocoholic, don't get me wrong, but I'd eat a pan of blondies just as soon as I'd eat a pan of brownies.

okay, now i'm going to get completely geeky...

it's funny how you talked about the history of the blondie and how the recipe goes back to the renaissance and how brownies with frosting have something to hide. scientists think that there is a evolution and genetic reason why men prefer blondes over brunettes. it is because back in the day (lets say middle ages) blondes, because of their coloring, couldn't hide if they were sick and brunettes could. maybe that could be said of the blondie vs. brownie debate. hmmm...

June 8 | Unregistered CommenterKrysta

Great post! I'll have to try one of those blondies recipes soon!
Thanks for sharing :)

June 8 | Unregistered CommenterIsa

There's nothing like a gooey butterscotch blondie. However, I will say that I've had my fair share of blondie batches that just didn't come out right. Brownies on the other hand, are almost always delicious.

I'm quite intrigued by the mudhen. Love the name too!

June 8 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

I just baked a batch of blondies last night!!! :0D I love 'em more than brownies, actually, since I'm not big on chocolate (I'm the carob queen, haha).

June 8 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

Aw, but they look so angry... I wish everyone could just get along!

Thanks for the link, Cakespy!

Hmmm...I suddenly feel the need to bake...

Aran: Woo! I feel a conversion coming on. :-) Or at least a new hybrid!! ;-)

TW Barritt: You're right! Maybe we just need to get a new campaign going--Gentlement prefer blondies; blondies have more fun; dumb blondie jokes...

Bethany: YES! Because they so rarely have them at bakeries :-(

Ann: YES!!! I am with you, blondies all the way!

Wandering Coyote: No problem on the link, yours look so yum!

Krysta: I like the way you are thinking! Let's change that chemistry and let more blondies in our lives!

Isa: Yes! Have fun!

Sharon: Good point, perhaps brownies tend to be more forgiving? Because it's true, a not-good blondie is not very good, whereas brownies do seem to be chocolatey enough to make up for some shortcomings (In my OWN baking experience anyway)

Veggiegirl: YUM! I'll bet yours were yummy.

Bittersweetblog: So true, so do I! Why do brownies always gotta bully around blondies?

June 8 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

I tend to believe that the base for those to die for Cranberry Bliss bars that they sell at Starbucks every holiday season... is a blondie!

So my version of the blondie, gets dressed up with dried cranberries and white chocolate chips... frosted with cream cheese icing and drizzled with melted white chocolate and sprinkled with chopped up dried cranberries.

YUMMY!

(And I can have them all year round!)

June 8 | Unregistered Commentermione

I love 'em both (what cute little faces they have!), though I'd always pick chocolate if I had to choose just one! And the recipes look sensational.

June 8 | Unregistered CommenterRicki

I have never eaten a blondie and - ignorantly - assumed it was a brownie made with white chocolate. But now I hear it's butterscotch and vanilla I am getting quite excited....lead me to my pans!

I have never liked brownies, (even as a child I thought they were yucky), but I'm a total blondie fan! And I'm a purist too, no chocolate allowed in my blondies!

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterDana

Great post! Ekk, I just love them both cakespy...

Lets rattle those pots and pans and get baking brownies and blondes ;)

Rosie x

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

I love a blondie. End of story.

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterGeggie

Deliciousness and hilarity all in one. Love it! :)

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

i won't lie--i'm a brunette and proud of it. i prefer dark-haired men. i'm partial to black and brown dogs. those things being said, i'll take a blondie over a brownie any day.

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

I'm a Blondie Girl! After reading this post, I think I'm going to have to whip up a batch today.

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterJaimee

I'm a Blondie Girl! After reading this post, I think I'm going to have to whip up a batch today.

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterJaimee

Since I have dark hair, I wish the ratio's were equivelent as brownies-vs-blondies! :)

Wee what ever you say about blondies they still look super delicious. And i am not a blondie i have black hair :-))))

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterHappy cook

Great Smitten Kitchen link, yum. Sometimes butterscotch is just too much. Not in ice cream, at least for me, but I'd only prefer the bar if it had the coconut in it.

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterJeanna
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