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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)

This gets my vote for best post title ever.

My sister is allergic to chocolate, so I can't make brownies for her...just blondies.

More brownies for me!

=)

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterOwl Chick

This is a very important question!
I'm glad you've delved into it!
I'm cracking up at the "faces" on the little treats! Seriously, I wouldn't want to mess with either!

I'd take brownies over blondies any day, but thanks for all the great info!

BTW, I nominated you for a http://www.whiskblog.com/2008/06/blogging-with-purpose-award.html" REL="nofollow">“Blogging with a Purpose" award. :)

Shari@http://www.whiskblog.com/" REL="nofollow">Whisk: a food blog

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterShari

I'm torn between the two...& to make matters worse, those eyes are hypnotising me!! Well done...what a smart piece of writing! You've given the much understated blondie a new lease of life!!

Uh oh! I voted for brownies, but now I feel sorry for the blondies. I'm such a bleeding heart! ;)

I purrrsonally like the blondie better....like brownies but LOVE the blondie. I just wish mine came w/beattie little paper eyes and perhaps some nice round botox plumped up paper lips, that way we could have a nice smooooch before I ate it.

How coincidental... I posted about Butterfinger Brownies today... but they're technically not 'brownies.' Really, they're more like blondies. I just went with the title of the recipe :)

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterRecipeGirl

I love love a good blondie...way back in the day I worked at Applebee's and they have that sizzling walnut blondie skillet...um..YUM! Where I agree that a blondie w/frosting isn't really my thing...I do love a good sauce drizzled over them! And actually..I missed the vote..but I too prefer them to brownies..
blondes have more fun right?

Would you mind if I linked to you on my site?

June 10 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy Q-zy

Your baked diorama illustrates perfectly why I can never love a Blondie...look at that guy, he is such a sugar-sweet sissy! No room for lightweights and sugary dudes in my belly! I'm cheering for the dark horse all the way--punch that pale cookie's lights out, Chocolate Brownie!

June 10 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Blondie vs. Brownie? I'll take... both.

Love your posts as always! I've only had blondies once or twice but definitely love them. I always thought blondies were white chocolate brownies... mmm.

I like both blondies and brownies. Great faces on the blondies and brownies!

June 10 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Oops, now I have to go bake. Despite the heat.

June 10 | Unregistered Commenterchou

Oh no! I don't like the look those brownies are giving the blondie! Why is it called blondie anyway...shouldn't it be whitey...or the brownie be a brunettey?

*scratches chin*

I am intrigued. I am excited. I am afeared...

I loved my mother's blondies when I was growing up, a dense, chewey brown sugary-butterscotchy kind of thing... but I have been disappointed in my attempt to recreate these. Always too floury or cakey or boring.

I need to decide which recipe to try... I think Thursday Night Smackdown.

June 11 | Unregistered CommenterRowena

I find brownies to be the ruler over blondies. Blondies are very delectable, but brownies are chocolate, what is better than that. Thanks you cakespy for the pins,they are adorable, i got them just in time for my birthday. Thank you again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

June 11 | Unregistered CommenterCaitycake

If I had to choose one, it would probably be the brownie. Although I made a blondie recipe once that was one of my favorite treats and still is!

June 12 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

Oh Cakespy, how I love you. You speak for me in your defence of the blondie (and giving them eyes? true genius). I think people are just more suspicious of blondies since they're so often done badly - not gooey or fudgey &c. &c. But to pick a favourite, I'd need both on hand.

Clear something up for me though? I thought blondies were white chocolate brownies for aeons (perhaps not that long). A lot of the blondie recipes I come across do feature white chocolate (either as a base or as chips). Whass going on there?

June 12 | Unregistered CommenterIndigo

I've actually never had a blondie... I'm a vanilla fan, though, so I bet I'd enjoy them.

June 12 | Unregistered CommenterEdgyVeggie

bad brownies! leave that blondie alone!

Blondes have more fun!!!

June 17 | Unregistered CommenterSweet Sins

I prefer Blondies way over brownies, especially when filled with macadamia nuts, white chocolate & coconut. YUM!!! I'm not a big chocolate fan and that is probably why I like the ooey-gooey butterscotch over the rich, chocolaty brownie.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterJess
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