Pine Nut Blondies from 'Around the Southern Table'

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[Photograph: Jennifer Davick]

It'd be a shame to cook Southern food all week and skip dessert. Given many Southerners' propensity to add sugar to everything except cornbread, sweets play a huge role in most down-home cookbooks. Rebecca Lang's Around the Southern Table is no exception. There are baked, sugary treats in both the breakfast and the desserts chapters, bookending the savory entrees. And while pies and cakes are good examples of sweet Southern generosity, a hand-held blondie seemed like the perfect way to end a week of casual classics. Lang's blondies are no chocolate-chip laced confections, however. She turns the blondie elegant by adding a thin graham cracker crust and copious pine nuts for savory crunch.

Why I picked this recipe: Blondies are often too sweet for my taste, but the idea of adding subtly savory pine nuts to the dessert was too intriguing to pass up.

What worked: The brown sugar, butter, and pine nut combo is killer, and the graham cracker crust adds an importantly distinct textural contrast to the cakey blondies.

What didn't: Be sure the the butter-brown sugar mixture is not too hot when adding the eggs; you don't bits of scrambled egg in your blondies! I thought the (ultra-specific) 38-minute baking time was a little bit too long here. Start checking at 30 minutes.

Suggested tweaks: If you're not into pine nuts (or their price), you could sub in an equivalent amount of chopped walnuts or pecans. Lang calls for light brown sugar here, but dark would add particularly nice molasses notes to the blondies.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Around the Southern Table to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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