Real March Madness and Crispy Cream Blueberry Blondies
Blooming tulips. Blossoming fruit trees. Sturdy tufts of chives peppered across my herb garden. Vibrant rhubarb stems peeking out from the gritty soil. Our honeybees returning to the hive loaded down with pollen. It’s a perfect picture of spring. Except that until today, it wasn’t spring; it was winter. And this is Chicago. Forget brackets and hoops, this is March Madness for real.
My trusty Sorel snow boots are standing at attention by the back door, two fur-clad soldiers ready for battle should Old Man Winter come a knockin’. My favorite flip flops, the ones I rescued from storage two weeks ago, are carelessly piled next to my boots. It’s a study in contrasts to be sure. The strangeness of it all is magnified when I glimpse a few honeybees buzzing by the door mere inches from my dusty boots separated only by a sheet of glass.
“Don’t you think it’s time to put these away?” Greg asked, motioning toward my boots with his own sandal-clad, pasty foot.
So much for hoping he wouldn’t notice. Greg’s threshold for stacks and stuff not in its proper place is higher than mine. In fact, I wasn’t sure he even had a threshold, because my own fervent desire for stuff to be put in its place–and it all has a place–always prevails. His question lingered as my big boots became the elephant in the room.
“If I put them away, I’ll be jinxed, and it will snow,” I said with absolute conviction though I couldn’t look him in the eye when I said it. It was crazy talk. I knew it even as I spoke. What’s crazier yet is that I still believe it. I’m not usually the superstitious type, but I’m certain that if I put my boots away, Old Man Winter will at long last unleash his fury and the verdant beauty outside my door will be no more.
Record setting high temperatures may be to blame for my slide into the realm of superstition, but they also get partial credit for our new favorite blondies. (Yes, even better than a blondie loaded with chocolate chunks.) That credit is duly shared with my go-to butter and sugar muse Christina Tosi, the genius pastry chef at Momofuku’s Milk Bar. I’ve been toying around with Christina’s recipes ever since her Compost Cookie recipe blasted into cyberspace in 2010. These blondies started out as my version of her Blueberry and Cream Cookies, but when I fired up the oven, the kitchen suddenly filled with warm sunlight. I stared at my boots and then at my flip flops. Another bee buzzed by as if daring me to follow her. It was time to shift my cookie making into fast-gear and get outside lest Old Man Winter come for me and my boots.
Crispy Cream Blueberry Blondies With Macadamia Nuts
These treats are oven ready in a half hour. The blondie batter was adapted from Mark Bittman’s Butterscotch Brownie recipe in How to Cook Everything. The Crispy Cream Crunch was inspired by Christina Tosi’s Milk Crumbs.
CRISPY CREAM CRUNCH:
3/4 cup white chocolate, melted
3/4 cup crispy rice cereal
1/3 cup nonfat milk powder
1 cup unsalted butter, melted (plus more for greasing the pan)
2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup dried blueberries
2/3 cup salted and roasted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- For the Crispy Cream Crunch, line a large baking sheet with waxed paper. Combine ingredients in a medium bowl; stir with a fork until the rice is evenly coated. Spread the clusters onto the prepared sheet and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with heavy duty tin foil, pushing it firmly into the corners and up the sides. Let the excess foil hang over the edges of the pan. Grease the pan with butter.
- In a large bowl, beat melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour to the wet ingredients. Stir in dried blueberries, nuts, and Crispy Cream Crunch.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly with a spatula.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Using the foil overhang, lift the blondies from pan and return them to the wire rack. Let cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen, 2-inch squares.
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