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One third of the readers are from Australia while the other one third are from the US; it is almost evenly split. The other third comes from the Netherlands, UK, Germany, Russia, France, China and Spain. I find this all very interesting and THANK YOU for reading. This blog is a hobby, a journal for me. I enjoy examining Australian culture and life as an ex-pat and sharing easy, everyday recipes that your average home cook, like myself, can make.
January 2014 - can it really be 2014?! I remember as a kid bopping around to Princes' hit, "1999" and thinking that 1999 was light years away. Damn Gina, I am getting old! Is January like any other month for you? Are you like one of the many people who make resolutions? Do you keep any of those resolutions or are they cut-n-pasted again to next year? About 45% of Americans usually make New Year's resolutions and 50% of Australians do. According to Statistic Brain website (great name, heh?), the top 5 resolutions are:
|Rank||Top 10 New Years resolutions for 2014|
|Spend Less, Save More|
|Enjoy Life to the Fullest|
|Staying Fit and Healthy|
I had to wonder how and where they get these stats from but then again, I would expect they are similar resolutions every year. There is a high failure rate with New Years resolutions as old habits do die hard. According to Psychology Today, resolutions are an effort to reinvent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves. However, people aren't ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate. Another reason is that people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions. Men tend to be more successful with their resolutions if they make them specific, eg 'I'll lose 10 pounds by March 1'. Women tend to be more successful with their resolutions if they verbalise them to their social circle, which makes them more accountable.
|Peter Dazelel /Getty Images|
While my resolutions vary from year to year there is always one which is cut-and-pasted from year to year, like above - to be healthier. These are the basics that are so basic that I often overlook them - getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, exercising often and eating better. I am trying to focus on being healthier as I've fallen behind on all these basics over the holiday period. I've concocted a diet over the years that seems to work for me - no alcohol on weekdays, drink more water, add a piece of fruit or veg to every meal, have some sort of protein with every meal, do some form of exercise at least 5 days per week, eat more gluten free foods. IF I can follow my plan, I look better, feel better, stay trimmer and have more energy. Sounds like a no brainer, heh? However...
Trying to be healthier, can be quite (very) boring. I have a big sweet tooth, love to bake and my afternoon cup of coffee is always accompanied by something sweet. Even when I'm watching what I eat, I still have my sweets. Perhaps some 70% dark chocolate or something I've baked. This blog's recipe is Beautiful Brown Butter Blondies. In Australia, this recipe might be called a Chocolate Chip Slice and in the US, some places may call them Chocolate Chip Bars. I don't hear the word 'bar' being used a lot at cafes or at bakeries down under. 'Slice' seems to be the proper terminology. Another subtle food terminology difference between the US and Australia is the way food is described. I found it strange when we moved here and I was told that the food was beautiful - "The steak is beautiful....the quiche is so beautiful and tasty...have you tried this cake? It's beautiful." According to dictionary.com, 'beautiful' when used as an adjective has the definition of: having beauty, possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about,etc.; delighting the senses or mind: a beautiful dress; a beautiful speech. The way I use beautiful is to describe a person, place or thing but not food. Then again, according to the definition, it can be something that delights the senses. Taste is after all a sense. I am use to hearing it now and it is quite a compliment if you've cooked something and it is described as beautiful, however, I still find it strange. Here it goes....
I LOVE these Beautiful Brown Butter Blondies! I almost call them 'Best Blondies' but I hate when cooks use that term as the 'best' sounds arrogant and taste varies from person to person. They are the best Blondies in my household as they get eaten up in less than 24 hours. This is my go to recipe and I have been making it since Cook's Illustrated published it in July 2005. The recipe is easy to make, it yields a a lot of Blondies, and best of all, tastes beautifully delicious. These Blondies are very similar in taste to a chocolate chip cookie but much quicker to make as you cook them all at once and don't have to take cookie sheets in and out of the oven. They are also versatile as you can use white chocolate, dark chocolate, and nuts alone or in any combination.
I have added a twist to the original recipe by browning the butter. Please do not be scared off by brown butter. It is easy to make and I'll show you how below. The browned butter adds an extra 15 minutes to making the Blondies but it is well worth it because it imparts a rich, caramel like flavour. Plus, the incredible smell that it fills your kitchen with is worth it on its own. Please note, these Blondies still taste good without browning the butter if you can't be bothered.
Beautiful Brown Butter Blondies
adapted from Cook's Illustrated recipe
175 grams or 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned and cooled
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips - dark, milk, white or any combination
1 cup nuts (walnuts or pecans), chopped
1) Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350F/175C degrees, conventional oven.
2) Brown Butter -*Please note, this is optional. Plain, melted butter can also be used.* Cut butter into chunks and add to saucepan over low to medium heat. Do not leave stove.
Start whisking butter as it melts.
After the butter bubbles, it'll become foamy. Patience, you're almost there.
Everything is OK. In fact, your kitchen will be starting to smell lovely. Keep whisking and swirling. Once the foam dissipates, you will see brown bits in the butter. Looking good.
Take the pan off the heat, stop stirring and let the butter cool. It may be become a bit browner. This is fine. As long it is off the heat and cooling, it'll not burn and smell wonderful. I put this smell up there with other wonderful kitchen smells - fresh coffee, bacon, popcorn, etc. Another simple culinary pleasure.
WHETHER YOU USE PLAIN BUTTER OR BROWN BUTTER, LET IT COOL FOR 30+ MINUTES. If the butter is too warm, it'll melt the other ingredients (Brown sugar, chocolate chips) and change the texture of the bars which ruins the recipe.
2) Take out 2 bowls. In 1 bowl, mix together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) and in the other bowl, mix together the wet ingredients (cooled butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract)
3) Chop nuts if using and measure out chocolate chips
4) Mix wet ingredients together and add to dry ingredients, stirring by hand with a spoon until just mixed through. Add nuts and chocolate chips and just stir through. Do not over mix.
5) Turn batter onto a well greased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan/33 x 23 x 5 cm, spooning over top with rubber spatula.
6) Bake until top is shiny, cracked, and golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes; do not over bake. Cool on wire rack to room temperature.