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Flour Girl: A blondie that meets the bar

Coconut Blondies. Given the snow-day mentality, I couldn't help but serve them on a kid-friendly plate. (Leigh Lambert -- The Washington Post)

News flash: We've gotten some snow around these parts. Even with ample physical warning, I had no emotional warning. I believed it, but not enough to stock up on such essentials as chocolate chips and coconut. That kind of planning would have meant admitting I really thought I'd be in quarantine for days on end -- as, in fact, I have.

I don't think I'm alone when I say that when I find myself homebound I don't feel inspired to whip up anything nutritious. Just the opposite. The snow-day mentality of childhood sets in, and I feel perfectly entitled to have popcorn and hot cocoa for lunch.

Instead of making meals, I want to bake. I made applesauce muffins from the back of the multi-grain hot cereal in the cupboard and some oatmeal-honey bread, originally intended to be oatmeal-molasses bread. Desperation leads to bold substitutions. No canola oil on hand? How about some melted coconut oil? This is a perfect time to play because no one expects greatness.

This season, the snow is colliding with Valentine's Day. So, while I still had supplies in the house I also baked some things on the sweeter, more indulgent side.

A few years ago we ran my recipe for Man-Catcher Brownies in time for Valentine's Day. It got an unexpected response: most of it positive, with a few readers complaining about the name being sexist. For the record, I meant it with all due humor and no offense. I suppose I could've called them something gender-neutral -- "Love-Catching Brownies" or "Cupid's Brownies" or the like -- but nothing had quite the same ring. And you have to admit: It's a memorable name, isn't it?

Recipe Included

Ever since then, I've been on the prowl for a blondie I believed in enough to pair with what has become my brownie standard. I have found most blondies to be too sweet, or too bland. It's challenging to get layers of flavor when you remove all that chocolate.

I stumbled onto one -- it's always when you're not looking, isn't it? -- that meets my requirements. This Coconut Blondie is in the new "Sweet Treats," by Linda Collister (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2010). I tweaked just a few things. In place of the 2 cups of coconut, I used 1 cup coconut and 1 cup pecans. I also added a touch of salt to foil the sweetness. She calls for an 8- x 10- inch pan, not a standard I have in my collection. I used a 9- x 13-inch pan and they baked up just fine. This is a down-home, forgiving recipe that would likely accommodate different pan sizes with some baking time adjustments. The less pan-area covered, the longer the baking time -- but by minutes, of course, not hours.

The toasting of the nuts and coconut gives these a deeper dimension, while the chocolate chips add texture and flavor.

So, this Valentine's Day, I found a blind date for my Man-Catcher Brownies. I would call her a sweet little blonde, but then people might accuse me of sexism again.

-- Leigh Lambert

Coconut Blondies

Makes 24 blondies

MAKE AHEAD: These freeze well wrapped tightly in foil, but only last for two to three days if kept in a tin at room temperature. Adapted from "Sweet Treats: Just Like My Mother Used to Bake," by Linda Collister (Ryland Peters & Small, 2010).

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup pecan pieces (about 4 ounces)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a 9- by 13-inch pan.

Put the shredded coconut and pecans in a baking dish and toast in the oven for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned. Watch carefully, as the nuts can go from toasted to burnt quickly. Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate to cool. (If you are in a hurry, place them in the freezer to cool down.) Leave the oven on.
Melt the butter in a small frying pan over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the brown sugar with a wooden spoon. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Gradually beat in the eggs, then the vanilla extract. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the sugar mixture and stir until only a few streaks of flour remain. Finally, work in the toasted coconut and pecan and the white and semi-sweet chocolate chips. When everything is thoroughly combined, transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and spread evenly.
Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown and a skewer inserted halfway between the sides and the center of the pan comes out just clean. The top will appear lightly golden. Do not over bake, as the virtue of these is their chewiness.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting. Store in an airtight container.

Per blondie: 223 calories, 2 g protein, 27 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 20 g sugar

Recipe tested by Leigh Lambert; e-mail questions to

By Leigh Lambert  |  February 11, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Flour Girl  | Tags: baking, dessert, flour girl  
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