The best thing about these blondies…
The very best thing about these blondies is that they brought me to tears upon the first bite. Friends played in the background in my kitchen as dirty dishes from two other recipes made earlier in the day sat in the sink. I cut off a corner, bit into it, and - I kid you not - my heart fluttered. Like your first real-good-not-awkward-kiss kind of flutter. A tear streamed down my face - still not kidding - followed by another and another (the first was in awe of the blondies, and the second and third were in shock that I was actually crying over a cookie bar).
Again, I’m reminded of one of the many reasons I love baking. All the trials that fail and recipes that sometimes just don’t work are quickly made up for by the one trial that succeeds in round 1, the one recipe that tastes so. damn. good. Like, tear-jerking good.
With every cookie dough I stir together, every pancake mix I combine, every banana bread I bake, I become more and more familiar and comfortable with both the individual ingredients and the overall recipe in its various stages of production. I’m getting to know how things work - what will and what won’t - and I think that’s a crucial skill in baking, one that tends to intimidate newbies and even kitchen-regulars who don’t bake often. Coconut sugar performs much differently than cane sugar and brown sugar. Cashew butter will humbly submit to other flavors. And coconut flour… well…
I used to despise coconut flour. In fact, I think it probably despised me, too, because I had so many judgments and unfair opinions about it before I actually gave it a solid chance in my kitchen. What whole-wheat flour did in banana bread, I expected coconut flour to be able to do, and when it didn’t I deemed the ingredient - for lack of better term - “dumb”. A friend of mine had a half-used bag of the flour in her pantry that she didn’t plan on finishing, so she gave it to me and I kept my judgments and opinions to myself, silently determined to make amends with one of the most popular ingredients within the nutrition-forward realm of baking and cooking.
A short break from work yesterday gave me a minute to scroll through Pinterest to casually brainstorm the next recipe. My eyes locked on some beautiful cookie bars from another blogger (linked below) and I knew then and there what I wanted to make. Some call that “love at first sight”, I think? I tested her recipe and made my own tweaks, as the trial-run nerves started setting in. If you’ve ever purchased cashew butter, you know it ain’t cheap, so the thought of wasting a whole cup… ugh, I get chills just thinking about it.
One final consistency and taste check (where the crucial skill aforementioned comes into play) gave me the go-ahead to transfer the dough to the baking pan, trusting all the ingredients will get along well in the oven. 20-ish minutes go by and now the real patience test begins - cookie bars MUST (repeat: MUST) cool completely before cutting into them. Let them sit out on the counter for about an hour, and then place them in the fridge to speed up the remainder of the process because if you’ve made it this far, you’ve been patient enough.
Carefully, gently, lovingly cut the bars out of the baking pan and slice them into squares. Pick out the best-looking one - the most chocolatey? an edge piece? the corner? that ooey-gooey middle? - and take a bite. Oh, and grab some tissues, too, because you might need them if you’re anything like me when it comes to perfectly baked cookies.
Makes 8 squares
1 cup natural smooth cashew butter
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing
1 pasture-raised egg
1 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
5 ounces dairy-free dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped*
Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease an 8x4 or 9x5* pan with 1-2 tsp. of coconut oil. Set aside.
Whisk together the cashew butter, coconut oil, egg, coconut sugar, almond extract, and baking soda until combined. Add the coconut flour, sea salt, cinnamon, 3-4 oz. of chocolate chunks, and chopped dates. Stir until well incorporated and no clumps remain. The dough should be sticky, but not wet, and moldable, but not dry.
Transfer the dough to the baking pan and top with the remaining chocolate chunks. Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until the edges are a slightly dark golden brown and the center is still just soft to the touch.
Remove the pan from the oven and cool the bars completely before slicing into them. This takes about an hour total. Carefully run a sharp knife along the edges of the pan to help release the bars. Then cut 8 even squares (somewhere between squares and rectangles) and gently pull each out of the pan. Start with the corner pieces, as these are usually easier to pull out than the center pieces and edge pieces.
Serve immediately, and store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for five days, or in the fridge for up to two weeks.
*Bake in a 8x4 pan for thicker bars or 9x5 for thinner. If baked in a 9x5 pan, the baking time will likely decrease to 20-22 minutes (keep an eye on the bars, as this is an estimate). I used an 8x4 pan and loved the thickness of the bars - just enough crust on the edge and gooey-ness in the center.
Adapted from here.