I've been hard at work on the next issue of Festivities magazine, and have been baking up a storm, trying all sorts of recipes, finding just the right one for the parties. For the last few days, I've been trying different recipes for pralines. One batch tasted great, had the right texture, but I crystalized it and got an unattractive bloom over the top of the pralines. Not good enough for a magazine photo shoot. I tried another recipe, this time Emeril's.
Since I'd had problems with sugar crystalization in the last (very similar) recipe, I decided to add just a wee bit of corn syrup to stabalize this batch and inhibit crystal formation. Looks good, right?
Or not. These were very delicious caramels, but they were NOT pralines. Pralines should not be bendy and stretchy like that! No no no no. I used the same candy thermometer, took it to 240 degrees just like before. Now I don't know if the problem was because I messed with the recipe by adding a teaspoon of corn syrup, or if I didn't cook it hot enough, or if there's some other mysterious element going on. I did notice that the picture in the link to the recipe above looked suspiciously bendy like mine turned out. Who knows. Bottom line, these would not work for my party.
But they were still delicious. What to do? Inspiration struck: what if I could develop a pralines and cream blondie recipe using my sad, caramel-like excuses for pralines? Challenge accepted!
And triumph! These may not be the prettiest cookies around, but holy cow, are they delicious. My eight year old tasted one and exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, mom, these are so good! These are soooo delicious I think maybe the President needs to hear about them!"
I started with this recipe for snickerdoodle blondies, one of our family favorites. These are the cookies that made one little girl declare that I had magical powers over food. They're really that good. I knew it created a perfectly soft, slightly chewy blondie bar. I just needed to change up the flavor profile slightly.
Pralines and Cream Blondies Recipe
- 2 sticks (one cup) of butter
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 t salt
- 2 t baking powder
- 2 eggs
- 2 2/3 cups flour
- 1 T vanilla
- pralines sufficient to cover the surface of a 9x13 pan (a failed batch works perfectly!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each until the mixture is fluffy. Add the vanilla and incorporate. Add salt, baking powder, and flour. Mix just until the batter is well combined.
Take 3/4 of the batter, and smooth it into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. You can use a spatula or clean hands, but either way, it helps to keep your hands a little bit wet. That keeps the batter from sticking to you instead of the pan.
Set down a layer of your pralines (or your caramels masquerading as pralines).
Take the remaining batter and pinch off globs, distributing evenly over the surface of the pan. I adapted this technique from another one of my all time favorite cookie recipes, Old World Raspberry Bars. Do yourself a favor and check those out, too. I wanted bits of the pralines to peek out from the surface and give a hint of the surprise inside.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Success! (At least in theory at this point.)
We let them cool before cutting, though it was tough with that heavenly scent wafting through the kitchen. But it was worth the wait, because when we tasted the first bite--heaven! The blondies retained the beautiful texture from the original snickerdoodle recipe, but the center layer is somewhere between a praline and a pecan pie and something else entirely new and entirely AWESOME.
Now, if you didn't happen to ruin a batch of pralines already, I think you could get very similar results using caramels or caramel sauce and toasted pecans in the center layer. I suppose I'll just have to give that a try--you know, in the name of science.