I’ve been meaning to tell you about these blondies for a long time now. They’re from my friend Sarah Kieffer’s book, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. She has a similarly titled blog called The Vanilla Bean Blog. These blondies are outrageously tasty.
I feel like I’ve committed a crime in keeping them to myself. I could offer you a bunch of excuses. Like, her book got lost on its way to me last fall; I got a cold and couldn’t get my act together enough to share them in time for Valentine’s Day; I tried to save them for when you might be looking for an indulgent treat to share (Easter!); I came home from a long trip with jet lag and a ruptured eardrum. Cute, right?
I’m just plain guilty. Sarah’s book is full of beautiful baked treats, the kind that you make when the calories are easily justified by the special occasion and you’re looking for that I’m-gonna-die-this-is-so-good response. Sarah is a skilled baker and you just know her recipes are going to be stellar. This one certainly is.
Since you all have come to expect healthier treats on my blog, I couldn’t help but make a couple of tweaks to her recipe by substituting whole wheat flour for the all-purpose, and coconut sugar for the brown sugar. I included her original ingredients in the recipe below as well, in case you’d rather make it as she designed. Either way, these chocolate chip pecan blondies made with a splash of coffee are worth every bite.
Coconut sugar is a natural sweetener that comes from evaporated coconut nectar. It doesn’t taste like coconut; it’s similar to brown sugar in flavor. Coconut sugar has gained significant popularity in the past year or two because it offers nutrients and fiber that are completely devoid in regular sugar. You can buy it at Trader Joe’s and most grocery stores these days (look in the health food section if you don’t find it in the regular baking aisle), and on Amazon.
Every resource I’ve found online suggests substituting coconut sugar for brown sugar in a one-to-one volume ratio. For example, use 1 cup coconut sugar to replace 1 cup brown sugar. I’ve found that this doesn’t work so well. The moisture and sweetness levels in coconut sugar are lower than in brown sugar, when they’re measured by volume. The resulting baked goods turn out wonky, in one way or another.
After some testing, I’ve realized that if you replace an equal weight of brown sugar with coconut sugar, your baked goods are far more likely to turn out well. Brown sugar is heavier than coconut sugar (1 cup packed brown sugar weighs 184 grams or 6.4 ounces and 1 cup packed coconut sugar weighs 144 grams or 5 ounces).
So, for good results, you’ll need to use about 25 percent more coconut sugar by volume, for equal amounts by weight. I don’t believe this means you’re consuming more sugar since the weights are the same, but feel free to contradict in the comments.
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour (Sarah used all-purpose)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 cups packed coconut sugar, or 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons strong coffee, room temperature
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract (yes, tablespoons)
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans
- 3/4 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
- With the oven rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, coconut sugar and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is hot but not simmering. Remove from the heat and stir in the coffee until well combined (if the mixture refuses to come together, let it cool for a minute or two and try again). Let the mixture cool to room temperature, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- In the meantime, pour the pecans onto a small rimmed baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until they're nice and fragrant, stirring halfway. Set aside to cool.
- Once the butter and sugar mixture has cooled to room temperature, add the egg and vanilla and whisk until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Add the pecans and chocolate chips and stir gently to combine.
- Using a spatula, spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan (this is a little tricky with the parchment paper, but you can do it, I promise). Bake for 18 to 24 minutes, until the blondies are set on the edges and the top is golden brown and just beginning to form cracks. A wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the blondies should come out with just a couple of crumbs.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely. Grab opposite corners of the parchment paper and gently lift the blondies from the pan onto a flat surface. Cut them into squares (big or small, up to you) and serve.
Change it up: You can replace the pecans with other nuts or additional chocolate chips, or vice versa.
Make it vegan: I'm pretty sure that Abby successfully made these vegan with coconut oil and flax eggs. Please let me know if you try.
If you love this recipe: Don't miss my very best brownies (they really are the best). I also used coconut sugar in my oatmeal cookies recipe and the peanut butter cookies in my cookbook.