A treat for maple lovers, Maple Walnut Bourbon Blondies double up on maple syrup, add a splash of bourbon, and amp up the flavor on a classic favorite!
Some syrup walked into a bar
I remember making blondies many years ago, and they were…uhm…good. My major takeaway was that they seemed to be a pale version of a brownie, like blondies were brownies without the cocoa powder. Blondies needed some added oomph to make up for that lack of chocolate (read: flavor).
Then I found Maple Walnut Bourbon Blondies, where maple syrup and a splash of bourbon really upped the flavor and turned something good into something great.
What kind of maple syrup should I get?
There are different designations of maple syrup, the differences being the intensity of color and flavor. Here is the current grading systems used by the USDA and Canada:
- Grade A Light Amber or Canada No. 1 Extra Light: Grade A golden color, delicate taste
- Grade A Medium Amber or Canada No. 1 Light: Grade A amber color, rich taste
- Grade A Dark Amber or Canada No. 1 Medium: Grade A dark color, robust taste (can be closer to the Medium Amber designation...it will depend on the brand)
- Grade B or Canada No. 2 Amber: Grade A dark color, robust taste
In addition, now there’s maple syrup that’s been aged in ex-bourbon barrels. Remember the Maple Bourbon Whiskey from Smugglers’ Notch Distillery? First, they aged a bourbon in oak barrels, then aged maple syrup in those barrels, and finally they aged the previous bourbon in the maple-infused ex-bourbon barrels (whoa, that’s a lot of aging!).
Aging maple syrup gives it a slight spiciness from the bourbon and a touch of vanilla from the oak barrels themselves. The effect is subtle and interesting.
Baking with maple syrup
Maple syrup is a great flavor on its own, but when baking it's best to use a robust grade of syrup in order for the flavor to shine over the other ingredients. I look for the Grade A Dark Amber myself, but rely on what you like.
I love the combination of maple syrup and nuts (pssst…Maple Walnut Scones, anyone?). I also love maple syrup and bourbon and nuts (Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie is a Fall classic). When I stumbled across a recipe from the New York Times online cooking section for Maple-Walnut Blondies, I decided it was time to give blondies another try.
For my version, I used bourbon-barrel aged maple syrup to insure big flavor (no bland blondies wanted!), and doubled the amount of bourbon (me being me, after all).
How to make blondies
The first step is to toast and glaze the walnuts. This adds to the maple-forward flavor while taming the bitterness that walnuts can sometimes have. Don’t skip this step!
The rest of the recipe is the same as for most blondies and brownies. Mix the wet ingredients, add in the dry ingredients, then pour into an 8- x 8-inch baking pan. Easy Peasy.
Maple Bourbon Blondies made better
Like when tasting whisky, Maple Walnut Bourbon Blondies require attention to the details. Pleasantly soft and chewy, these blondies deliver strong maple and walnut flavor, with delicate hints of brown sugar caramel and bourbon spiciness, finishing up with a hit of sea salt.
(Are you giving tasting notes for a blondie? Really?)
Yes, I am, because I can now appreciate this dessert for what it is…not a bland brownie, but a richly flavored treat in itself. Pair it with a sip of bourbon, and…uhm…need I say it?
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Recipes for bar cookies, brownies, and pie bars (aka slab pies)
Bar cookies, brownies, and pie bars (aka slab pies) all are recipes that make a lot with little effort (and no individual portioning). Here are a few ideas for these yummy treats!
Maple Walnut Bourbon Blondies
For the batter
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1 large egg
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp bourbon, optional
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
- sea salt flakes, for sprinkling (optional)
For the maple walnuts
- ½ cup walnuts
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- ⅙ tsp kosher salt
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8- x 8-inch baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper, leaving overhang on two sides.
- Make the maple walnuts: In a small sauté pan, heat the walnuts, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and a pinch of salt over medium heat. Cook, tossing often, until the nuts are lightly toasted and the bottom of the pan looks dry, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a cutting board to cool, roughly chop, and set aside.
- Make the batter: In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, egg, vanilla, and bourbon (if using) and whisk until the batter is smooth. Add the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg, and stir until everything is just combined.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth with a small offset spatula. Sprinkle the walnuts evenly over the top of the batter.
- Bake for 21 to 23 minutes, or until the bars are just starting to brown at the edges. They should seem slightly underbaked and will firm up as they cool.
- Sprinkle the blondies lightly with sea salt flakes if you want, then allow to cool to room temperature in the pan. When the blondies are them completely cool, remove from the pan using the parchment paper and cut into squares.
- You can serve the blondies at room temperature or chilled. Enjoy!