Sunday, February 10, 2013

See's Blondies: Infatuation

This past summer I went to a fancy viewing party at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood -- the type of affair where there was complimentary valet, a hosted bar with real champagne and cocktails, and lots of miracle mascara.

I actually wore heels.

And a dress that didn't have food stains on it.

It was a very big deal.

Throughout the evening, servers were coming through with trays filled with highfalutan nibbles like burrata with bagnet vert; kale salad with pancetta bread crumbs; and mini-sliders topped with blue cheese, Nueske's bacon and housemade bread and butter pickles. There was a full dessert bar with trifles and layered budinos dusted with sea salt and all sorts of precious things that would make any food tooth weak in the proverbial knees.

As someone who is not typically inclined to attempt the awkward plate, fork, champagne flute, purse juggle (see: dress, food stains), I wasn't particularly interested in the lofty spread on this evening. I bypassed the burgers and kale for industry gossip and wine, perfectly content to steer clear of all edible entities until I was home and safely ensconced in something that would not need to be dry cleaned.

That is until the guest-of-honor's father began weaving his way through the high-heeled crowd with a telltale white and black box.

See's Candies.

My head immediately snapped up to attention, like a soldier standing erect under the scrutiny of a drill sergeant.

"See's! "It's See's!" I wanted to shout, as I not-so discretely excused myself from my conversation to intercept my friend's father before someone could stake a claim on the highly-coveted scotchmallow or dark nougat.

"Would you like one?" My friend's father asked, at the time completely unaware he was dealing with the Augustus Gloop of the cocktail party. 

I made a big show of indifference, as though I could care less that I was face-to-face with a treasure trove of memories from my childhood -- years of fighting over the milk chocolate butterchews, faux gagging over the less-desirable raspberry cream and screaming when my brother got the caramel once again. Yet, as I giddily extracted a scotchmallow, my decorum broke down. Before he could walk away, I reached in and snatched a second one.

As I devoured my two selections, no longer concerned with the sanctity of my freshly laundered orange dress, my fellow partygoers remained completely engaged in their conversations, ignoring the now multiple white boxes that were circulating throughout the room.

"Are you people crazy?!" I felt compelled to shout. "There's still peanut nougats and dark caramel patties and milk buttercreams in there!"

I found myself going back for thirds. And fourths. And as I tore into my fifth piece in less than fifteen minutes, the friend I had come with, looked over at me, half-amused, half-appalled, and said, "You really like See's, don't you?"

By the end of the evening, the guest-of-honor's father had publicly declared me a "chocoholic," my previously pristine dress was ceremoniously streaked from an errant piece of butterchew, and I had acquired the type of stomachache that one usually only encounters at the age of eight on Halloween.

Because, you see, I don't just like See's, I'm completely, head-over-heels, in love with See's.

To the point that when I get a box, I'm not content to just pick my way through my favorites and be done with it. Oh no, I sit on my couch, tea cup in hand, cramming pieces in my mouth like my brothers are in the next room threatening to steal the last caramel.

And even at the end, when all that's left are molasses chips and toffee and milk bordeaux, I still can't just throw the box out -- or even gift it upon someone who might actually like molasses chips. I'll eat the chocolate off the pieces like some weird kid who peels the skins off grapes, or I'll do something completely crazy like chop them up and bake them into blondies.

Because when you love something, you don't set it free.

You horde it all to yourself. 

See's Blondies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Notes: The general template of this recipe comes courtesy of Deb at Smitten Kitchen, who, for the uninitiated, is the authority on all matters of the oven. And stove, for that matter. I made two adjustments -- adding half a teaspoon of baking powder as I'm inclined to like my blondies a bit less gooey, and rather than just melting my butter, I took it a little further because in my mind browned butter has the same flavor profile as a See's milk bourdeaux.

These blondies are intense -- the type of thing that will make you teeter on the edge of diabetic shock. You'll warm them in the microwave, smother them with full fat vanilla ice cream, and, as you sit, cross-legged on the couch, for a moment you'll feel like a kid again. Or maybe, if you are like me and eat three in a single go, just like Augustus Gloop.

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup golden brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1 cup mixed chocolates (preferably See's), chopped (I used an assortment of Milk Bourdeaux, Molasses Chips, and Toffee)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line an 8x8'' pan with lightly greased parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together to lighten the flour, and set aside.

In a small saucepan, begin melting the butter over medium-low heat. Keep stirring the butter while it melts, and continue stirring as you continue heating the butter to prevent it from scorching. The butter will turn clear, and start to foam, but keep heating and stirring until it starts to smell a bit nutty and turns amber in color.  Immediately remove from the heat.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and the brown sugar. Beat with a handheld electric beater until smooth. Beat in the vanilla and then the egg, mixing until well-incorporated and the batter looks smooth and glossy.

Carefully stir in the flour mixture until just-incorporated. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate candy pieces.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the center is set, and a toothpick inserted comes out relatively clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.


the actor's diet said...

OK forget our Cafe Gratitude date - we obviously need to meet up at the See's Shop!

shopeatsleep said...

You know my new place is just down the street from the See's LA corporate office, right?! (Scotchmallow FTW!)

Gastronomer said...

I will glad eat your unloved molasses chips and toffee!