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Chocolate.  Dried cherries and blueberries.  Toasted walnuts.

These blondies incorporate some of my favorite flavors… even when my sweet tooth is fully under wraps I find it quite hard to resist them.  I was quite proud that as I made these, I managed to just eat this one!

While many cookie and brownie recipes can be a bit tedious, I love the ‘infinitely adaptable’ blondie recipe used by Smitten Kitchen, which only uses one bowl and one baking pan- it makes these the perfect baking project for a night when you don’t have a lot of time or energy, but still want to enjoy a freshly baked treat.

As always, start by gathering all of the ingredients.  While you’re at it, preheat the oven to 350, and get out and grease an 8×8 baking dish.  This is a great cast of flavors!

To start the process, melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl.  I suppose you could do it on the stove top, but that would require an additional dish, and kind of defy the simplicity of this recipe.  Once the butter is melted, add the brown sugar and beat until they’re well combined.  I use an electric mixer to make life easier, but you could easily do this by hand instead.  Once that’s done, mix in the egg and beat until creamy, followed by the vanilla and salt.

Once all of those ingredients have been incorporated, stir in the cup of flour.  I mix the flour with a spatula to prevent having a flour dust storm coat my kitchen because the mixer blows things around too fast.

Now it’s time for the fun part, adding in the filling! You can change these flavors as much as you like, this just happens to be my favorite combination.  I use a mixture of white chocolate, dried cherries and blueberries, and toasted walnuts.  To prep the walnuts, I just toss them into the oven on a baking sheet while it preheats, removing them when they get slightly browned and the smell emanating from the oven is delightful.  They can go from perfectly toasted to burnt quickly, so don’t get too distracted while they’re in there!  Stir all of the toppings into the batter.

Finally, pour the batter into the prepared pan and put it into the oven for 20-25 minutes, the time will depend on your oven. When the middle appears to be set and the top is browning, take it out.  Whatever you do, don’t over cook them!  As long as they aren’t actually raw, a slightly gooey, wonderfully rich middle piece never draws any complaints around here!

Now that they’re done, cut yourself a piece, go sit down and enjoy.  Oh, and I suppose you could cut a piece for whoever else happens to be around, but sharing is optional.  I am proud to say that I shared them and that, as a result, they earned the label of ‘new favorite brownie’ from the boyfriend!  Bold statement.

The original recipe on Smitten Kitchen includes a great set of basic guidelines for developing your own set of fillers.  If you like the fruit and chocolate idea, semi-sweet or dark chocolate would also be great, and you could use dried cranberries or raisins with no problem.  For more great ideas, including what to do if you want to add a boozy flavor (think bourbon), head over to see the Smitten Kitchen post.

Very Berry Blondies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, November 2006: Blondies, Infinitely Adaptable

8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 – 1/2 cup walnuts, toast in oven or skillet if desired

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Grease 8×8 baking dish and set aside.  If desired, place walnuts onto a baking sheet and place into oven for a few minutes as it preheats to toast.  Set walnuts aside to cool.

2. Melt butter in a microwave safe dish.

3. Beat brown sugar into melted butter until it is smooth.  Once done, beat in egg until batter is creamy and a uniform color.  Then add vanilla extract.

4. To add dry ingredients, switch to a spoon (if using an electric mixer).  Stir in salt.  Then add the flour, and mix until completely incorporated.  Add the chocolate, fruit, and walnuts, and stir to mix.

5. Pour batter into prepared pan.  Place in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.  Don’t over bake, remove from oven when middle appears set.

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