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story.lead_photo.caption Cinnamon-Pecan Blondies - Photo by Kelly Brant

Sometimes when I'm cooking, I can hear my mother in my head. It happens most often when I'm rushing or being a little careless.

"Turn down the heat on that pan. You don't want it to burn."

"Careful! You'll cut yourself."

Sometimes it's a bit of advice that I promptly ignore.

"Don't put sugar in that cornbread."

"That's not enough mayonnaise."

But there are those whispers, that against my judgment, I do listen to.

Take these blondies for example. I love nuts on their own, in salads, in granola and gorp, mixed into popcorn, whirled into butter and spread on bread. I hate nuts in baked goods and fudge. They interfere with the silky, velvety, melt-in-your-mouth goodness of fudge and candy. And something terrible happens to a nut when you suspend it in a hot batter. The texture softens and the flavor loses its rich nuttiness.

But the week of Thanksgiving, there she was again.

"Those would be really good with pecans!"

And because I was creating the recipe to share with her and the rest of my family at our Thanksgiving gathering, I gave in — sort of. Instead of stirring chopped pecans into the batter, I decided to top the batter with pecan halves.

And what do you know? Mom was right.

They were really good with pecans. The difference for me was the placement. By leaving the nuts on top of the batter they retained their texture and toasted just enough to bring out the best of their flavor in a way that complemented the blondies rather than impeding them.

Cinnamon-Pecan Blondies

¾ cup butter

1⅓ cups firmly packed light brown sugar

⅓ cup granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla powder OR vanilla extract

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

3 eggs

30 to 60 pecan halves

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper leaving overhang on two opposite sides.

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes, making sure sugar is completely saturated with butter. Remove from heat. Stir in granulated sugar, stirring for 1 minute. Cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, vanilla powder (if using extract add it to the eggs), baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs.

Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and stir to combine. Add half of the eggs and stir to combine. Add another third of the flour, stirring to combine, then add the remaining eggs and mix well. Add the remaining flour and stir until smooth. Transfer batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Arrange pecan halves on top of batter.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are set and center is firm; avoid over-baking. Cool completely in pan.

Once cool, using the parchment overhang, lift bars from pan to a cutting board and cut into squares.

Recipe inspired by American Cookie: The Snaps, Drops, Jumbles, Tea Cakes, Bars & Brownies That We Have Loved for Generations by Anne Byrn

Food on 12/05/2018

Print Headline: Mom knows best about blondies, nuts

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