Did you know that booze is a perfectly good substitute for vanilla extract? I mean, vanilla extract is basically alcohol, anyway, which everybody learns at some point yet I’m confused about why I’ve never seen people sneaking it on Intervention, even the ones who are perfectly happy to chug a bottle of Listerine or suck at the nozzle of a hand sanitizer dispenser in the hospital.
Anyway, if you’re out of vanilla extract, feel free to use liquor in your baking recipes. Not just any liquor, though. I recommend something dark, with a syrupy sweet taste to it. Like bourbon, which I’ve found is best, although I’ve also used dark, un-spiced rum and mild Scotch in a pinch. I used a little bit of rum for last night’s pumpkin blondies because I thought Graham would need the rest of the vanilla extract for his desserts today, and although that doesn’t follow any recipe I’ve found, it’s still pretty tasty.
These pumpkin blondies, you guys. First, you should know that they’re blondies only in the strictest sense, which is they’re not brownies because they use brown sugar for color and flavor rather than chocolate. But they’re cakier than regular blondies (or brownies), and while I’ve found some very traditionally gooey blondie recipes online (Smitten Kitchen’s is the best, in case you were wondering), I like my adapted-from-various-sources version because it feels more versatile to me. The density isn’t so thick that it feels strictly like dessert, and the pumpkin is not only festive, but kind of a fruit so I guess this can be breakfast (it is awesome as breakfast). They’re sweet from the sugar and the white chocolate, but the dark chocolate and slightly heavier hand with the salt have converted at least one non-dessert person I know. They smell amazing in the oven and I’m still working on the crackly-toppedness*, but I highly recommend that you make them sometime:
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Blondies
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar (light or dark, what do I care?)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup unsalted butter, melted but not super hot
1 tsp vanilla extract OR the booze of your choice OR a little bit of both, wheeeeee!
7 oz. solid pack pumpkin (like half of a regular can, just put the rest into a Tupperware in the fridge and it’ll last for a couple of weeks)
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp good cinnamon (should smell spicy-sweet, not bitter)
¼ tsp or less ground nutmeg
½ tsp kosher salt (maybe a small pinch more)
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup dark chocolate chips, 62% cocoa or higher (depending on taste)
Preheat oven to 375. In one bowl, whisk the beaten eggs and brown sugar together to form a grainy paste, and slooooowly add the butter in while continuing to whisk (adding a lot of hot butter to a standing slurry of egg = scrambled eggs). Add vanilla extract/booze/partytime mixture and pumpkin to the sugar-butter-egg mixture and whisk to combine.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In stages, pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture and combine each time. Dumping it all in at once is harder to mix and plus you’ll get shit all over your kitchen.
Once mixtures are combined, add white and dark chocolate chips and mix thoroughly.
Grease an 8 x 8 baking pan (or any size, and by “grease” I mean use cooking spray or butter or whatever, I’m not the boss of you). If you want to use parchment paper then by all means go ahead. I normally would for cleanup purposes but I used the last of mine making spanakopita last week.
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 15-25, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
*I’ve heard that the crackly top is a result of a sort of meringue that rises during baking, and that to get it, the eggs should be well beaten into the sugar. But I’m already doing that, so maybe I’m not beating them well enough? Or maybe just eat the goddamn blondies.