When it comes to birthdays, I tend to follow a celebrate-for-a-week-to-really-get-your-day’s-worth motto. Although I half expected age (aka turning into an adult) to stifle my zeal for stretching out the celebration, it hasn’t at all. I start getting excited about it weeks before and still feel like a kid on the day after Christmas as soon as it’s over. Jared knows this and has taken to waking me up the day after I turn a year older by wishing me happy birthday again. He knows I’m never quite ready for the party to end, and I’m thankful he’s so happy to oblige. I hope he’s doing the same thing when we’re 80. I bet he will be.
Yesterday was Jared’s birthday, and though he’s definitely not as crazed about the celebrating as I am, I always try to make his big day feel just as special. Actually, we’ve had lots of celebrating already this month, with Jared graduating with his master’s from Duke a few weeks ago (woo hoo!). Between that, a visit from his parents and a much-needed trip to the coast, it’s been a lot of happy mixed with a lot of go, go, go, and I think we’re finally catching our breath. Of course, what better way to do that than with some homemade treats, right? We nosh our fair share of baked goods on the regular, but when life gives you birthdays, they’re worth an extra bit of sugar.
So these chocolate-crusted banana blondies came about as both a warm-up to birthday celebrations (the birthday boy requested molasses cupcakes for his real-deal birthday) and a wind-down from the week before. And they just so happened to be a great use for those ripe bananas I stuck in the freezer earlier in this month. I rarely venture beyond breads and muffins when it comes to banana-filled baking, so this was a fun, unexpected twist. And what says “happy day!” like a new dessert?
Be warned: They are sweet. But that’s nothing a glass of milk or a cup of coffee can’t solve.
Chocolate-Crusted Banana Blondies
Adapted just slightly from Melissa Clark, New York Times
• 1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
• 200 grams chocolate wafer cookies (to make about 3 cups of crumbs)
• 2 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
• ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus a pinch
• 2-3 ripe bananas, mashed
• 2 eggs
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, and grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with butter. Melt ½ cup (1 stick) of butter. Pulse the chocolate wafer cookies into fine crumbs in a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the melted butter, and process until the mixture resembles damp sand. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, press it into an even layer and bake it for 7 to 10 minutes, until the surface is firm. Set aside. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees F.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the remaining ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) of butter. Continue to let it cook for about 5 minutes, until the butter foams, the foam subsides and the butter turns a deep brown. Let it cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the bananas, eggs, 2 ½ cups brown sugar and vanilla. Add the brown butter.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Fold it into the batter (you could also add ½ cup of toasted walnuts at this point). Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared crust. Bake the blondies for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Makes 24 bars