This past weekend, my husband and I went out for dinner with two close friends we've known for years and with whom we always have a predictably great time. We enjoyed a fun and very noisy evening at an old German biergarten in downtown Detroit, the kind of place with a menu featuring wienerschnitzel, sauerkraut, and spatzle. It was louder than heck in there and, like every other customer present, we had to shout at the top of our lungs to be heard. We laughed a lot, and stayed just until the din became slightly too outrageous to tolerate.
But the night was still young so we journeyed back to the northern suburbs, to a nice little place near my house that always has reliably interesting desserts, good coffee, and better than average service. It's one of those restaurants where the waiter brings a display of desserts to your table on a big tray and describes each one for you in detail. The offering of sweets varies, as you would expect, from season to season and from week to week. Several of the selections presented to us were perfectly expressive of autumn.
There was a dressed-up variation on the traditional apple brown betty, involving a slice of warm spicy cake topped with apples, walnuts, and cinnamon ice cream; a "Scotch" cake of some sort that was served in a big square hunk, very warm, placed over a glossy golden sauce; and a cheesecake drizzled simply with caramel. My hubby ordered the Scotch cake. I opted for the apple brown betty, and about one bite into it I began to feel that familiar urge to rake leaves, carve a pumpkin, and get busy baking with tangy red apples in my own kitchen. Of course, it's still too early to engage in the first two activities but, luckily, not too early to bake with Michigan apples--those wonderful, crunchy, beautifully sun-dappled apples. Never get tired of 'em. Can't help loving 'em.
About this recipe . . .
Quick and simple, these apple cinnamon blondies are a nice alternative to regular blondies or brownies. They're not too heavy, not too gooey, and not overly sweet. They'll satisfy your craving for an apple lover's treat without going overboard. These blondies got a big thumbs-up from my youngest son.
I adapted this recipe from another original blondie recipe of mine (Cream Cheese Blondies with Milk and Dark Chocolate Chips and Honey Roasted Almonds) that I posted in 2009, and which can be found here.
Apple Cinnamon Blondies
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
Yield: One 9" by 13" pan; about 24 servings
Line a 9"x13" pan with parchment paper; let the paper overhang the sides by a couple of inches so you can use it to lift the cooled blondies from the pan. (If you then spray the parchment with vegetable spray you'll have no trouble whatsoever getting them out of the pan intact.)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups of dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
1 and 1/4 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or 1 and 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt (I used coarse kosher salt.)
1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tart, firm medium-sized apple; peeled and chopped into very small pieces ( about 1/4" square)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a medium size bowl, lightly whisk together the flour, salt, and cinnamon.
In a small bowl, toss the apple bits with the lemon juice.
In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment on medium-low speed, cream the butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar until very well blended and smooth. Add in the eggs and vanilla bean paste, beating on medium speed until well combined and smooth.
Gradually add in the flour mixture on the lowest speed, beating just until blended. Add in the apple pieces, beating just until evenly combined.
Use a small offset metal-spatula or the back of a large spoon to spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Mix together the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar with the 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and sprinkle it all over the batter.
Bake the blondies for about 25 minutes, until they start to look lightly golden brown and a finger pressed lightly on the top of the blondies doesn't leave an impression. Let them cool in their pan, placed on a cooling rack, for at least twenty minutes before trying to lift them out by the parchment handles. Cut them with a really sharp knife. Store them well covered and they'll be good for a couple of days.
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