Good day friends!
This may just be the best desert we’ve ever made. Its flavors are unique, without being “too far out there,” its texture has a perfect balance between chewy & caky, it’s really easy to make (always a plus), and it includes my favorite desert additive: salt.
When we think sweets we tend to think sugar, or some other component of sweetness – whatever that means to you – but, when balanced with salt, sweetness comes to life. For this reason, almost every desert recipe out there features at least a little bit of salt. Taking that one step further, adding salt directly on top of a desert – where it comes into direct contact with tastebuds – sparks saliva the moment it touches the mouth, which then acts like a kind of ooze whose job is to grab flavors from food and bring them around to every taste bud in the building; salt essentially paints every flavor in bold.
Another desert law that often goes unnoticed in the West is citrus. In many countries on the “other side of the globe,” deserts aren’t just sweet – they’re sweet, salty, sour, and oftentimes bitter. One important contributor of said attributes is citrus, which acts as a bright torch in a dark room, in contrast to the decedent heaviness that sweetness carries. Thus, these blondies are latent with freshly grated lemon & orange zest, which infuses them with a burst of heavenly fragrance. Plus, it’s citrus season! So it’s time to get your fixing in and make up a batch of lemon cookies (but that’s another post).
Let’s halt this train for a second to talk about blondies – what are they? If you’re one smart cookie, you may be able to assemble the puzzle pieces to figure out that they’re brownies, only without the chocolate, making them “blond.” Like brownies, they’re rich, dense, buttery, chewy, and only slightly cake-y. They can be made plain or filled with chocolate chips, toasted nuts, dried fruit, and much more. Because gluten-free flours don’t usually have the same strength that wheat flours do, which gives brownies their chewy edge, we implement an ingredient regularly used but highly denounced: Xanthan Gum…
… “Wait! Stop running away! Come back and hear us out! Ugh… another goner.”
Xanthan gum is found in a massive variety of foods found on the market, including sauces, plant-milks, ice creams, drinks, breads, and much, much, more. Now, I’ve done A LOT of research on this product only to run myself in circles, but what I’ve broken matters down to is this: Xanthan gum is a relatively innocent additive with highly beneficial results, unless you have an extremely sensitive stomach.
If you are one of those people with a weak stomach and know that Xanthan gum causes problems for you, then simply leave it out, as the desert will still be amazing without it. However, if you’re feeling experimental, we found that the addition of Xanthan gum lends this desert a dense crumb, more cohesive structure, and pleasant chewiness. Either way, we think you’ll be enthused with the results.
Where were we again? Oh yeah, we were talking about different components of the blondies! We covered salt & citrus, now let’s talk chocolate. Aside from being absurdly rich in antioxidants, dark chocolate has a decedent nature that doesn’t overwhelm one’s palate with sweetness. For this reason, dark chocolate chips add a slightly bitter yet intensely comforting feel to these blondies. And, well you know… it’s chocolate, which makes any desert better in my opinion.
Finally, we have toasted walnuts, whose biggest contribution to this desert is their crunchy bite. In an overall soft & moist desert, walnuts surprise the muncher (that’s you) and make you use different parts of your mouth to chew, which contributes to a more satisfactory eating experience. On top of that, by toasting the walnuts prior to folding them in, we add a sensation of bold earthiness, which serves to balance out the desert’s brightness.
These blondies go far beyond cliche vegan, bakery deserts (which I’m a total sucker for, btw) and up to the ranks of a bougee, Beverly Hills desert lounge where the cheapest item is $12! We hope you find it in yourself to take a leap of faith and try out a few foreign desert ingredients, as we’re confident you’ll be happily overwhelmed with the results.
If you like what your taste buds are tellin’ ya, leave behind a nice rating, share your thoughts with us in the comments, or show us your creations by tagging @noeggsorham on Instagram.
Go Forth & Devour,
Ryan & Kim
Salted Citrus Blondies with Toasted Walnuts & Dark Chocolate Chips
Chewy, rich, & buttery blondies laced with fresh orange & lemon zest, topped with a sprinkle of coarse pink salt. Packed throughout with toasted walnuts & dark chocolate chips.
- 99 g (1/2 c + 1 tbsp) green banana flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt, divided (medium/coarse preferred for topping)
- 1/8 tsp Xanthan gum (optional)*
- 63 g (1/2 c) walnuts, lightly crushed
- 45 g (3 tbsp) bittersweet chocolate chips (we used 85% cacao chocolate)
- Pre-heat oven to 325° F. Spray a standard sized nonstick loaf pan (dimensions: 9.25 x 5.25 x 2.75 in) with coconut oil spray, or lightly coat it with regular coconut oil.
- Roll out a piece of parchment paper long enough to cover the bottom and sides of your loaf pan.
- Then, cut the sides of the paper so that it fits directly into the middle of your pan, essentially creating a “sling” that you can use to easily remove the blondie from the pan. (Reference this article for how-to visuals.)
- Once oven is ready, place lightly crushed walnuts on a cookie sheet and set in oven until crispy and fragrant; 4-5 minutes. Set aside.
- Note: keep an eye on the walnuts, as they can go from perfect to burnt within minutes.
- In a medium mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together the green banana flour, baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, and xanthan gum; whisk for about a minute to ensure the Xanthan gum is evenly distributed.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together your flax eggs and let them sit for 2 minutes.
- Slowly whisk your melted buttery coconut oil into the flax eggs – this may take a couple minutes of heavy whisking. Once cohesive, whisk in coconut milk, erythritol, vanilla extract, stevia, 2 tsp orange zest, and 1 tsp lemon zest.
- Pour dry ingredients on top of wet ingredients and stir – with a wooden spoon – until smooth. Then, stir in chocolate chips and toasted walnuts until evenly distributed.
- Spoon batter into prepped loaf pan and use a spoon or your hands to evenly spread the batter throughout the pan. Then, sprinkle the top with remaining 1/4 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of orange zest, and 1/2 tsp of lemon zest. Lightly press down to ensure the zest & salt sticks.
- Place in the center rack of your oven and bake for 33-37 minutes, or until the edges are set and the center is still soft; an inserted toothpick will come out clean.
- Place pan on cooling rack for 15 minutes. Then, use parchment sling to gently transfer blondies from pan to cooling rack. Let cool another 30 minutes before cutting.
- Cut in half lengthwise, then cut through horizontally three times, thus making 8 pieces. For smaller pieces, cut through vertically two times, then horizontally 4 times.
- Enjoy while lightly warm, or let cool completely then place in an airtight container and keep them at room temperature for up to 3 days.
*Xanthan Gum lends a chewier, more cohesive texture, however, if you don’t feel like going out to buy it, simply leave it out. They’ll just be slightly cake-ier without it.
*I highly recommend going out to buy Nutiva’s Buttery Coconut Oil for this desert, as its buttery essence lends deep richness to this pastry. I’ve seen it in Whole Foods, Sprouts, and online, although it’s likely in many other “health food” stores.