Raw cashews are pretty boring nuts, but when thoroughly roasted and salted, they turn into a totally addictive snack. It’s the richness and savoriness of salted roasted cashews that makes them a great addition to blondies, a type of bar cookie that’s typically quite sweet. I double-roast the cashews and coat them in toffee to add a salty crunch to my straightforward blondie base. The variety of textures and nutty- butterscotch-y flavors made these a fan favorite during the testing phase.
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes, plus time to cool
melted unsalted butter, for the pan
1 ½ cups|170 grams salted, roasted cashews
14 tablespoons|200 grams unsalted butter, divided
1 ¼ cups|275 grams packed light brown sugar, divided
2 large eggs, cold from the refrigerator
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup|135 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or ½ teaspoon Morton kosher salt
flaky sea salt (optional)
- Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan, preferably metal, with foil, pressing it into the corners and smoothing it across the bottom and up the sides. Brush the bottom and sides of the foil with a thin layer of melted butter and set it aside.
Optional Upgrade: If your roasted salted cashews are on the paler side, toast them further to develop the flavor. Place the nuts on a sheet pan and toast until they’re deep golden brown and fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes, tossing halfway through. Let them cool completely.
- Chop the cashews: Place the cashews on a cutting board and chop until the largest pieces are about the size of a pea. Set aside.
- Make the toffee-covered cashews: Line a small sheet pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment and set it next to the stove. Combine 4 tablespoons|57 grams of the butter, ¼ cup|35 grams of the brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan. Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring with a heatproof flexible spatula to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture is boiling, stir in the chopped cashews and cook, stirring constantly, until the nuts are completely coated and there’s no liquid toffee oozing across the bottom of the saucepan, about 5 minutes.
If the toffee heats too quickly or isn’t stirred constantly, the butter may separate out and pool in the saucepan. If this happens, remove the saucepan from the heat, add a tablespoon of water, and stir vigorously to dissolve some of the toffee and bring the mixture back together. Return the saucepan to the heat and continue to cook.
- Cool the toffee cashews: Scrape the cashew mixture out onto the prepared baking pan and spread it into a thin slab with the spatula, then set aside to cool. Return the saucepan to the stove (no need to wash it).
- Make the batter: Add the remaining 10 tablespoons|142 grams butter to the reserved saucepan and melt it over low heat. Scrape the melted butter into a large bowl. Add the remaining 1 cup|220 grams brown sugar and whisk vigorously until the mixture is smooth, thick, and satiny, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking thoroughly after each, then continue to whisk until the mixture is completely smooth and slightly pale, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the vanilla, then add the flour and kosher salt and whisk vigorously until the batter is very smooth and thick, about 30 seconds.
- Assemble: Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer with the spatula, working it all the way to the sides and corners. Break about half of the cooled slab of toffee-covered cashews into small clusters with your fingertips, then scatter the clusters evenly over the surface of the batter. (Depending on how thoroughly you cooked the mixture, the slab may be brittle or pliable—either way is fine.) Dollop the remaining batter on top, then smooth it into an even layer with the spatula. Break the remaining slab into clusters and scatter across the surface, then sprinkle with flaky salt (if using).
- Bake: Bake until the surface of the blondies is deep golden brown and firm to the touch, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the blondies cool completely in the pan, then use the foil to lift them out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Slice with a serrated knife into a 4-by-4 grid to make 16 blondies.
Can I . . .
Make them ahead? Yes. The blondies, stored airtight at room temperature, will keep for up to 4 days. They can also be frozen for up to 1 month.
Double the recipe? Yes. Line a 13 × 9-inch pan, preferably metal, with foil and butter as directed above. Double all of the ingredient quantities and proceed with the recipe as written, but use a large saucepan for making the toffee-covered cashews. Note that you will have to extend the bake time due to the larger volume of batter, so keep an eye out for the given indicators.
Make them gluten-free? Yes. Replace the all-purpose flour with an equal amount of your preferred gluten-free flour blend and bake as directed.
Bake this in a different pan? Yes. Bake the blondies in a 9-inch cake pan that has been lined with foil and buttered as directed. The bake time will be about the same.
“What’s For Dessert?” Copyright © 2022 by Claire Saffitz. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Jenny Huang. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.”
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