Buttered Popcorn Blondies

A few weeks ago, I was asked to contribute a sweet treat to a charity bake sale. I quickly agreed, and then spent FOR-EV-ER trying to figure out what to make.

I finally decided to go with blondies.

Blondies are unfairly underrated. They're looked upon as brownie's milder, less-delicious sister, which I understand, but simply don't accept.

Blondies shouldn't be compared to brownies; they're their own wonderful treat! A perfect blank canvas that can be customized and transformed to every taste or season. And even when left alone, plain and simple, they can be absolutely sublime. Hints of butterscotch and vanilla. A thin crackly crust. And that melty, almost cookie-dough like texture (because blondies, like many sweets, are best served slightly underdone).

Yes, a blondie is a beautiful thing.

For this batch I decided to add popcorn. I had to buy a lot of popcorn for another recipe project I'm working on, and so the boxes and bags of popcorn kernels have been sitting on my kitchen counter for weeks just begging to be played with. While standing there trying to figure out what to put in my blondies, I saw them and knew it had to be done.

A quick Google to see if anyone else had the same idea came up empty, but I did discover some popcorn cookies from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook via the lovely Joy, which gave me the confidence to go ahead with my plan.

Salty, buttery microwave popcorn, folded into that salty, butterscotch-y batter.

Baked just a couple minutes short of complete, then left to cool at room temperature for a few hours until the popcorn softens a bit into the batter.

The result is delightfully chewy and sticky, with hints of popcorn balls and a bit of toasted corn. It reminded me a little bit of that cereal, Corn Pops! Sweet. Salty.

I actually ate four of them before I realized what I was doing and packed the rest away.

Now here's the thing: popcorn being popcorn means that there are going to be a few little hulls in your blondie. The soft corn part softens into the batter, but that tiny bit o' hull will still be there. I didn't mind, and even enjoyed this, but Eugene was not a fan. (That said, Eugene won't eat oatmeal or farro because they have "plastic-y bits," so he's very particular about texture.)

Just a fair warning.

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Buttered Popcorn Blondies

3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted
1 1/2 cups tightly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 bag microwave popcorn, popped [NOTE: use something buttered and salted or about 1/4 cup kernels, popped then buttered and salted if you prefer to pop your own. Be sure to sift through and remove the unpopped kernels!]
Flaky sea salt for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with foil so that it overhangs, and grease the sides.

Combine the melted butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the base of a mixer and beat until creamy and evenly combined. Add the salt and flour and continue to mix. You should have a creamy, loose batter. Now use a spatula to fold the popcorn in a few cups at a time until it's fully coated in the batter. (Make sure there are NO unpopped kernels left; you don't want to lose a tooth!)

Spread the batter out on the prepared pan (it will be thick) and use fingers dipped in cold water to even it out. Sprinkly with a bit of flaky sea salt, if using.
Pop in the oven and bake for about 18 - 20 minutes, or until the edges are a little bit darker and the top is all set and glossy looking. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan 10 minutes, before lifting out onto a rack to cool further. (You can also pop it in the fridge.)

Once completely cool, slice into squares and serve. Will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for about 3 days. 
Basic blondie base recipe adapted from Inspired Taste.

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