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Are you one of those people who likes dessert but doesn’t like sweets? Sounds contradictory, yes, but I know you are out there. Well, I will let you in on a little secret: an ingredient that you may have never heard of but lends a savory fudgy-ness to the blondie, the chocolate-less version of the brownie.
It’s Doenjang, the Korean fermented soybean paste (what?) which bears similarities to Japanese miso. It is an essential ingredient in the Korean pantry and boasts many uses, from flavoring soup to playing the role as a dipping condiment.
Blondies get their distinct flavor from brown sugar, but if you mix doenjang in with the dough it will bring the dessert to another level. It’s nuttier, richer somehow, and gets a finishing swoosh with a little little flaky sea salt in the last five minutes of cooking.
This recipe is a blend of two: Toll House chocolate chip cookie bars and her butterscotch blondies. Doenjang is found in Asian markets and sold by some online retailers.
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
- Cooking spray or butter, for coating the pan
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons doenjang (Korean soybean paste)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 large eggs
- 12 ounces semisweet chocolate wafers or discs, such as Guittard
- 1/8 teaspoon flaky salt, such as Jacobsen
- Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Place 2 sticks unsalted butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter foams and little brown flecks form, 6 to 9 minutes. Use a silicone spatula to scrape the butter into a medium heatproof bowl. Refrigerate until cool to the touch, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Cut out a 9×16-inch piece of parchment paper. Coat a 9×9-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray or butter. Press the parchment paper into the bottom and up two opposite sides of the pan to form a sling that hangs over the sides. Coat the parchment with cooking spray or butter.
Place 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
Scrape the brown butter into a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer or mixing by hand). Add 1 cup packed light brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed (or beat by hand with a wooden spoon) until fluffy and slightly lightened in color, about 3 minutes.
Add 2 tablespoons doenjang and beat for 1 minute. Beat in 2 large eggs one at a time, letting the first one fully incorporate before adding the second, about 30 seconds total. Beat in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil.
Turn the mixer to stir or the lowest speed possible. Add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time, letting each batch incorporate and scraping down the sides with a silicone spatula before adding the next, until just combined. Stop the mixer. Add 12 ounces semisweet chocolate discs and fold in by hand with the spatula until evenly distributed.
Pour into the baking pan. Press it in evenly with your hands or a spatula so it reaches every corner of the pan.
Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon flaky salt. Bake until the edges are a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 5 minutes more. Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes.
Grasping the parchment paper sling, remove the slab from the pan to a cutting board. Cut into 9 square bars (about 3-inch by 3-inch) or however large you’d like your cookie bars to be. Eat immediately while warm so you can get the contrast of crisp edges and the chewy, just-cooked interior. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if you want to indulge even more.
Cut and wrap bars individually with plastic wrap and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. They can also be individually frozen for up to 4 months.