Banana cake is one of my favorite desserts, and Sarah Kieffer's "Banana Crunch Blondies" seemed like a super deluxe version: a banana blondie with walnuts and cacao nibs, topped with dark chocolate ganache and candied walnuts.
To make the blondie batter, you melt butter with brown sugar, mashed bananas, and salt; remove the mixture from the heat, add vanilla, and let it cool to room temperature; whisk in an egg; stir in flour and baking powder; and add chopped toasted walnuts and cacao nibs. Your pour the batter into a parchment-lined pan to bake.
After the baked bars are completely cooled, you spread room temperature ganache (dark chocolate and cream) on top and then sprinkle on candied walnuts (walnuts cooked with sugar and salt until the sugar melts and coats the nuts with caramel).
My blondies didn't look like the ones in the cookbook. My candied walnuts covered most of the ganache layer -- two cups of nuts is a lot for a 9-inch by 13-inch pan! In the cookbook photo, there are definitely fewer nuts on top. (By the way, the candied nuts were fantastic and I don't think it would be possible to add too many.) But the biggest difference is that the layer of ganache on my blondies was very thick. As you can see in the photo above, there's almost a 1:1 ratio of blondie to ganache in the slice on the right. In the cookbook photo, the ganache layer is much thinner in proportion to the blondie.
It was a little difficult to cut these blondies because of all of the nuts of top. The pressure of my knife forced walnuts into the ganache before slicing through them. The blondie itself was delightful. It had the distinctive moist, sticky texture of banana cake and lots of sweet banana flavor. The cacao nibs added some wonderful crunch. While I like the combination of banana and chocolate, I thought that there was too much ganache here because the strong chocolate flavor of the ganache competed with the banana. A thinner layer of ganache, like that pictured in the cookbook, would definitely be better. Or I think whipped ganache might also be a good option. I definitely enjoyed these bars, but as a banana cake fan, I just wanted the banana to shine a little more.
Recipe: "Banana Crunch Blondies" from 100 Cookies by Sarah Kieffer.
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