Bars + Brownies Desserts

coffee blondies

Dear Reader,
I feel that you and I have come to a place in our relationship where I need to tell you something, and that it’s time for us to go a little deeper. It may be no surprise; perhaps you’ve picked up hints and started to figure things out.

But if you haven’t, I’m worried this confession may not be what you expected. Or wanted. So I’m just going to come out and say it: I’ve read Lord of the Rings almost more times than I have fingers or toes. (Are you moving your hand to the mouse pad? Are you trying to get off this page? I am hoping our relationship is strong enough to handle this.)

It may be weird, or geeky, or both, that I reread these three treasured books twice a year*, and that the long, terrible-but-beautiful march of the hobbits has resonated so much with me, much more than any other book ever has.

I find comfort, and insight, and identity in a journey that costs something, brings maturity through pain, and ends on a bittersweet note. I find the human experience captured so beautifully in this there-and-back-again tale, and any burden or trouble I carry into the pages with me somehow becomes lighter in Tolkien’s storytelling.

There are times when comfort and familiarity are so important, where vices are needed to just get us through, to keep us connected to something in difficult times. Reading well-loved books and days filled with baking is where I find solace and some grounding in my soul.

These blond brownies have been with me even longer than Middle Earth has; peeking out of every bake case I have stocked, gracing my kitchen table at birthday parties and baby dedications, bringing relief after long hours on my feet, and soothing tears at funeral luncheons. And they just might be with me that one day I follow Samwise towards the Great Sea, in hopes they will help to get me to white shores and a swift sunrise.**

So, here is a reminder that we all have things that are dear to us (our adult security blanket of choice, if you will), things that get us through the rough patches and dark shadows.

I may have taken a nerdier route to make it through the night, but I’ve never been ashamed of it. Hopefully my admissions show you just how much I care for you, and my wish is that there is something to comfort you in this confusing world, too.
Love Always,
Sarah

*Just a couple things. First, I haven’t reread these books twice a year every single year of my reading life, but most years since my 24th birthday. I always read The Fellowship of the Ring in the Fall, and sometimes stop there (it’s my favorite of all the books). SECOND. While I am obsessed with the books, I have a very different opinion of the movies.

If I get into that whole conversation, you will really be convinced I am a super nerd, so I’ll just say that although the movies by themselves are fine and well done, I am appalled at many changes made to the characters and story. And, when Ben Wyatt told Tom on Parks and Recreation that he wasn’t a fan of Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Lord of the Rings, I backed the scene up and watched it again. If you haven’t read the books, I highly recommend doing so.

**This description of ‘white shores’ and ‘swift sunrise’ is from the last sentence of ‘The Return of The King’.

Coffee Blondies cut into squares, in a baking sheet

Coffee Blond Brownies

Servings: 24 bars
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
These chewy bars have all the classic features that you love in a blondie; toasted nuts and chocolate chips, plus lovely notes of coffee that set them apart.
Sarah Kieffer
4.63 from 62 votes
Print Pin Rate

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (213g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 12 tablespoons (170g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 1/2 cups (297g) packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons strong coffee, room temperature (or 2 shots of espresso)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (86g) pecan halves, toasted and chopped
  • 3/4 cup (128g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven 350F. Grease 9×13 inch pan and line with a parchment sling.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, brown sugar, and salt. Remove from the heat and sir in the coffee until well combined. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Add the egg and vanilla and whisk until combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add the pecans and chocolate chips and stir gently.
  • Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake 18 to 24 minutes, until the blondies are set on the edge and top is golden and brown and just beginning to form cracks. A wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the blondies should come out with a just a couple crumbs.
  • Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Use the parchment sling to gently lift the blondies from the pan. Cut them into squares.
  • Reply
    Cami
    Thursday, October 20, 2022 at 8:33 pm

    5 stars
    Easy and delicious. Uses ingredients I commonly have on hand. The clear directions for visuals help know exactly when it’s time to take them out of the oven. I’m so proud to take these to a gathering!

  • Reply
    Lori
    Sunday, October 16, 2022 at 5:11 pm

    5 stars
    I just baked these and they are amazing! I used dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of espresso powder dissolved in 2 T. hot water for the strong coffee, and 53% dark chocolate chips. Based on other reviews I decided to make them in a 9″x9″ pan instead of a 9″x13″ (I prefer brownies/blondies a bit thicker), and baked them 22 minutes. They came out perfect (a good 1″ thick). Very quick and easy. Highly recommended.

  • Reply
    Melissa
    Sunday, October 16, 2022 at 8:46 am

    5 stars
    Recipe turned out perfect. Very chewy blondies with great flavor. I was a little nervous as I was spreading the batter in the 9×13 pan because the batter barely covered the bottom in a very thin layer but they puffed up perfectly. I did substitute the same weight of chopped caramelized white chocolate for the chocolate chips.

  • Reply
    Francine
    Saturday, October 15, 2022 at 11:11 am

    I re-read David Copperfield by Charles Dickens on a regular basis. I find it very comforting to revisit favorite books, especially at different points in your life.

  • Reply
    Jill Passanisi
    Thursday, October 13, 2022 at 2:02 pm

    5 stars
    This is one of my favorite posts of yours due to your very well versed confession. My husband is a fan of the book series as well and shares your opinion of the movies being “eh” compared to how well written the books are. I wrote a paper while in college entitled “buy the book” where I argued that 100% of the time the book is far better than the movie. The example that I can’t seem to fight someone on The Great Gatsby. Loved the book and the movie was pretty great but that’s because Robert Redford…ummm…he’s pretty great.
    Thank you for the post that made me smile today and I will most certainly be pulling my husband’s books out and giving them a read this Fall and Winter. Cheers to you Sarah!

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Thursday, October 13, 2022 at 2:50 pm

      Thanks for reading, Jill. 🙂 Love your book paper!

  • Reply
    Nina
    Wednesday, October 12, 2022 at 2:59 pm

    5 stars
    Hi! I absolutely LOVE all of your recipes. Everything I’ve ever tried has been such a success!!! I think you’ll get a kick out of this….I was mindlessly making these and not really paying attention. I poured (too) warm of butter in the batter with the chocolate chips and melted them ????? I now have brown blondies. Haha I’m definitely going to make them again. Your recipes are such perfection and they are my go to for everything. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Valerie Murray
    Saturday, March 19, 2022 at 12:35 pm

    5 stars
    Hi Sarah, I just baked these bars and they were outstanding! I sprinkled some coarse salt lightly on top and it was a great counter point to the chocolate. I served them slightly warm with vanilla frozen yogurt as dessert at a casual dinner party, they were a very big hit. This recipe is a keeper! Thank you!

  • Reply
    Val
    Sunday, January 9, 2022 at 6:20 pm

    1 star
    I wish I could give it 0 stars. This recipe is not a brownie, it’s a cake. What a waste of ingredients and time.

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Sunday, January 9, 2022 at 7:06 pm

      I’m sorry you had trouble with the recipe. Blondies do have a slightly different texture than a regular chocolate brownie – and while these blondies are a thin blondie, they shouldn’t turn out cakey. Did you make any ingredient substitutions? Sometimes blondies will also loose their gooey-ness if they are over-baked.

  • Reply
    Lea
    Friday, December 31, 2021 at 8:45 pm

    Hi, I have a coffee fan in my house, but he is allergic to chocolate. How can make this recipe work without the chocolate.

    Many thanks.

  • Reply
    Christine
    Thursday, December 30, 2021 at 12:08 am

    Hi Sarah ! I really enjoy your beautiful blog and your recipes!

    Would it be a huge problem if i used white sugar instead of brown?

    Thank you in advance for your answer.

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Thursday, December 30, 2021 at 9:09 am

      you’ll want to use the brown sugar!

  • Reply
    Grace Skiles
    Monday, December 13, 2021 at 8:57 pm

    5 stars
    I made these today and they were fantastic! I followed the recipe as written and had no issues. They are not too sweet and perfectly chewy. These are definitely being added to my cookies boxes. They’re so good, I won’t be making them just at Christmas! Thank you!

  • Reply
    David
    Wednesday, December 8, 2021 at 6:42 am

    Hi Sarah! How long do these keep?

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Saturday, January 8, 2022 at 6:38 pm

      These will keep for a few days refrigerated! I also freeze them with great success – just put the in the refrigerator to thaw the night before serving.

  • Reply
    Karen
    Monday, December 6, 2021 at 12:24 pm

    Hello,
    Mine turned out more cakey. Also, when I added the flour mixture to the butter/coffee/sugar, the flour was lumpy. I’m not sure if this led to over mixing and thus a more cakey blondie. Any suggestions?
    Thanks

    • Reply
      Sarah Kieffer
      Saturday, January 8, 2022 at 6:40 pm

      A cakey blondie is usually the result of over-baking – next time I’d suggest pulling them out a little sooner.

  • Reply
    Stacey
    Friday, March 6, 2020 at 11:48 am

    Ok just so you know there are others like us!!!! Sadly, with kids the movies are what we watch but The Hobbit series we watch on a weekly basis! Anyone who knows SECOND DINNER is perfect in my opinion! Making these brownies over the weekend! I will let you know ??

  • Reply
    Lisa
    Monday, January 6, 2020 at 6:23 pm

    Has anyone realized that these come out really thin with a 13 by 9 pan the flavor is really good but the are really thin not like Blondies but more like flat cookie bars any suggestions for making them thicker or alternate size baking pan

    • Reply
      Brooks
      Tuesday, August 18, 2020 at 4:31 pm

      Yes. Same here. Yet an older post by Sarah says they almost spill over??? They were very tasty, but flat. Might try a 9 inch square pan instead and adjust baking time.

  • Reply
    Niyatee Ravipati
    Tuesday, November 26, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    Hi Sarah,
    I really want to try a good blondie recipe, but I dont like coffee in desserts, could you suggest a few alternatives to adding coffee liquid into it? I have your book also by the way, i Absolutely love your brownie recipe.

  • Reply
    christina
    Tuesday, August 22, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Did you brown your butter in these, or just melted? I tried browning my butter the first time i made them but once i baked them they came out kinda weird-part of it had a bunch of holes and were more “crunchy”? I want to try them again but not sure if I should try browning the butter again or just melt?

  • Reply
    Nina
    Sunday, June 14, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    Made your gorgeous blondies. They did not come out brown on the inside and gooey as yours seem to be. I baked them on half of your pan, for 22 min., and cut them into squers as they came out of the oven. What did I do wrong? And also, when you melt the bitter and suger, what do you expect to melt? just the butter, or also the sugar?

    Love your blog!
    Nina

    • Reply
      Sarah
      Sunday, June 14, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      Hi Nina, Sorry you had trouble! I’m guessing because you cut them right out of the oven, they didn’t have time to set up. That could be part of the trouble. Were they dry inside? You mention them being not very gooey. The butter and sugar should both melt down to a liquid. Also, I’m not quite sure what you mean by baking them on ‘half of your pan’ – was that a half sheet pan? Or half of a half sheet pan? Thank you also for the kind words! I appreciate it. 🙂 I’ll try to help you figure this out. xx

      • Reply
        Nina
        Monday, June 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm

        Thanks for the quick response!
        I used a pan that is half the size you described you used, therefore, cut all ingredients by half. I only waited for the butter to melt, so the sugar stayed granulated. My blondies had a darker crust than yours, came out dryer( not too dry, though), with a lighter look on the inside.. I didn’t stir too Much.

  • Reply
    Angela
    Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Heart is giddy thinking about making these. Question: will these work if I line my half sheet pan with parchment? I’m not a terribly experienced baker and am in the throes of trying to clean my non-non-stick muffin pan, cursing its very existence. Just wanting to know if I’ll have easier release and clean up if I grease and then line with parchment. Thx!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 11:47 am

      Angela-
      I’m not sure, actually. The brownies bake up and come close to spilling over – and don’t, but just barely don’t. I’m worried the parchment might cause it to spill, if it’s not exactly in the corners right. I’ve always used a non-stick half sheet pan and greased it well with pan spray, and didn’t have a problem with clean up. But you could try it, or just line the bottom. Sorry, that’s not much help. But I hope you like them!

  • Reply
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  • Reply
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    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm

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  • Reply
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    Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 7:42 am

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  • Reply
    Daizzee
    Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    This came out great at my house 🙂 served warm with vanilla ice cream!

  • Reply
    Barbara
    Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Sarah, these brownies are so delicious. Lots of good comments when I served them. Can’t wait for another excuse to bake these. Thank you!

  • Reply
    iheartcakes
    Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Haha, though I don´t share your Tolkien-enthusiasm (never tried to read the books, actually, so I might be mistakin´!) I can really relate to going back to familiar stories, the ones you know are worth reading. I don´t read that much these days, apart from school-related material, but I remember I read Roald Dahls “the witches” over and over again as a kid! Still love Roald Dahl, though! And most importantly: these brownies look absolutely wonderful!

  • Reply
    thelittleloaf
    Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Absolutely nothing wrong with rereading books (even if they are Lord of the Rings…KIDDING!). I work in publishing and even though we have to read tons of new stuff every week there are classics I just love to fall back on and that get better with every read.

    Just like these blondies I imagine. I bet they taste even more incredible than when you first made them, in part because they are now instilled with all the wonderful memories of times you’ve baked them 🙂 Gorgeous recipe.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 2:05 am

      Thank you! Good books do get better with every read, it’s true.

  • Reply
    Eileen
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    Dude, there is nothing wrong with reading & rereading books you love! And if that makes you a geeky weirdo, well…so is practically everyone I know. I for one must mention that I used to reread Oliver Twist every summer. Yes! DICKENS ON THE BEACH. We are definitely all weird here. 🙂 And of course those blondies look delicious!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 2:04 am

      Thanks Eileen! Dickens on the beach would be a good band name, too. 😉

  • Reply
    eidolons
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    I enjoyed LoTR, but not in the deep way that you obviously do (though my husband and I will be (re)reading along with my oldest son when he gets to them). However! I do have a shelf or two (or five) of books that feel like going home. Books that comfort me and draw me into their worlds. Books that have seen me through more than a few rough patches as well as my highest moments.

    Also. Anything with “coffee” in the title is high on my list of things to bake. (:

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 2:04 am

      Books are such good friends, so comforting. And I love coffee in everything. 🙂

  • Reply
    marissa at the boot
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    sarah, SUCH a good post. ive never read lord of the rings (i know, travesty) but i hear you loud and clear on the repetition as therapy. i re-read pride & prejudice or anne of green gables when i’m feeling low. also nerdy?

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 2:03 am

      Thanks Marissa! I love pride and prejudice, too! I read that one every couple years. 🙂

  • Reply
    Marnely Rodriguez-Murray
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Brownies and coffee, two of my favorites together! Must try this recipe!

  • Reply
    Sacha
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    “Reading well-loved books and days filled with baking is where I find solace and some grounding in my soul.” — love it.

    I think most of us bloggers and kitchen-tinkerers are secretly (or, in my case, not so secretly) pretty nerdy. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I tend to “eat” not “drink” my coffee, and these blondies (which I’ve had a hankering for lately) look so good and perfectly baked!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 2:01 am

      Thanks Sacha. And I think everyone is nerdy, but most people try their whole lives to hide it.

  • Reply
    Mary Holweger
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I bow to you. I could hardly get through ol’ Tom Bombadil the first time. The movies, however, I could watch forever. Also, swell brownie!

  • Reply
    Ladies Holiday
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I love that you love The Lord of the Rings, it is by far my favorite of all book series I’ve read and after I last read it wished I could fold myself into the story and when I couldn’t I fell into a sort of malaise.
    This blondies, coupled with the story added to a sandy isle sounds like my version of paradise…oh and my kids splashing somewhere nearby. Nerdy or not, its sounds just fine to me. ~Deirdre

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 2:00 am

      Not nerdy at all! And I’m so glad you’re such a fan of the books.

  • Reply
    Lisa Heaner
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    That quote on the picture of the bars has been stored up in my heart and oft repeated on rainy, hazy days since the very first time I read it as a melancholy 14-year-old. Only now, twenty years (!) later, is it tinged with sweetness and an awareness that tears really can be “the very wine of blessedness.”

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 2:00 am

      That is my most favorite paragraph in the whole series. Love you, friend.

  • Reply
    Kelli Abrahamian
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    I LIKE you! I get it. Thanks for sharing. Great recipe too…can’t wait to make the bars.

  • Reply
    Elaina @ Flavour
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I have a confession…I’ve never read the Lord of the Rings…I hope our relationship can handle this 😉 Oh but we all have our security blanket, as you say. So I love that you’ve shared it with us…makes you even more wonderful! xo

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:59 am

      Thanks Elaina. And of course it can handle it. 🙂

  • Reply
    london bakes
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Oh Sarah, I feel this may be the end of our friendship when I tell you that I’ve never read anything by Tolkein…

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:59 am

      Of course not. BUT. This summer might be a good time to start the series. Just sayin’.

  • Reply
    kale
    Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 5:42 am

    You are too cute. Nothing you could admit would turn me away. (But maybe don’t test that…) 😉

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:58 am

      ha! and thanks. 🙂

    • Reply
      kale
      Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      Made these last night Sarah! Had to cut the recipe in half because I sent my husband out for butter but neglected to tell him how much – MY BAD – so even though I had less of them, they turned out great! The coffee really stands out! Thanks for the recipe.

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