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These wonderfully, fragrant Saffron Pistachio Blondies will conjure up 1,001 Arabian Nights or a treat worthy of Rama and Sita. Rich with pistachios, cardamom, saffron and a hint of white chocolate, these chewy delights are even better the next day. I love desserts that I can make ahead, especially when entertaining. It’s true that depending on where you reside in the world, the ingredients that make these blondies special can be pricey. If these are beyond your budget or you are not a huge fan of saffron, please choose to make something else. Do not make substitutions. On the other hand, the amounts used are relatively small and compared to the price of something from a bakery….
The original recipe called for a cream cheese frosting, which undoubtedly would be pretty, especially if garnished with some additional chopped pistachios or rose petals. However, my husband and I aren’t really into frosting which often can simply mask a less than wonderful cake.
These Saffron Pistachio Blondies can stand on their own with no need of embellishment. Saffron lends a beautiful golden color to the batter in addition to the exceptional flavor. (I am including the recipe for the frosting below just in case you want to use it. If you are using the frosting, the blondies will require refrigeration. And the original recipe used the saffron only in the frosting. It was NOT in the cake batter as I have done here.)
And while I may not be a huge fan of cream cheese frostings, I do love to eat the Saffron Pistachio Blondies with a dollop of homemade, lightly sweetened crème fraîche. The slight tang of the cultured crème fraîche adds exactly the right counterpoint to the dense, richness of the blondie. You can sweeten the crème fraîche with a tablespoon or two of confectioner’s or icing sugar or honey.
My recipe for the blondies deviates a bit from the original in the instructions as well as a few tweaks to the ingredients. This lovely cake would be a wonderful finish for any Middle Eastern or South Asian dinner. Enjoy them soon!
Servings: About 9
For the Blondies
¾ cup/112 grams raw, unsalted pistachios, lightly pan-toasted plus more for garnish
1 cup/130 grams all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
¾ cup/173 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 ¼ packed cups/250 grams dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup/87 grams white chocolate chips
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper so the paper spills out over the sides of the pan to create an overhang. This will make removing the blondies a snap. (For thicker blondies, you can use an 8-inch pan. You may have to adjust the baking time slightly.)
- In a food processor, pulse the pistachios with the cardamom, salt, baking powder and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the total flour. Pulse until the nuts are mostly finely ground. By adding the dry ingredients to the nuts, you prevent them from becoming pasty. Add the remaining flour and pulse to combine.
- Add the saffron threads to the melted butter and allow to steep as the butter cools down some. Then add the brown sugar and whisk until smooth and shiny. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. The pistachio mixture gets added next. Mix with a silicone spatula to combine being careful to go to the bottom of the bowl so no flour is left unmixed. Gently stir in the white chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer.
- Bake until the sides are brown and pull away from the pan, and the middle is slightly paler in color, 25 to 27 minutes. Ovens really vary so don’t be surprised if the blondies take longer. Mine baked for 35 minutes and then I left them in the oven for 8 more minutes with it turned off and the door left partially open. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few crumbs attached. Because of the richness of the pistachios and the butter, the blondies are not likely to get dried out. So don’t be afraid to completely bake them through. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.
- When the blondies are cooled completely, you can lift them out of the pan. At this point, you can cut them as is or frost them. While the blondies can be eaten as soon as they are cooled, I think they are even better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to really meld.
Note: These blondies are perfect as is in my opinion. However, if you wish to up the Middle Eastern vibe a bit, you could add a few drops of rose water to the batter or frosting, if using. But be careful. Too much rose water tends to make baked goods taste like soap. My husband really dislikes rose water, so I didn’t try it. Let me know if you do in the comments and how it turns out.
For the Frosting, if using
½ teaspoon/.33 gram packed saffron threads
1 ½ tablespoons whole milk
6 ounces/170 grams cream cheese, softened
⅓ cup/77 grams unsalted butter, softened
⅔ cup/93 grams confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of coarse kosher salt
- Finely grind the saffron threads in a mortar using a pestle or in a microwave-safe bowl using the back of a spoon. If needed, transfer the ground saffron to a microwave-safe bowl or to a small saucepan if you don’t have a microwave. Stir in the milk, and microwave on high or heat over medium until the mixture is frothing around the edges but not boiling, about 30 seconds. Place the bowl in the refrigerator or freezer to quickly cool the mixture.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, use an electric hand or stand mixer or a heavy whisk or wooden spoon to beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. If working by hand, this takes some muscle. Add the confectioners’ sugar and salt and beat again until homogeneous and no clumps of sugar remain. Beat in the cooled saffron milk until well-combined. The frosting will turn a bright golden hue.
- Once the bars have cooled completely, scrape the frosting over the top, and use a spatula to spread it evenly. Crush or chop some pistachios for garnish and sprinkle all over the top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before eating. The bars keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for 1 month.
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