Olive Oil Blondies with Almond Butter Swirl
There is no denying that I love a blondie. There are two desserts that I cannot say no to: brownies and blondies. There is just something about those chewy bars of sweet goodness that I cannot resist.
When it comes to blondies, I will usually use brown butter along with brown sugar to really deepen the caramel-butterscotch flavor. However, when making dairy-free blondies, you clearly cannot use brown butter so trying to replicate that flavor can be a little tricky. First of all, vegan butter does not brown because there are no milk solids (typically vegan butter is amalgamation of oils).
After a few tries, I finally came to a recipe that tastes just like a regular blondie, but without the butter.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Rather than use vegan butter for this, I wanted fatty fruity olive oil as the base for these blondies. Extra virgin olive oil will have a stronger flavor, but in this case I wanted it to add depth. Brown butter will typically give that depth, but since there is no butter… Sure, you can use another oil like avocado, but you will not really get an added flavor from it.
Also, olive oil, unlike butter, is a denser fat (good for you fat) so that even after these blondies are baked, they keep that seriously gooey, moist center that we love in blondies. Just as a general rule, I like to add little bit of oil in addition to butter in most of my recipes to keep things moist.
Just to be open, I received my extra virgin olive oil from Madhava, a brand that I love and have used for awhile now. If you can’t find Madhave, use the best extra virgin oil that you can find that works for your budget.
Molasses AND Coconut Sugar
Molasses is not just for molasses cookies. In these bars, it adds not only flavor, but also boost the gooey factor. Blondies get their characteristic chewy, gooey center from the combination of butter and brown sugar. Brown sugar is basically cane sugar that has not had all the natural molasses removed from it. Molasses is a by-product of the sugar refining process, so technically there is cane sugar in here.
Coconut sugar is not actually made from coconuts, but rather the sap from a coconut palm flower. It is deliciously caramel-tasting and vanilla-y and is a simple one-to-one replacement for cane sugar. As I said, blondies usually call for dark brown sugar; coconut sugar on its own will not give you the same flavor, but that is why I add molasses. The combination of molasses and coconut sugar gives you all the deliciousness of brown sugar.
I love buckwheat flour. It gives a delicious nutty flavor, almost savory and a rich dark color to any baked good it is added to. Did I mention that is high in good-for-you fiber, protein and amino acids? It is really for more than just blini and soba noodles and it is naturally gluten-free (despite the name, it is not a variety of wheat).
Buckwheat can be a little tricky and usually works best when it is paired with other gluten-free flours. In this recipe, I used sorghum flour and tapioca flours to give some body and structure to the buckwheat. Sorghum and tapioca flours do not have a strong flavor and won’t compete with the robust buckwheat. I wanted that nutty flavor to come through because it works so well with the naturally fruity olive oil and sweetness of the coconut sugar.
I use Arrowhead Mills Gluten-free Buckwheat Flour, which I can find at my local Whole Foods. You can also buy it online. Remember, buckwheat is naturally gluten-free; if you find buckwheat flour, but it is not labelled gluten-free, this means that is processed in a facility that also processes wheat. If you do not have an allergy to gluten, you can use buckwheat flour that is not labelled gluten-free. If you do have an allergy to gluten, make sure you get one that is.
Almond Butter Swirl
There is always room for nut butter in my mind. They just add a little extra richness and nutty flavor to a baked good. Using the almond butter as a swirl on top not only looks pretty, but also works really nicely with the naturally nutty buckwheat flour.
While you can just use straight almond butter, I mix it with a little bit of agave to help add some sweetness as well as help the top brown a bit more. I use salted almond butter because I like the interplay of sweet and salty, but if you do not have salted almond butter, use what you have and sprinkle a little flakey sea salt on top after baking.
Don’t like almond butter? Use tahini to make this recipe nut-free. You can also use peanut or cashew butter.
1/3 cup (3oz) Madhava Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp (1oz) unsulphured organic molasses
3/4 cup (104g) Madhava coconut sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 large, organic eggs
1/2 cup (80g) buckwheat flour
1/4 cup (36g) sweet sorghum flour
1/4 cup (33g) tapioca flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Almond butter swirl
1/4 cup (2oz) smooth, salted almond butter
1 tbsp (1/2oz) golden agave syrup
In a small bowl, combine the almond butter and agave nectar. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl combine the olive oil, molasses, coconut sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth and then add the eggs, whisking again to incorporate. Add the flour mixture to the olive oil mixture. Stir with a spatula until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared on. Using a spoon, dollop the almond butter mixture across the top of the batter. Using an offset spatula or butter knife, swirl the almond butter into the batter.
Bake for 20 to 22 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Let cool completely before slicing.