My time in Charleston was wonderful but short-lived, as usual. I’m currently in New York, where I’ll be visiting family and friends for the next few days before heading back to the city of bridges. Normally when I look back on my visits home, I fondly emphasize the sensation of reverting back into my childhood, of temporarily tossing aside the sense of independence I hold in Pittsburgh. This trip, though, was a bit of a caveat in that respect. Instead of avoiding adult responsibilities and activities entirely, I actually took a few new steps into grown-up territory.
The first was one long overdue for someone of my age–I’ll give a brief historical context. With a high school schedule overflowing with ballet and academics, I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 18. It was only days before I moved to Pennsylvania that I crash-coursed with my dad and passed the test just in time…to never use it because I took the bus everywhere. And without being on insurance, I couldn’t drive when I was home either. But all that changed when my cousin generously gave my sister and I her old car. For the first time, I didn’t rely on everyone else to drive me–a fully capable twenty year-old–everywhere I had to go. Of course it wasn’t instant: I eased in, considering I hadn’t touched a steering wheel in over 2 years. But after a few practice drives with my parents and a “NO music, NO smiling, NO singing, NO fun” speech from my mom before my sister and I took our first solo outing, I was feeling the long-awaited freedom of the open road.
The second “big girl” occurrence I experienced wasn’t quite as monumental. Among other baking-related Christmas gifts that included a new zester, sifter, and decorative bowls, I received something I’d always hoped I would have one day. The universal symbol of the experienced cook, the telltale sign of a well-loved kitchen, the versatile vessel of both dinners and desserts, the choice weapon of any animated character that finds herself in an established eatery: the cast iron skillet. To me, no other kitchen item so clearly separates the microwave-reliant young adult from the matured home cook. Having a cast iron, even my humble 8” one, brings me a small taste of comfort only found in a family kitchen, a comfort that can’t quite be produced by the miniature oven and cramped counter space of my apartment. I know that to most people the only similarity between a car and a cast iron is the letter c, but for me they both garnished my time home with some exciting firsts.
When I initially tested this recipe, I did so with the intention of creating a topping of some sort. To my delight, everyone who tried it agreed that it was yummy enough to stand alone as a dessert! This 8-ingredient recipe may be simple, but it’s flavor is certainly not. You can get it in the oven within 10 or 15 minutes, and in an hour you’ll have a serious comfort food ready to be devoured alone or paired with tea or coffee. (Or hot chocolate if you’re my kind of person 🙂 ) Moist in the center with that classic crispy top, it’s the kind of treat that’ll make you abandon all the table manners your parents taught you in order to get every last crumb. Flashback to me hunched over the counter, scraping off every bit that stuck the first time I tried it without greasing the skillet…you get the idea.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
1 Corinthians 13:11
Chai Walnut Skillet Blondie (V)
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3 chai tea bags
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 flax eggs (3 TBSP ground flax mixed with 9 TBSP water left to thicken in fridge for at least 5 minutes)
- 1 ¼ cups light brown sugar (vegan if desired)
- ¼ cup plus 2 TBSP cups canola oil
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8” cast iron skillet or 8” x 8” baking pan.
- Combine flax eggs, brown sugar, and oil in a large bowl. Mix well.
- In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Cut open tea bags, and whisk contents into flour mixture until evenly dispersed.
- Gradually begin adding dry mixture to wet mixture, leaving a small amount of the flour mixture in the smaller bowl. (About 1-2 TBSP) Mix the rest of the combined dry and wet ingredients until smooth.
- Add walnuts to the small bowl with remaining flour mixture. Stir to coat nuts.
- Stir coated walnuts and any leftover flour mixture into blondie batter until evenly distributed.
- Pour batter into skillet, and bake in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes (if using a square baking pan, it will take closer to 45-55 minutes), or until a knife inserted into the center of the blondie comes out clean. Let cool in skillet.