The Delicate Delicata
For the past several months, I have continually found myself trying to incorporate delicata squash into desserts. I only recently started to really appreciate the fudgy sweetness that sweet potatoes add to cakes and brownies, and since squash is very similar in its characteristics, but with a more cloud-like final product, I am now very eager to try it out in dessert form as well, but with the aim of making it more of the star.
When using squash, it is important to remember not too include too many bold ingredients, for they can mute out the delicate appeal of this vegetable if they are too powerful. However, if you are just striving to use squash for its texture, then it might be more fun to cover up its taste for a fun reveal at the end. I have come to thoroughly enjoy finding out that a creamy mousse basically identical to the classic is actually made from avocado or a decadent chocolate cake is actually enriched by the healthy and nutritious sweet potato - not only do I feel better about going in for a second or third helping, but I like learning to respect the breadth and capabilities of vegetables so much more in this unexpected manner.
After my Valentine's Day Zoom class last weekend, I had some extra bourbon-spiked delicata squash that was just a little too strong to eat on its own, so I was curious about finding a way to better balance the alcohol without eliminating the squash's pure nuttiness and sweetness. I decided to transform it into a base for some lighter than air sweet and savory blondies!
Like sweet potatoes, delicata squash has a lot of natural sugars that caramelize and come out when roasted, so this was already a great place to start - I needed minimal additional sweetness to turn this into a scrumptious dessert. Going with the same flavor profile from last week as well, I turned to raspberry jam as one of the sweeteners, embracing its fruity, floral notes as another invisible layer in this blondie. This is something else that I love to do with my cooking - hide little flairs within the seemingly one-note mixture from sight, not having a very clear visual to give it away; a bite is much more interesting when it has intricacies that slowly reveal themselves as you keep experiencing it instead of just giving you exactly what you expect from first glance.
I also went for some balsamic vinegar to keep the dessert bright, along with some cinnamon to round everything out into a comforting, warming bite. With white chocolate chips as the finishing mix-in, I essentially turned my three-layer, indulgent Bourbon Balsamic Raspberry Pie from last week into a jam-packed, bite-size snack made in two steps and in one bowl, and with a bit more restraint so that it could be consumed for dessert and breakfast too! Even in a condensed form, each taste takes you on an elevated journey - you are first introduced to the cozy, sweet, and subtle squash, then treated to a little cinnamon heat, then a fresh berry moment, and finally a tart and tangy finish from the balsamic to truly make this a distinguished, elegant snack.
The recipe is included for you below! It is simple to put together with not too many ingredients, and it is versatile as well. If you don't have delicata squash but have sweet potato or butternut squash, they also work here. The roasting times might vary a little, but as long as you let them get super soft and slightly caramelized (it might be worth peeling and cutting them up to speed up the cooking process), they will provide the same fluffy and nutty base that gives these blondies the pillow-like texture that makes them so light and dare I say 'delicata?!'
Delicata Squash Blondies
Yield: 12 blondies
1 cup Roasted Delicata Squash (about one medium-sized)
1/2 T Bourbon (or more if you like it super Bourbony)
2 T Maple Syrup
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Salt
4 T Creamy Almond Butter
4 tsp Raspberry Jam
2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 1/3 cup Almond Flour
3/4 cup White Chocolate Chips
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Trim off the ends of the squash, slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast face down on a sheet tray lined with parchment until soft and slightly browned, about 20 minutes.
Remove the squash from the oven and turn it down to 350˚F for baking later. Let the squash cool, then scoop the flesh into a medium-sized bowl.
Whisk in the bourbon, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, almond butter, raspberry jam, and balsamic vinegar until smooth.
In two batches, incorporate the almond flour - start with a whisk, then switch to a spatula as it gets thicker.
Stir in the white chocolate chips.
Fill a lightly greased 8x8 pan with the batter.
Bake for about 20 minutes - the top should be slightly crisp when done and a toothpick should come out clean.
Cool slightly, then cut into squares and enjoy! Feel free to accompany them with more raspberry jam or a white chocolate drizzle (or both) if you like your blondies with extra accoutrements, but if you really want to identify all their nuances, just eat them as they are!