PRESENTED WITH a blondie and a brownie, most people will reach for the brownie. Top the blondie with a thick layer of sliced almonds suspended in rich caramel, and the odds will tilt sharply in the other direction.
Even without the showstopper topping, these blondies make an excellent case for the virtues of brown butter, or beurre noisette. In the course of browning, the butter’s water evaporates and its milk solids caramelize, concentrating the flavor and rendering it considerably richer and more complex. The aroma, meanwhile, develops a distinct whiff of hazelnut—noisette in French, hence the name.
With the topping of caramel almonds, the following recipe leans into that nutty note. It’s loosely based on a dessert my son had at the restaurant Untitled at the Whitney Museum in New York shortly before the building closed to help limit the spread of Covid-19. Over the past many months, I’ve thought of that visit with intense nostalgia.
The only trick to this recipe is making sure the blondie layer bakes to the point where it’s nearly firm before you add the topping, lest the almonds sink into the batter. If you’re uncertain about timing it, simply bake the blondies completely and top each serving with a square of caramel almonds. The result will delight just the same.