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Cardamom Halwa Blondies In Dresden

 

Dresden is famous for the exquisite ceramic figurines that were traditionally manufactured there, and in some ways the entire city seems to have been handcrafted out of delicate porcelain. From the ornate fountains to the manicured gardens, every detail seems to have been carefully and painstakingly planned.

The city centre stretches along the banks of the Elbe river, with rows of elegant buildings overlooking the waterfront. Dresden was the capital of the kings of Saxony and their sprawling palace is still a major tourist attraction. 

It is hard to believe that almost all the buildings you see today are reconstructions of the originals, most of which were badly damaged due to bombing during the war. Over the decades, Dresden has been painstakingly rebuilt with such care that it is almost impossible to tell where the original sections end and where the reconstructions begin.

The great church in the centre of town, the Frauenkirche, is one of the landmarks of the city. We had the good fortune to be in Dresden on Easter day and had the opportunity of hearing the church choir perform Bach's music. Hearing their voices soaring under the great dome of the church was an unforgettable experience.

Dresden has an age old culture of serving coffee and cake. Some of the first coffee bars in Germany were opened here in the 17th century, although sadly, women were not allowed in. They started having their own coffee parties at home and served cake as well. This tradition of serving cake with coffee in the middle of the afternoon, known as Kaffee und Kuchen soon spread all over Germany, although It was not until the 20th century that women were finally allowed into coffee bars! 

We had some really fantastic cakes and pastries at many of the riverside cafes in Dresden. One of my favourites were blondies, which were great as a little sweet treat with coffee to revive us after a day spent sightseeing. In my version of blondies, I have added in some very Indian flavours which go surprisingly well with coffee!

Indians love halwa and often make it with flour, ghee, cardamom and sugar, with some chopped nuts folded in. In this recipe, I have folded halwa into the batter, infusing it with the lovely aroma of ground cardamom and the delicious nuttiness of browned ghee. You can taste the wonderful cakey - halwa fusion in every bite!

Cardamom Halwa Blondies

For Halwa:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 tsp ground cardamom

1 egg

1/3 cup all purpose flour

For Blondies:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted

To make halwa, melt butter in small heavy saucepan set over medium low heat. Stir occasionally until butter foams, then subsides and starts to brown, about 5 min.

Remove from heat and cool 15 min. Add sugar, cardamom and egg, mixing well. Add flour and mix again till well blended. Reserve at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 13X9 inch baking pan with parchment and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Reserve.

Combine brown sugar and butter in large bowl, beating well with a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 min. Add eggs and vanilla, beat again till well blended. Add flour mixture by the spoonful, blending well after each addition. Fold in half the walnuts.

Spoon two thirds of the batter into prepared pan, smoothing it evenly to the edges. Add alternating dollops of prepared halwa mixture and remaining batter over top. Swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle remaining walnuts over. 

Bake for about 30 - 32 min until blondies are golden and firm, with gooey centres. Cool completely, then cut into squares and serve with coffee.

Makes 24 Blondies

Recipe inspired by Bon Appetit magazine