Apple Blondies Say I Love You, 100x a Day

Apple Blondies

These Five-Spice Apple Blondies aren’t for me. Which isn’t to say I’m not going to eat them. Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve been featuring sweet treats more often than usual. Well, these Apple Blondies are a family obligation. As with all family obligations you have to take the good with the bad. Or in this case the sweet with the savory.

Families are funny things. There’s the family you grew up with, and then there’s the family you end up with. In my case, these two families couldn’t be more different.

As I’ve written before, I grew up the son a pediatric cardiologist, which demanded a certain type of propriety. We weren’t particularly religious, but we were “culturally” Episcopal. This is a short-hand combination for genteel reticence. I’m not saying there wasn’t love in our family. I’m just saying our love was best expressed through respectful behavior and good grades. We didn’t speak loudly at the dinner table, the TV shows we watched were decided democratically as a family (though of course, we were Republicans) and our I love you’s were (mostly) reserved for birthday cards and broken bones. In my family, Apple Blondies and other sweet treats were for after school and special occasions. This is the family I grew up in. It’s the kind of family I’m used to. However, the family I ended up with does things completely differently.

I won’t bore you with details or stereotypes. I will say there are things to love in both types of families. Besides, family obligations exist in every family. Only sometimes they’re shouted and sometimes they’re whispered.

I bring this up because there’s been a change to my family. My partner Ken’s mom has moved in with us. She’s the one with the sweet tooth. She’s the reason I baked Apple Blondies. Some families like to end every meal with something sweet. Some do not. That’s one way families are different. There are lots of others. However, I’d like to talk about the way families are the same. In my experience families come “up to the plate” in times of need (that’s a baseball metaphor, not a dining metaphor).

Lately both my families have needed me to come up to the plate at the same time (on two separate coasts). My father has been struggling with health issues that have kept him bed-bound in Florida for a couple of months. You may have also noticed from reading this blog that I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Florida lately.

However, my partner’s mom has also been experiencing some age-related issues. My father’s problems are physical and he’s getting better. It’s more complicated for Ken’s mom. She’s physically quite healthy for a woman in her 80s. Frail, sure – but her heart, her lungs and her zest for life are all rather hardy. Still, she can no longer be alone. She forgets things, short term things especially. But also simple things. The kind of things that make it easy to worry about her. She has a tendency to repeat herself. I find myself saying, “Yes, it’s a beautiful day” 100x a day.

I also find myself saying “I love you, too” to her “I love you” more times in one day than I ever said to my own mother in her entire lifetime. It’s revelations like this that make you stop and think about families.

Apple Blondies

Anyway, she’s moved in and we’re making a new type of family. The type of family that ends its meals with something sweet. I’m happy to do it. Sure, it means binge-watching Friends, and baking more cookies, cakes, and Apple Blondies than I used to. But it also means saying “I love you” 100x a day. I think that could be good for me. GREG

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Five-Spice Apple Blondies 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 9Source Adapted from Amy TraversoPublished

Bars can be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days.

Five-Spice Apple Blondies


  • 8 tablespoon salted butter, melted and cooled (plus more for dish)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Five-Spice powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup chopped, toasted nuts (I used hazel nuts)
  • 2 large firm-sweet apples (about 1 pound total), peeled, cored, and cut into ½‑inch cubes (2 3/4 cups)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center position. Generously butter an 9‑by-9-inch (or equivalent) baking dish. Line the dish with a piece of parchment sized to fit edge to edge and extend over two sides by a couple of inches on each side. Butter the parchment and set the dish aside.

Whisk together flour, five-spice powder, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and egg with a mixer until pale, about 2 minutes. Add nuts and apples, and stir by hand until combined. Add flour mixture, and stir until combined, about 30 seconds more.

Spread batter in pan, and bake until golden brown and slightly firm, about 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack 30 minutes, then use the extended parchment to lift the blondies from the dish. Cut into bars before serving.