People who grew up in, or lived in, Los Angeles in the 40s, 50s or 60s will definitely remember Helms Bakery. Helms baked goods were sold all over the city, delivered by Helms Bakery trucks to regular customers on a daily basis. The trucks were fitted with wooden drawers where donuts, pastries and breads could be sold directly to customers who flagged it down as it passed through a given neighborhood – like an ice cream truck for carb-lovers. The bakery has long since closed, but many people still hold fond memories of picking up treats from the truck as it came by. A few years ago, there was some talk that a new bakery would launch in the old Helms Bakery Building and there was even a Helms Bakery truck selling some preview treats. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out for the new bakery and now all we’re left with is a handful of old recipes shared in books, newspapers and magazines. Fortunately, those recipes taste just as good today as they did back then and you don’t need to have visited the original bakery to enjoy them.
This blondie recipe is said to be the original Helms Bakery Blondie recipe and I’ve had it jotted down on a recipe card for many years, since I found it linked to on a Helms Bakery nostalgia site that I stumbled upon when I first heard they might reopen. I’ve baked them a few times to share with friends who were lucky enough to grow up in an area serviced by the Helms Bakery truck. No one could quite remember the blondies (most wished to taste the bakery’s famed donuts again), but all agreed that they were tasty and enjoyed a trip down memory lane as they recounted stories of their favorite treats from the truck.
The blondies are easy to make, but have a couple of features that make them unique. First, they use browned butter instead of regular melted butter. This gives the blondies a complex, nutty flavor as a base. They use a blend of brown and white sugar, along with a generous amount of vanilla extract, to create a butterscotch flavor that goes well with the browned butter. They also contain a small amount of corn syrup that adds some extra moisture to the blondies.
The bars smell amazing when they are in the oven and you can really taste the vanilla and butterscotch when you go to eat them. They’re tender, cakey and not overly sweet, which is a change of pace form other blondie recipes that tend to produce dense and brownie-like bars. I added a generous amount of toasted pecans to the batter. The nuts go very well with the brown sugar flavor and add a bit of contrast to the cake-like bars. You can opt for walnuts instead of pecans, or switch them out for a mixture of nuts and chocolate chips if you feel like you want something a little bit richer.
Helms Bakery Blondies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
1 tbsp light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Continue to cook it over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring regularly, until the butter becomes golden and slightly browned. Transfer to a large bowl and allow butter to cool for several minutes.
Stir sugars, egg, egg yolk, corn syrup and vanilla extract into the melted butter. Add in dry ingredients and stir until batter is uniform. Mix in chopped nuts. Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even layer.
Bake for 28-30 minutes, until blondies are set and golden around the edges. Allow blondies to cool completely in the pan before slicing.