MAKES: About a dozen squares

TIME: 40 minutes

These are essentially brownies sans chocolate. If you don’t want to use whole wheat flour, that’s okay: all all-purpose flour is fine too.

If you like, toss in chocolate chunks, bits of butterscotch candy or peanut butter, or chips of either; nuts or seeds; or whole or chopped dried fruit.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus a little for greasing the pan

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Pinch salt

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

Preheat the oven to 350В°F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan or line it with aluminum foil and grease the foil.

Melt the butter over low heat. Transfer it to a bowl and use an electric mixer to beat in the sugar until very smooth, then beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl every now and then if necessary.

Add the salt, then gently stir in the flours. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until just barely set in the middle (if it looks like they’re baking unevenly, rotate the pan about halfway through cooking). It’s better to underbake blondies than to overbake them. Cool on a rack before cutting. Store, covered and at room temperature, for no more than 1 day.

Variations

Peanut-Caramel Bars. The saltiness of the peanuts contrasts with the sweetness of the caramel and batter; use any nuts, salted or unsalted: Add 1/2 cup salted peanuts and 1/2 cup chopped Caramels. Stir in the peanuts and caramels after the flour in Step 3.

Semolina-Apricot Bars. Chopped pecans or walnuts are lovely but not essential here: Substitute semolina flour for all-purpose; add 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots and 1/2 cup chopped nuts if you like.

Almond Bars. Richly almond-flavored and wonderful; great with tea or coffee: Substitute almond flour for the whole wheat; add 3/4 cup chopped toasted almonds and 1/4 cup almond paste (or stick with almond extract). Mix the almond paste in with the butter in Step 2.