Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pecan Passion

Pecan Passion - made January 11, 2011 from Maida Heatter's Brand-New Book of Great Cookies (book #36)

One of the things I'm really enjoying about my baking challenge to try at least one recipe from every cookbook I own before I let myself buy a new one is I get to revisit a lot of cookbooks I've owned for some time but haven't really used.  And the point really is to make use of what I have instead of yearning for more, more and more.  I've had this recipe book for years but I honestly can't remember the last time I made anything from it or if I've even used it.  Hence why this challenge is good for me.

I leafed through the whole book and saw many recipes I wanted to try but I had to limit myself to one for now.  The recipe I chose was one that seemed similar to my Chocolate Caramel Brownie in that it had a chocolate brownie base covered with a layer of caramel and pecans.  Maida's recipe didn't call for chocolate chips but I put them in anyway - as soon as the brownie was done and the caramel pecan layer was still hot and bubbly from the oven, I generously sprinkled chocolate chips over the top to let them melt into the top layer.

Cut these while the chocolate chips are still soft.  They'll be gooey but that's okay as they'll firm up when they're fully cool.  This can only be described as a "confection" since it's practically candy.  The chocolate brownie base is thin and provides a good backdrop for the caramelized pecan topping.  The caramel layer is a bit chewy (as caramel should be) and the toasted pecans add a wonderful flavor.  Be warned though as it's pretty rich.  Use a good dark cocoa for the bottom layer so the dark chocolate provides a contrast to the sweet topping.  I'm seeing friends tomorrow so thankfully I can hand these over to them - otherwise I'd be tempted to have more than my usual one taste test piece.

ETA: I had a(nother) small piece once this had completely cooled.  The caramel was definitely chewy, a trifle more than I would've liked, and once it was cool, I could taste the rum more clearly even though there was a relatively small amount in it.  If you're like me and don't care for the taste of rum, I don't see the harm in leaving it out.

Bottom Layer
3 ounces (¾ stick) unsalted butter
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup sifted all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon dark rum or cognac
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 ounces (¾ stick) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
Scant ¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup dark corn syrup
7 ounces (2 cups) toasted pecan halves

1.    Preheat oven to 375⁰F.  Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
2.    In a small pan over moderate heat, melt the butter.  Place it in the small bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the sugar, salt, vanilla and egg and beat to mix.  Beat in the cocoa and flour.
3.    Place this thick chocolate mixture in a ribbon or in several mounds all over the bottom of the foil-lined pan.  With the bottom of a metal spoon, spread the mixture in an even layer.  It will be a thin layer and level itself while baking.
4.    Bake for about 15 minutes until the shallow cake springs back when gently pressed with a fingertip.  Remove the pan from the oven and let stand. 
For the topping:
5.    Add the rum or cognac to the cream; set aside.
6.    In a heavy, 3-quart saucepan over moderate heat, melt the butter.  With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the sugar, salt, and corn syrup.  Stir over moderate heat until the mixture begins to boil all over the surface.  Place a candy thermometer in the pan and cook, stirring a few times until the temperature reaches 250⁰F (this takes about 2 minutes of boiling).  Watch it carefully and do not let it cook even slightly too long.
7.    Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the cream mixture (the mixture will bubble up) and then the pecans.
8.    Immediately pour the mixture over the bottom layer.  Use a metal spoon to even the layer.
9.    Bake at 375⁰F for 25 minutes.  Time carefully and don’t overbake or it’ll be too hard.
10.   Remove from the oven and let stand for at least a few hours, until completely cool.  Cut into squares with a sharp knife.

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