Pecan Squares and Class

No matter what we do in life, we all need to continue learning our craft.  It only makes us better at what we love..  I started this blog a year ago, jumping in and not really knowing what I was doing.  And if we’re really being honest here, I still wonder if I know what I’m doing!

A friend and local food expert teaches a class in food writing, called “Expressions in Food”.  It’s instructional in writing blogs, journals, and food reviews so I thought it might give me some insight and help improve my blog I share with all of you.  (you’re still out there….right?)

Our first class suggested we bring snacks to share.  I had a weekend of Super Bowl, moving into a new office and this class so I decided to bake Pecan Squares, courtesy of Ina Garten.  The recipe makes so many I could cover everything with one dish! So I trudged in with my plate of bars, everyone brought their food of choice and our instructor, Patrick brought wine.  Now that is my type of class!

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For two and a half hours, we shared our interest in the class, drank wine and ate our snacks, all while learning how to describe what we were eating.  It was a cornucopia of smells, textures and flavors, from creamy onion dip that jumped off the salty crunch of the potato chip around the plate to the sweet caramel and sandy texture of the pecan squares.  What a tasty way to spend my Sunday afternoon!

I left the class, happily anticipating the next one and I hope it helps me to relay to you my love of food and recipes in such a way that you will love to read my blog even more than you do now.

Happy reading (and eating everyone)!

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Pecan Squares and Class

20 large or 40 small squares

Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 20 large

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Topping
  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 cup good honey
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teapoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 pounds pecan, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes.

  3. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well.

  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

  5. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined.

  6. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 x 12 x 1 inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be sticky, sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour.

  7. Bake for 15 minutes until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

  8. For the topping, combine butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.

  9. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes.

  10. Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream and pecans.

  11. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan.

  12. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. **NOTE**

  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

  14. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

  15. Cut into bars and serve. (at this time if you wish to make your bars a bit more decadent, dip or drizzle with warm chocolate.)

  16. **NOTE** This filling may bubble over the edge. Place a large baking sheet or aluminum foil on a lower oven rack to catch the drips.

Crepe Cake with Caramel and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

There are two critically important things I learned this weekend in making caramel.  The first is that the process can go very fast so if you aren’t paying attention, you can ruin it in a nano-second.  Burnt sugar does not make for a good tasting caramel.  The second thing I learned (and this could be the most  important) is that the sugar is incredibly hot and because of that you should never (and I mean never!) work in your bare feet, drop a bit of the hot caramelized sugar and then step directly on it.  Lesson learned..(OUCH!!)..and next time I make it I will be wearing steel toed boots….. because that’s how I roll.

However, given that fact, the dream of french crepes, caramel and a wickedly delicious mascarpone whipped cream dancing in my head was to the point I had the need to spend my weekend in the kitchen making this cake.  My inspiration came from looking at other blogs, and I saw this posting from Poires au Chocolat.  Her pictures looked amazing and I wanted to try the recipe out but all the ingredients were listed in kilograms and milliliters. Really? I barely passed math so the thought of converting everything over to cups and teaspoons was a complete nightmare to me.  But I thought,  how difficult can this be?  I know how to make whipped cream, I’m passably good with crepes and other than crippling myself for life (and a hint of burnt sugar flavor) I was able to conquer the caramel.  It was well worth the effort and time to make. This is a cake I will keep in my recipe files.  I hope that when you make this and you take your first bite, you will do exactly what I did….close your eyes, take a deep breath and utter “YUM!”.

Below is my adaption of emily@poiresauchocolat.net’s crepe cake.  Bon Appetit!

Crepe Cake with Caramel and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Course Dessert
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Recipe Notes

Ingredients:
• FRENCH CREPES
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon white sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 3 eggs
• 2 cups milk
• 2 tablespoons butter, melted

• HOMEMADE SALTED CARAMEL
• (thank you to the Brown Eyed Baker)
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
• 1 cup heavy cream at room temperature
• 1 tablespoon fleur de sel

• MARSCAPONE WHIPPED CREAM
• Ingredients:
• 4 ounces Mascarpone at room temperature
• 1 1/2 pint heavy cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 3/4 powdered sugar, sifted
• Whip mascarpone cheese and heavy cream together until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and whip until both are incorporated.
Directions:
1. Sift together flour, sugar and salt and set aside. In a large bowl beat eggs and milk together with an electric mixer. Beat in the flour mixture until smooth. Stir in melted butter. Let rest for 15-30 minutes.
2. Heat a crepe pan or a small griddle pan over medium high heat. You will know it’s hot enough when a drop of water bounces on the pan. Take a buttered paper towel and wipe across the pan. Pour approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter onto the pan, tipping and rotating pan to cover as thinly as possible. When the crepe becomes lightly browned turn over and brown other side. Place on cooling rack before stacking.
3. Add the sugar in an even layer in the bottom of a heavy saucepan, with the capacity of at least 2 quarts. Heat over medium high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. The sugar will begin to clump, but that’s okay. As it continues to cook, it will melt back down. Stop whisking once the sugar has melted and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.
4. Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. This is the point where it can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds so keep a close eye on it. If you are using an instant read thermometer, cook the sugar until it has reached 350 degrees F.
5. Once it has reached 350 degrees F, add the butter all at once. Be careful because it will bubble up! Whisk until all the butter has melted into the caramel.
6. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the heavy cream into the caramel. Again be careful because it will bubble up again. Whisk until all the cream is incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add the fleur de sel and whisk until combined.
7. Set the sauce aside for 10-15 minutes and then pour into your favorite glass jar. You can refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Warm before using.
8. Whip mascarpone cheese and heavy cream together until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and whip until both are incorporated.
9. To assemble cake:
10. Place one crepe on a plate and spread a thin layer (or more if you like) of caramel and then spread a layer of the whipped cream. Repeat until you have used all the ingredients, or until you have about 12 layers, leaving the best crepe for the top. Spread the top crepe again with the caramel.
11. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. Right before serving, place raspberries on the top and dust with powdered sugar

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