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.

Chocolate Temptation Cake

There are some days when everything just goes so right.  This was one of those days.  I had my first piece printed in the local newspaper and although it doesn’t seem like much, it meant a lot to me.

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It all came about when an acquaintance,  Lorraine Eaton, wrote a cookbook titled “Tidewater Table.”  She happens to work for the local paper.  They came up with the idea that if anyone made a recipe from her cookbook and wrote about it they would publish the piece in the paper.  Well, I certainly wasn’t going to turn down a chance at notoriety for a day, so of course I had to get the book out and figure out something to make!

There were many good ideas, but I made my decision when I saw the picture of the “Chocolate Temptation Cake.”  Who doesn’t love chocolate?  I for one could live on chocolate but what made this even better was the fact it had hazelnuts and raspberries in the cake.  This recipe was from Williamsburg’s Marcel Desaulniers, the author of several chocolate-centric cookbooks, including “Death by Chocolate.”   I had to try to make this, despite the fact it was a bit of a challenge.

It really wasn’t that hard to make, just time-consuming.  The hardest part for me was skinning the hazelnuts, if you can believe that.  Those skins just didn’t want to come off!  The taste however, was well worth the time into it and would be a great ending to any dinner party you had.

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Try this recipe, try the cake and buy the book.  It will be a great addition to your collection!

Chocolate Temptation Cake

Course Dessert
Prep Time 6 hours 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 7 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 tablespoons melted)
  • 6-1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2 ounce pieces
  • 2/3 cups egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup egg whites

FOR THE GANACHE

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 10 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2 ounce pieces

FOR THE FILLING AND SAUCE

  • 1 1/2 pints red raspberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • (I would double this)

FOR THE CURLS

  • 1 ounce solid piece semisweet chocolate

Instructions

  1. Lightly coat the insides of two 9-by-1 1/2 inch round cake pans with melted butter. Line each pan with parchment paper, then lightly coat the parchment paper with more melted butter. Set aside.

  2. Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

  3. Heat 1 inch of water in bottom of double boiler over medium heat. Place the remaining butter and 6 1/2 ounces of semisweet chocolate in top half of double boiler. Tightly cover the top with film wrap. Allow to heat for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, stir until smooth and hold at room temperature.

  4. Place 2/3 cup egg yolks and 1 cup sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle. Beat on high until lemon colored and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat for additional 2 minutes.

  5. While egg yolks are beating, whisk 2/3 cup egg whites ina large stainless-steel bowl until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.

  6. Using a rubber spatula, fold the melted chocolate mixture into the beaten egg yolk mixture. Add a quarter of the beaten egg whites, and stir to incorporate, then gently fold in remaining egg whites.

  7. Divide between the prepared pans, spreading evenly and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool in pans for 15 minutes. During baking the surface of the cake will form a crust; this crust will normally collapse when the cake is removed from the oven. Adjust the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Invert cakes onto cake plates. Remove parchment paper and refrigerate the cakes for 1 hour.

  8. While cakes are cooling, prepare the ganache. First toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 5 minutes in the 450-degree oven. Remove from the oven, and immediately cover with a damp towel. Invert another baking sheet over the top to steam the skins off. After 5 minutes, remove the skins from the nuts. Allow the nuts to cool to room temperature. In a food processor fitted with metal blade, chop nuts into 1/8-inch pieces.

  9. Heat 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 4 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup sugar in a 2 1/2 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Place 10 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate pieces ina stainless-steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate, and allow to stand for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir until smooth.

  10. Remove 1/2 cup chocolate ganache, and combine with chopped hazelnuts. Hold this mixture at room temperature to use for the filling. Remove another 1/2 cup chocolate ganache and reserve under refrigeration for 1 hour (this 1/2 cup will be used to decorate the Temptation) Hold the remaining chocolate ganache at room temperature until needed.

  11. Puree the raspberries and 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor fitted with a steel blade for 12 to 15 seconds. Transfer to a stainless-steel bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

  12. Assemble and decorate the cake. Remove the cakes from the refrigerator. Using a cake spatula, spread 1/4 cup raspberry puree over the one cake. Spread the puree evenly to the edges. Spread the ganache and hazelnut mixture over the raspberry puree. Spread the ganache evenly to the edges. Invert the other cake layer on top of the ganache covered cake. Press the cakes together. Using a very sharp serrated knife, trim the top and sides of the cake so they are even. At this point, the cake must be refrigerated for 30 minutes.

  13. Remove the well chilled cake from the refrigerator. Pour the room temperature chocolate ganache over the cake, spreading the with a spatula to create and even coating of ganache on the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for 20 to 25 minutes to set the ganache.

  14. Transfer the 1/2 cup well chilled ganache to a pastry bag fitted with a No. 2 star tip. Remove the cake from the refrigerator. Pipe eight to 12 stars on the top of the cake.

  15. Using a vegetable peeler, shave chocolate curls from the 1 ounce piece of chocolate directly onto the center of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for 1 hour before slicing.

  16. Temper the cake slices at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours before serving. Portion 1/4 cup raspberry puree onto each plate. Place a slice of cake in the center of each plate and serve.

Smore’s Cupcakes

    My idea of camping is a reservation at a Holiday Inn.  With that said, I do enjoy the benefits of camping…….like smores.   Who doesn’t love smores?   Warm melted chocolate and marshmallowey goodness. (is that a word? Yes,  I think it is now)

    I got an idea for this cupcake when I saw a brownie recipe where they added a couple of mini marshmallows.  I started imagining how melted marshmallow would taste in a cupcake and before you know it my mind had me sitting outside the Holiday Inn at a fire pit and I had smores in my hand.  A chocolatety smores cupcake. (and yes, chocolatety is a word too)

    This recipe does take a few steps but the process is worth it.  You will not be able to do this over an open fire but you can make them and eat them in front of a fire.  It’s the same thing.  Just like a reservation with the Holiday Inn is like camping.  It’s all how you look at it.

    I hope you enjoy these.  Bon Appetite!

    Smore's Cupcakes

    Prep Time 45 minutes
    Cook Time 16 minutes
    Total Time 1 hour 1 minute
    Servings 4 dozen mini cupcakes

    Ingredients

    CRUST

    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (from about 20 squares)
    • 1/3 cup melted butter
    • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

    CUPCAKE

    • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
    • 3/4 cup hot water
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
    • 1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (3 sticks)
    • 2 1/4 cups sugar
    • 4 large eggs, room temperature
    • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature

    MARSHMALLOW FROSTING

    • 8 large egg whites
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

    Instructions

    1. Place graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and melted butter in a large bowl. Stir until well combined.
    2. Line mini muffin tins with cupcake liners. Place approximately 2 teaspoons graham cracker crumb mixture into the bottom of each liner and pack crumbs into the bottom of the liner. Place 1 teaspoon of the chopped bittersweet chocolate on top of the graham cracker crumbs. Transfer the muffin tins to the oven and bake until the edges of the graham cracker mixture is golden, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

    3. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

    4. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium low-speed, beat until mixture has cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, and then cocoa mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream and beating until just combined after each.

    5. Add batter to graham cracker crust, filling liners approximately three-quarters full. Push two mini marshmallows into the batter and bake cupcakes approximately 16 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer tis to a wire rack to cool 10 minutes. Turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

    6. Place egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer. Set over saucepan with simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 4 minutes.

    7. Transfer bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat, starting on low-speed, gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Add vanilla and mix until combined. Use immediately.

    8. Frost cupcakes and lightly brown if desired with a kitchen blow torch. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container up to 2 days.

CHOCOLATE

Who doesn’t like chocolate?  I, for one, cannot live without it and when I heard there was a chocolate festival in town this past weekend, I had to get tickets.

I think i expected something else but there were some interesting and tasty booths at the event.   There were a couple of local businesses there and if you are ever in need of good chocolate, check them out.

The Royal Chocolate
The Royal Chocolate

The first was The Royal Chocolate, located in the Town Center area in Virginia Beach.  Among other items, they have chocolate and caramel covered apples in many varieties and chocolate covered strawberries.  I tried their chocolate and bacon…amazing!  My absolute favorite is their caramel and chocolate covered popcorn.  It’s made with belgium chocolate and so addictive and yummy I have to get the small bag because I will eat the entire amount and I don’t share.  Whatever your taste they probably have it.

The Royal Chocolate can be reached at www.theroyalchocolate.com or by calling 757-557-6925.

Trafton's Chocolates
Trafton’s Chocolates

Trafton’s Chocolates is another local company located on Central Drive in Virginia Beach.  They had the cutest little Easter rabbits and chicks.  I couldn’t walk away without getting some for gifts.  The chocolate is silky and smooth and melts in your mouth.  I spoke to one of the owners, Susan Landeche, who was very helpful and truly loves what she does.  I love that her business card shows how chocolate outweighs antioxidants over many other foods.  My kind of girl.

Trafton’s can be reached at www.traftonschocolates.com or by calling 757-412-7922.

South 'n France
South ‘n France

Finally my third favorite was South ‘n France.  It’s a husband and wife team that make bon bons in many flavors.  I had the pistachio….very yummy.    They are located in Wilmington, NC and it’s definitely worth the drive.

South ‘n France can be reached at www.southnfrance.com or by calling 910-762-6882.

Of course there were many others that were just as good.  If you’ve never been to the event, I would certainly watch for it and try it out next year.   Chocoholics everywhere should make the trip….you won’t be disappointed!

 

Brownie Pudding

Dessert.  Sometimes we all have to have some….and especially if it’s chocolate.  That was my husband and I not too long ago.  We wanted something with chocolate, something gooey and warm…what to have?  We couldn’t decide. But, as luck would have it, I was looking through recipes by one of my favorite chefs, Ina Garten, and low and behold there it was.  Brownie pudding.

Is there anyone that doesn’t love a brownie?   A little crust on the top and gooey goodness all the way through.  This was more than that.  The combination between the brownie and pudding was delicious.  Almost like an underdone brownie.  And who hasn’t been there?  (come on, remember when you begged your mom for the bowl or the spoon?)

This will take you back to your childhood.  It’s easy, it’s good and it’s definitely going to take care of that chocolate craving you are having.  I give it a glorified YUM!

Brownie Pudding

Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish (2 sticks)
  • 4 extra large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 Tablespoon framboise or chamboard liqueur, optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

  2. Lightly butter a 2 quart (9 by 12 by 2 inch) oval baking dish. Melt the 1/2 pound of butter and set aside to cool.

  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.

  4. When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, liqueur (if using) and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.

  5. Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly one hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked; this dessert is between a brownie and pudding.

  6. Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

  7. **NOTE** I made mine in ramekins and baked for 40-45 minutes. Great for smaller portions.

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