Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pecan Heavy Weights

Like most people, I look at Paula Deen with her heavy cream, rich chocolate, and of course, sticks of butter, and I want to gag. When listening to an NPR show a few months back, I heard her tell her audience she'd actually developed a grilled hamburger with Krispy Kreme Donuts as the buns. I just want to know... WHEN I have my heart attack, what does she recommend for the recovery period?

That said, I stumbled upon this recipe for Pecan Bars a few years ago and decided they were just too decadent not to make. I think I made this justification because it was not a recipe off her part of the Food Network site, but from the Barefoot Contessa's. I should have known better. Believe me when I say I should have read the directions before attempting to feed others these bars. They are both highly addictive and fattening - even Paula Deen would have to reconsider this one.



Pecan Heavy Weights



Special Tools You'll Need:
  • 1 inch deep 18"x12" baking sheet (make sure it's at least 1 inch deep or you'll have major spillage)
  • electric mixer
  • zester

Crust:

  • 1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature (this is an ENTIRE BOX and THEN SOME of butter... we are not messing around here, kids)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping:

  • 1 pound unsalted butter (yes, more butter)
  • 1 cup good honey (coat the inside of a glass measuring cup with Pam before you put the honey in - it'll slide right out!)
  • 3 cups light brown sugar, packed (or a mix of light and dark, because that's what I had on hand)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, beat the tar out of the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well on a slower speed. Easy now. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making a tall edge around the outside. It will be super sticky, so sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Most likely, it'll pillow up a smidge, but just poke it with a tooth pick and it'll settle down. Allow to cool completely.

For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir, taking in a deep whiff of what you have just done. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and pecans, and keep that spoon in your hands. You'll need it to fend off people and their sticky fingers trying to eat the candied pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve, or follow the chocolate drizzle steps bellow.


Chocolate Drizzle


8 oz semi-sweet chocolate squares, coarsely chopped

4 tablespoons heavy cream


In a microwave safe glass bowl, combine the chocolate and the 4 tablespoons of heavy cream. Microwave in one minute increments until the chocolate starts to become "gushy". Take it out of the microwave, stir it all together until smooth, and asses whether or not it's runny enough. If it's not, microwave again for another 30 seconds.

Pour into a plastic bag, snipping a smidge off the end to make a small hole. Gently drizzle the chocolate in a zig zag fashion across the pecan bars. Place in an out of the way area, away from sticky fingers, until the chocolate has set. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Life-changing Recipe


Chocolate-filled Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Creme Frosting

Ingredients:

(For the cupcakes)
1 cup Guinness
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

(For the filling…chances are, this will be more than you need. Please use this as an excuse to liberally taste-test, and/or overfill your cupcakes. It is entirely your call.)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons room-temperature, unsalted butter (I’m not micromanaging. This makes a difference.)

(For the frosting)
3 to 4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup room-temperature, unsalted butter
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys Irish Creme

Instructions:

Make the cupcakes:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut the butter into large chunks. Why? It will melt faster. Also: it’s fun. In a large-ish saucepan, over medium heat, bring the butter and Guinness to a simmer. Pause to reflect that you are melting butter and beer together, and just how awesome that is.
3. While the butter melts, in a larger-than-the-saucepan-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. The butter and Guinness should be simmering by now; remove them from the heat, add the cocoa and whisk together until smooth. Pause again to reflect, this time on the fact that you have added chocolate to this mixture. Allow this mixture to cool for a few minutes.
4. While you wait for the butter-Guinness-chocolate-dearlorditsmellsamazing mixture to cool, mix the eggs and sour cream with an electric beater until smooth. Pour in the butter-Guinness-chocolate mixture, and mix until just combined.
5. Pour this thick, chocolatey goodness into the previously-whisked flour–sugar-baking soda-salt bowl. You’ll probably want to break out your spatula at this point. And/or your finger. Stir until just combined.
6. Put paper liners in a mini cupcake tray. Trust me. You can oil/grease/spray all you want, but you will still leave chunks of cupcake behind when you remove them. I know this. Fill the cups 3/4 full of batter and bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the pan half way through for even baking.
And also if you’re a type-A perfectionist.
I often skip this step.
This amount of batter makes around 50 mini cupcakes.
7. After the cupcakes have cooled, poke a hole in the middle. I use a chopstick for this. You could also use the end of a wooden spoon or even your finger.

Now make the filling:
1. Put your bittersweet chocolate in a bowl. This is easy when you use bittersweet chocolate chips. If you’re using a bar of chocolate, chop it roughly. Or gently. Your call.
2. In a medium-sized (maybe even the same one that you used to melt the butter and Guinness previously, and are like me and do not have a dishwasher in your tiny Bay Area apartment) pan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer.
3. Pour the cream over the chocolate, add the butter and stir until smooth and combined. Refrigerate, stirring every 10 minutes, until it’s pourable but not too runny.
4. To fill the cupcakes, spoon the ganache into a frosting bag or (if you’re like me again) a plastic ziplock with the one corner cut off. Gently squeeze the ganache into the holes in the cupcakes.
5. Don’t eat them yet.

Now make the frosting:
1. Put your room temperature butter into a large-ish bowl. It’s about to get messy, and you’ll want room to add sugar and whip the snot out of it.
2. With an electric beater, whip the butter until it’s light and fluffy.
3. Slowly add 3 cups of the powdered sugar, a little bit at a time. This keeps the frosting from getting grainy, and also allows you to spend more time playing with your electric mixer. Both are very important.
4. Add 3-4 tablespoons of the Baileys, depending on the level of flavor you want.
5. Add more powdered sugar if a) the Baileys has made it too runny or b) you just really like playing with your electric mixer. Like me.
6. Frost those babies.*
7. Eat one. FINALLY.

Congratulations. You’ve basically baked an Irish car bomb.

*If desired, cut small mustaches out of paper, glue them to toothpicks and stick them in the cupcakes before presenting them to your friends, but only if you can stand to tear yourself away from all those cute little guys to cut them out while they bake. I know it's hard, but it's worth the pictures you'll take later of your friends holding their 'staches.