Posts Tagged 'pecan'

Cranberry White Chocolate Blondies


I hadn’t been to the library in over a year (Mike and I have had plenty to read thanks to Paperback Swap) but the other day for no reason in particular, I walked in. Our library is pretty awesome… especially if you’re interested in Filipino DVDs (fun fact – this city has the highest concentration of Filipino-Americans of any municipality in the US). ANYWAY… I walked in, browsed around a little bit, and saw this on the shelves:

Normally I avoid self-help type books, and I kind of think the “doing XYZ in a year” has been done plenty of times before (The Year of Living Biblicallyand Julie and Juliaare two that come to mind).  I read the first few pages of Eat, Pray, Loveand immediately decided it was way too self-indulgent for my taste, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book.

I skimmed a few pages and ended up checking it out, and I’ve actually really enjoyed it! I appreciate that the author doesn’t take herself too seriously, is able to recognize her flaws, and doesn’t do anything too unrealistic. At the outset, she acknowledges that she’s not unhappy, she just wants to see if she can make herself a little bit happier, and tries various things based on her research. Some of them work, and seem like things that I would definitely do (like getting rid of clutter and finding more fun); others don’t interest me (like keeping a gratitude journal or starting a collection). But I think the thing that really stuck with me most was the concept she kept coming back to: “Be Gretchen.”

I’ve definitely noticed that the periods in my life that I was the least happy were when I was trying to be somebody else. I will never be interested in interior decorating, and that’s fine. I’d rather throw a bunch of stuff in a pan and end up with blondies than spend hours decorating sugar cookies with royal icing. I’d rather run for miles than go to Zumba.

I know it seems really obvious, but I found it really helpful to be reminded “we can chose what we do, but we can’t choose what we like to do.”

I like putting things in blondies.  Like M & Ms and pretzels, or in this case, cranberries, white chocolate chips, and toasted pecans.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:5]
(adapted from Simply Recipes)

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Turtle Brownies


Brownies + Pecans + Caramel = One pretty amazing dessert. And I usually HATE it when nuts come anywhere near my brownies, but if caramel is involved, it changes everything!

I really hope the pregnancy talk isn’t getting old…skip ahead if it is. But we went to the doctor yesterday and heard the heartbeat and it was such an amazing sound! I haven’t really started showing yet and I also haven’t had too many symptoms (at least compared to what other people seem to talk about), so it wasn’t feeling real (even though we got a pictures at 8 weeks). Now it definitely does! April 21st we find out if it’s a boy or a girl (I’m convinced it’s a boy…)

After the appointment Mike and I went on a fabulous 6 mile run to the beach. We haven’t run together in months because his IT band was having major issues, so yesterday was fantastic. We followed it up with a trip to the grocery store. I think we have set a new record for pounds of fruit in the house. I feel like the picture doesn’t accurately represent the amount taking over our kitchen.

There are also some strawberries in the fridge. There are worse things to fill your shelves with than fruit, though, right? I just hope we can eat it all before it goes bad. Pears, pineapples, grapefruits, 3 kinds of oranges, and bananas…

I guess it’s good to have stuff like that around to balance things like this, which are SO sweet and rich! They’re worth making though. Multiple people at both my work and Mike’s said they were the best brownies they’d ever had, which is a pretty serious declaration!

Recipe:
(adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)

brownies
1 cup + 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs

topping
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
3 tbsp water
pinch salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped pecans
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

To make the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease and flour a 13 x 9 pan.

Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together with a fork.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in the brown sugar.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir the flour mixture in, mixing just until combined.

Spread evenly in the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

To make the topping:
Put the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil without stirring, and continue cooking (undisturbed) until golden.

While the sugar is boiling, bring the cream to a simmer in a separate, small saucepan.

Once the sugar mixture is golden, remove from the heat and stir in the cream, salt and vanilla. Stir until smooth, heating over low if it’s not coming together, stirring constantly.

Stir in the pecans then immediately spread over the brownies.

Let cool completely.

Melt the semisweet chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat. Drizzle over the caramel-pecan layer. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then cut into small squares (it’s easiest to do this if you warm the knife up by running it under hot water then drying it and slicing immediately).

Oatmeal-Pecan Cookies

Why is it that 99% of the time Mike or I crave cookies, there are no chocolate chips in the house? Probably because we cannot keep chocolate chips on hand or they will disappear. Both of us have shockingly little willpower when there is any edible (ie not unsweetened) chocolate anywhere in the house, so stocking the pantry with chocolate is kind of a recipe for disaster.

Last night after dinner we were both craving something sweet, particularly cookies, but neither of us felt like walking the 3 blocks to the grocery store to buy a bag of chocolate chips. Enter the desperation oatmeal cookie. We always keep plenty of oats around. And butter, brown sugar, and flour. Nuts are pretty common pantry staples too. Although some people might miss the chocolate chips, these have a charm all their own. It’s nice to have a few cake and cookie recipes around that can be made with ingredients that are almost always around, and this is another good example. More cakey than chewy, you can definitely switch out the pecans for other nuts, or try dried fruit instead. Make them your own!

Recipe:

makes about 30 cookies

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 and line some cookie sheets with parchment or silpats.
Cream the butter with the brown sugar for about 3 mintues in the bowl of a stand mixer, then beat in the egg and vanilla.
Stir the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Add to the butter and mix on low until just combined. Stir in the pecans and oats, then drop by rounded tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets.
Bake for about 8 minutes, or until just set. Let cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Cocoa Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Well, I survived my first week of teaching 8th grade, and honestly, it was easier than I thought it would be. Part of me is still in shock that I was actually able to land a teaching job, especially given the fact that California still hasn’t passed a budget and there were thousands of teachers laid off at the end of last year.
But somehow, I scored this amazing job at a truly AWESOME school and I’m loving it!

I also survived a week with spotty electricity. There were record-breaking high temperatures all over the Bay Area last week, and possibly due to that, we ended up losing power. Eventually the neighborhood got their electricity back, but we didn’t. Although they hooked us up to a generator for a few hours a day, our street was crawling with electric company trucks and our building didn’t get power until a few days later. Now that we’re living with an electric stove and oven (not my first choice, but that’s life), it meant a longer-than-I-would-have-liked hiatus from baking and cooking. But last night, as soon as the lights came back on, I
pre-heated my oven and got this coffee cake going.

I’ve made this before and it’s always a crowd pleaser. It’s got great chocolate flavor, and how can anyone resist streusel topping with pecans and chocolate mixed in? The recipe in the book calls for mini chocolate chips, but I always buy the normal ones and roughly chop them. If you have a 13 x 9 x 3 inch pan, you can bake it all in a single pan with no problems, but because my pan is shallower, it works best for me to do a 13 x 9 pan plus 6 muffins. Watch the cake carefully because the streusel can burn quickly. About 55 minutes at 350 should work well, but ovens vary, so keep an eye on it! (Muffins will take closer to 25 minutes)

Recipe:
(adapted from Baking By Flavor by Lisa Yockelson)

cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups roughly chopped chocolate chips
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sour cream (reduced fat is fine)

streusel
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar (firmly packed)
pinch salt
12 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup roughly chopped chocolate chips

To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 13 x 9 x 3 inch pan (or a shallower pan, plus line 6 muffin cups).
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.
Cream the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium for about 3 minutes. Beat in the granulated sugar one cup at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for about a minute after adding each egg. Mix in the vanilla extract.

Add the sifted flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream in 2 additions, mixing on low speed and scraping in between. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into the pan(s).

To make the streusel, mix the flour, sugars, and salt together with a fork. Add the butter and blend with a pastry blender until it looks like small pebbles. Toss in the chocolate and pecans, and work between your fingers until evenly mixed.

Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the cake and muffins. Bake for about 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comesoujt clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack, then cut into squares to serve.

Vegan Spelt Banana Muffins

Mike and I recently faced an incredibly difficult decision. He had a great opportunity at one end of the state and I had a great opportunity at the other end. Either place we moved, one of us would be giving up a lot. We agonized for hours. Then we ate some banana muffins and agonized some more.

The banana muffins temporarily took our minds off our conundrum. This was my first time baking with spelt flour, and I am obsessed. I also am in a little vegan phase right now, so I made a flax egg instead of using a real egg. Of course you can use a real egg – it’s your prerogative. These are sweet and incredibly tender, probably thanks to the maple syrup in them. Instead of streusel (not so healthy), I chopped up some freshly toasted pecans — still working through my Oh Nuts package — (healthier). Nobody believed these muffins were vegan, so I guess that’s a good sign.

And as for that conundrum, we’re still undecided…but I’ll update you once it’s figured out! It may take a few more batches of these muffins, though.

Recipe:
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
1 egg, lightly beaten (or one flax egg – 1 tbsp ground flax with 3 tbsp warm water)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 12-muffin tin with paper liners.

Stir the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

Mix the bananas, sugar, egg, vegetable oil, and maple syrup in another bowl. Stir the dry ingredients in gently, being careful not to over-mix.

Divide evenly among the muffin tins, then sprinkle with some of the chopped pecans. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (they’ll look pretty dark, but they’re not burnt!) Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Pecan Pie

This has been the month of revisiting foods that were difficult to make in the past.  Although I’ve never used this recipe before, the last time I made pecan pie, the top burned and the inside was a liquid mess.  However, since my husband had never had a real pecan pie, I decided to make another attempt.  Although I may have let this bake a tiny bit too long (the crust got fairly brown and so did the nuts – but nothing turned black), it was still delicious and the inside wasn’t runny at all.  Another keeper from Pioneer Woman!

I like to use Dorie’s crust recipe, which you can find in this post.

1 unbaked pie crust
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup melted butter (regular, salted)
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup chopped pecans

Mix sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl. Pour chopped pecans in the bottom of the pie shell. Pour syrup mixture over the top. Bake pie at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, being careful not to burn pecans and crust.
Allow to cool for several hours or overnight. Serve in thin slivers.

German Chocolate Cake

This has been on my list of things to attempt for quite awhile, and tonight I finally got around to making it.  It was not exactly quick and easy, but the time and effort were definitely worth it.   It takes awhile to get all the components ready to go.  I love the smooth, shiny look of the chocolate glaze, and the filling is sweet with the warm flavors of toasted coconut and pecans.

For cake layers:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup boiling-hot water

For filling:
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
4 ounces coarsely chopped pecans (1 cup)
14-ounces can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

For glaze:
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
10 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Special equipment: 3 (9-inch) round cake pans

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 350°F and oil cake pans. 

Line bottoms of pans with rounds of parchment or wax paper. 
Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together whole milk, butter, whole egg, yolk, vanilla, and almond extract in another large bowl until just combined. 
Beat egg mixture into flour mixture with an electric mixer on low speed, then beat on high speed 1 minute. 
Reduce speed to low and beat in water until just combined (batter will be thin). 
Divide batter among cake pans (about 1 1/2 cups per pan) and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans and rotating them 180 degrees halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes total.
Cool layers in pans on racks 15 minutes. 
Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. 
Carefully remove parchment or wax paper and cool layers completely.

Make filling:
Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
Spread coconut in a large shallow baking pan and pecans in another. Bake pecans in upper third of oven and coconut in lower third, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pans from oven.

Turn oven up to 425 F.
Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. 
Bake milk in a water bath in middle of oven 45 minutes. 
Refill baking pan with water to reach halfway up pie plate and bake milk until thick and brown, about 45 minutes more. 
Remove pie plate from water bath.
Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla and keep warm, covered with foil.

Make glaze while milk is baking:
Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate and corn syrup, whisking until chocolate is melted. Transfer 1 cup glaze to a bowl, reserving remaining glaze at room temperature in pan. Chill glaze in bowl, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spreadable, about 1 hour.

Assemble cake:
Put 1 cake layer on a cardboard round, and place on a rack set over a baking pan (to catch excess glaze). Drop half of coconut filling by spoonfuls evenly over layer and gently spread with a wet spatula. Top with another cake layer and spread with remaining filling in same manner.


Top with remaining cake layer and spread chilled glaze evenly over top and side of cake. Heat reserved glaze in pan over low heat, stirring, until glossy and pourable, about 1 minute. Pour glaze evenly over top of cake, making sure it coats sides. Shake rack gently to smooth glaze.

Chill cake until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer cake to a plate.




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