Chocolate Fudge Pie with Salted Caramel Pecans

Chocolate Pecan Pie 1

When a friend showed me this pie on the cover of Southern Living recently, I knew that we had to try it and the results were quite spectacular.   We made a couple of minor changes (improvements, dare I say).

First of all, the name…this is actually a chocolate pie with pecans on top. The original name “Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie” leaves one expecting a more traditional pecan pie filling.

Secondly, we didn’t care for the lemon juice in the caramel of the original recipe .… gave  it a curious taste,  so we tossed it and made it again without.  (very quick process, don’t be afraid of the caramel!)

Thirdly, the recipe calls for a deep dish pie crust. But please don’t use the frozen ones in the disposable tins.  It is almost as easy to use the Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crusts and set it in your own pie plate and crimp the edged for a more homemade look.

One more note…if you want to make sure to have gorgeous pecans for your pie, order these  Natural Extra Fancy Mammoth Pecan Halves from Sunnyland Farms.  They are amazing!  We ordered the large economical box and split it up so we will both have fresh pecans in the freezer year round.

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Chocolate Filling

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 large eggs

1 cup toasted chopped pecans

1 Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust

Salted Caramel topping

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups toasted pecan halves

flakey salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Unroll pie crust and set into a deep pie dish and crimp the edges decoratively.  In a large bowl, stir together the first 6 ingredients of the filling.  Add the eggs and stir until well blended.  Fold in the chopped pecans and pour the filling mixture into the pie shell.

Bake for 35 minutes.  The filling may still seem a bit loose just in the center but will continue to set as it cools.

For the caramel, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over hight heat.  Do not stir.  Boil until sugar begins to change color and then swirl the pot to “stir”.  Do not walk away from the pot at this point because the sugar can go from just right to burnt very quickly.  The whole process will take about 6-8 minutes.  When it is a dark amber color, remover from heat and immediately stir in the cream and butter and salt. Set aside to cool slightly.

Arrange the toasted pecan halves on top of the cooled pie then drizzle all over with the caramel sauce.  Sprinkle with the flakey salt and let cool before serving. (serves 8)

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Peanut Butter Petal Cookies

Don’t know why I usually wait until the holidays to pull out my cookie press.  Its such a quick and easy way to fill up the cookie jar and everyone loves the tender little bite-sized treats.  So here is a version that needs no holiday sprinkles.  Delicate peanut butter flowers with chocolate centers adapted from Sweet Miniatures, The Art of Making Bite-sized Desserts, by Flo Braker.  My shortcut is the upside down chocolate chip for the center… eliminating the need for making a ganache and piping in the center with a paper cone or pastry bag.

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2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsifted all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate chips for centers (semisweet, milk, or white)

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Mix the flour and the salt together in a small bowl and set aside.  Beat the butter, peanut butter and both sugars in a large bowl until very creamy and well blended.  Beat in the egg yolk and the vanilla.  Gradually add in the flour mixture.

While the dough is at room temperature, follow the directions on your cookie press to insert the 5 petal design plate.  Fill the cylinder with dough, packing it firmly.  Holding the press perpendicular to a cool, un-greased baking sheet, press out the cookies, spacing them about 1 inch apart.  If you lose a petal, just gently set it back in place.  Place one upside down chocolate chip  in the center of each flower.

Bake 9-11 minutes until the edges of the cookies are just barely starting to show color.  Immediately remove cookies to a cooling rack.  If they are left to cool on the baking sheet, they tend to break when removed. Cool completely before filling up your cookie jar! (Makes about 5 dozen)

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Chocolate Chip White Buttermilk Snack Cake


Not every cake needs an inch of icing.  There’s a lot to be said for a nice little snack cake like this one.  It’s light and moist with a fine crumb and it’s just perfect for snacks, coffees, lunch boxes, picnics, bake sales, etc.  As a matter of fact, the recipe comes from The Best Bake Sale Ever Cookbook, by Barbara Grunes.  She presents it as a layer cake with white chocolate frosting. Nice to know that it can stand on it’s own as well.

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3 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 egg whites

2 cups sugar

3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven t 350 degrees.  Spray or grease lightly 2 loaf pans.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the sugar and the cream of tartar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form,  Set aside.

In another large bowl, cream the butter and the remaining sugar (1 1/2 cups) until light, about  2-3 minutes.  Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.  Beat in the vanilla,  Gently fold in the egg whites and the mini chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Baking time will depend upon the pans that you use.  Approximately 40 minutes for the pans pictured here.  Cool 15 minutes in the pans then remove to wire rack to cool completely.  Will keep wrapped tightly for 3-4 days.

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Deep South Chocolate Bourbon Chess Pie


The saying “easy as pie” must surely be referring to a Chess Pie.  There are hundreds of variations but as far as I can tell, they all involve a bowl, a whisk, and ingredients that you probably have in your pantry and refrigerator right now.  This particular one comes from  Charleston Cooks!  a charming cooking shop and school on East Bay Street in Charleston, SC.

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Pie Crust

1 stick cold butter

1 1/2 cups flour

one pinch salt

whole milk, about 2/3 cup

1.  Stir together the butter, flour, and salt in a mixing bowl.  Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of peas.

2.  Add milk, one splash at a time to the flour and stir. Continue adding the milk until the mixture forms a  ball.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and flatten into a disk shape.

3.  Chill dough about 15 minutes.

4. Roll dough, place in a pie place and trim and crimp the edges.

5.  Chill dough while you make the filling.

Filling

1/2 cup butter

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

2 tablespoons flour

1-2 tablespoons Bourbon

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees

2.  Place butter and chocolate in a small glass bowl or Pyrex measuring cup and microwave for 45-60 seconds.  Stir and let sit to finish melting the chocolate and then to let it cool a bit.

3.  Place sugar, eggs, flour, bourbon, salt and vanilla in a large bowl.  Whisk well to combine.

4.  Add chocolate mixture to the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.

5.  Pour filling into pie crust and bake in preheated oven until edges are browned and filling is puffed and set (but still wiggly in the center), about 30 minutes.

Let cool and serve alone, with whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.

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Mom’s Chocolate Cake???

Must be the festive holiday spirit in the air that compelled me to make this special dessert from Laurent Tourondel.  I’m no pastry chef so many of the spectacular holiday cakes that I see in cookbooks and magazines intimidate me…. but I had a feeling that I could pull this one off.This is definitely a chef’s recipe, and by that I mean it is a recipe that was written from a professional’s prospective instead of being geared to the average home cook like me.  But it is actually very doable and I am going to try and be a bit more precise as I rewrite the directions.  I will warn you that I used a lot of mixing bowls in this process.  But you can make this dessert and run the dishwasher a good 36 hours before your guests walk in the door.

It cracks me up that this is called “Mom’s Chocolate Cake”!  No wonder this guy became a chef….growing up with a mom who whips up cakes like this!

I am so happy to finally know how to make beautiful chocolate curls.  Of course I had to do a little online research to find a technique.  See what I mean about “chef’s recipes”?  They say things like, “decorate with chocolate curls” just assuming that we all know how to do that.  But now I do know how to do that so thank you Chef Tourondel for inspiring me to figure it out.

Mom’s Chocolate Cake
 (chocolate mousse cake with creme anglaise) 

Adapted from Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking by Laurent Tourondel and Michele Scicolone. Here is the basic idea:  you make a yummy chocolate mousse, layer it with lady fingers dipped in syrup then let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.  Then you make a vanilla creme anglaise, let it chill a couple of hours, pour it on top of the cake and chill again for a bit.  Decorate with chocolate curls and serve.  I’ve made the cake a little less boozy cause I like my liquor on the side rather than in my dessert.  In my version the liquor just heightens the flavor but it won’t come through on its own. As for the chocolate curls,  I turned to  The Pioneer Woman to get a photo demonstration to show me the way. (I used chocolate chips)  Here’s a link:  Chocolate Curls
Chocolate mousse
 
7 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoons rum
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
5 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place it in the top half of a double boiler set over simmering water. Add the espresso powder and rum and let stand uncovered until the chocolate is softened. Stir until blended. Transfer the chocolate to a large bowl to cool.
2. In a large, chilled bowl, whip the cream on high speed for 4 minutes, or until soft peaks form.  In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of the sugar until pale, about 3 minutes. In yet another bowl, beat the whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until frothy. Gradually add the remaining 4 tablespoons of the sugar and increase the speed to high. Whip until soft peaks form.

3. Add the egg mixture to the melted chocolate and stir to combine. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the whites.

Cake Assembly
 
Chocolate mousse
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons  rum
20 to 25 ladyfingers, cut in half horizontally
1. Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and ¾ cup water in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool completely.
2. Mix together the simple syrup (you should have ¾ cup) and the rum. Dip half of each ladyfinger in the syrup until slightly softened.
3. In a 2-quart glass serving bowl, alternate layers of 1/3 of the mousse followed by 1/3 of the ladyfingers, finishing with the mousse. Alternatively, you may make individual servings by layering the mousse and ladyfingers in large wine glasses. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or up to 2 days.
 
Creme Anglaise
 
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
Chocolate curls or shavings, if desired
1. Bring the milk, vanilla bean scrapings and pod, and 1/2 cup of the sugar to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and discard the vanilla bean.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until thickened slightly and well combined. Very slowly,  add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into the yolks and whisk until well incorporated. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture, stirring constantly.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened slightly and the mixture lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, dip a spatula in the sauce and run your finger through it. If your finger makes a trail rather than causes all of the custard to run off, the sauce is ready.
3. Remove the sauce from the heat and strain into a clean bowl. Place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Pour the creme anglaise over the chocolate mousse cake and chill until ready to serve.  Decorate with chocolate curls just before serving.

 

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