Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

This recipe comes from the March issue of Everyday Food (and is very similar to CDKitchen's version. I made these last weekend for a potluck dinner and they were devoured. Rich, chewy, and chocolately, more than one person asked for the recipe.

The recipe calls for pecans and semi-sweet chocolate, which I substituted for walnuts (had pounds of them in my freezer) and Ghirardelli's 60% Cocoa Bittersweet Chocolate chips. I don't care for eating these chips straight but in this recipe their darkness offsets the bar's sweetness, resulting in a rich, but not cloying, treat.

Next time, I'll make them with pecans, which will really push them over the top.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. packed brown sugar

3 large eggs
3/4 c. corn syrup
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1 (11.5 oz.) package chocolate chips
2 c. coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with foil (this will help you lift the bars out of the pan after they’ve completely cooled).

For the crust, mix together the flour, butter and brown sugar in small bowl until crumbly. Press into prepared baking pan and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. Beat eggs, corn syrup, granulated sugar, and butter in medium bowl until completely combined. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Pour evenly over baked crust while the crust is hot. Bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until set. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Grade: B+ (with pecans, much higher)

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Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes

It's pretty but looks can be deceiving. Back to the drawing board.

I woke on Sunday morning unusually motivated. Not only did I want to take the whole family (including the dog) for a walk by the lake but I got it into my head to make cupcakes. Since Lazy Sunday has been rattling around in my brain, I decided to use the Magnolia Bakery's recipe.

This recipe is excerpted from More From Magnolia: Recipes from the World Famous Bakery and Allysa Torey's Home Kitchen. People rave about these cupcakes and they look so gorgeous, I had to make them.

The final result was tasty and pretty but I think I could have done better. My biggest problem was keeping the butter at room temperature -- or rather, warmer than room temperature. It's been very cold here this week, with temperatures below freezing, and my kitchen is always cold. I left the butter on the counter to soften but after two hours, it remained solid. Even after microwaving, the butter re-hardened once inside my KitchenAid mixer (which lives on the cold counter). I ran the KitchenAid bowl (sans butter) under some hot water, which worked temporarily. Then I pulled out my hairdryer and aimed it at the bowl while I mixed. Fun but overall, probably detrimental .

The recipe says to mix the butter for 3 to 5 minutes, which caused the butter to separate into that odd curdled look that overbeaten butter can get. Not only did that happen with the batter, but with the frosting, as well. I can't help but think that my temperature issues were a large factor in this.

The cupcake flavor is quite good: delicate with vanilla notes. Next time, I'll increase the vanilla or add another essence; almond or orange would work nicely. The texture could have been finer; it's a bit chewy. I thought I overmixed the batter following the addition of the flour but after thinking about it I didn't -- I mixed the ingredients just until they were combined. I wonder if it's the self-rising flour.

As for the frosting, it's definitely edible: buttery and sugary and lovely tinted pink. There's something about it, though, that I'm not crazy about. As they point out in the recipe, it's not really a buttercream but "an old-fashioned confectioners' sugar and butter frosting" (the difference being, I think, that buttercream has more butter in it). Plus, I felt the flavor dominated, not complimented, the cake. I'd like to try another butter cream recipe with this cupcake, either vanilla or a good chocolate (mmm, imagine the combination of chocolate buttercream on top of an almond or orange flavored cupcake).

Grade: B- to B

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