Thursday, November 29, 2012

CHOCOLATE BOURBON PECAN PIE (with cinnamon whipped cream)

This year I spent my first Thanksgiving without my family. Ever. (Well, okay, my husband was with me. He counts as family. But you know what I mean - all the rest of my family.) It was also my first Thanksgiving with 65-degree weather and green grass outside. Not what I'm used to.

We spent Thanksgiving with my husband's coworkers, and my only job for the day was to make the desserts. Naturally I chose desserts that reminded me of my family: pecan pie and apple pie. However, in keeping with all the ch-ch-ch-changes that have been happening, I took the leap to put a little spin on both.

My pecan pie took a Southern turn with chocolate and bourbon - this one's from Paula Deen, y'all.

As for the apple pie, I chose instead to make pretty pastry braids with pie dough, and I fashioned them around apple-pear pie filling. (In full disclosure, that was mostly because I only own one pie pan. But I was also inspired by this braid at Eat.Live.Run., and by all of the commenters asking the same question I was so curious about: would it work with a dough that doesn't rise? Like, say, pie dough? As it turns out, it does. You just have to be strategic when braiding and keep a close eye on it as it bakes.)

About the leaves. I've had this image of golden leaves of pastry atop buttery pecans ever since I decided to make the pecan pie. I'm so in love with fall leaves. I can hardly stand to walk by fallen leaves without picking up fifty of them. Pecan pies are beautiful, too, in that same warm-brown-colorful-golden-buttery-fall kind of way. Mmm. Anyway, I couldn't find a tiny leaf cookie cutter that wasn't way out of my budget (or didn't have a super expensive shipping cost). Soooo, crazy as I am, I ended up cutting out all of those leaves by hand with a paring knife. Don't judge! It didn't take that much time... And, actually, I had a lot of fun doing it :)

Happy week-after-Thanksgiving, y'all!

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

(Adapted slightly from Paula Deen's recipe)

9" pie crust (2) - my recipe is below, or use your own
1 cups pecan halves, chopped/halved/quartered (you can leave them whole)
3 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 - 3 tablespoons good-quality bourbon
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 egg beaten with a little water, for egg wash
sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place pie crust in bottom of 9-in. pie pan. Use other pie crust to cut out leaves at this point, if you wish to do so. Cover bottom of crust with pecans. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, sugars, and bourbon. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into the pie shell over the pecans. Let the pecans rise to the top, then arrange any pie dough cut-outs you have. Brush the edge of the pie and the cut-outs with egg wash, and sprinkle with sugar.

Place pie on a heavy-duty cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for an additional hour or until pie is set. Check the pie every so often by removing it from the oven and "shaking" it. When it no longer jiggles, it's done! Cool on a wire rack.

Note: You'll probably need a pie shield to protect the edges and cut-outs from burning. I made one out of aluminum foil and placed it on the pie after about 30 minutes.

You can make it the day before and refrigerate overnight. I ended up serving it warm, but I think it might have been better at room temperature.

Changes from the original recipe: Basically, I used less pecans, a little extra bourbon, and I replaced half of the white sugar with brown sugar. I also adjusted the baking time A LOT. Nearly every reviewer for the original recipe complained that they had to bake it 30 - 60 min. longer, and they were all right!

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Makes about 4 cups.
What could be better than cold, freshly whipped cream? That is, besides adding a little cinnamon and pairing it with chocolate bourbon pecan pie? 

2 cups heavy cream, cold
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla

The key to fresh whipped cream is that all of your ingredients and utensils are cold. Freeze your bowl and beaters for 30 minutes before hand (or refrigerate if you have to). A glass or metal bowl works best.

Add the ingredients to the bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-low, until ingredients are well mixed. Increase the speed and continue to beat for 5 minutes or so, until cream forms soft peaks (they should peak and then bend over, like a candy cane). I like to use the beaters in a sort of upward motion, rather than "stirring" in a circle. It seems to trap more air more efficiently, and the purpose of whipping cream is to trap air, right?

Pie Dough Recipe (from Food Network Kitchens, original recipe here)


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), diced
1 large egg
3 to 4 tablespoons very cold water


Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Rub 1/4 cup of the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until completely absorbed. Then rub in the remaining butter until it resembles cornmeal mixed with pea-size bits of butter. (If it gets warm and sticky, refrigerate it to chill.)

Beat the egg with 3 tablespoons of the water; then drizzle it evenly over the dough. Lightly stir the dough together with a fork. (The dough should just hold together when you squeeze it together, with some dry crumbly bits.) If the dough is really dry, sprinkle it with the final tablespoon of water. (To make the dough in food processor, see below.)

Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap and shape into disks. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. (The dough can be frozen for 2 months. Defrost dough in the fridge overnight.)

When it's time to assemble the pie, lightly dust the work surface with flour. Roll a disk of dough into an 11 to 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to 9-inch glass pie pan, and trim the edges neatly (if needed) so it comes just to the top edge of the pan. (You can also fold over extra edges, instead of trimming, and flute the edge if you want.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Hello, dear Reader! Happy Thanksgiving week! There's been a lot of baking and crafting happening around here, and not nearly enough blogging about it. To make up for it, please enjoy these delish cupcakes I created this weekend for a bake sale. They were inspired by the gorgeous cakes in this post by Naomi over at Bakers Royale.

Moist chocolate cake,
scattered throughout with chunks of toffee
and chunks of chocolate.
(But not too sweet.)
chocolate ganache.
Crunchy toffee on top.

See how much I love them?
I just wrote a poem.

They're poetic, I guess. :)

I improvised the caramel buttercream. Pretty simple, I know, but as a girl who's just breaking into the world of diving in without recipes, I was pretty proud :) You should adjust powdered sugar and caramel sauce depending on how sweet and/or caramel-y you want it to be. My chocolate cake isn't too supersweet, so I was able to put the caramel in the sweetness spotlight.

For the regular size cakes, I simply frosted with the caramel buttercream and then drizzled generously with the ganache. For the minis, I dipped each cake in the ganache first for an extra layer of yum. (You can tell in the picture above - regular and mini side-by-side - that the minis are dipped first.) If you dip first, just be sure to let the ganache set up before frosting and drizzling the cakes.

Mmm... I can't believe they're all gone...

Chocolate Toffee Cakes (makes 24 regular + 24 minis)
It's a dense batter. You only need to fill the papers about half full. Mine were probably even a little less than half full.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 - 4 T instant coffee
4 eggs
1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup strong hot coffee
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup chocolate covered toffee bits
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and instant coffee. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, butter, and vanilla. Mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Pour in milk and hot coffee and mix well. Stir in toffee bits and chocolate chips.

Fill cupcake liners about half full. Bake at 350 for 20-24 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Caramel Buttercream
Adjust powdered sugar and caramel sauce to the level of sweetness and caramel-y-ness you're going for.  You can make this in two half-batches if it's easier.

1 cup caramel sauce (Homemade is best! recipe here)
3 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (adjust to taste)

Beat butter and salt in a stand mixer until fluffy and white, 3 - 4 minutes on medium-high speed. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth (medium-low speed). Add caramel sauce and mix until smooth, then beat for a couple more minutes on medium-high speed to fluff it up a bit.

Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from Naomi at Bakers Royale. *Note: Original recipe calls for 5 - 8 tablespoons of water, but I think I only ended up using 2. Use your own judgement.

2/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate (original recipe uses dark chocolate)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons warm water*

Heat the chocolate and cream over a pot of simmering water. After a couple of minutes, the chocolate should be soft enough to begin to stir into the cream. Continue to stir until the chocolate melts completely. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar. Add water by tablespoon until it reaches pouring consistency.

Here are the ganache-dipped cuties:


This was my first attempt at caramel sauce. Apparently it's easy peasy!

I thought this recipe turned out the perfect caramel: creamy and not too sweet. Wouldn't it be great to drizzle your Thanksgiving apple pie and ice cream with homemade caramel? Yes. The answer is yes. OR, you can use it to make this creamy caramel buttercream that I used for my chocolate toffee caramel cupcakes this weekend. OR, (*cough), you can pour it into a bowl and eat it. With a spoon.

Basic Caramel Sauce
(based on this one)

1/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream

Heat water and sugar over low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high. Now and then, swirl the pot to keep the mixture moving, but do not stir the mixture directly. It will begin to boil, then it will become a light amber color. Eventually it will become a dark amber color (as in the middle picture). Turn of the heat and whisk in cream. Continue to whisk until mixture is creamy. (It's okay if there are still bubbles. They'll go away when it cools.) Allow mixture to cool away from heat.