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Posts tagged ‘Baking’

“Pecan Pie” Brittle


This recipe was, like (I imagine) many great recipes, born of a mistake.  This Thanksgiving, I got too over-tasked and overbaked my pecan pie.  The crust was a bit dark and brittle, and the pecan topping was VERY crispy.  So it stuck to the pie pan and was hard to serve.  I didn’t make a big deal out of it, since it was only Hubs, the pussycats and me at the house.  Who would know?  Besides.  That was one hella good tasting pie.

A couple weeks later we were reminiscing about that pie, and I wondered aloud whether you could recreate that topping sans pie.  It was worth a shot.  So using what pecans I had left and some walnuts to backfill, I gave it a try.

The concept was:  using the basic, classic, tried-and-true recipe straight off the back of the Karo syrup bottle, I made a pecan “pie”, but I left out the eggs (since I didn’t want any custard).  I mixed up the sugar, melted butter, corn syrup and vanilla and stirred in the nuts until they were coated.  I spread the gooey mass onto a parchment-lined jelly-roll pan (cookie sheet with sides), sprinkled on a couple pinches of coarse kosher salt, and put it into the oven at 350.

Other than the fact that I slightly overbaked it (again) so some of the nuts were a bit “well-tanned”, it was, in a word…..AWESOME.  MUST. TRY.  AGAIN.

2nd batch, I backed off the temperature to 325 and took the pan out when the sugar had melted and everything was a bubbling mass.  It was WAY too sticky and chewy, so I put it back in the oven to bake some more, taking it out when the pecans had JUST started to brown.  I chickened out.  So it was still very sticky but oh so delicious.  As long as you didn’t mind scraping it off your teeth.

I’m trying my 3rd batch now.  The timer is set for 30 minutes at 350 F, at which point I’ll start checking it.  This batch will stay in until the pecans are toasted but not overly so.  Fingers crossed.

The recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 F
Line a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides with aluminum foil AND a sheet of parchment paper (but NOT WAXED PAPER–more on that later).

In a large mixing bowl, combine:

1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup corn syrup (light or dark)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon mace (also optional)

Stir until combined.  Sugar will not be dissolved.

Stir in 1 lb pecan halves (about 4 cups) until the pecans are well-coated.  Plop this sticky, gooey mass onto your prepared sheet pan.  Spread it out, but don’t worry about getting it very thin or well-distributed at this point.  You’ll note I used waxed paper because I’d run out and we couldn’t find any at the local stores.

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Sprinkle on 2-4 pinches (about a teaspoon total) of coarse kosher salt (to give it that sweet/salty Je ne c’est quoi).

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Bake for 20 minutes, at which point it will all be bubbly and starting to brown and will smell like making love to a candy factory.  Pull out the rack but leave the pan in the oven and stir to distribute the nuts evenly and to the edges of the pan.

Push the rack back in, close the door and bake for another 10 minutes.  WARNING:  cooking times and ovens vary, especially at altitude (I’m at 1400 ft) so watch it closely after the stir.  Take it out when the syrup mess begins to behave like candy (cohesive like taffy when you lift a corner of the wax paper) AND when the pecans are nicely browned (like what a perfectly-baked pecan pie would appear).

Let the pan cool completely, then peel up the wax paper to crack the brittle.  Store in an airtight container–that is if you can keep the lid on and your hand out of the container.

You should smell my kitchen right now.  Even the pussycats are asking if that smell means a treat is coming.  I’m about to take the pan out of the oven.

Seriously, y’all.  We’re making Homer Simpson noises here (drool/slobber/moan).

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At 30 minutes, the bake should look like the top of a perfectly baked pecan pie. The pecans are toasty brown and the sugars are caramelized and clear.

SUCCESS!!  Well, mostly.  Remember that note earlier about not using waxed paper?  Turns out the candy melded with the paper.  If I’d pulled it off when the stuff was still warm I would have been okay.  But since I let it harden I could not peel the paper off.  Know what?  It is so well incorporated that you don’t even notice the paper when you eat it, but won’t make that mistake again.  So use parchment.


Reduced Sugar Brownies with Splenda


Darn.  Being a diebetic is kinda hard.  You know what I mean?

So what do you do when you really crave brownies and want to try to stay on track without spiking the blood sugar?  My husband wouldn’t enable my bad behaviour, either.  He’s gained too much weight, so he refused to “beg me” to bake a batch of the classic Baker’s one-bowl brownies.

Another truly wonderful thing about my darling Chad is the way he’s always willing to dispose of my experiments, even when they fail.  In this case, the brownies turned out to be the perfect blend of fudgey, dense and chewey without being too sweet.  They didn’t rise much, but I can live with that.

This recipe is adapted from the One Bowl Brownie recipe I found on Pinterest.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (if you have a double oven use the small one).  Grease a 13×9 pan.  I used a Pampered Chef stoneware bar pan, sprayed with Pam and lined with waxed paper.

Melt 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup butter in the microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, until melted and stirs smoothly.

Add 2 eggs, beaten, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract.  Stir in 3/4 cup brown sugar (darker the better) and 1/2 cup Splenda (bulk) sweetener.

In a small bowl, stir together 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, 1 tsp cinnamon and a VERY SMALL PINCH of cayenne pepper.  Stir these ingredients, then add them to the chocolate mix.  Stir until blended.  Fold in 1 cup whole walnuts.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan.  Bake 25 minutes until the top is dry to touch and starts to feel firm.  Cool before slicing.


2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 12 oz)
1/2 stick butter
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 dark brown sugar
1/2 cup Splenda
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Kosher flake salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 VERY SMALL pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

1 cup whole walnuts

Serves about 16, depending on how you cut the brownies.

These brownies are thin.  I think you could double the flour mixture and add another egg, but they would be more cake-like.  Not what I was going for.  Chad and I agreed these were perfect.

Orange Cranberry Scones for Christmas Morning

Orange Cranberry Scones

We missed out on our white Christmas by *this* much.  We drove to West Virginia yesterday (Christmas Eve) to check on our lot near Romney.  The snow started just as we hit Winchester, Virginia, and by Romney it was sticking to the ground.  Our lot on the side of the mountain (at 1400 feet elevation) was lovely, and the promised view finally revealed itself.  Wow.  I can hardly wait to be spending the cold winter days looking out the prow front of our log home, staring at that view.

It's foggy, but the bare trees finally revealed the view the leaves were hiding.

It’s foggy, but the bare trees finally revealed the view the leaves were hiding.

On the way home we looked at lofted storage barns in Augusta, WV, and picked out one that’s very much in our budget, and even better, may be able to be delivered in January.  I didn’t think we’d be able to swing it for a year or more.  Seeing the land in snow, seeing the view, and knowing we’d have a “cabin” on the lot we can stay in during the cold weather has me all revved up about our 2-year plan.

The snow really came down heavy by the time we got some lunch at the new “Italian” restaurant in Romney.  Going over the mountain pass was tough for 2wd vehicles with low tread depth.  We encountered more than one vehicle that couldn’t make it or had slid off the road.   We endured long stretches of agonizingly slow going behind eejits who insisted on driving 15 mph–with the flashers on—(as if that excused them for being slow AND stupid.  I was very thankful for our 4WD Chevy Avalanche.

The snow stopped just this side (east) of Aldie, Virginia.  All we got was a little rain.  We woke to fog and mild temperatures.  We burned our gas fire for “atmosphere” until my hot flashes kicked in.  I’m dreaming of a menopausal Christmas?

Christmas breakfast was fresh, hot, fluffy and FABULOUS orange cranberry scones.  Bake these on Pampered Chef stoneware, especially if you’re lucky enough to have snagged one of the small pizza rounds before they discontinued them.

The Recipe

Orange Cranberry Scones

(This recipe is adapted from a recipe that appeared in 201 Muffins by Gregg R. Gillespie, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2001.)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) chilled butter
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (1 large orange, zested)
3/4 cup heavy cream (I used half-n-half)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries, tossed with 1 teaspoon granulated Stevia sweetener or Splenda
a little extra cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray or lightly oil a baking stone.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large  bowl.  ALWAYS use a larger bowl than you think you need and you won’t make such a mess in your kitchen.  Cut in the butter using a pastry blender, until it looks like meal.

Mix the cream, egg and orange zest in a small bowl, then add to the dry ingredients in the larger bowl.  Mix together until the dough just holds together.  Turn it out onto your lightly floured marble slab (you DO have a marble slab, don’t you?  If you don’t, go to your local countertop dealer and ask for a remnant, and put rubber feet under it).  Knead the dough a few times–not too much, just to make a dough that hangs together.

Make a ball, then put it on the stone and pat into a circle about 1″ thick.  Score with a knife into 1/8 or 1/6 servings about 1/2 way through the dough.

Using the extra cream (you wondered what this was for, didn’t you?) and a paper towel, lightly pat the surface of the dough to moisten it.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the center of the scone is slightly firm and the surface is LIGHTLY browned.  My batch took 35 minutes, but YOUR OVEN WILL VARY.  Set your timer 5 minutes early and start checking every 5 minutes.

Serve warm with Fleischmann’s olive oil spread with sea salt and some nice apricot jam.

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