Archive for: pecan
Butterscotch is a great flavor and consists primarily of brown sugar and butter. As one of the primary flavor components is sugar, butterscotch can be fairly sweet on its own. This makes it a great candidate for salting – by which I mean adding a few extra pinches of salt to a recipe to give it a savory edge on top of all that sweetness. It works with caramel, and it works with butterscotch.
These cookies have a nice butterscotch flavor to them thanks to both butter and brown sugar in the cookie dough. They get another butterscotch kick from the addition of butterscotch chips, as well as a crunch from crispy, toasted pecans. They’re good as-is – slightly chewy and with a great combination of flavors – and aren’t too sweet in spite of all that butterscotch. That said, they’re even better if you take a pinch of coarse salt and sprinkle it on top of the cookies before you bake them. This trick adds salt in little bursts of flavor that melt on your tongue, giving the cookies an addictive quality without making them simply seem oversalted.
I simply designated the amount of salt to use below as “a pinch.” I used about 1 large pinch – less than 1/2 a teaspoon – for each tray of cookie dough that I put into the oven. Coarse salt, whether you’re using flaky Maldon salt (which I used) or a coarse kosher salt, stands out and you don’t need to use a whole lot of it to get the point across. Give each cookie a sprinkle, bake your batch and enjoy. If you find they need a little more salt, use a little bit more on the next batch. If you absolutely don’t have coarse salt, give the baking sheet a light dusting of table salt before the cookies go into the oven for a similar effect (although I really would recommend going for a coarse salt for this one).
It’s hard to resist freshly made candied or spiced nuts, especially when they’re still just a tiny bit warm from the oven. It’s even more difficult when you have a good combination of sweet and savory spices on those nuts, as it gives them a rather addictive quality. Fortunately for some of my holiday guests, this is exactly the treatment I gave to these pecans. I tossed untoasted pecans with a combination of cinnamon, cloves, allspice and a bit of vanilla extract. Then, I added in a big pinch of cayenne pepper and a generous amount of salt before roasting the nuts in the oven until crispy and fragrant.
These nuts can be prepared in advance and, after they have been completely cooled, can be stored in an airtight container until you’re ready to serve them. They’re a great everyday snack and even better snack food for a party.
You can use different nuts for this recipe, or a combination of nuts, too. It’s easy to play around with this combination of spices for different flavors. For instance, you can increase the cinnamon and add ground chipotle chilies to the mixture for a smokier flavor, or you could add a splash of orage oil to add some citrus notes into the mix. The basic recipe is good, but that is exactly what it is supposed to be: basic enough to encourage you to turn a recipe like this into your own signature snack!
I like roasted, salted nuts. But I also like nuts that are coated in sweet, crunchy shells, including honey roasted peanut and praline pecans. Praline pecans are similar to candied pecans, but tend to have a much thicker sugary coating on them. With a salted nut underneath, they’re indulgent and addictive. I regularly pick up praline pecans (or similarly named confections) at local farmers markets and at Trader Joe’s, which carries its own version. I generally eat them a few at a time, but I sacrificed a whole bunch to infuse their nutty, sugary flavor into this delicious cake.
I pulsed a bunch of praline pecans in a food processor until they were very, very finely chopped, then incorporated them into the batter of this cake. The cake is incredibly light, with an almost feathery, fluffy, texture. The crumb is very tight, so it tends to remind me of a pound cake in appearance, although it is much lighter. The reason that I ground up the pecans is that I didn’t want them to break up the lovely texture of the cake. I simply wanted them to flavor it, so I could get all the tastiness of pecans and still achieve that cloud-like texture. The finished cake is not too sweet and has a great hint of praline and pecans.
This cake doesn’t need any accompaniments – no frostings, no fillings and no glazes. It goes perfectly with just a cup of coffee. If you want to dress it up a little bit, however, fresh raspberries or a drizzle of raspberry sauce adds a nice touch of color and sweetness.
Pecan pie is not my favorite fall pie. That spot is permanently taken by pumpkin pie. But it becomes boring to have only one type of pie around, especially during the holidays. I vary my options with apple pie, lemon meringue pie and, as in this case, pecan pie.
Corn syrup is the traditional base for a pecan pie, but I didn’t want to use it in mine and looked for alternatives. While it provides a pleasing consistency to this type of pie, corn syrup is just too sweet and too one-dimensional for my tastes. It doesn’t add all that much to the pie, and lack of depth is one of the things that I don’t like to see in a pecan pie. I found one promising recipe in an old issue of Gourmet that used maple syrup instead of corn syrup. Maple and pecans go amazingly well together, so this recipe sounded like a winner right off the bat. The ingredient list is short and the method here is dead easy. The only real change I made to the original recipe was in the nuts. I used more nuts than the recipe called for and used pecans that had been previously roasted and salted. Pecan pie is definitely a sweet dessert, but salty-sweet is better in my book and using slightly salty pecans gives the pie a nice balance.
The combination of all the elements worked out beautifully. The hint of saltiness that the roasted/salted pecans added to the filling really took the edge off the sweetness of the syrup base, just like sea salt does to a caramel. The maple syrup gave the pie a fantastic fall flavor and made for a much more interesting dessert than a corn syrup-based pie. My standard maple syrup is “Grade B” because it has a richer color than the “Grade A” or “light amber” syrups. That said, any type of real maple syrup (not maple-flavored pancake syrup, which is just corn syrup) will work for this recipe. For the crust, I used my standard all-butter recipe. It doesn’t take long to make and only needs about 30 minutes to chill before working it. To save time, however, you can start with a frozen pie crust that has been defrosted.
Sometimes the simplest recipes are the ones that turn out to be the most satisfying because you get the best return on flavor for your investment of [not much] time. These bars are like that. Shortbread is a very basic kind of cookie to make that the bars are made up of shortbread, using the exact same mixture for the crust and the crumble topping. The filling is just jam and,while you want to use a jar of top quality jam or preserves to get the best flavor, it doesn’t take much effort to pop open a jar of your favorite brand. Preparation takes about 5 minutes and then the bars are ready to hit the oven.
And when the bars come out, you won’t be disappointed. The shortbread is buttery and tender, crumbling easily into your mouth even though it holds its shape enough to slice cleanly (mostly cleanly; use a sharp knife!). I considered griding up the pecans into a meal, rather than just chopping them finely with my chefs knife. I actually liked the bit of texture that they gave to the bars. Pecans were probably a better choice than almonds or hazelnuts, which don’t quite have the buttery texture of the pecan, but walnuts would work well here, too. Lightly toasted, unsalted pecans were my favorite for this, although untoasted pecans will still come out well and will become somewhat toasty in the oven.
Use any flavor of jam that you like. I oped for strawberry because it’s strawberry season and I just can’t get enough of the ultra-ripe berries right now. The jam I used actually came from a local farmers market. I think that the bars would be amazing with blackberry jam, since blackberries tend to have a deeper flavor than strawberries, but you could even use something like sweet-tart marmalade if you prefer.