Archive for the ‘Pecan’ Category

Baking Challenge: Crunchy-Topped Cocoa Cake

September 15, 2011

This week’s recipe is one I’ve made a few times before, so the only challenge involved was timing its preparation and baking to work around the prep and baking of a chicken pie in order to have both done early enough that my dinner guest would be able to eat before midnight.  I’m much better at baking than cooking.  Generally when I shoot to have a meal done at 6, we end up eating at 8.  Nevertheless, I did get both the chicken pie and the cake done and fed my guest in a semi-timely manner.  This recipe comes from a little book my best friend got me called Hershey’s Cocoa Easy Baking.  It’s pretty straightforward, it always turns out moist,  and between the rich chocolate cake and the caramelized topping, it is sinfully delicious, so it’s one of my standard go-to recipes when I need a great dessert to come together quickly.

Crunchy-Topped Cocoa Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I once used Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder in this by accident, and it was a happy discovery.  It made the cake even more awesome, and I’ve used it ever since.  I highly recommend trying it with that variation.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Broiled Topping (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan.  Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla; beat with a spoon or whisk just until the batter is smooth and well blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  I’ve never been a big fan of the toothpick test; it’s not the most reliable.  I judge whether a cake is done as my mother taught me.  I tap the surface of the cake lightly.  If it springs back into place, it’s done.  If it sinks a bit, it needs longer.  Meanwhile, prepare Broiled Topping; spread on warm cake.  Set oven to broil; place pan about 4 inches from heat.  Broil 3 minutes or until top is bubbly and golden brown.  Remove from oven.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Broiled Topping

Combine 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter or margarine, 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans are good), 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes and 3 tablespoons light cream or evaporated milk in a small bowl until well blended.

Voila!

What are you still doing here?  Go bake this.  🙂  Bis bald!

Advertisements

Baking Challenge: Pecan Shortbread Melts

August 18, 2011

I didn’t get around to baking last week since I was too busy simultaneously developing a sinus infection and working overtime, but I’m on the mend now, and I believe cookies will help keep me on the path to good health.  After all, a balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.  A friend of mine slaps his forehead in exasperation whenever I say that, but I still maintain it’s true.

I went rummaging on one of Mom’s cookbook shelves not long ago, and I came across two intriguing and heretofore unused cookie books:  Cookies (formerly titled The Great Big Cookie Book; not sure why they changed that) and The Ultimate Cookie Book.  I asked for, and received, permission to appropriate these books, and found dozens of recipes I want to try, starting with this one from the “Ultimate” book.

The aroma wafting out of the oven while these baked was unlike anything I’d ever smelled.  It was so rich and delectable I liked this recipe before I’d even tried one, and they did not disappoint once I had.  This is a very crumbly melt-in-your-mouth kind of cookie.  Think Keebler Pecan Sandies, only lighter, not as hard and slightly less sweet.

Pecan Shortbread Melts

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
superfine sugar (I once again ignored this and used granulated; seemed fine [har!])

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cream butter in a large bowl.  Blend in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla.  Sift flour and salt into creamed mixture.  Blend using wooden spoon.  Fold in pecans.

Shape dough into small balls the size (and shape; more like logs than balls per the picture in my book) of dates, and dredge in superfine sugar.  Arrange on ungreased cookie sheets.  You can put these pretty close together on the sheet.  They spread out slightly, but not much.  I got most of them on one large cookie sheet.

Bake 25 to 35 minutes.  Mine browned lightly on the bottom in 20-25 minutes.  If desired, broil 2 minutes or until lightly browned.  As far as I can tell, this is just for looks.  I didn’t broil most of mine, though I tried it on the last few.  There was no discernible difference in taste.  When done, transfer to wire racks and let cool.

Pecan Shortbread Melts

Uncle Paul evaluates the result of my efforts

So that’s it for this week’s challenge.  Time & health permitting, I’ve got something ambitious in mind for next week.  See you then!