Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Black-Bottom Pecan Praline Bars

I am feeling a bit tortured. This is terribly embarassing to admit, really, and I tried to avoid bringing it up at all, but the thing is, this particular recipe is entirely too perfect to not share, so I'm just going to have to suck up what is left of my pride and tell you about a few of my shortcomings.

However, by sharing the recipe, I feel I am doing everyone a grave disservice. Not because of the aforementioned pride issue - after all, many of my shortcomings are abundantly clear here, in this little forum where I detail my neuroses on a weekly basis for all to see. And no, the disservice I speak of has nothing at all to do with calories or fat grams or the fact that these brownies might cause you to be stingy and refuse to share with your family members and all that. I don't consider any of those things to be problems, per se.

Oh, please don't laugh. Do you remember the cake drama I suffered through for The Boy Wonder's fourth birthday? Where I tied myself in a knot over the calculations involved in adapting a round cake recipe to a rectangular pan, and all that? Well, this is worse. It is worse because the math is much, much easier in the case of these brownies. Pie-r-squared isn't even an issue. Really, there are simple fractions involved at best, probably the kind of thing most of us learned early in middle school.

Of course, I didn't really care for middle school. There's just nothing quite like being a hopelessly unfashionable, knock-kneed, geeky pre-teen to mess with a girl's self-esteem. But that's neither here nor there.


Let me just lay it all out here (about the brownies that is, not the middle school social rejection stuff): this brownie recipe is, without a doubt, the most addictive I have had the pleasure of eating. And I have tried my share. I would even go so far as to refer to myself as a brownie addict. Not an expert, mind you, but an addict. [For more on this, see exhibits one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, or eight, and know that those are but a few of my favorite brownies and should not be viewed as a comprehensive list by any stretch].

I found the recipe for these Black-Bottom Pecan Praline Bars in Bittersweet, a mesmerizing chocolate cookbook that I would cuddle with at night if The Carnivore wouldn't complain about it's sharp edges. But, and here is where we start getting to the laughable part, it is one of those recipes whereby one of the ingredients is actually a recipe from a previous page. Worse yet, that "ingredient" calls for half a recipe from a previous page. And the thing is, the first time I made this, we had company and the entire batch was gone within an hour. Obviously the recipe would need to be doubled if we were to get the proper amount of pleasure from it, and that's where it gets tricky.

So here goes with the torturous, highly embarassing admission: I can't do it. I am not able to double this recipe without screwing up the quantities of ingredients. And I am not being self-deprecating. This happened more than once, whereby I messed up the whole recipe while trying to simply double it. Truth be told, I think it may have happened more than twice. And I really, desperately, did not want to share this recipe with you until I had worked out the kinks, but I'm beginning to think I may BE the kink. See, every time I have baked this recipe straight-out, in the way set out in the cookbook, it has turned out perfectly. Exsquisitely, even. I have still had to hold my mouth just right each of those times, to make sure I halved the recipe that is the first ingredient, while remembering NOT to halve the remainder of the recipe, but let's don't quibble on the details.

Now before you commence to laughing at my numbskullery, especially those of you who know my former profession (the one after copy-slinger and before wild-baby-tamer), just bear with me for a minute. To double this recipe, one must use the actual recipe called for as ingredient number one (rather than halving it, which is what is specified on the page this adaptation appears on) and then one must double the remaining ingredients.

Still with me? Think YOU could do it? Even when you're having a chocolate attack and just really want a bloody brownie real quick-like?

Brownie-baking should not be a stressful activity. Matter of fact, the entire point of baking said brownies is to RELIEVE stress.

Can I get an Amen?

I would like to think that this is just the kind of recipe that cannot be doubled without affecting the final product. That maybe the oven temperature or the cooking time needs to be altered drastically to be able to work with the extra quantities. Or that, oh, I don't know, the amount of baking soda needs to NOT be doubled due to some scientific reaction that I will never understand. Oh, but I know I'm wrong. I know where the fault lies. I am fully aware that this is just one of those things. Like the fact that I am incapable of seeing the difference in high-definition television and regular programming, or my inability to appreciate The Who (warning: music plays automatically at site), I am also apparently lacking the gene that would allow me to simultaneously double a half while also doubling wholes. Sure, maybe if I had just written it out on paper instead of trying to do the math as I went, well , maybe, just maybe, it would have worked, but I'm done trying. I am convinced it cannot be done.

So, here's where we stand then: like I said, I cannot NOT bring you this recipe. It is too good to not be shared. I don't know if anyone is still here to read this now, and I might be saying it only for my mother's benefit (because she has to continue reading; she is my mom), but these brownies are the perfect marraige of sweet and salty. The chocolate layer is both ooey and gooey, and sublimely rich, while the pecan layer is salty and ever-so-slightly crispy. And, almost most delightfully, both layers cook at the same time. This isn't one of those recipes where you cook the brownies, remove them from the oven to cool, mix up the next layer, and then have to bake the whole thing again.

However, I bring this to you with a strict disclaimer, that this recipe will almost certainly NOT yield enough servings. And I apologize for that. I have taken the liberty of posting the recipe in the proper quantities so you don't have to suffer through the agony of halving the brownie recipe before topping it with the pecan layer. So truly, since half (argh) of the work has already been done, you may feel comfortable doubling the recipe at this point because that would only be a matter of multiplying everything by two, but you're on your own if you go that route. I'm far too traumatized to go there with you.


BLACK-BOTTOM PECAN PRALINE BARS (adapted from Bittersweet, serves maybe one, two if you're judicious)

Chocolate layer:

  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 Tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Pecan layer:

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 4 Tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped pecans
  1. Melt the chocolate and 4 Tbs butter together in a medium-sized heat-proof bowl, stirring until smooth.
  2. Add the sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/8 tsp salt to the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon.
  3. Stir in the egg, then stir in 1/4 cup flour, beating with a wooden spoon until batter is smooth and glossy, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Spread batter in a thin, even layer in a greased 9-inch square baking pan and set aside.
  5. Mix the remaining 1/4 cup flour and baking soda thoroughly in a small bowl and set aside.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine the melted 4 Tbs butter, brown sugar and 1/4 tsp salt.
  7. Stir in the egg yolk and 1/2 tsp vanilla, then the flour mixture, and finally the nuts.
  8. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture all over the top of the brownie batter (they will spread and cover the brownies entirely during baking).
  9. Bake at 350 degrees, on the bottom rack, until the edges of the topping are well-browned and cracked, about 20 to 25 minutes.


Mama JJ said...

From one wild-baby-tamer (love this title!) to another: Feeding these bars to my children will definitely make my taming job infinitely more difficult, so I guess I'll have to eat them all myself. I'm a genius when it comes to solving complicated problems, no?


Cindy said...

OK girl, I was with you, snickering and enjoying my reading time until this sentence: "and just really want a bloody brownie real quick-like?"
A bloody Brownie? Gross, I can't get the visual outta my head.

Jen said...

ooooh. I will just have to eat them by myself. That will be "plenty"

Meg an Aggie in Frisco said...

I read... "and just really want a bloody brownie real quick-like?"

and thought a bloody marry with brownies.. icky!

LOL well I may have to try this one too... What is "1" more recipe? I am still coveting my Mushroom with mozzarella... yum

If you only knew the baking I already have scheduled and ingredients purchased... soon 18 Doz Snowflake Sugar / Ginger Bread will "magically" appear decorated with silver dragees, in addition to 21 dozen other holiday favorites will to be ready for Holiday gifting... plus 3 pies, and 3 batches of grand-ma's peanut butter fudge. All before the first Sat in Dec. Now I HAVE to add these to the mix, I already have the extra pecans... Yea!

Sarah Beam said...

Ya'll, we're gonna have to have a little sit-down about the true definition of 'bloody.'

But if it's a real problem, I suppose I could use other descriptives, like 'dadgum,' doggone,' or 'flippin,' but none of those really capture what I'm trying to say.

Mama JJ said...

Happy Birthday, Sarah!


Foodista said...

Your story got me hooked, cant wait to try this out myself this weekend...yummy!

Beth said...

I don't guess I ever told you this... but this recipe is now the most requested birthday treat in my family. Seriously. I've had to limit it to special occasions... or occasions when I can have them all to myself.

Sarah Beam said...

is such sad

I blame
M. Pollan
for haikus

Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!