Saturday, June 24, 2017

Chocolate Praline Cake: 2 Recipes for National Praline Day!

Today is National Praline Day. Last Fall I posted several chocolate praline recipes. You can actually eat pralines in several different incarnations--or even drink your pralines, as in Praline Pecan Liqueur.

Another easy way to get your praline fix today (with chocolate) would be to eat some Praline or Butter Pecan Ice Cream with a covering of chocolate syrup. Hence the Vintage Ad from 1951 for Borden's Praline Pecan Ice Cream. But another variation on Pralines would be Chocolate Praline Cake. See below for two recipes.. one  is a traditional three tier chocolate cake with Ganache Filling and Praline Frosting, and the other a Chocolate Bundt Cake with Praline Frosting. With both cakes, it's all about the Praline frosting. 

So what is Praline?
1) a confection of nuts and sugar: as in almonds cooked in boiling sugar until brown and crisp
2) a patty of creamy brown sugar and pecan meats

The original praline was a sweet confection made of almonds and some sort of creamy sugary caramelized coating. Lots of stories about how the Praline came to New Orleans and the South. One is that Pralines were first made in the home of 17th century French diplomat Cesar du Plessis Praslin by one of his chefs. The name "Praslin" eventually evolved into "praline." I don't buy that story since pralines were already popular in Europe in a slightly different version. Another story is that pralines were brought over from France by the Ursuline nuns, who settled in New Orleans in 1727. This makes sense since Pralines were already in the French tradition. Almonds were in short supply, so cooks began substituting the nuts of the native Louisiana pecan trees, thus the modern pecan pralines were born. Praline pecans were known as individual pecans covered in the sugary coating. The new pecan pralines quickly spread throughout New Orleans and became a common confection in the area.

Because New Orleans was a thriving port, people from all over the world came through, and the praline spread with them. Many people are unaware of the candy’s historical origin, and the praline is thought of as a southern confection not necessarily specific to New Orleans. Some believe the pecan praline is a Texan candy, whereas others assume it came from Savannah. The pronunciation of the candy is a bit of a point of contention as well. In New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, where there are many communities settled by the French, the pronunciation is prah-leen, with the long aaah sound, which is closer to that of the candy’s namesake du Plessis-Praslin. Other regions of the country, including parts of Texas, Georgia, and New England have anglicized the term and pronounce it pray-leen. Other terms for pralines include pecan pralines, pecan candy, plarines and pecan patties.

Go here for Praline Candy Recipes.

So my motto today is "Let Them Eat Cake" since I'm more of a baker than candy maker.

This first recipe is one of my go-to Chocolate Bundt Cakes, but any good chocolate bundt cake will work. It's all in the frosting for the Praline Fix. As a matter of fact a good sour cream or yogurt chocolate bundt cake would be great, too.

CHOCOLATE PRALINE BUNDT CAKE 

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp Instant Coffee Granules (I use Starbucks instant espresso packs)
7 ounces dark chocolate (65-75% Cacao), chopped
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla
3 large eggs

FOR CAKE:
Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease 10-inch Bundt pan.
Combine flour, baking soda and baking powder in small bowl. Bring water and coffee granules to boil in small saucepan; remove from heat. Add chocolate; stir until smooth.
Beat sugar, butter, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs; beat on high speed for 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture alternately with chocolate mixture.
Pour into prepared Bundt pan.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until long wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean.
Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes. Invert onto wire rack to cool completely.
Place on plate.
Pour Praline Frosting over the top of the cake letting it drip down the sides.

PRALINE FROSTING  (from Southern Living, see below for link)

 Ingredients
1/4 cup sweet butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preparation 
Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, and boil 1 minute.
Remove from heat, and whisk in 1 cup powdered sugar and vanilla extract until smooth.
Stir in toasted pecans, stirring gently 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thicken slightly.
Pour immediately over cake.
Photo: Southern Living Chocolate Praline Cake. Beautiful!

CHOCOLATE PRALINE LAYER CAKE

This is my favorite "real" Chocolate Praline Cake. It's from Southern Living, November 2001, and I'm so glad I found it again on the Internet, my copy having been stashed inside a cookbook, somewhere. This recipe is all about the praline candy frosting!

Ingredients
1 cup butter
1/4 cup DARK cocoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
Chocolate Ganache
Praline Frosting
Garnish: pecan halves  

Preparation
Cook first 3 ingredients in small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until butter melts and mixture is smooth; remove butter mixture from heat.
Beat buttermilk, 2 eggs, baking soda, and vanilla at medium speed with electric mixer until smooth. Add butter mixture to buttermilk mixture, beating until well blended.
Combine sugar, flour, and salt; gradually add to buttermilk mixture, beating until blended.
Coat 3 (9-inch) round cakepans with cooking spray, and line pans with wax paper. Pour cake batter evenly into pans.
Bake at 350° for 18 to 22 minutes or until cake is set. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.
Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.
Spread about 1/2 cup Chocolate Ganache between cake layers, and spread remaining ganache on sides of cake.
Pour Praline Frosting slowly over the center of cake, gently spreading to edges, allowing some frosting to run over sides.
Garnish with pecan halves

Chocolate Ganache 
Ingredients 
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces

Preparation 
Microwave chocolate morsels and whipping cream in a glass bowl at MEDIUM (50% power) 2 to 3 minutes or until morsels are melted. Whisk until smooth.
Gradually add butter, whisking until smooth.
Cool, whisking often, 15 minutes or until spreading consistency.

Praline Frosting 
Ingredients
1/4 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preparation 
Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, and boil 1 minute.
Remove from heat, and whisk in 1 cup powdered sugar and vanilla extract until smooth.
Stir in toasted pecans, stirring gently 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thicken slightly.
Pour immediately over cake (or over the bundt cake--recipe above).


Friday, June 23, 2017

Cartoon of the Day: Extreme Farmstand


Chocolate Pecan Sandies: National Pecan Sandies Day

Today is National Pecan Sandies Day. Pecan sandies are special shortbread cookies, and I've added chocolate to make them all that much better. If you're a purist, check out the BrownEyedBaker's recipe for "non-chocolate" pecan sandies. It's great.

Pecan Sandies: A shortbread cookie with ground pecans added to the flour. The cookies are easy to make -- flour, butter, sugar salt, and vanilla--and the pecans. The name Sandie might have something to do with the color--or not. Urban myth?

I have two suggestions for Chocolate Pecan Sandies. The first is the full recipe for  Chocolate Pecan Sandie Cookies. The second would be to use a 'regular' pecan sandie recipe and add chocolate chips.

Pecan Sandies are simple to make and taste delicious. They're not too sweet. Some people like to chop the pecans coursely, and that works, but you can also pulverize the pecans. To form the cookies, I use the drop method, but some people like to make logs and then slice them. Either way, they'll taste great!

Chocolate Pecan Sandies

Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) ground pecans, divided use
1/2 cup unsweetened good quality DARK cocoa powder
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease cookie sheet or line with parchment.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla until well blended.
Mix together flour, 1 cup ground pecans, and cocoa powder, then beat flour mixture into butter mixture.
Chill dough for 30 minutes.
Combine remaining 1/2 cup ground pecans and 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar in a bowl.
Form dough into 1-inch balls.
Roll in pecan sugar mixture (reserve any leftover sugar mix) and place on baking sheets.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool, then dip pecan sandy cookie tops in any remaining pecan sugar.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mini Chocolate Eclairs: National Eclair Day!

Today is National Eclair Day. My favorite eclairs are not the long thin "traditional" hotdog shaped eclairs (although I like them), but rather, the mini-eclairs. They're easy to make using a basic Pâte à choux.. puff pastry. I've been making them for years.

I've posted this recipe before, but it's always worthy of a re-post. These eclairs are so easy and yet look so beautiful and taste fabulous! Hope you enjoy making these as much as I do!

I've adapted this recipe for Mini Chocolate Eclairs from Paula Deen. This is one of my favorite recipes because it's simple and delicious! I never use margarine, so I've dropped that alternative from the recipe. Real butter is always best. As always, I use the very best dark chocolate for the topping. I've changed a few measurements and directions in the recipe for the Novice Eclair Chef. If you're a purist, just click on Paula Deen's recipe above.

Because these eclairs are so small, feel free to have 3 or 4. :-) Yield depends on how small you make them, but I usually get about 40 small eclairs from this recipe. They're great for a crowd!

Want to make these even more chocolate-y? Add a handful of chocolate chips to the egg cream filling or fill with chocolate cream instead: just add 1/4 cup dark cocoa to the dry ingredients. To fill the eclairs, I use a pastry bag, but if you don't have one, you can always fill a Ziploc bag and cut the tip off to pipe the filling into the eclair.

You will probably have some extra icing. Half the recipe if you ice sparingly. I'm for more chocolate, so there's never much left.

MINI CHOCOLATE ECLAIRS

Pastry:
1 cup water
8 Tbsp butter
1 cup sifted flour
3 eggs

Filling:
3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp flour
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp Madagascar vanilla

Icing:
3 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 400F.
Heat water and butter to boiling point. Add flour and stir constantly until mixture is smooth and forms a ball when tested in cold water. Remove from heat and let cool. Beat in 3 eggs, one at a time. Drop dough from teaspoon, elongate slightly to form small eclairs (or drop in 'puffs'), onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until light brown. Set aside to cool.
Prepare filling by mixing all dry ingredients. Very slowly add milk over low heat and cook until mixture thickens (don't let heat get too high), so you don't have any lumps. Then pour this custard  into beaten eggs, stirring quickly (so eggs don't cook). Cool and add vanilla.
With serrated knife, slice pastry puffs lengthwise (or if you have puffs make a hole), but not all the way through. Pipe custard mixture into center.
Melt chocolate for icing, add sugar, and cream. Cook over medium heat until soft ball stage. Let cool and beat until smooth. Ice tops of eclairs.