Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pecan Bars

Pecan Bars

I spent almost my whole life thinking I didn't like pecan pie.  I love pies filled with fruit, or chocolate cream, or pumpkin, but nuts in gooey caramel?  Didn't sound like my thing.  But when I finally tasted pecan pie for the first time last year, I was hooked.  I learned the error of my ways.  The deep, smooth sugary filling combined with the pecans was irresistible.

Pecan Pan
Don't bother decorating the top with nuts. They fell off after baking, even though I pushed them into the filling.
When I got the idea to try pecan pie in bar form, this Barefoot Contessa recipe popped up first in my online search and had hundreds of raving reviews.  But the endorsements also had complaints about messes in the oven, the cost, and the fat.  Nine sticks combined for the shortbread and filling??!  And I wish someone had spelled out the cost.  The pecans were about $15 a pound and two pounds were needed, but thankfully I found them for $8 a pound in the bulk bin at another store.  The many positive reviewers said the cost was worth it -- or maybe just as a splurge for the holidays.

To avoid  the spillage and mess that people described, I used two taller baking pans instead -- 10½ by 7 by 2 inches, and 12¾ by 8 by 3 inches.  The baking times stay about the same.  My sheet pans did not have the required 1 inch in height, and I correctly estimated that 1 inch could not possibly hold all the bubbling filling.  I also lined the pans with foil and then parchment.

Georges Island Collage
Clockwise from top left: Woman in a hoopskirt outside Fort Warren on Georges Island; girls manning the fort walls; a powder magazine; these hobbit hole-looking structures opened out to a view of the ocean on the other side.
So, that health factor?  There's a healthier chocolate pecan bar recipe from The New York Times.  I wasn't happy with a recipe I tried from the column once and figured if you're going to have a pecan bar, have a pecan bar -- and then give away most of them.  I brought them to my book club's outing to Fort Warren at Georges Island.  The Civil War fort matched up with our read for the month, Gone With the Wind, and the pecan bars seemed to fit the southern theme.  My friends loved them, and were amazed at the weight of each square.  It was like carrying a brick.  I enjoyed them also, but I thought they tasted more like toffee bars and less like pecan pie.  It wasn't quite what I had been looking for, and it was also very rich.  Maybe pecan pie is next on my baking list.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Banana Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

Banana Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

I love desserts that look ultra-fancy but are deceptively easy to pull off.   This Banana Caramel Swirl Ice Cream was no harder to pull off than most ice creams, and even the caramel sauce was simple to make.  You just spoon some ice cream straight from the machine into a container, drizzle caramel over it, drag a skewer through the caramel to create the marbled design, then repeat in layers.  There's no technique to wielding the skewer either -- moving the skewer any which way creates gorgeous swirls.

Caramel Sauce
The hot caramel sputters up when cream is added.  Be careful!
The caramel sauce is as simple as cooking sugar, water, and corn syrup together; then adding cream, and stirring in cold butter.  To help avoid crystal formation, which can ruin your whole batch, I cook the caramel with the lid on for the first few minutes -- the steam will build up and run down the sides, washing away any potential crystals.

Banana Caramel Scoop

The ice cream is smooth and creamy, with no iciness.  The flavor is reminiscent of banana bread, and the caramel sauce adds a more complex sweetness.  The chocolate lover in me wants to swirl this with chocolate sauce next time.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Boston Globe Review: Patty Joe's Po-Boy

Patty Joe's Po-Boy Cafe
Photos by Shirley Goh/Globe Staff
Down-home southern meets New England seafood at Patty Joe's Po-Boy Cafe in Abington.  Here you can see (clockwise from top) the Cajun hush puppies, shrimp po-boy, and clam strips roll that I sampled.  Read on to see what else I tasted!

Read my review in the Globe South section of The Boston Globe section here .  If you run into the subscriber pay wall, you can also read it here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

White Peach and Prosecco Gelatina

Peach and Prosecco Gelatina

White Peach and Prosecco Gelatina is like jello for grownups, and a refreshingly light dessert.  The recipe calls for simmering the mixture for 10 minutes to cook off the alcohol, but we were pretty certain the alcohol was not gone.  They were like glorified jello shots from your college days, only more elegant and delicious.

Beach collage 2

They're also super easy to make.  When you've had through three sets of out-of-state visitors in two weeks like I have, this is a simple treat to pull off.  After all, got to keep up your energy if you're taking the kids to the beach!

Update: This post made the Foodbuzz Top 9!