Friday, January 6, 2017

Caramel Praline Brownie Pies

It seems like everyone around me is changing the way they eat. Restricting this, restricting that, detox here, meal replacement there. No fat, no sugar, no dairy, no LOVE.

It's a relationship with food that you wouldn't want to have with your doormat let alone something that nourishes you every single day. Where did the enjoyment and pleasure go?

Why can't you have some cheese on your toast? Are you even eating toast? When did bread become bad? Why are we making cheesecake from cashews? (and still calling it cheesecake)

Let's not be so mean to ourselves. Don't tell yourself you can't have everything, just tell yourself to have a little of anything you really want! If you don't like cake then don't eat it just because it's there, eat it because you enjoy it and eat it in a reasonable quantity. Or eat a lot if you're having one of those days. SOMETIMES it's ok to do that. Don't do it every day.

I feel like I'm preaching. Am I preaching? I'm sorry.

Eat your veggies too. Lots of them. And fruit. Ok, I'm done.

Let's make chocolate pies!

Pastry - its probably the most satisfying thing to make next to bread. Buttery, tender, flaky and irresistible. It's worth learning how to make it for its versatility. Sprinkle it with sugar and bake it au naturale. Make pie crust, tart shells, delicate cookies.... almost anything.

Today I'm filling it with a brownie mousse and baking it until puffy before dousing with salted caramel and toasted pecans. I heard your brain say "Turtles". Yes, just like that.

Blend the flour, sugar and salt. Add in small pieces of cold butter and rub it in with your fingertips (working quickly) or pulse using a food processor until it is broken down. Add the egg yolk and water and combine until the mixture just holds together when squeezed in your hand. Press it together until it is cohesive and wrap it up for the fridge. Do not knead or over work. If using the food processor do not add the liquid through the feed tube - you are bound to have tough doughy pastry this way. The processor is only meant to speed up the "rubbing" process for you, NOT to do all the work. In this case, tip the pulsed mixture out onto your work surface or into a large bowl and then combine the wet ingredients while tossing with a fork to make sure it is evenly distributed.

I used small 4-inch tart pans with removable bottoms. This is my favourite size for a (generous) single serving.

The filling comes together quick - melted chocolate and butter, whole eggs, some milk and a touch of flour. Spoon it into your pastry shells and bake in a hot oven just until set. It should be moist and fudgy in the middle.

Once cool enough to handle, pour caramel over and devour. To learn more on making caramel, check out this post.

Much love,

Caramel Praline Brownie Pies
Makes five 4 ½-inch round tarts 

For the pastry:
1 cup plus 2 tbsp (160g) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp (25g) sugar
¼ tsp salt
6 tbsp (84g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 large egg yolk
1 ½ tbsp cold water

Brownie filling:
4 oz (113g) bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
¼ cup (56g) unsalted butter
2 tbsp milk
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup (65g) granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp all-purpose flour

Caramel sauce:
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 tbsp water
¼ cup 35% whipping cream
1 tbsp butter
1/8 tsp salt
roasted pecans for topping

To make the pastry, whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and rub it into the flour mixture using your fingertips until it resembles coarse crumbs. The butter should be well dispersed with some larger, oat flake-sized pieces remaining, and there should be very little dusty flour in the bowl. Whisk egg yolk with water in a small bowl until well blended and drizzle into flour mixture while gently tossing with a fork. Continue to stir until dry ingredients are moistened and it holds together in clumps. If the dough still feels quite dry, sprinkle in another ½ tablespoon of water.

Turn dough out onto a clean work surface and bring it together in a ball with your hands slightly cupped, turning it frequently and pressing in loose bits until it is cohesive. Shape the dough into a thick log, wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Divide dough into 5 equal portions. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each portion out to 1/8-inch thickness and fit it into your 3 ½- or 4 ½-inch round fluted tart pans withremovable bottoms. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375°F and make the filling in the meantime. Combine chocolate, butter and milk in a small saucepan over very low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs with sugar and salt for 5 minutes on medium-high speed until pale thick and tripled in volume. Beat in vanilla and flour. Fold in cooled chocolate mixture.

Prick chilled pastry shells several times with a fork and spoon the filling evenly among them. Place tart pans on a baking tray and bake on the bottom oven rack for 15-20 minutes, until the filling has puffed and the pastry is nicely browned. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make caramel, place sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir gently to help dissolve sugar. Increase the heat and bring to a boil without stirring. Let the syrup bubble away until it turns to a rich amber colour. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the cream. Whisk until combined. The mixture will bubble up. Add butter and salt and stir until melted and combined. Pour caramel into a bowl and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, then pour over cooled tarts. Top with roasted pecans.
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