At this time last year, I took part in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, the brainchild of Lindsay of Love & Olive Oil and Jenny of The Little Kitchen. The premise: anyone with an established food blog could participate. We were each supplied with contact info for three other bloggers. We then made a batch of cookies, and sent a dozen to each blogger on our list. In turn, we received a dozen cookies from the three bloggers who’d received our names.
So far, I’ve received pretty Cranberry-Hazelnut Cookies from Stephanie of Life Tastes Like Food, and moist, tender Black and White Cookies from Brigitt at cook with b. I’m looking forward to our third package today.
Last year, I made Clementine-Cherry Biscotti with a festive drizzle of dark chocolate. For this year’s Cookie Swap, I wanted a sturdy, delicious cookie that would be even tastier after a few days. A lovely book called The Art of the Cookie by Jann Johnson provided the answer. I used to refer often to this book when Luke was little (in fact, the book was published the year he was born). So many choices!
I went with Jann’s Browned Butter Pecan Bars, a rich, caramel-flavored shortbread square laden with sweet pecans. I gussied them up with a chocolate top. In the past, I’d just spread chocolate chips over the hot bars and smoothed them as they melted. The problem: when cooled, the chocolate layer tended to separate from the cookie underneath.
Chocolate ganache to the rescue. Ganache is simply chocolate melted with heavy cream. Use 2 to 3 parts chocolate to 1 part cream and you have the base for chocolate truffles. Add more cream for chocolate frosting the perfect texture for spreading. I went with 8 parts chocolate to 1 part cream; I wanted the chocolate to set up firmly. The cream adds just a hint of softness that allows the top to meld with the cookie.
We served the test batch three days after they were made, along with scoops of blood orange sorbet. So heavenly. I recommend cutting them into very small squares for two reasons: 1) they are quite rich, and 2) you can take more than one and feel less guilt.
Browned Butter-Pecan Bars with Dark Chocolate Ganache
adapted from The Art of the Cookie by Jann Johnson (Chronicle Books, 1994)
makes 25 small bars
1 cup flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
6 tbs. (3/4 stick) plus 1 tsp. butter
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup good-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
or chopped chocolate
2 tbs. heavy cream
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with enough foil to drape about 6 inches beyond two sides. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
Put the butter in a medium saucepan and melt it over medium heat. As soon as the butter has melted, start swirling the pan every 30 seconds or so and STAY PUT. Cook that butter, swirling often, until it’s nicely browned. It will go from golden to brown to burned in less than a minute, so watch carefully.
Remove the butter from the heat. Brush a little of it on the foil in the pan (the reason for that extra teaspoon’s worth). Set the butter aside for a few minutes to cool.
Stir the brown sugar into the butter until well mixed. Whisk in the egg, then the vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients until well combined; it will make a sticky, thick batter. Spread it evenly into the buttered pan. Bake for about 30 minutes until it’s lightly browned at the edges and cooked through.
Cool for about 15 minutes. Then put the chocolate and cream in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Give the mixture a stir; it will probably need more time to melt fully. Microwave for another 20 to 30 seconds. Stir again until the mixture is glossy.
Spread the chocolate evenly over the entire surface. Set aside for a few hours to cool completely. Cut into small bars.