Today’s Recipes: Chocolate Ding-a-Lings, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie with Chantilly Cream, and Irresistible Pecan Pie.
Even though we are focusing on Thanksgiving recipes, you didn’t think I would forego Chocolate Monday did you? I didn’t think so, LOL! Besides, not everyone (including my brother-in-law) likes the traditional Thanksgiving pies for dessert. So, in addition to my Pecan Pie, I am including a recipe for Chocolate Pecan Pie, and as an extra indulgence, Chocolate Ding-a-Lings! Can you handle all these goodies? Sure you can.
As we head into the heavy baking season, you might consider asking for an early Christmas present … a KitchenAid mixer! This is truly the workhorse of my kitchen. James bought me mine 15-years ago and it is still going strong. One of the smartest things I did shortly after getting mine was to buy an extra bowl and paddle attachment. This way if I am making both a cake and frosting, I don’t have to wash the bowl and beater in between. It is also helpful when I am doing large batches of cookies. I can make one dough and chill it while making the next one. It saves me oodles of time!
If you are like me, you grew up eating Ding Dongs and loving every bite. They are a mini chocolate cake, filled with vanilla cream and covered with melted chocolate. Of course the mystery always was how they got the filling in the center. The secret is to inject the filling through the bottom of the cakes then cover them with ganache so that no one knows the filling is there. Even if they aren’t perfect looking, they will be absolutely delicious.
For those of you who are worried about baking pies or making pie dough, if you use my absolute fool-proof dough recipe, you will have a delicious and flaky crust every time. I make it in my food processor and it couldn’t be easier. Follow the directions and even those who have never made a pie before will produce something to be proud of. And the two easiest pies to make are Pecan and Pumpkin – so you are going to be fine! Just do yourself a favor and make them a day ahead so you can relax while you’re making them. Then if for some reason they don’t turn out, you still have time to run to the store and buy one already made! Or do what I do when I’m baking for a party… I always have ice cream and cookies on hand so I can throw together a dessert in an instant, just in case.
My pecan pie is a little different from most you’ve had. It is a little less sweet and has a lot more nuts. Pecan halves tend to float to the top during baking leaving you with filling on the bottom and nuts on the top. I like to chop half of the nuts so they stay suspended in the filling. And of course you can chop all of them if you like. Always taste your nuts when you get them home to make sure they are fresh. There is nothing worse than getting halfway through making the pie and finding out that they are rancid.
A newer incarnation of pecan pie is Chocolate Pecan pie. Gaining in popularity every year, it is so simple to make. Just add some chocolate chips to the pecan pie filling and you’ll have a pie that tastes like what you remember from your childhood, only better!
If you want to make something a little different, you can also bake individual pies in mini tart pans or even muffin tins. Just press the dough into the form, pour in the filling, and bake, adjusting the timing. If you are serving a large crowd this allows everyone to easily have a little of each kind of pie you are making. And for anyone watching their weight it is built-in portion control.
I hope you enjoy these holiday treats and spending time with your family!
- For the Chocolate Cake
- 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1-1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
- 3 large eggs
- For Vanilla Cream
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 oz mascarpone cheese or cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 large egg whites
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- For the Chocolate Ganache
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 6 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp butter
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 24 muffin pans. Set aside.
- Make the Cakes: Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a small saucepan over low heat. Set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all the other cake ingredients except for the eggs. Beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cooled chocolate and the eggs. Beat together until it looks like pudding, about 2 minutes. Add this to the other ingredients and beat the mixture until it looks like whipped frosting, about 2 minutes.
- Fill each well of the prepared muffin pans with 1/4 cup of the mixture (they should be filled about halfway). An ice cream scoop or ladle will make this easy to do. Bake until the cake springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes, spinning and swapping them top to bottom halfway through.
- Cool completely on a wire rack. When cooled, run a knife along the perimeter of the cakes, invert the muffin pans, and remove the cakes. Finish cooling, right side up on wire rack.
- Make the Vanilla Cream: Cut the vanilla bean (if using) in half lengthwise, exposing the seeds. With the back of knife, scrape out seeds and add to mascarpone. Mix until cheese is soft and vanilla is blended; reserve. (The rest of the vanilla bean can be saved for another use.)
- Simmer 1 inch of water in a medium saucepan. Combine egg whites and sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Make a double boiler by placing the bowl with the egg mixture over the pot of simmering water. (Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.) Whisk the egg mixture continuously until it reaches 110°F (use an instant read thermometer to monitor the temperature) about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Whisk the mixture with an electric mixer until it is doubled in volume, about 5 to 7 minutes. The egg mixture should be glossy and hold a soft peak. Add the cheese mixture and beat just until smooth.
- Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
- To Assemble: Fill a pastry bag fitted with a medium-sized tip (or use a Ziploc bag and cut one corner off) with Vanilla Cream. With a straw or the end of a spoon, make two or three holes in the underside of each cake. Insert the tip of the pastry bag into the opening and squeeze Vanilla Cream into the cake. When the cream floods out of the opening, it’s full. Turn the cake right side up, and place on a cooling rack set over a baking tray.
- Make the Ganache: In a small saucepan, heat the cream to a simmer. Put the chocolate into a bowl, and pour the hot cream over it. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add the butter, and stir until smooth. Spoon ganache on top of each cake, allowing it to pool in the center, and spread it outward with the back of a spoon. The ganache will run over the sides and dry to a smooth finish.
- Yield: makes 24 cakes
- 1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish piecrust
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
- Pinch salt
- 2 tbsp butter melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp Kentucky bourbon or dark rum
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted, optional
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Powdered sugar to taste
- Set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Place crust in deep pie plate, flute the edge, and place on a baking sheet.
- In a large bowl whisk eggs until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, corn syrup, salt, melted butter, vanilla, and bourbon and whisk until well blended and the sugar is dissolved. Stir in pecans and chocolate. Pour into unbaked pie crust.
- Bake 45 to 65 minutes or until puffed and set (doesn’t jiggle in the center) and knife inserted near center comes out clean. If it is browning too quickly, tent with a piece of foil. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack. Cool completely.
- If you like you can melt additional chocolate chips and drizzle that over the cooled pie. For the chocoholics in your life, you can pass additional melted chocolate at the table.
- When ready to serve, in a cold bowl, whip heavy cream until foamy and starting to thicken. Add vanilla and whip until blended in. Add enough sugar to sweeten to your taste, start with 2 tbsp and work your way up from there. Whip on high until cream is thick and peaks form. The peaks should be fairly soft - you can always whip it more!
- Slice pie and serve with dollops of cream.
- 2 cups lightly toasted pecan halves
- 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup vanilla sugar
- Dash salt
- 1 cup dark corn syrup
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp bourbon, if desired
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- Additional pecan halves for decoration (see explanation below)
- 1 lg egg
- 2 tbsp milk
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Place a foil-lined baking sheet in hot oven. Lightly toast pecans until just starting to become fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool. Reserve half of nuts in one bowl and chop remaining half. Set aside.
- Roll out dough and gently place in a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Flute edges of crust and set aside. Set aside.
- Place eggs in bowl of stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, salt, corn syrup, vanilla, bourbon (if using), and melted butter. Blend until smooth. Stir in pecans and pour carefully into prepared pie shell. Distribute nuts evenly in crust.
- For a more dramatic presentation, using perfect pecan halves, create concentric circles of nuts, pointing to the center of the pie. Use enough nuts to completely cover the filling. In a small bowl, whip egg and milk together. Brush nuts and crust lightly with the egg wash. I do this when I am entering my pie in a contest. It is truly beautiful but does take time.
- Bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted halfway between the center and the edge comes out clean. Tent with foil if crust and top are browning too quickly. Transfer to a wire rack. Cool an hour so that the filling has time to firm up before cutting.
- Serve with lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream or ice cream if desired. This pie keeps, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.
- Yield: 1 (9 inch) pie
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