Monday, May 21, 2012

Black Bottom Pecan Praline Bars

I am overwhelmed by the number of food blogs there are out there.  I tend to like the ones that are lighthearted and funny as well as having delicious recipes.  Tell me a good story, then share some good food, and I will come back and spend time with you regularly.  It’s like finding a new friend and we have a lot in common.   I saw this recipe first at a new favorite, Cravings of a Lunatic,  but when I read her post, she had gotten it from the helpful blogger and purveyor-of-valuable-advice Chef Dennis.  He, in turn, got it from renown baker and chocolate expert, Alice Medrich’s book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies.  And that is what the internet means to me.  Sharing and community and delicious food.   Usually mixed in with a few good laughs.  (And since I started writing this blog, I can call it research! Win-win!)  You seriously need to make these brownies and share in the joy and love and succulently chocolate chewiness.

This post is especially for a real life new friend, Stephanie, who is leaving Egypt and going back home.   She is a sucker for sweets and says the very best breakfast is a brownie and a cup of coffee.  I made these for a going-away/dinner party (Thanks, Teri and Mike!) the other night and her dear husband took a few leftovers home to sustain them as they packed up their house.  She sent me a text saying it was just what she needed to start her busy day.  Well, that and a cup of coffee.  We wish them all the best!

(Method adapted slightly from the original recipe by Alice Medrich.  Ms. Medrich doesn’t toast her pecans or use a microwave.  I have to toast pecans or I feel the spirit of my late Aunt Karen hovering over me.  She always toasted her pecans because she said it enhanced their nutty flavor.   Trust me: Aunt Karen was right.)

For the brownie layer:
8 tablespoons or 120g unsalted butter
6 1/2 ounces or 185g semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons or 175g sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs (cold)
1/2 cup or 65g all purpose flour

For the praline layer:
1/2 cup or 65g all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons or 120g unsalted butter - melted
3/4 cup or 150g packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (after chopping) or 250g pecans (The original recipe says pecans or walnuts, but I am from Louisiana.  There never was a praline without pecans.)

Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C degrees.  Put your pecans in a 9 X 13 in pan and pop them in the preheating oven.  Set a timer for five minutes. As the oven heats, give the pan a shake and toss the pecans around.  Keep setting your timer because we are going to move on to other steps and you DO NOT want to forget about your pecans and let them burn.  I toasted mine for around 20-25 minutes in total but only the last five to seven minutes were in a hot oven.  (My oven heats up pretty slowly.)  As your oven heats, you may want to shake them around more often to prevent one side from scorching.

Once the pecans are sufficiently toasted, tip them out onto a cutting board and dust out your baking pan with a paper towel.  Let it cool a little and then line it with aluminum foil and butter or spray with non-stick spray.

Just a little darker, but, oh, the flavor!

Chop your chocolate into chunks and put it in a microwaveable bowl with the butter. Zap it for 30 seconds at a time, stirring well between each zap.  Mine took three rounds of 30 seconds and it was completely melted through.

Stir in the sugar, vanilla, and salt.  You can give it one more quick 30 seconds in the microwave at this point, if your sugar doesn’t seem to be melting quickly enough.  Our sugar here in Cairo is not as fine grained as the caster sugar I can buy elsewhere so that extra 30 seconds was helpful.   Give it a good stir, scraping all around the sides with a spatula to make sure there aren’t any hot spots.

Add the eggs and mix well.

Here's what happened when I tried to get fancy and crack the egg with one hand for the photo.
Eggshells.  Don't let this happen to you.  Man, were they a pain to fish out.

Beating in the eggs.

Add in the flour and beat vigorously until batter is smooth and glossy. A wooden spoon is probably best for this step.  I removed the whisk and changed tools.  The original recipe says that the batter should start to come away from the sides of the bowl, but that never happened for me.

Pour the batter into your greased, foil-lined pan.  Gently spread the batter all over the pan and set the pan aside.

On to the praline topping.  Combine flour and baking soda in a small bowl and mix well using a fork.  Set this aside. 

Coarsely chop your pecans. 

Melt your butter with quick zaps in the microwave in a microwave friendly container, then mix it in another bowl with the brown sugar and salt.

Separate your egg yolks then add them in along with the vanilla.

It looks like toffee sauce or the beginning of pralines.  Yum already.
 Add in flour mixture and then the pecans.  Mix well.

Drop by small spoonsful on top of the brownie layer.  Don’t worry about any little gaps because it will spread and cover the brownies during baking.

Bake for 20-25 minutes but set your timer for 10 minutes first so you can rotate the pan for even browning.  Bake until the top is completely brown and cracked.  I actually ended up baking mine for closer to 30 minutes. 

Cool until firm on wire rack, then lift the ends of the foil and remove from the pan.  Cool completely before cutting into squares.

These fulfill every promise in Ms. Medrich’s book title.  No kidding: Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy AND Melt-in-Your-Mouth.  


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This post has also been shared as part of a chocolate/cocoa round up. Please follow this link to see all of the wonderful recipes at Spice and Sugar Tales.


  1. I don't dare to make these at home...........I will finish them all myself!!!
    and I do agree with your aunt Karen about toasting the nuts........

  2. As I just said to Glenys on Facebook when she said the same about the toasting, my Aunt Karen was a wise woman. Her specialty was pecan pie and I think about her and how much I miss her every time I make her recipe. And whenever I toast pecans for a different recipe. You need to make them to take somewhere, Debra! They are evil and you shouldn't be in the house alone with them. :)

  3. Hi Stacy. I am so glad you tried these out. Aren't they awesome? I have been eyeing these things for months and finally got a chance to make them. Love your step by step and that you toasted your nuts. I read your about me and have to say I'm a bit jealous of where you live. I'm in boonieland Ontario. So dull and flat and ugly.

  4. I don't know how you resisted so long! They are way beyond awesome. Just met up with some of the same friends last night and they are still talking about these brownies. Thanks so much for the original post. As for your jealousy, let's wait and see how the first legitimate presidential election in Egypt since possibly 1981 goes tomorrow. We may be in the middle of strife and revolution again. God forbid. At least Ontario is stable!

  5. Hi Stacy...after seeing your pictures on facebook; I made these brownies yesterday for neighbor's memorial day cook-out. They were delicious and a big hit with everyone! Love your blog and especially the step-by-step pictures. My only issue with the baking was the chocolate kinda stuck to the foil (didn't have spray and don't think I buttered enough) time will definitely use spray or maybe a glass pan? Gonna share the link for the blog with my neighbors from the party.

  6. Hi Stacy, Claire and her aunt Simone followed this recipe during our recent visit to Louisiana, and the brownies were a great hit. It will be a family favorite.

  7. Delighted to hear that, Christie! I wish I could have been there too. Sounds like you all had a great time together.


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