Praline Pecan Tartlets

Image

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve made it over 1 year smoke free. After nearly 30 years of being a smoker, I finally kicked that habit. Those of you that have stopped smoking know this and the smart people out there that never picked up the nasty habit might not, but like others my metabolism went in the toilet when I quit. I ate no more than when I smoked but weight just piled on. I went from my smoking weight of 195 to 225 before I managed to peel off 20 pounds this past summer. Still, the battle of the gut is a constant struggle with me. Working in the food industry, I am surrounded by it 12 hours a day, everywhere I turn! A lead cook will want me to try some sauce (made with butter and whipping cream of course), or my baker will prepare some new treat that I can’t resist tasting, so I’m always interested in bite-sized desserts and treats. These tasty little morsels allow those of us that can quickly consume 1000 calories in a matter of minutes, to enjoy the deliciousness of something decadent and still keep our daily caloric counts in check.

A slice of a common pecan pie like you’d make at Thanksgiving averages about 500 calories (that’s if you slice your pie into 12 servings). If you’ve purchased your pecan pie that number can double, as most thaw-and-serve pies have crusts made with lard.These tasty little phyllo cups have 75 calories each, so you can limit your intake and not feel so guilty. The crispness of the baked phyllo cup with the sweetness of the praline filing and the toasted pecan is just delectable. These are perfect for a party, tea, reception, shower or just to keep in a Rubbermaid container around the holidays. They make great treats for gift giving, especially when pared with some homemade cookies, and they are extremely simple to make. Give them a try and I’m sure you’ll love adding these to your holiday baking repertoire.

For every 15 phyllo cups (available in the frozen pastry section of most any supermarket), you will need:

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp+1tsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey (you can slightly adjust the flavor to your taste depending on the type of honey you use but I personally just get regular amber honey when I make these tartlets)
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract (sometimes I substitute 1/4 tsp Jack Daniels whiskey in place of the vanilla, especially around Christmas)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the pecans and mix well. Fold in the chopped pecans. Arrange phyllo cups on a baking sheet, then spoon mixture into the phyllo cups (a heaping teaspoon is a good size to fill the cups). Any extra filling can be evenly distributed between your phyllo cups.

Bake in a 350F preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until the filling sets, the pecans begin to brown the the phyllo cups brown around the edges. Transfer baked cups to a cooling rack and begin your next batch. Be sure to cool these tartlets completely on a cooling rack. If you cool them on a pan or plate they will become soggy on the bottom and you loose that wonderful crunchiness of the phyllo pastry. Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 7.13.15 AM

Chocolate Roulage

Every so often my 40yo sweet tooth with kick in and I’ll start craving a decadent treat. Growing up in Alabama, it was always a treat to eat at Cobb Lane and get chocolate roulage for dessert. The whole “jelly roll” concept always appealed to me; even the Little Debbie Swiss roll was a childhood favorite.

Chocolate roulage looks hard to make; most people see this dessert and think there’s no way they can pull this off, but it’s really quite simple. The cake is basically a sponge cake. It’s baked on a “jelly roll” pan but I’ve never owned one personally. I simply use a sheet pan. The trick is to cover the baked cake with a cold, wet towel until the cake is completely cool. This keeps the cake moist and allows you to roll it up without it breaking, but I’ve eaten “broken” roulage in some of Birmingham’s finest restaurants, so if yours breaks, don’t worry about it. Some sifted powered sugar will cover any mistakes!

  • 5 large eggs at room temperature, separated
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 6oz dark, semi sweet chocolate melted with 3 tbsp water
  • Dark cocoa
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the egg yolks thoroughly; add 3/4 cup of sugar to the yolks and continue to beat until thick. Blend the cooled melted chocolate with the egg yolks, then fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.

Butter a sheet pan or jelly roll pan. Line pan with wax or parchment paper and butter the paper. Spread cake mixture evenly on the buttered paper and bake at 325F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 300F and bake 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven, cover the cake with a cold, wet towel and let cool completely.

When ready to serve, carefully remove the towel and loosen the cake from the paper. Sift cocoa all over the cake, then turn the cake onto a fresh sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Peel off the old paper. Whip the cream with the vanilla and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and spread liberally over the cake. Roll the cake lengthwise. Dust the top with more cocoa or with powered sugar. Slice to serve.

Cake can also be frozen once the whipped cream is added and the cake is rolled up. This will make the cake easier to slice with a more “set” filling.