This week’s obsession: Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Desserts
I’ve never been a huge fan of typical Thanksgiving desserts. You know, like pumpkin pie. (Meh.) Pecan pie. (Tolerable. And only if you have enough fresh whipped cream on top to cover the taste.) Candied yams. (I guess some people serve that one with dinner, and that baffles me even more than eating the dish as a dessert.) Also with my previous admission that I just don’t really like pie, I guess it’s really no surprise that I’ve always found T’giving desserts to be lacking.
A few years ago for Thanksgiving I gave traditional desserts the boot entirely and I made these two dreamy treats. One was a chocolate mousse cake with fresh raspberries and chocolate shavings on top, and the other was a triple layer chocolate and Kahlua cheesecake. They both were received very well as far as flavors go, but I think my family members were were still a little disappointed that I didn’t offer them traditional flavors. Which is why this year I decided to put my own twist on traditional Thanksgiving desserts instead. And I added booze. Because holidays are hard (and so is Bourbon.) #FightFireWithFire
Recently I saw a meme online that discussed how butter pecan ice cream is actually the best, and it made me remember when I was a child how my grandmother always loved butter pecan ice cream. She would inevitably choose it whenever we went to an ice cream parlor or picked up a few different flavors for an ice cream party at home, but I never really understood her choice. (Also the fact that she was from Georgia so she pronounced it PEE-can absolutely made me shudder every single time. Not an appetizing title for ice cream.) Personally, I was fine with the butter pecan flavor on the whole, but as a budding chocoholic I had my eyes on the prize and always picked something a bit more decadent. #ChocolateAddict #HumbleBeginnings I never really gave butter pecan the respect that it kinda deserves. But all of that changed once this meme got in my head (also when I realized how well adding Bourbon to pecan-anything works), and now I have this delicious concoction to offer: meet the Bourbon pecan cake!
I’ll admit when this cake was baking I was getting pretty concerned. The smell was not the glorious aroma that I’ve become accustomed to when creating my confections. Actually when I checked on the cakes toward the end of the baking, I was apprehensive about the scent not only because it smelled less than amazing, but also because it actually burned my nostrils. I was pretty worried that something went wrong with this cake, but I still taste tested it after it came out of the oven - mostly just to see if it would be usable. Turns out that it was all the booze in the cake batter that was burning my nose, but boy did it please my tastebuds! Once the cake layers started to cool, I flipped them out of the pans and leveled off the tops which led to major snacking opportunities, and I took full advantage of that! It was actually so boozy that I got a little tipsy from all of the taste testing. #RookieMistake
In the middle of all that snacking I remembered that I was trying out a new buttercream recipe that is a bit more complicated than your average frosting, so I set down the alcohol-in-cake-form and got to work. I found this recipe online and am so glad I did because I feel like it works really well with the Bourbon pecan cake. I present to you Brown Butter and Maple buttercream!
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it but brown butter is one of my favorite flavors ever. Shortly out of pastry school I developed my brown butter/cinnamon/cream cheese frosting recipe that I filled my cinnamon macarons with, and could never get through it without having a sample spoonful or two. I used to work in a doughnut shop that made an epic brown butter doughnut glaze that we always topped with toasted pistachios. I may or may not have shoved two or three of those in my mouth every day. My chocolate chip cookie recipe that I’ve been tweaking for years now includes brown butter, and people are starting to take notice (I just got an order in for 3 dozen of my chocolate chip cookies. Apparently they’re “for a friend”. Mhmm. But I don’t judge!! I, too, eat these cookies by the dozen whenever I can.) Anyway, my point is that whenever I encounter something that I consider a showstopper, it typically includes brown butter.
Which brings me back to this frosting. I started off by browning three sticks of butter (yes, that’s right. THREE. But wait - there’s more!) and let it solidify while I put together my cake recipe. Once I got back to making the buttercream, the browned butter had cooled and became a solid, smooth consistency so I dumped it in the mixer along with TWO MORE sticks of butter. What can I say, butter is the ingredient that really makes or breaks it! I beat those two butters together along with some organic maple syrup and powdered sugar and voila! Deliciousness! I will admit, the frosting was not quite as sturdy as I needed to really support a cake and decorating, so I added in way more powdered sugar to support the structure and tasted it to make sure I didn’t ruin anything. I think it came out just fine.
Fast forward to this morning when it was time to decorate this cake. I had not done my typical sketch of the cake decor for this one so I woke up in a panic wondering how I was going to get this done. I remembered that I had a ton of pecans leftover from the cake ingredients, and then it hit me! Why not decorate it with all of those yummy pecans?? So I did. And here is where my tip of the week comes in: When using nuts in your desserts (or even savory dishes), it’s always a good idea to toast them first. No one really wants to eat a raw walnut or pecan in their cake/granola/salads/etc., which is why toasting them is so essential. The thing most people don’t realize though, is that the oils in nuts will burn very quickly (and that the oils will continue to cook even after they come out of the oven). When I toasted my pecans this morning, I set the oven at 325*F and put them in for 6 minutes. They toast up very quickly, so it’s best to toast them for small increments of time. The other thing I learned (actually this is something that my chefs in pastry school said ALL THE TIME), is that “the nose knows”. You should always stay close to your kitchen when toasting nuts because the second you can smell them, they’re done. Remember that they’ll keep cooking once you pull them out of the oven, so get ahead of them before they burn.
Now that my cake is all done and dressed up and beautiful and delicious, I’m going to take it over to a Friendsgiving potluck that my man candy signed us up for. Where most of the participants seem to be vegan... And I just used a pound and a half of butter in the frosting alone... Looks like I’m gonna be the only one eating this cake ::shrug:: Worse things have happened, so I’m not gonna worry about it. How’s that for non-traditional!?
Happy eating, y’all!
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