Chocolate pecan slices with an identity crisis
Editor’s Note: Life is sweet living in the Colorado high country. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful. “Who am I?” That’s the question we’d hear from this dessert if it could talk. It’s riddled with identity problems, and for good reason: It’s made in a pie pan, has the texture of a cake, looks a lot like a brownie, and yields a complex, rich taste, like hot chocolate in solid form. It is, indeed, hard to categorize this sweet, but it isn’t difficult to make, serve, or to eat it. It comes together in less than ten minutes, is made by hand (no electric mixer required), leaves you with only two bowls and a few utensils to wash, and is in and out of the oven in about twenty minutes. And, best of all, it’s quite tasty.It is also one of the most versatile desserts I’ve ever met. Stick a few candles in it and you have a make-shift birthday cake. Cut it into small pieces and you can serve it as a cookie. Carry it on a picnic and eat it out of hand, as a casual dessert or fancy it up and present it as the last course after a company dinner.
You can replace the pecans with any other nut of your choice or leave them out altogether. Serve it alone or accompany it with chocolate, caramel, or butterscotch sauce, berries, fruit, whipped cream, ice cream, creme fraiche, or sweetened yogurt. It is good with almost anything.This is one of those desserts to make and freeze, so you are ready for any occasion that requires serving something sweet.Chocolate-pecan slicesAdjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet(Make in a 9 inch glass pie pan)34 cup of all-purpose flour (Measure by gently spooning the flour into the measuring cup and sweeping it level. You’ll get too much flour if you dip the cup directly into the flour.)34 cup of granulated sugar
13 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Hershey’s special dark chips)12 cup of unsweetened cocoa (Both natural and Dutch-processed cocoa will work in this recipe; use whichever you have.)14 teaspoon of cinnamon14 teaspoon of baking powder, scant (slightly less than one-fourth teaspoon)14 teaspoon of salt13 (one third) cup of flavorless vegetable oil (I use canola)2 large eggs12 cup of chopped pecansPreheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Grease or butter a nine inch glass pie plate.
Combine the flour, sugar, chocolate chips, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until well mixed. Make sure there are no lumps of cocoa visible.Combine the oil and eggs in a small bowl or measuring cup and whisk until combined.Pour the egg and oil mixture over the mixture of dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until blended. The batter will be stiff–more like a brownie than a cake batter. Spread the batter evenly in the greased or buttered pie plate, smooth the top, and sprinkle the pecans over it. Lightly press the pecans into the batter so they won’t fall off when you cut and serve the baked dessert.Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist, gooey pieces clinging to it. This takes about 20 minutes in my oven. Don’t overbake; you want a moist, fudgey texture. The pastry will puff up as it bakes and will, then, sink slightly while cooling.Cool the dessert on a wire rack. It cuts most easily after being refrigerated until chilled (two or more hours). After cutting the chilled cake, let the pieces come to room temperature or warm them in the microwave or oven and serve them with any accompaniment you prefer (see those suggested above).If you aren’t serving it right away, cover it tightly and store at room temperature for several days or freeze it.This is an adaptation of a recipe from The Weekend Baker, by Abigail Johnson Dodge.Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.