Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Do You Spell Success?

post signatureMaybe you have to have a few epic fails before you can declare success!! Or, is Steph really turning in to a good cook after all? You be the judge.

Let’s let her tell the story:

Sometime in September I saw the cutest fall treats on Facebook. They were little candy acorns, and I could tell no cooking was required. I decided I would make them for Thanksgiving and surprise everyone with my contribution.

Fast forward to the weekend before Thanksgiving. I actually read the recipe so I can make the grocery list and discover it’s not an easy thing at all! Let’s just say it included melting various amounts of chocolate one at a time for each candy and using a kitchen blow torch. Given my track record with cooking, it’s no surprise I don’t own one of those! So, I decide I’m going to modify the recipe to something simpler that I can handle. But, since I am not an experienced cook, I worried that my modified version wouldn’t turn out, so I needed a back-up plan. I found what appeared to be another simple dessert, Pralines and Cream Dream, on the internet. I made the grocery list and Nicky made the first run to the grocery store.

I began with the acorn treats. My modified recipe required a Hershey kiss and a butterscotch chip be adhered to a mini nilla wafer using frosting. I patiently unwrapped all the Hershey kisses and assembled the first acorn. Being economical, I had Nicky buy the knock-off brand nilla wafers, which were still pretty large. Since this was a festive Thanksgiving contribution I needed to be perfect, I really wanted the “right” mini nilla wafers that would give the acorns the correct proportions. Nicky made his second trip to the grocery store and the rest of the acorns were assembled without incident.

Next up: the Pralines and Cream Dream. Let me just say that individually, none of the steps were all that difficult. However, each was somewhat time consuming which was adding up to a very tedious recipe. I was able to make the crust just fine, and had blended the two creamy interior layers. Once everything gets assembled, the dessert is topped with homemade candied pecans and caramel. That’s where it got interesting. The directions were to put the sugar and pecans over medium heat and stir until the sugar was melted. I did that and waited. And waited. And waited. It was taking forever and that sugar wasn’t melting! So I kicked the heat up a notch. That did the trick and the sugar melted pretty fast. I wanted to be sure each pecan had the same amount of “candiedness” so I stirred and cooked and stirred until I really had nothing but a solid black burned pecan mass. I opened the back door to air out the smoky kitchen and sent Nicky to the grocery store for the third time to buy more pecans.

While Nicky was at the store, I pulled out another pan and prepped the sugar (wait, not enough sugar! Texted Nicky to add that to the list.) for the second attempt at candying the pecans. I noticed some black specks mixed in with the sugar and investigated to discover that the non-stick coating on the pan was coming off! No way was this going to work – that pan needed to be trashed. But since my other pan would need a power drill to remove the black mass, I decided it was best to just buy a new one. Nicky makes his fourth trip to the grocery store. This time when he came home, the list had grown to include beer. I can’t blame him, I needed a drink, too!

All in all, I made 3 “simple” treats. It took a little over 4 hours and 4 trips to the grocery store. Casualties of the cooking war included 1 box of fake mini nilla wafers, 2 cups of pecans, 1 cup of sugar, and one non-stick cooking pan. Judging by that, it looks like I lost the fight. But, my treats were a success, so I’d say I won! Maybe next year I’ll just stick with the fancy napkin folds for my festive contribution.
Stephanie has given me permission to share her recipe for the Pralines and Cream Dessert. It's really good! She made it on Sunday and froze it. I asked her if the recipe said she could freeze it. She said, "no" but didn't give it a second thought. Just goes to show that sometimes maybe inexperience is a good thing. I would never have thought you could freeze this. It came out just fine. Nice to know when you have leftovers that could go to waste!

Pralines and Cream Dessert
 1 box crushed Sandies pecan cookies
¼ cup melted butter
Mix and press in to a sprayed 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes. Cool.

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. cool whip, thawed
¼ cup powdered sugar
Beat until smooth. Refrigerated until ready to assemble.

2 small boxes INSTANT butterscotch pudding
3 ½ cups milk
Mix together and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup sugar
Combine in medium pan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is melted. Spread on to parchment paper and cool.

12 oz. cool whip
¼ cup caramel ice cream topping
Spread cream cheese mixture over crust. Top with pudding. Spread cool whip over pudding. Sprinkle with candied pecans and drizzle caramel topping over all. Refrigerate.

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