World Food Championships, Thanksgiving Pie, and a Vanilla Giveaway!

A lot of exciting things have been going on for me lately.  I have been so busy developing secret recipes and doing some public speaking that I haven’t blogged for a while, and I do apologize, but I am about to share what I have been working on with you.  I was lucky enough to qualify for The World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Alabama in the Dessert category.  The World Food Championships is the largest cooking competition around, and their mission is to bring Food Sport front and center in a multi-round, multi-category live cook off.  Each category narrows down to a top 10, then ultimately the #1 chef, and then the top competitors from each category compete to find an ultimate champion who wins $100,000.  It is intense!  Thank you so much to my sous chefs Grace and Kim, and to my sister-in-law Sherylyn for managing our time and doing Live Facebook videos for us.  You guys rocked, and I couldn’t have done it without you all.

The fabulous company, Rodelle Vanilla, was kind enough to sponsor me!  I can’t thank them enough for their support!  They sent me a bunch of amazing products, t shirts, and a beautiful display as well for the WFC.  I would love to share the wealth, so to speak, and give away some of these Rodelle products for you to try.  Please go to Rodelle Vanilla on Facebook or Rodelle Vanilla on Instagram and/or  Rodelle Vanilla on Twitter and Like or follow their pages for an entry into my drawing for free Rodelle goodies.  I will be giving away a combination of extracts, Baking Cocoa, vanilla beans, and/or vanilla bean paste to at least 3 lucky followers.  You will get 1 entry per page you “like” or follow.  Just let me know how many entries you qualified for in either the comments here, or on my Facebook page hereLauren Katz.  If you have never tried Rodelle, I urge you to order some of their products, because they really are top notch and make a big difference in your baked goods.  Best of luck to everyone!

Now, on to my desserts!  The recipe I am going to share first is near and dear to my heart.  It was my “signature” dessert in the competition, but it is a twist on something I make every Thanksgiving for my family.  Because my son is highly allergic to nuts, we needed an alternative to pecan pie.  A few of my friends had mentioned that they had recipes for a “Faux Pecan Pie” (we affectionately call it “Faux-can Pie” in my house) using pretzels instead of the pecans.  Well, the first time I made it, I was blown away.  I actually liked it more than pecan pie, which is saying a lot, because pecans are my favorite.  The recipe for that pie is at the bottom of this post, and is more beginner-friendly than my WFC tarts.  I also want to mention that I really enjoyed working with Challenge Butter for all of my WFC recipes, as they were a sponsor of the dessert category.  This is some great butter to work with, and will be my brand from now on!  It is high quality, super creamy, and free of additives.

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My turn in tray for the signature dessert round at WFC!

So for the competition, I decided to turn the Faux-can pie into individual tarts, substitute a shortbread crust, and “Southern it up” a bit with Bourbon, Chocolate, and a salted Bourbon caramel.  We added a lot of salt to balance the sweet, and a special whipped cream made with the addition of sour cream, brown sugar, Bourbon, and vanilla bean paste to give a slight sour twang to the recipe.  You definitely don’t have to make all of the components.  Just the tarts are fabulous with some vanilla ice cream.  Just the caramel sauce is fabulous as an ice cream topping as well.  The whipped cream is great on pretty much anything from pumpkin pie to apple cake.  Really this is a recipe with a lot of components, but none of the pieces are difficult to make.

So, here is the recipe for approximately 7-8 tartlets.  My sous chef, Grace, recommends making them in disposable muffin tins, so that you can pop them out afterwards easily.  We used egg custard tart tins for the competition which are less than a dollar each at Bed Bath and Beyond.  I will also include the original pie recipe below, so that you can make this for Thanksgiving with either a homemade pie crust or a store bought crust!

 

Black Bottom Bourbon Pretzel Shortbread Tarts with Salted Caramel and Sour Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

makes 6-8 muffin sized individual tarts

These individual tarts are sweet, salty, creamy with just a hint of sour, and perfectly balanced with a rich Bourbon and brown sugar filling. A buttery shortbread crust envelops a hint of chocolate as well as a crunchy pretzel topping that adds the perfect salty note. This all sits atop a homemade Bourbon caramel sauce and is studded with a brown sugar sour cream and vanilla bean whipped cream.

Ingredients
For the shortbread crust:
1/2 cup unsalted Challenge butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Bakers joy non-stick spray

Tart Filling:
2 eggs
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar (granulated)
6 tablespoons unsalted Challenge butter, melted
1/3 cup corn syrup (light)
2 tablespoons Bourbon
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Chocolate chips (6-8 per tart)

Tart Pretzel topping:
1 1/2 cups thin twist pretzels, crushed
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

Brown sugar sour cream vanilla bean whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 pack whipped cream stabilizer (optional, but used for potential competition heat)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Bourbon
1 teaspoon Rodelle vanilla bean paste or Rodelle vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Salted Bourbon caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup heavy cream (go with 1/2 cup cream if you want this to be a liquid caramel sauce and have time for it to cool completely)
2 tablespoons Bourbon
1 teaspoon fine kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon Rodelle pure vanilla extract

Garnish:
1/2 cup dark Chocolate melts (ghirardelli)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray tart tins with Baker’s Joy non-stick spray, if desired.
For the crust: Place all ingredients in a stand mixer or a large food processor and pulse or mix until the dough comes together into a ball. Remove from processor and pat into tart tins, trying to shape a thin layer up the sides of the tin. Place tins on silicone-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let sit for 1 minute and press with pastry tamper or back of a spoon to reform tart shells, as they will puff and settle slightly. They will only be partially baked at this point. Place 6-8 chocolate chips in the bottom of each tart. Set tart shells aside until ready to fill.

While tarts shells are baking, make filling. Combine all filling ingredients (except for chocolate chips) in large bowl, whisking until smooth. Pour into tart shells, leaving a slight bit of room at the top of each tart for pretzel topping.
In a small bowl, combine pretzel topping ingredients, tossing well to coat. Place a small amount of topping on each tart. Bake for 24-26 minutes (still at 350 degrees) or until just set in center and golden brown at edges. Let cool. Place in freezer to cool faster, if necessary.

Make the caramel sauce: Heat sugar and water in a small saucepan until sugar begins to bubble and caramelize. Do not stir caramel while it bubbles. You can swirl the pan gently, if necessary. Remove from heat just when sugar turns dark amber. Add butter immediately, whisking constantly. Add cream, whisk well. Add Bourbon, salt, and vanilla. Pour into bowl and chill. Pour into piping bag, if desired.

Make the sour cream whipped cream: In a stand mixer with the wire whip attachment, whip cream and stabilizer until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, brown sugar, Bourbon, and vanilla bean paste. Whip sour cream mixture in with whipped cream. Place mixture in a large star tipped piping bag. Chill until ready to use.

To make garnish: melt chocolate in microwave safe bowl in 30 second intervals. Pour melted chocolate into piping bag with writing tip. Snip tip and pipe chocolate in daisy shapes onto wax paper. Place in fridge to harden.

To plate: drizzle caramel decoratively on plate. Place 1 tart on end of drizzle, top center of tart with more caramel, 1 large dollop of cream on top, and dots of whipped cream on the drizzle as well. Garnish with the chocolate daisy and serve.

Now, if that recipe is a bit daunting, this one is so simple, anyone can’t make it:

Lauren’s Thanksgiving Faux Pecan Pie

1 prepared deep dish pie crust or homemade dough for single deep dish pie crust, unbaked

For the Filling:
4 eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted Challenge Butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons Rodelle pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Bourbon
1/3 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet Chocolate chips

For the Pretzel topping:
1-1/2 cups crushed thin twist or wheel shaped pretzels (I like to still have bigger bits of pretzels in there!)
3 tablespoons unsalted Challenge Butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I use the convection setting on my oven with great results.
Press pie crust into deep dish pie dish (I love Pyrex for the see-through and sturdy aspect of it). Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all filling ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Whisk well until smooth. Sprinkle chocolate chips onto the unbaked pie crust and evenly arrange across the bottom. Pour pie filling over top until about 1/4 inch from the top of the crust.
In a small bowl or bag, combine the Pretzel topping ingredients and toss them together well to coat. Sprinkle mixture on top of pie filling evenly. Bake for 45-55 minutes, covering with foil if top browns faster than the bottom. Pie is done when crust is golden brown and center is set but still has some give to it when pressed.
Let cool completely. Can be done up to 2 days ahead and stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

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Enjoy, and don’t forget to check out Rodelle Vanilla and “Like” or follow to enter my product giveaway!