Every year in late January, my dear neighbor Ramona hires a man to come with a machine-a-ma-jig to knock the pecans off her stately tree. The first year when the pecan-shaker came, I thought it was an earthquake and sent the kids to stand in doorways while I shouted instructions about covering their heads. I got that from my good old fashioned Los Angeles upbringing. But it was just the rumblings of the pecan-shaker and not a 6.3 on the Richter scale. We could relax and enjoy the pretend earthquake, kind of like a Disneyland ride. We got into the swing of things and we really started looking forward to the pecan-shaker. Afterwards, Ramona's yard was always full or pecans. They needed to be collected and sorted. If you don't hustle over to help Ramona, you won't get the chance. She is spry and hard-working AND she has dozens of helpful grandchildren. If you want to help Ramona, you better not procrastinate or there will be nothing left to do. Here are my Ramona, my two charges and cousin Reeve collecting the nuts. West is making sure it's a good nut before he tosses it into the basket. (We need those little Willie Wonka scales for good nuts and bad nuts. )Sailor has a handful of perfectly good pecans, ready to be shelled and toasted and made into all sorts of lovely things, like the glazed pecans that Ramona brings us every year for Christmas. Since it was getting late in January, I asked Ramona when the pecan-shaker was coming for our annual thrill. But this year, all the pecans fell off by themselves. No shake, rattle or roll was necessary. When Ramona saw that we were disappointed, she brought us over another bag of sugared pecans and a whole bag full of pecans. We've been in heaven. To show our gratitude, I decided to bake Ramona some chocolate frosted brownies with lots of pecans. I spotted the recipe on Cookie Madness, my friend Anna's baking blog. The brownies were utterly divine. They were rich and fudgy and full of buttery pecans. (They've gotten nothing but rave reviews from everyone we've shared them wtih.) They are relatively inexpensive to make since they don't require any baking chocolate; just plain old cocoa powder does the trick here. You could swap out the pecans for another sturdy nut like walnuts, but I think the pecans are worth the splurge. Or you could move onto my street and wait for sweet Ramona to bring you a basket. Frosted Fudge Brownies with Pecans from Cookie Madness
Estimated Cost: $4.00 for 9 servings
4 oz (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 scant teaspoon salt
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey’s natural cocoa (not sure what results you’d get with Dutch)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional) or 9 pecan halves
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8 inch metal pan with foil and mist the bottom with cooking spray.
Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Whisk in the sugar, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder. Gradually add flour mixture to the batter. Stir in the pecans (if using). Pour into pan and bake for 20-25 minutes (I baked for 20). Pull from oven and make frosting.
Frosting: Stir together cocoa powder and powdered sugar. If you have time, you might want to sift it. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the milk. Stir it into the chocolate/sugar mixture. Stir in the vanilla. Add pecans if using. Pour over the warm brownies and kind of spread it a little to cover. Garnish with pecan halves.
Let brownies cool completely. Lift from pan, set on a cutting board, trim edges and cut into squares. I trimmed the edges and made 9 large squares.