Friday, March 12, 2010

Irish Fix #2: Pistachio Praline Bars

Did you SEE the Irish-flag inspired apricots from J Fierce on Monday, people?!  In my best Chandler Bing voice, could they BE any cuter???  We've been busy thinking up good "green" treats for you, internet, and we hope you like them.

If you're up for a little more of a challenge this St Patty's Day, you should try these pistachio praline bars.  Do not be afraid of making these.  Do not let "candy making" scare you away.  All you need is a little self-restraint.  You'll need self-restraint in Not Stirring The Boiling Sugar For Ten Minutes, and a little more self-restraint in Not Eating The Entire Tray In Ten Minutes Flat After You Finish.

Be careful when eating these.  Not only will you end up eating a dozen in one sitting, they can be tricky - upon first bite, you'll find yourself needing your other hand to catch any stray shards of pistachio that may fly out.  You won't want any to go to waste, because these little bars are insanely addictive.  The crunchy pistachios, the snappy caramelized sugar and the zing of salt all add up to one tasty little treat.  Bring them to work, mail them as gifts, or serve them with some Jameson, Guinness and Bailey's on Wednesday. Slainte!

Pistachio Praline Bars
adapted from Queen Martha Stewart

Vegetable oil
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
10 ounces shelled roasted, unsalted pistachios (if you don't want to shell pistachios for an hour and a half while watching the latest Real Housewives of NY, for the love of all things that are holy, please buy these shelled, your thumbs will thank you)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil.  Line with a sheet of parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of parchment to hang over the long sides of the baking sheet.

Bring sugar and water to boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, tilting pan to swirl and wash down the sides with a wet pastry brush if sugar crystals start to form.  Boil, without stirring, until mixture turns to medium amber color, about 10 - 12 minutes.  (C Fierce Note: DO NOT STIR.  I used a silicone pastry brush, and kept it in a Pyrex glass measuring cup with about a 1/2 cup of water in it, set next to the stove, and brushing the sides of the pan gently when crystals started forming.  Again, do not stir, as this will create crystals and that is a big no-no when you're boiling sugar.  Just use that aforementioned self-restraint and everything will be okay, I promise.)

Next, everything is going to happen really quickly. Here is what you need right in front of you: the already-prepared baking sheet lined with parchment, a bowl of the chopped pistachios, a little bowl of the salt, a wooden spoon, an offset spatula, the vegetable oil, your favorite pizza cutter, and a Silpat if you have one (if not, a cutting board works just fine).

Remove the sugar from the heat, and stir in the pistachios and salt with a wooden spoon.  Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading evenly with the offset spatula.  Most likely you won't fill the entire pan, so don't worry about getting anything into the corners, just keep it on the parchment.  Let cool until just set but still soft, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the praline to the Silpat (or cutting board) using the parchment paper as handles.  Immediately cut praline into bars with a greased pizza cutter.  Martha says to use a greased serrated knife but this did not work for me. 

Let cool completely.  Bars can be stored in an airtight container up to two weeks.

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