Friday, March 9, 2012

Pecan praliné brownies + "Drive" - one of the best movies I've seen in my entire life

Pecan praline brownies / Brownies com praliné de pecã

I watched the trailer for “Drive” many, many months ago and after that I just could not stop thinking about it: the movie had an aura similar to some classic movies from the 1970s I deeply love – “The French Connection”, “Taxi Driver”, and “The Godfather” instantly came to my mind – while its pink neon letters and music had a 1980s feel. I had a good feeling about this movie and the award received in Cannes made me even more curious. So for months I patiently waited until two nights ago, when I was rewarded with a 100-minute masterpiece.


Seconds after the movie started I was in awe already with how perfectly the first chords of the music fit the scene, and a few minutes into the movie I was holding my breath without even noticing – how many movies can make you feel that way right in its initial scenes? When Ryan Gosling appeared in his car for the first time with that powerful music and the city being seen from the air at night I knew, I just knew I was in for a treat (the soundtrack is so fantastic I haven’t been able to stop listening to it up until this moment). By the end of the movie I had tears in my eyes, overwhelmed by something so beautiful and so perfect, that I wished for more movies like “Drive” to come my way in the future, because it made me feel exactly like Friedkin, Coppola and Scorsese did back when I was a teenager. I’d been waiting to be taken by surprise in a good way for so long that I left the theater feeling ecstatic.

How can such a violent story be told in such a poetic way? It’s impossible for me not to worship this kind of movie making nowadays because it is so rare. The scene in which the Driver carries little Benicio being seen from behind by the boy’s mother is so beautiful it made my heart stop. Refn surely knows how to move the camera around and gives us hundreds of interesting shots throughout the movie (like the car "flying" through the air behind Christina Hendricks).
The cast is superb and Albert Brooks should have been included in the Oscar race this year – I think he is absolutely fabulous as Bernie and his character and Gosling’s have the best dialogue in the whole movie (“my hands are a little dirty / so are mine”). Ron Pearlman and Bryan Cranston – impossible not to love. And, to finish off, Gosling: anyone who watched “The Ides of March” can attest how much depth his eyes have – he pours down tons of emotions without even opening his mouth. “Drive” is here to prove that this young actor is a very, very talented one – how many good-looking actors with the means to become heartthrobs and make lots of money in romantic comedies are willing to play a character like this? Or this one? Not many. And a bold actor like Gosling was exactly what “Drive” needed. He is the movie, and it seems to me that he put himself in the director’s hands completely, with a deep feeling of trust – which makes me think of Viggo and the sauna scene in “Eastern Promises”: one has to fully trust their director to be able to deliver such performance in such a difficult scene – I believe that is the kind of relationship “Drive” has started between Gosling and Refn and after reading that they’re making another movie together all I can say is “amen”.


Before I forget: make these brownies – they’re to die for.

Pecan praline brownies / Brownies com praliné de pecã

Pecan praliné brownies
from a wonderful book I should and will use more often

1 cup (110g) pecans, lightly toasted and cooled
2/3 cup (133g) granulated or superfine sugar
½ teaspoon lemon or lime juice

Brownie batter:
6 tablespoons (84g) unsalted butter
140g (5oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
56g (2oz) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
¾ cup (105g) all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt

Start by making the praliné: lightly oil a baking sheet and set aside. Place the sugar and lemon juice in a heavy bottomed saucepan and stir to combine – the mixture will resemble wet sand. Melt the mixture over medium-low heat, swirling the pan occasionally – do not stir. Brush the sides of the pan with a wet brush to remove any sugar crystals. When the sugar is completely melted and reaches a rich amber color remove it from the heat and immediately add the pecans to the saucepan – carefully for caramel may spit. Return mixture do low heat and stir to combine just until the mixture barely starts to bubble. Immediately pour it over the prepared sheet, spreading it as much as possible. Set aside to cool completely.
Now, the brownie layer: preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a 22x32cm (13x9in) baking pan and line it with foil leaving an overhang in two opposite sides. Butter the foil as well.
Chop the praliné into 1cm (½in) pieces and set aside.
Place the butter in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. When the butter is melted, remove the bowl from the heat and add the chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes then stir gently until the chocolate is melted. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla until blended. Add the sugar and stir only to combine. Blend in the warm chocolate mixture, mixing only to incorporate. Sift the flour and salt over the mixture in two additions, stirring only until incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the top is just set – the brownies should barely be pulling away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the praline over the brownie surface – do not press the praline onto the brownie. Return to the oven for 8-9 minutes or until the praline just begins to melt. Remove from the oven and cool completely over a wire rack before cutting and serving.

Makes 24 bars – I made the exact recipe above using a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking pan; since it has a removable bottom I did not line it with foil


Abby said...

OK. I didn't read the whole post because of the Spoiler Alert! The movie is on "my list", and of course it has Ryyyyyan in it. :) Brownies look awesome!

Unknown said...

I'v never seen the movie so I guess I'll have to and I better try these brownies as they look amazing!!!

asj said...

Qué buenos te han quedado.


brookeO said...

I haven't seen the movie, but these look amazing!

Laura (Tutti Dolci) said...

Do you bake every day?! :) I love brownies and the pecan praline topping sounds divine - I think these would be dangerous to have around the house!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Hey, Laura - no! I wish! :D
I only bake on weekends. :D

Lene said...

Can i replace pecans with hazelnuts or walnuts,there are no pecans where I live:-(

Patricia Scarpin said...

Hi, Lene,
I believe that any nut here would be fantastic - go ahead! :D

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