Pecan Penuche with Chocolate & Sea Salt
A Retro Recipe Revamp

All week I've been buried under textbooks and term papers.  Today I decided that enough was enough.  Instead of textbooks, I headed to my cookbooks and picked up Meta Given's 1959 Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking.

From the moment I saw those hat-box teal covers, I knew that this charming set had to be mine!  I picked them up for a song, and have time and again enjoyed flipping through the pages, taking in the culinary flavor of 1950s America, and the "modern" tips for homemaking and entertaining from one of the leading home economists of her time.

All week long I've had a wildly wicked sweet tooth, yet I've hardly set foot in my kitchen.  So, when I finally stepped into our tiny matchbox kitchen, I could hear the sweet whisper of Meta's cookbooks calling my name.  "Volume 1, page 407," they crooned.  "Candy!" I trilled.  Nougat, Orange-Coconut Creams, Pralines and Sea Foam beckoned.  But in the end, it was the Panocha that won me over.

Panocha (or Penuche) is a creamy brown sugar fudge that hails from New England.  With buttery caramelized sugar and toasted pecans, what more could a girl ask for?  Well, chocolate, I suppose.  So I whipped up a batch of the Modern Encyclopedia's Panocha (adding a few more toasted pecans than called for) and topped it off with a semisweet ganache and just a touch of sea salt for my own modern twist on the classic.  I think Meta wold be pleased with the results!  Try for yourself...

Pecan Penuche with Chocolate and Sea Salt
a retro recipe revamp
from Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, Volume I
(makes 2 dozen pieces)

1 3/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt (halve the amount if using table salt)
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
1 Tablespoon butter
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup pecan pieces

1 Tablespoon butter, room temperature, for buttering the pan
1/2 cup quality semisweet chocolate chips
(I use Ghirardelli)
3 Tablespoons evaporated milk
Flaky sea salt

Hardware:  Candy thermometer, 6x6 pan, foil, electric mixer with whisk attachment, silicone spatula, small offset spatula

Preheat oven to 300ºF

1)  In a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, bring brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter,  evaporated milk and water to a boil.

When the mixture starts to boil it will be thin and foaming with large bubbles.  As the heat rises, the mixture will thicken and the bubbles will get gradually smaller.  My two favorite tools for candymaking are a Le Creuset cast iron dutch oven and a Pampered Chef candy thermometer.

2)  Insert candy thermometer and cook to the soft ball stage (234º F), stirring constantly.  This will take approximately 10 minutes.  Do not raise heat above medium.  The mercury will rise quickly to 230º, but may stay steady there for several minutes.  It is important to stir constantly and watch the thermometer.  As the candy nears the ready point, the mixture will become thicker and the bubbles will get smaller.

3)  Immediately remove pan from heat and set on an elevated cooling rack to cool for 20 minutes.

4)  While candy is cooling, spread pecans on an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.  Line a 6x6 square pan (or 8x8 for a thinner fudge) with foil so that it hangs over the edges.  Butter the foil.

Trim two pieces of foil to line the pan -- one piece for each direction.  You can use the overhang to pull the finished candy out of the pan.  Simply peel off the foil when ready to slice!

5)  Transfer candy to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Gradually increase speed from lowest to highest setting.  Whip for 5-8 minutes.  Length of time will depend on the temperature and humidity of your environment.  After 4 minutes, stop the mixer, add vanilla and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Continue mixing on high speed.  Candy will be ready when it has thickened to the consistency of peanut butter, has lost its shine, and is a light tan color.  Add the toasted pecans and stir to incorporate.  

When ready to pour, penuche will have the consistency of peanut butter
6)  Pour candy into the prepared pan and press into place with a lightly buttered silicone spatula.  Set aside to cool.

7)  Prepare chocolate topping by melting chocolate and evaporated milk on the stovetop or in the microwave.  Once chocolate has melted, whisk to combine until mixture is glossy and smooth.  

8)  Pour chocolate over the penuche and spread with a small offset spatula.  Cool at room temperature for 1 hour.  Refrigerate an additional 2 hours before removing from pan, and slicing.  To slice, I like to trim the edges, then slice into 1" squares.

9) Sprinkle each piece with just a touch of sea salt.


  1. They look amazing. I cannot wait to try this recipe

  2. OMG !!
    Jenn these brownies look sooooooooooooooo delicious.
    The recipe is quite unique and I love it.
    I'm pinning this

  3. The title of your post beckoned me in and the photos are making me salivate. You are a demon temptress but I will forgive you. I get a charge reading old cookbooks, will look for that one in my travels, thanks. Though, I need another cookbook like I need an additional 10 pounds on my hips and thighs if I made this candy. LOL

  4. This would definitely satisfy any sweet tooth. Beautiful Jenn.

  5. Oh yum! Looks amazing.

    -Erin @ DIY On the Cheap


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