Begging your pardon for talking up New Year’s Eve before Christmas Day has even dawned, but next Wednesday’s food section will be too late to allow time to consider making this luscious treat from caterer Bridgett Harding. Her salted caramel pecan dessert with Piroulines was inspired by a pie recipe.
“I basically took a pie recipe I had and adapted it so we could make it festive, serving it in pretty glasses like a martini glass,” said the owner of Harding Catering in Caledonia. She shares her recipe in today’s food pages. It’s a good one for a sparkling occasion like New Year’s, tailor-made for a little shimmer. And if the glitter and glitz is edible, all the better. Literally.
One of Harding’s favorite ways to add pizazz to a countdown — or any special event — is edible glitters and embellishments. You can get them at area hobby stores or order online. “There’s a whole line of big, chunky glitters or edible sugars,” she says. You can also get edible gold leaf. Or infuse elegance into a flute of champagne or other clear or near-clear potable with edible hibiscus or orchids.
“I think one of the biggest things for something like New Year’s is nice glassware,” Harding recommends. “We like to rim our glasses with sugar crystals or chocolate.”
And you might consider going gold. As a caterer for events large and small, private and corporate, Harding is in tune with trends. Gold has been a major one this season; she expects the color to be big in 2015.
Keeping up with such decorative style points was about the farthest thing from her mind when Harding was attending Mississippi State University. She never dreamed she would become a chef. But a summer in France piqued her taste buds and interest in food prep techniques — so much so she was inspired to begin formal training upon returning home. Harding attended culinary school at Hinds Community College in Jackson. Her passion for cooking only grew as she went on to pursue continuing education classes through the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
Upon completion, she worked for several large corporations and then became lead banquet chef for the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort on Georgia’s St. Simons Island. Harding had the opportunity to work with several high-profile chefs who influenced her cooking. She missed her close-knit family, however, and eventually decided to come back to her roots, where she found what she calls “all the true loves of my life” — her husband, her three children and her own catering business.
Do it ahead
When asked about the most important tip she would offer anyone planning an event, Harding was quick to say, “Do everything in advance that you can. And by ‘advance,’ I don’t mean the day before.” Most tasks take longer than people anticipate.
“You need to have all the cooking done ahead that you can, all the cleaning … have everything set for the event two days before, if possible, so that on the day-of, all you have to do is warm it up.”
Think the details through, she recommends. That’s what can make your occasion special. “You can think of the one thing that’s going to be your big bang, like an element of surprise, something people will talk about or remember afterward.”
Until Jan. 5, Harding is on hiatus from her commercial kitchen. Instead, she’s enjoying the home kitchen with her kids, 13-year-old Carlisle, 12-year-old Cayden Grace and 8-year-old Sophie Kate. All three children are learning the craft. On Valentine’s last year, they cooked the entire meal, dressed up and served it to their parents in a formal setting. “During the holidays especially, we like to spend time together cooking,” says their mother.
Perhaps the young Hardings will catch her enthusiasm for “making things pretty,” for coming up with different ideas and ways to present foods that please the eye and palate both. It’s something Harding doesn’t get tired of.
“You know, they say once a chef always a chef — and that’s certainly true for me.”
SALTED CARAMEL PECAN DESSERT WITH PIROULINES
(Makes about 8 desserts)
1 can of dark chocolate Piroulines, broken into small pieces
2 cups coarsely chopped pretzels
2 cups coarsely chopped pecan halves
1 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon Tony’s creole seasoning
For the cream cheese layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
16 ounces Cool Whip
For the caramel sauce:
(You can use store-bought and skip this step, but this is much better)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1) Broken Piroulines and pretzel mixture
2) Cream cheese layer
3) Drizzle with caramel sauce
4) Repeat and top with 1 teaspoon Kahlua (if desired)
(Source: Bridgett Harding)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.