Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pecan Bars

Pecan Bars

I spent almost my whole life thinking I didn't like pecan pie.  I love pies filled with fruit, or chocolate cream, or pumpkin, but nuts in gooey caramel?  Didn't sound like my thing.  But when I finally tasted pecan pie for the first time last year, I was hooked.  I learned the error of my ways.  The deep, smooth sugary filling combined with the pecans was irresistible.

Pecan Pan
Don't bother decorating the top with nuts. They fell off after baking, even though I pushed them into the filling.
When I got the idea to try pecan pie in bar form, this Barefoot Contessa recipe popped up first in my online search and had hundreds of raving reviews.  But the endorsements also had complaints about messes in the oven, the cost, and the fat.  Nine sticks combined for the shortbread and filling??!  And I wish someone had spelled out the cost.  The pecans were about $15 a pound and two pounds were needed, but thankfully I found them for $8 a pound in the bulk bin at another store.  The many positive reviewers said the cost was worth it -- or maybe just as a splurge for the holidays.

To avoid  the spillage and mess that people described, I used two taller baking pans instead -- 10½ by 7 by 2 inches, and 12¾ by 8 by 3 inches.  The baking times stay about the same.  My sheet pans did not have the required 1 inch in height, and I correctly estimated that 1 inch could not possibly hold all the bubbling filling.  I also lined the pans with foil and then parchment.

Georges Island Collage
Clockwise from top left: Woman in a hoopskirt outside Fort Warren on Georges Island; girls manning the fort walls; a powder magazine; these hobbit hole-looking structures opened out to a view of the ocean on the other side.
So, that health factor?  There's a healthier chocolate pecan bar recipe from The New York Times.  I wasn't happy with a recipe I tried from the column once and figured if you're going to have a pecan bar, have a pecan bar -- and then give away most of them.  I brought them to my book club's outing to Fort Warren at Georges Island.  The Civil War fort matched up with our read for the month, Gone With the Wind, and the pecan bars seemed to fit the southern theme.  My friends loved them, and were amazed at the weight of each square.  It was like carrying a brick.  I enjoyed them also, but I thought they tasted more like toffee bars and less like pecan pie.  It wasn't quite what I had been looking for, and it was also very rich.  Maybe pecan pie is next on my baking list.

Pecan Squares
By Barefoot Contessa

Crust:
1¼ pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs
¾ tsp pure vanilla extract
4½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Topping:
1 pound unsalted butter
1 cup good honey
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp grated orange zest
¼ cup heavy cream
2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°.

For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18-by-12-by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.

15 comments:

  1. The topping sounds so sweet! I guess this treat should be enjoyed in little quantities :D

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    1. I was afraid it would be overly sugary, but it actually wasn't. It is a very big recipe. But the bars are super rich, so you're right about the little quantities.

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  2. I only discovered pecan pie recently too. I don't know what too me so long--I was missing out! These look amazingly decadent. But with all that butter, how could they not be?!

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    1. I know, the possible fat and caloric content was the subject of much discussion among friends and then coworkers. One friend had the gall to calculate the calories and tell me what they were, so I gave the rest away to coworkers the next day! Could not have them in my fridge. lol I don't know what took me so long either . . . pecan pie is good stuff.

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  3. I want these bars! Oh my goodness they look so stunning. Pinned!

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  4. wow... yes! i can hear the hallelujah chorus!
    xo
    http://allykayler.blogspot.ca/

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  5. These pecan bars look so good...i got to try to them :-)

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  6. I've made these before and boy are they rich! I adore pecan pie, but I'm the only one who will eat it in my household...so I love the idea of bars and giving most away. I like the way you think :)

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  7. I love pecan pie - and shortbread bars and chocolate. So I know I would love these bars... Like Liz said, I'm sure they're rich, but that wouldn't stop me! I'm featuring this post in today's Food Fetish Friday (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and thanks for the inspiration...

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  8. oh so delicious! I love pecan, but haven't really baked with them much!

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  9. Delicious!!! and I LOVE the name of your blog! It is my favorite quote from the movie.

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  10. I actually tried pecan "pie" by accident. Like you, I am not into pecan in general (usually I love chocolate and almonds together) and pecan pie didn't really interest me. Boy I'm glad I tried it. I was hooked by the nicely roasted pecan on top. I can totally see the similarity on your bars and it all the sudden made me crave for it. Looks good and I love that you dipped in chocolate. I know I cannot refuse this when it's in my house. :) Sooo good, Shirley!

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    1. Too bad the pecans on top kept falling off. lol Nowadays I try lots of things I think I won't like, because sometimes I surprise myself. Like discovering I love pecan pie. But other things, like olives, I still hate no matter how many times I try. Pecan pie is so rich and buttery, though, I don't think I'll have another until Thanksgiving!

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