Sunday, May 17, 2009

[Cookie 014] Pecan Bars

Pecan Bars


I can't let you read the rest of this entry until you make sure that you have 2 cups of pecans, some heavy cream, and a ton of butter in your fridge. Because you have. to. make. these. ASAP.

Seriously. I think I have a new favorite cookie. No wait- I know I have a new favorite. These Pecan Bars are divine, sublime, and just fantastically fantastic. Imagine your favorite pecan pie, but in bar form, thus increasing their ease of snackability and transportability. And cuteness, too.

Pecans in Pyrex

Okay, let me get to the nitty-gritty of it. The recipe itself, although time consuming, really isn't very difficult at all. The bars are essentially just a shortbread bottom and a thick, sweet, pecan-studded filling on top, all baked in a simple 9 x 13 baking pan. The only thing that held me back from making these was the fact that we didn't have enough pecans, honey, and vanilla extract. Strange, because I'm home for summer in California, and generally that means a well stocked pantry, but I think I depleted a lot of the baking resources from over spring break. But once we had all we needed, things really got going.

Honey for Pecan Filling
More Fatty Stuff for Pecan Filling

Making the shortbread bottom is a breeze: you just whip up a simple dough, and then press it into the baking pan so it's roughly 1/4" thick. It's kind hard to gauge the thickness of it, but it doesn't matter that much. Then you stab it with a fork a few times and set the whole thing in the fridge to cool for about 20 minutes. Bake it, then you're ready to make the filling (which is really what this cookie is all about, right?).

Making the Pecan Filling

Okay, so I'm not gonna lie, this recipe isn't for your health. At all. I mean, seriously, we've got heavy cream, butter, sugars, pecans--all your star ingredients. Oh and honey too. It's a sticky mess, but tastes something cosmic. Yeah, cosmic. I think that's the best word to describe it.

Pecan Bars

So, you make the filling, pour in on top of the shortbread, and bake it for a few more minutes until it starts to bubble. Then you take it out of the oven and let it cool, completely. Now this is when I began to get a little nervous, because the recipe has you run a knife along the edge of the pan, then invert the whole mess onto a cooling rack, and then invert it again onto a cutting board, so it's right-side-up. In my mind's eye, I saw the whole sticky mess getting stuck all over the cooling rack and getting all mussed up in general, and basically resulting in a pecan bar that looked nothing like the photo in the book (it wouldn't be the first time!). So to take extra precautions to make sure the filling would be completely set before the flipping ordeal, I put the baking pan in the fridge after it had already cooled for about 30 minutes.

Sliced Pecan Bars

Well, all worked out spectacularly, and the great flip worked fine. But then comes the cutting part, and this also scared me. I thought there would be no way I could cut these pecans neatly, and that they wouldn't want to break and would instead just mess up the overall look of the bar. Well, just make sure you use a super sharp knife, and you'll do just fine. I was actually quite surprised in the results, because they did look like the photo in the book! The only thing I did wrong along the way was slightly underbake the shortbread, but really, no one (no one) is going to care, let alone notice, that.

Pecan Bars, Sliced

Okay, that's it. Then you eat one. Or three, whatever. And then you feel something like this:

Isabelle, ma cherie!

Yeah, I don't mind feeling like that. But these Pecan Bars definitely make you want to eat only raw vegetables for the next few days. Raw vegetables, alternated with Pecan Bars, and you'll be set. To health!

Pecan Bars

Pecan Bars
Makes about 3 dozen

  • 18 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light-brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup light-brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) pecan halves
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Place rack in center of oven. Heat oven to 375 degrees. To make the crust: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add salt, and mix to combine. Add flour 1 cup at a time, on medium speed, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition. Continue mixing until the dough begins to come together in large clumps.
  2. Press dough about 1/4-inch thick into a 9-by-13-by-1-inch baking pan. Prick the pastry with the tines of a fork. Chill until firm, about 20 minutes. Bake until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. Reduce oven to 325 degrees. To make the filling: Place butter, brown sugar, honey, granulated sugar, heavy cream, and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; stir in nuts and vanilla.
  4. Pour filling onto the cooled crust. Bake until filling bubbles, 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Run a paring knife around edges of the pan, and invert onto cooling rack, leaving the pastry on the rack. Invert rack with pastry onto a cutting board, leaving the pastry on the board, filling side up. Use a sharp knife to cut into 1-by-3-inch bars. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

{End Results}
Baking Difficultly: 3/5
Ingredient Accessibility: 3.5/5
Tastiness: 5/5 (Yeah)
Attractiveness: 4.5/5
Is it worth it?: Uh, did you read this entry? (if not, the answer is YES.)


Absolutely Not Martha said...

just discovered your blog--these look AMAZING.

jfklds said...

beautiful, lizzie. seriously.


jfklds said...

i love the two goldeny pictures of the ingredients. so beautiful

Leslie said...

oh wow..these do look like the perfect cookie

Samantha said...

Found your blog via a link from Apartment Therapy - The Kitchn. Looking forward to reading your posts, and seeing which recipes I should be making now. Like those pecan bars!

lasheandra said...

Just found your blog and these look great. Don't you love it when they look like the picture.

I have this book as well and haven't gotten around to making any bar cookies. Can't wait to try them, even though pecans are expensive in NYC.

Lizzie said...

thanks everyone!
lasheandra- so far i've only made these bars, and then some brownies and blondies, but so far everything involving a baking dish has turned out to be a really good recipe. i recommend giving them a try, for sure!

Anonymous said...

my heart just stopped. :-)

Nevis said...


My mother always makes something simmarilar to these although they look much more gooey than yours- I like the neatness of yours. Also I know Ina Garten makes one, too. Of course, she also dips them into chocolate, which always seems TOOO much to me.

Rosie said...

I'm in Australia, where we don't have 'sticks' of butter, we just specify the weight. It comes in 250g packets, which is 8oz/half a pound. How much does a 'stick' weigh?

Rosie said...

(and obviously I don't feel inclined to measure out 26 tablespoons!)

Lizzie said...

Nevis- yeah these came out pretty neat because I chilled them just a bit before I cut into them, but if you leave them out for a while, they get all gooey and messy, and in my opinion, taste better. And the dipping in chocolate...yeah...that would probably kill me!

Rosie- that's so interesting about australia not having sticks of butter! I never knew that. Anyways, 1 stick of butter = 1/2 cup, or 4 U.S. fluid ounces. hope that helps!

Rosie said...

Are fluid ounces the same weight-wise as ordinary ounces?

Lizzie said...

Technically, fluid ounces are a volume measurement, whereas dry ounces are weight measurements. But for the purpose of making these pecan bars, I wouldn't worry too much about it (someone can correct me if I'm leading you astray!). Anyways, 1 stick of butter is about 113.5 grams, so I guess that bit of info might be a little more useful to you in Australia. Good luck!

Pearl said...

my goodness - i shall make this for my mother!

Bethie said...

I am running to the store now. I just gotta make these. Wow, gorgeous.

Christie's Corner said...

Good thing I'm leaving for the weekend, otherwise I'd make this recipe and eat the whole pan myself.

OMG it looks soooooo good.

Kevin said...

Those pecan bars look really good!

Lucy Coltrane said...

OMG! These look absolutely fantastic. I stumbled across your blog via Foodbuzz. I am a pecan lover, so this recipe just sings to me, so much so that I put it on my catering menu for an event next week. I have Martha's book, but haven't looked closely. Thanks so much for posting and bringing it up front. Your pics are great too. I friended you on Foodbuzz. I really want to keep up with your posts. Love your sense of humor. Lucy Coltrane

Lizzie said...

thanks so much everyone!!

Shari said...

Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. You were right- these are amazing! I made them and everyone LOVED them.

JanJan said...

I searched recipes for pecan bars on my phone while in the market because I wanted to make something really special for my very best friend. Yours was far and away the best sounding and best looking recipe out there. I'm making them tonight and mailing them from California to Philadelphia tomorrow!

stuc said...

just found your blog (because of these luscious pecan bars). thanks for blogging, love your writing and the pictures are fantastic.

firstofmany said...

My mouth is watering from these pictures of pecan decadence! Thanks to stuc for linking me!

Hieu said...

can you freeze them?

Lizzie said...

@Hieu- Not sure if you can freeze them...the filling below the pecans might not thaw properly. If you're looking to store them, you could probably freeze the dough and then make the filling when you want to bake them. But give it a shot, and let me know how it goes!

Anonymous said...

Every yeat I wait until mid-december because that's when the "pecan diamonds" go on sale at 4 diamonds for
$2.00. Then I try to get home with them.
Yesterday, i made it home with three. Today I am going to try yours (which is how
I am planning my time) Great find!!

Lucy Coltrane said...

I make big batches of them and freeze them to have on hand for my catering clients. They are a huge success. They freeze beautifully. Thank you for posting this very fine recipe!

Anonymous said...

I'm making these to use as a garnish on a birthday cake this weekend, for 150 people. These will make the perfect 'dance floor' on the cake for my brother's 60th birthday. He's been into square dancing for about 20 years now, even dances at national dances.
Pecan pie is one of his favorites!

Chris Simon said...

I made a big batch of these for a PTA event this evening, and they were a huge hit. There might have even been a couple of moms re-enacting the diner scene from "When Harry Met Sally". Definitely a keeper for the recipe files!

Anonymous said...

These DO Look amazing... Got ready to make them, but do not see how to split the total butter amount listed in the ingredients between the crust and the filling... Did I miss this somewhere???