A large amount of my baking occurs in the evenings. My favourite time to bake is actually on a rainy day – when it is cold and wet and grey outside there is nothing more I want to do than spend the day in the kitchen and bake a pie. Unfortunately for me, you can’t have everything you want in life and a free day off is a rarity. So I often end up baking at night when I come home from work, uni or whatever else I had on. This is also when my cravings for baked goods are the strongest. Cookie after dinner, anyone? Yes, please.
As I have quickly learnt since beginning this blog, night time, yellow house lights and a camera flash do not make a good combination for a photo. Particularly not for a photo of food (thank you, dear boyfriend, for the lesson). These bars have a few processes that I would have loved to photograph and show you. Unfortunately, I couldn’t as it was dark outside. I tried a couple of photos and they turned out horribly yellow and dark (all my rambling did have a point!). So if you try to make them, just trust the instructions. Your base will look like sand, it is supposed to look like sand and it WILL eventually come together (I had a little freak out here). Anyway, on to the bars!
These bars are basically pecan pie in bar form. They are easier to handle, easier to eat and equally as yummy. They also have a crumbly, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread base (yum!) instead of the traditional shortcrust pastry. This recipe got me very excited indeed. And boy oh boy did they ever deliver!
PECAN PIE BARS
Adapted from Baking Illustrated.
Pecans are used in both the base and the filling (you will need about 2 cups). They taste best toasted so before you start, preheat your oven to 180 C and roast them on a lined tray for about 6 minutes, until fragrant. Let them cool, then chop them roughly.
For the base
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
90g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes (6 tbsp)
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease and line a rectangular baking pan with parchment paper.
Put the pecans into a food processor and process until they are fine crumbs. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and process until combined. Add the chopped butter and pulse until the mixture resembles slightly wet sand (maybe 12 pulses). If it is too dry it won’t stick together.
Pour the ‘sand’ into the baking pan and pat it down, leveling it out and pushing it into the edges, until it forms a base. Bake for 20 minutes, until it is light brown. Meanwhile, make your filling.
For the filling
55g unsalted butter, melted (4 tbsp)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn (glucose) syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
Whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, glucose syrup, vanilla, coffee and salt in a mixing bowl until combined. Ass the egg and whisk until incorporated.
Pour the filling on top of the hot crust and scatter the pecans evenly over the top. Bake about 20 minutes till brown and caramelised.
Cool on a wire rack for an hour before removing from the pan and cutting into squares or rectangles. Makes 15-20 bar cookies (depending on what size you cut them).
These bars have a completely different texture to pecan pie as there is much more base than filling, but the same flavours are there. They are nutty, butterscotch-sweet, salty, sticky and crumbly all at the same time. I can’t even explain how good they are.