Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Peerless Pecan Pie Bars

Do you like pecan pie but find yourself only able to eat a few bites because it's just "too sweet" or "so rich" or "pretty gooey"? These dessert bars are all the delicious caramel nuttiness of pecan pie without the super-sugary ooo-too-butteriness. The thinner layer of pecan pie filling against a crunchy but delicate shortbread crust takes the delicious combination of pecan pie to new heights... it's the golden ratio of top and bottom layers that is sorta off-balance in a deep dish pie.

This recipe is my own adaptation from Gourment magazine's cookie bars and my grandmother's pecan pie. This recipe is for a 9x13 pan, but it can easily be halved and baked in an 8x8 pan, baking times are pretty much the same. The bars freeze well, if you can stand to put them in there without eating them! Or they make great gifts because they are pretty sturdy and last well. Usually, if I make a half recipe, I still make all the crust and put half in the freezer for another time.

Shortbread Crust
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Cut butter into chunks and add to food processor with flour, sugar, and salt. Process until mixture forms pea-sized shaped clumps.

Press mixture into bottom of a 9x13 in pan lined with foil. (Turn the pan upside down and press the foil over the bottom to make a mold, then invert the pan and lay the molded foil into the bottom and smooth.) I like to press the shortbread down firmly using a rubber spatula, but the flat bottom of a glass or a stainless measuring cup also works well. Bake until golden about 20 minutes. While baking, make topping.

8 ounces (2 cups) pecans
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or milk, if necessary)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 tablespoons bourbon

Coarsely chop pecans. In a saucepan, melt butter, sugar, and corn syrup until smooth. Stir in cream and simmer one minute. Stir in egg, vanilla, and bourbon until smooth and well-blended. Stir in pecans and pour immediately over hot shortbread. Return to 350 oven and bake 20-22 minutes until bubbling.

Allow pan to cool until firm. Lift foil from pan and cut into square, triangle, or diamond-shaped bars.

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