Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gooey Pecan Bars

Welcome back to me!  I'm not going to lie, being featured on Tasty Kitchen last week reignited my love for cooking, baking, and blogging.  One of the hardest things about teaching is that it absolutely consumes your life.  When you're catching up on grading and planning over the weekends, it leaves little time for your hobbies.  Granted, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world, but it's important to remember that teaching isn't the only thing I like to do...

So in order to spurn myself forward, I signed up to bring in two different baked goods to work this week; one for a baby shower (for a baby that was already born!) and one for our monthly breakfast.  I'm going to start with the pecan bars I made for the baby shower, which were a huge hit!!  I'm very excited to be back with this recipe.

Right after work, I usually have just enough energy to change into "comfy pants" and plop down on the couch to watch my after work cooking shows.  One afternoon, I saw Ina Garten making these pecan bars and dipping them in chocolate!!  I debated dipping mine in colored chocolate to go with the baby shower theme, but with Easter yesterday I sort of ran out of time.  This does make the pecan bars a very versatile dessert - perfect for any occasion!

The dough for the bars is very sticky - you're going to get your hands dirty for this one!  Make sure you use plenty of flour (I used between 2 1/4 and 2 1/2 cups) so that you can actually get the dough into the pan.  The crust will take a while to bake, so don't make the topping until the dough is out of the oven.  You want the crust to be cool and set before pouring the delicious topping all over it...

You really cannot go wrong with this recipe.  The combination of shortbread crust and pecan pie filling is such a indulgence.  That being said, this recipe is incredibly rich, so a 13 x 9 in. pan can go a long way.  I cut mine into 2 in. squares and that was PLENTY for each person.  The bars were well received by everyone and I'll be making copies of the recipe tomorrow at work :)  Stay tuned for another baked good later this week!

Gooey Pecan Bars
Yield: About 20 bars (13 x 9 in pan)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 45 minutes

For the crust
-                ¾ pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
-                ½ c granulated sugar
-                2 eggs
-                ½ tsp vanilla extract
-                2 ¼ c flour
-                ¼ tsp baking powder
-                pinch of salt
For the topping
-                1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
-                ¼ c honey
-                1 c light brown sugar, packed
-                ¼ c heavy cream
-                1 pound pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 in pan. 

To make the crust, cream the butter and sugar until butter becomes fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix the dry ingredients into the batter about 1 cup at a time until incorporated.  The dough will become sticky, so you may need to combine it with your hands (flour your hands first!).  

Flour your hands and press the dough evenly into the greased pan, making an edge around the outside.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes and allow to cool.

While the dough is cooling, make the topping.  Combine the butter, honey, and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over low heat until the better is melted, stirring often.  Boil for 3 minutes and then remove from heat.  Stir in the heavy cream and pecans.  Pour mixture over crust, starting in the middle and using a spatula to press to the edges.  Do not let the topping flow over the edges of the crust!  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the topping is set.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Once pan has reached room temperature, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour to prevent the crust from crumbling while cutting.  After cutting, store in an air tight container in a cool, dry place. 

Adapted from Ina Garten

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