There’s something about the combination of maple and pecan that is extremely delicious and satisfying. Around Thanksgiving last month, I thought about trying my hand at a pecan pie. But then I saw this recipe from The Kitchn and knew I had to make pecan bars instead. And really, they combine the best parts of pecan pie — crunchy-sweet topping and crust — while disposing of that weird, gooey middle layer that often forms in the pie.
And oh were these a success. F said they are one of the best things I’ve ever baked — and that’s saying something, given the amount of baking I’ve done in the past few years. A few co-workers also got nibbles and gave the bars high praise. Honestly, these are almost too good to share.
**Update, New Year’s Day 2015: I made these for NY Eve dessert for friends in Germany, with walnuts instead of pecans — the latter are hard to find in Germany — and they got more rave reviews. More of a reason to make them now.**
The pecan bars do take some time to put together, but they’re quite straightforward if you patiently follow the steps (you can speed things up by chilling in the freezer). Take some time to make them this weekend as an addition to your holiday baking — share if you dare! You will not be disappointed.
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Maple Pecan Bars (adapted from The Kitchn; makes 16 large bars or 24-32 small bars — enough for a crowd)
- 2.25 cups plain/AP flour
- 6 tbsp brown sugar (I used dark; feel free to use light)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 16 tbsp (225g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 8 tbsp (113g) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I used dark; feel free to use light)
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (feel free to sub in some honey, but it won’t taste as good)
- 2 tbsp heavy cream OR creme fraiche
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 3 cups chopped pecans (OR walnuts)
- Preheat the oven to 175C (350F) and line a 9×13-inch (23×33-cm) baking dish with parchment paper (leave an overhang on all sides so you can get the bars out later).
- Make the crust: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Pour in the melted butter and vanilla. Stir with a fork until the mixture turns thick and sandy — it will be moist and a bit greasy. Use a rubber spatula to press the mixture evenly into the baking dish. Put the dish in the freezer for 10 minutes (or fridge for 30 minutes) to let the dough firm up. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the crust is set and dry but not yet golden.
- Let crust cool for 20-30 minutes before adding the filling (you can speed this up in the fridge or freezer).
- Make the topping/filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup over medium heat until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cream/creme fraiche, vanilla, and salt. Fold in the pecans.
- Add the topping/filling to the crust: Pour the nut mixture over the crust and use a spatula to spread it evenly over the shortbread. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the filling is hot and very bubbly at the edges.
- Take the bars out of the oven and let cool and set overnight so the bars can firm up. You can speed this up by putting the bars in the fridge.
- When you’re ready to slice the bars, lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper and cut them into squares. They’ll keep covered at room temperature for up to 5 days (but probably won’t last that long!).