Friday, November 20, 2009

Caramel Pecan Bars - Holiday Recipe #13

Everyone has that one dessert - the one that just gets them and causes cravings. For some people it is the draw of chocolate that gets them, for others a perfect piece of cake is their weakness, and for others, that rich creamy cheesecake is their idea of dessert perfection. Mine is none of those; my perfect idea of dessert is anything and everything caramel and toffee. There is something about that confection of butter and sugar coming together to make something extra special and delicious.

When I saw this recipe in my latest Food and Wine magazine I simply had to make them. I read the recipe and knew that it would be a bit more complicated than I liked, as I had to make a pastry crust and also a caramel, but I thought the result would be a dessert that perfectly suited my personality and I was right. These are crispy from the pastry, chewy from the caramel and crunchy from the pecans - a perfect bite of textures.

These will be appearing on my Thanksgiving table this year.
Caramel Pecan Bars
(slightly adapted from recipe by Ken Oringer in Food and Wine | December 2009)
Makes 16 bars

Crust
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/4 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Topping
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound pecan halves

Directions
Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the cubed butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle on the ice water and vinegar and process until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Turn the crumbs out onto a sheet of wax paper and knead just until the dough comes together. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until slightly chilled, about 15 minutes. (can be made one day ahead. Allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before rolling out.)

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of wax paper to an 11- by-15-inch rectangle (1/4 inch thick). Trim the dough to a 9-by-13-inch rectangle and place it in the baking pan. Cut the remaining dough into 3/4-inch-wide strips and press them up the side of the pan to form a rim all around. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Line the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the dough is just set. Remove the parchment paper and weights and bake the crust for about 12 minutes longer, until lightly golden and set. Let cool.

Make the topping: In a large saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, honey and salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until foamy and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add cinnamon and cream and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer inserted in the caramel registers 240° (soft ball stage), about 10 minutes longer. Add the pecans and cook for 2 minutes longer. Pour the filling over the crust, spreading it evenly. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and the topping is bubbling. Let cool completely. Remove onto a cutting board. Cut into bars and serve.

Printable recipe

My idea of a perfect ending to a meal


Cheap basic candy thermometer...

3 comments:

camilla said...

These are so delicious! The ratio of buttery pastry goodness to sweet pecan topping is perfect, and so much better than pecan pie. I had them today and couldn't stop eating them despite a very full stomach from Korean quesadillas and tacos. Thank you for a fabulous lunch Joanne!

Christine said...

These were a hit with my family at Thanksgiving - my brother declared them "a quality product" which is high praise from him!

Tia said...

awesome job!!! looks perfect.

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