Pecan Bars – Nutty Salty Caramel Goodness

Here’s some really good advice. Do not make a batch of your favorite cookie if you are home alone on a rainy day. Do. Not. Holy shit, y’all. Seriously. I’ve eaten three of these and had to force myself to stop. Three doesn’t sound like much, does it? But these are buttery rich little tiles of heaven and one would be perfect for a normal person.

I’ve never made these before – so why now? We had a cookie potluck at work the week before Christmas; one of my co-workers brought in some of his girlfriend’s pecan bars. Oh, lawdee lawd. They were so good. Crunchy base, caramely salty pecan topping. I have not been able to get them out of my mind for three weeks. That, plus the fact that my mom gave me three pounds of pecans, and you can see why I had to make these.

The interwebs garnered many a recipe, and pecan PIE bars appears to be the preferred nomenclature. But I don’t want a gooey top, I don’t want a pecan pie. I want that toasty nutty chewy sticky caramel taste. I found an awesome recipe at Shockingly Delicious – which of course I had to tweak.

My one take away from this, though? Grease that pan. Then, when you think you are done, grease it some more. This is serious sugary sticky shit.

Pecan Bars

Preheat the oven to 350*. Heavily grease a rectangular cake pan – 9”x13”x2”. Line it with parchment or foil, à la Alton Brown brownie hammock. You’ll need those edges as handles to lift them out after baking.
In the mixer with the paddle attachment, mix:
2 c AP flour
2/3 c powdered sugar
1 ½ sticks butter
½ tsp salt
When it looks like crumbs, it’s done. Dump the mix in the bottom of the pan. Smooth it out. Then, cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper and use the bottom of a jar or glass to smoosh it down. Be sure to put a little lip up all the sides and especially the corners. Remove the wrap, and bake it about 20m until it’s set, but not brown. (This would also be a fun kid part – smooshing it down with their hands.)

While it is baking, combine in a heavy 2 quart sauce pan on medium heat:
½ c. plus 2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/3 c. honey
¼ c. corn syrup
14 Tbsp butter (two sticks minus two Tbsp)
½ tsp salt.
3 Tbsp. heavy cream (I used coconut/almond coffee creamer)
Stirring frequently, bring the mix to a low boil – it will get all foamy and lighten a bit in color.
Remove from the heat til the crust is done.

When the crust comes out of the oven, spread out on top:
3 1/2 cups pecan halves or pieces
Even pour the caramel mixture over them. Make sure everything is well-distributed, then all back in the oven for another 25-ish minutes. It will be bubbly and a little darker when it’s done.

Cool completely, lift it out of the pan and slice in small squares. Sprinkle with some good flaked salt, like a kosher salt or fleur de sel.

These will keep in an air-tight tin for quite a while. If they last that long.

Walnut Black Pepper Biscotti

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Anybody out there old enough to remember SOAR? The Berkeley Searchable Online Archive of Recipes, that has since become RecipeSource? It was (is) this wonderful place created to preserve family recipes, back before the explosion of the interwebs and when you still *really* needed cookbooks.  I used to read that for fun – they have it sorted by geographic region and ethnic groups. It was a fascinating place to browse.  So, back when dirt was new and I wanted a good biscotto, that was where I went to look and found this marvelous recipe and printed it out on my dot matrix printer. And saved that paper for years. These are fantastic biscotti – crunchy, but not so hard they break your teeth. Dippable without disintegrating – truly a work of art. 

I eventually lost that recipe, and despaired. But was saved by our Google Overlords. I found it again at Cooks.com (because for the life of me I cannot find it again at Recipe Source – weird, I know.) Biscotti are pretty damn easy to make, and have a big wow factor. Although I swear anything that isn’t a chocolate chip cookie seems to have a big wow factor because no one cooks any more. But, hey – that’s why I blog!! Shall we?

Cream the butter and sugar.

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Add the eggs and vanilla.

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Sift your flour with the salt and leavening, grind the pepper and zest the orange.  

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Chop the nuts. Please forgive me, I apparently saved the shot of the chopped hazelnuts for another recipe and not the walnuts – but we’ll include them here just for continuity.

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Mix in the dry and the nuts. 

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Flour your hands and make a log.

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Bake it, cool it and slice it in even pieces. Save the biscotti butts for taster-testing. 

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Bake ’em a second time (that’s the bis to the cotto), and away we go – snack time!!

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Here’s the recipe. Try them – they’re easy. Some like to dip one side in chocolate, but I think that overpowers the wonderful play of the heat and the orange with the toasty nuts and butter. But hey, that’s probably just me.