Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pecan Toffee Bars

I've been wanting to make pecan pie since about Thanksgiving, but Eric doesn't like pie crust so I didn't get around to making it just for me to eat. This recipe promised to be "like mini pecan pies in bar form," so I decided to try it. It's from The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark. Instructions are copied verbatim from the book.

The first part (the crust) made me so mad. First, I was sad that I didn't have a food processor big enough to handle the dough. I started with a pastry cutter, then tried knives, then tried a fork, and then went back to the pastry cutter. Eventually I got it to the "coarse crumbs" consistency, but then I had to press it into a ball. That was a huge pain. I couldn't get it all together, so I just plopped it onto my awesome new pastry mat and rolled it out. That part was really easy, but then I noticed that the instructions said that the 9 x 13 rectangle would be 1/8 inch thick. Mine was about 1/2 inch thick. At that point I started thinking that all that butter would just be wasted and I was pretty annoyed at the recipe authors for not being more careful with their instructions (or ingredients?). I put it in the oven anyway, and after the requisite 30 minutes I lifted up the foil to check for "slightly golden." It was nowhere near there, and the dough was sticking to the foil (the instructions didn't say anything about this or about greasing the foil, though afterward I figured I probably misinterpreted "cover with aluminum foil, pressing the foil down into the corners" to mean that the foil should be against the dough). I ditched the foil and let it bake for another 15ish minutes until it was golden around the edges and faintly golden across the top.

The second part was really easy, but I had to let it cook for about 30 extra minutes before I felt it met the description "no longer moves to the side when the pan is tilted." Even then, there was still some movement but I thought, "Seriously? Twice as long?" This was annoying too because I had planned on 30 minutes and wasn't able to do something that I needed to do (go to the store to get a plastic heart-shaped cookie cutter) when I wanted to do it. I was pretty worried, too - there was a lot of bubbling around the edges and I didn't want the filling to turn too hard once it cooled (even though I knew it was supposed to "set into toffee."

A couple of hours after I took it out of the oven it was still warm and mushy. I was tired of looking at it, so I gave it to my brother. He gave it to some people who said that it was good. I don't think it turned out how it was supposed to. But by the time I realized that I had already typed in the recipe, so I'll keep it here instead of just listing this as a failed attempt. Even though that's totally what it was.

P.S. A day later I started wondering if I was being too hard on this recipe. My brother said his friends really liked it, and if it was really supposed to be like pecan pie then it makes sense that it had a soft middle (but the cookie part should have been firm/crunchy and it wasn't). I wouldn't try it again even so, though, because I didn't like the molasses taste (no fault of the recipe).


Shortbread Crust

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt

Pecan Filling

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup molasses
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups pecans



1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, using a fork or pastry cutter, combine the flour, butter, sugar, and salt until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 

2. Press the dough into a ball, gathering up all the crumbles. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 9 by 13 inch rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Press it into the bottom of the baking pan, pushing the dough out to the edges of the pan (but not up the sides of the pan). Prick the dough all over with a fork and cover with aluminum foil, pressing the foil down into the corners. Bake on the center rack until it has become slightly golden when you lift up the foil, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to fill, leaving the oven on. 


In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, corn syrup, molasses, eggs, butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir int he pecans to combine. Spread the filling evenly over the hot crust. 

Bake and Serve

Return the pan to the oven and bake on the center rack until the mixture is set and no longer moves to the side when the pan is tilted, about 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. Cut into bars and serve.

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