Friday, March 1, 2013

Barefoot Contessa Pecan Bars by Colleen

Barefoot Contessa Pecan Bars by Colleen
Hi Barb,

A friend of mine does a birthday cookie exchange party every year. I decided to try to make these for the party. I think they were very good, almost like a pecan pie in a bar, but the BC is holding back on some rather key info in her instructions.

As a matter of preference, I don't like orange so I doubled the lemon zest and skipped the orange zest. Second, I'm not sure I love the honey flavor coming through. My thought, if I make these again would be to use half honey and half corn syrup. But that is really a personal preference about your love/or not for honey.

Third, the time involved to make these is wildly underestimated and I wouldn't describe them as easy. On the plus side, I made these on Tuesday for a party on Thursday, and unlike some cookies where that wouldn't be a plus, it was absolutely fine for these. They "hold" very well. And they make a HUGE amount and they are very rich, so the idea of cutting them into 20 squares is comical. Try 60 squares!

Pecan Squares
(Recipe courtesy The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, 1999, All Rights Reserved)
Prep Time:10 min
Inactive Prep Time: -- Cook Time:45 min
Level: Easy ???
Serves: 20 large squares

1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound unsalted butter
1 cup good honey
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.

NOTES: I used a big lasagna pan that was same dimensions, but had much higher sides. The amount of filling is crazy, and if you use a short-sided pan, you will have spillage in your oven and according to online reviews, it will be colossal smoky mess to clean up. I forgot to line my pan and tucked foil in between the edges of the baked cookie and the pan before I poured in the filling. This helped prevent the filling from sticking to the sides or leaking down under the crust. Other reviewers have just not used all the filling and saved it as ice cream topping or some other clever usage. Other reviewers line the whole pan before they blind bake the crust with heavy duty foil and build up an edge to contain the filling. That is probably the best bet.

Also, I thought I had cooked the filling for at least three minutes, but when I baked it, it took FOREVER for the filling to set up. After 45 minutes of baking, I turned off the oven and just left the tray in the oven as it was cooling and took Bess on a walk. This worked. I removed them about 40 minutes later and they were set.

Next thing to know: you must cool the bars and then CHILL the bars before cutting. If you don't, another big mess. It took some doing to cut the bars. I ended up cutting an inch wide strip and lifting it out of the pan and then cutting this into bite-sized pieces on a cutting board with a big knife. And then I repeated this for the whole pan. It worked really well. Trying to cut them in the pan is difficult.

However, I think this is a recipe that once you have made it it will become a "go to" as the bars are really delicious if you like pecan pie, and they hold and travel well for parties. Just don't be an idiot like me and make them the first time FOR a party. That is part of the reason I made them ahead so I could whip up something else if it was a complete fail.



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