Pecan Bars

Ah, Christmas. The only time of year I willingly use a double boiler. Why? To melt chocolate for these, of course.

bars

I make these pecan bars for Christmas every year – and ONLY for Christmas. They’re a special treat, and they disappear immediately from the family table at our holiday gathering.

The original recipe is, of course, as all good things are, from Ina. But her recipe calls for over two pounds of butter (merry Christmas, hips!) and makes a bizarre quantity of bars in a strangely-shaped pan. Long ago, I carefully did a lot of math and cut her recipe down to just make a simple 9×13 pan – they’re so rich, it’ll be plenty, I promise.

Chocolate-Dipped Pecan Bars

For the crust:

  • 9 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until light (about three minutes).  Add eggs and vanilla and mix.  Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to mixer, mixing on low until dough is just combined.

Line a 9×13 metal pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  Press the dough into the lined pan.  The dough will be sticky – sprinkle flour on both your hands and the dough as necessary.  Bake for 15 minutes. (Like all shortbread crusts, you can tell the pre-bake is done by a tiny hint of golden brown around the edges – nothing more.)

For the topping:

  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest (I sometimes just double the lemon if I forget to buy oranges)
  • 1/8 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound chopped pecans

Combine butter, honey, brown sugar, and both zests in a saucepan.  Cook over low heat until butter is melted, then raise heat and boil for three minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in cream and pecans.  Pour over crust.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until topping is set.  Let cool completely.  Once cool, remove from pan – if your pan was lined well with foil or parchment, it should be easy to pull the whole thing out and then peel off the lining, sliding the whole thing onto a cutting board as you do so.  Cut into bars or squares or triangles or any shape you like.

To put them over the top:

Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate with 1/4 cup heavy cream in a double boiler, stirring constantly until melted and completely smooth (look! You’ve made ganache! Brag about it.). Allow to cool slightly, then dip each pecan bar halfway into the melted chocolate.  Shake gently to avoid drips, then transfer to a piece of parchment paper or a cookie sheet.  Allow chocolate to set (either a few hours at room temperature or about half an hour in the refrigerator).

PS: Have a little extra chocolate ganache and some cookies in the house? Well, I’m not telling you what to do, but…

IMG_4292

Advertisements

Stocking Stuffers and Gifts for Babies

In our mixed-faith household, we take the opportunity to celebrate lots of holidays. Specifically, we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas around here – which means there’s a lot of present shopping to do! To make our shopping list manageable – and try to make sure our children don’t turn into spoiled monsters – we agreed on a Hanukkah budget: eight gifts, but each gift can only cost ten dollars or less.  Larger gifts are put under the tree for Christmas.

I have bought Hanukkah gifts for my husband for years (I will freely admit that it started out as the rankest bribery to get him to participate in the holiday, though I continued long after he was happily settled into our mix-’em-up lifestyle). This year, though, we welcomed our twins – and I had sixteen more small, inexpensive gifts to buy. It was harder than I expected it to be – babies don’t have hobbies!

So I’ve put together this list of some of the things I got, as both Hanukkah gifts and stocking stuffers – they tend to be the same sort of thing in our household, little gifts. This list is intended for babies between six and twelve months old – our twins are ten months old at this writing, but have used some of the things on here for a few months. If you’re still looking for some last minute stocking stuffers, I hope this list can help you out!

stocking stuffers ideas for babies

  • 1. First Years Massaging Teether: This is currently my daughter’s absolute favorite toy. While she was (painfully, agonizingly, loudly) cutting her first three (!) teeth, chewing on this thing was the only thing that kept her happy. Now that the pain is over, she still loves it, and will chew on it and rock gently like a tiny serial killer.
  • 2. Puffs: By 6 months, your baby is probably starting solids! Once they’ve mastered the pincher grasp, they’ll devour puffs as fast as you can put them down. We save them for a periodic treat – or a distraction for photo-taking – as they don’t have much in the way of nutritional value. Bonus: if you check the grocery store during November and December, they often have adorable holiday packaging. Ours have little penguins in scarves on them.
  • 3. Num Num Dips: Whether you’re doing baby-led weaning or traditional purees, this spoon is a great tool to help your baby learn to self-feed. It has shapes for messy food to cling to, so it won’t simply slide off when your baby turns the spoon in every direction. Bonus: the tip is silicone, and boy do babies love to chew on silicone things.
  • 4. Safety First Finger Toothbrush: As soon as baby gets a few teeth, it’s time to start making sure they stay clean. A finger toothbrush is great, and a fun gift. This one also has a ‘gum stimulator,’ and comes with a storage case which we will probably lose by next week.
  • 5. Rubber Frog Family: Rubber duckies, froggies, and other bath time friends are great small gifts. We gave one twin a set of ducks, and the other a set of frogs. Soon our bathtub will be host to armies.
  • 6. No-Skid Socks: If your baby is anything like ours, they are on their feet as much as possible. Whether they’re pulling up, cruising, standing, or walking, a cute pair of socks (or three) make a fun gift, and the no-skid bottoms will help with their stability. Bonus: Babies also like to chew on socks. FYI.
  • 7. Nuby No-Spill Sippy Cups: We were shocked at how quickly our babies were able to grasp how to use these. It took them all of two days to be tiny sippy cup masters – they went from chewing on the spout confusedly, to lying on their backs drinking (and occasionally spitting in the air like little fountains, for fun), to figuring out how to tilt the cup back while sitting up.
  • 8. Munchkin Twisty Teether: You can never have enough things for babies to chew on, let’s be honest. This one also lets them twist and manipulate bits of it.

Disclaimer: All Amazon links on this site are now affiliate links; if you purchase something I’ve recommended after clicking through from here, a tiny bit of money happens to me.

Photoshoot

We didn’t do newborn pictures, or any of the standard sorts of portrait sessions that people sometimes do with their babies. But just in time for the holidays, my wonderful friend Leah came over to do a photo session with the babies. We were able to use some of the shots for holiday cards, and get prints for our walls and our families’.

This is one of my favorite shots. The whole album is here.

Science babies-64-L