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…

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