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Dorothy Dean presents: Nutty and scrumptious pecan bars aren’t just for autumn

UPDATED: Mon., April 6, 2020

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

I know we’ve all been forced to work on our chef skills – cooking dinner every night for weeks on end, not to mention making breakfast and lunch, too.

But with April 14 hailed annually as National Pecan Day, it’s time to hone in on our baking.

While pecans are usually associated with fall and Thanksgiving desserts, there’s no reason why their nutty and scrumptious flavors can’t be enjoyed year-round.

And what better time than on its own foodie holiday? Showcasing them to the fullest, these addicting pecan bars are chock full of pecans in a lush and chewy topping that’s layered over a thick, buttery shortbread crust.

They’re indulgent without being overly sweet, and they’re fairly simple to make.

The crust combines butter and sugar that’s creamed until fluffy before mixing in an egg and vanilla. To that mixture, flour, baking powder and salt are added. The dough is pressed into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and baked until just set.

For the topping, butter, honey, brown sugar, lemon and orange zests combine in a saucepan and are brought to boil for 3 minutes. It’s removed from the heat, and the final ingredients of heavy cream and chopped pecans are stirred in. The mixture is then poured over the par-baked crust and returned to the oven to bake until set, about 30 minutes.

They’re chilled before being cut into bars and served. The pecans can be swapped for walnuts, or a combination of the two can be used.

For my chocoholics, chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup) can be added into the topping before it’s poured onto the crust. Alternatively, you can drizzle on chocolate after they’ve chilled.

If you’re craving a taste of fall, 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice can be stirred in alongside the pecans. Or for a real kick in the taste buds, add 3 tablespoons of bourbon to the brown sugar mixture after it’s boiled.

Pecan Bars

Adapted from Ina Garten.

For the crust:

1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (2 1/2 sticks)

6 tablespoons sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

For the topping:

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1/2 cup honey

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/8 cup heavy cream

1 pound pecans, coarsely chopped (about 3 3/4 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then add it to your creamed mixture and mix until just combined.

With floured hands, press the dough evenly into a 9x13-inch baking sheet lined with parchment paper, making an edge around the outside.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

For the topping, add the butter, honey, brown sugar and zests to a saucepan over low heat and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the butter is melted. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream and chopped pecans.

Pour over the crust and smooth into an even layer.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.

Audrey Alfaro can be reached at spoonandswallow@yahoo.com.

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