It’s pecan season. There is something about pecans that people just love, especially my family. Pecans are around for each holiday. Even if we request a chocolate pie or a cheesecake, a pecan pie always turns up right along side the other desserts. Growing up, I didn’t care much for pecans so when my grandpa would make his famous pecan rolls, my pecans were spoken for before they ever reached my plate. I am certain I never learned to like pecans because I never got to eat the ones that were rightfully mine.
My taste buds finally experienced pecans again when I married into a family that also has a love for pecans. I didn’t just get a great family, I got my rights back to pecans. It was like eating something for the first time. The rich, buttery flavor melted in my mouth only to experience instant regret for all of those years I gave up the tasty nuts (that are actually fruit). Each time the Officer goes home to Arkansas, I always send my love byway of a homemade dessert. In celebration of this newfound love of pecans, the desserts I make for his trips home usually include the coveted ingredient. These Pecan Squares were a hit with my in-laws during the last trip. The bars are dense and full of flavor. The honey and citrus mingle together in your mouth and are complemented by the sweet, buttery crust. I dipped some in chocolate to indulge a bit more.
- adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
makes 20-25 medium squares
- 1-1/4 pounds unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 extra-large eggs
- 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4-1/2 cups 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, chopped
make the crust
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the butter and sugar in a medium size bowl with an electric mixer (using a paddle attachment if you have it), until the mixture is light, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix on low until it is combined.
In a standard, ungreased baking sheet (18×12x1-inch),* using your floured hands, evenly distribute the dough on the sheet, pressing the dough on the bottom and sides. Bake for 15 minutes, just until the crust is set. Don’t overcook. Let it cool. Brush with a little additional cream and sprinkle with remaining 2 tsp sugar.
make the filling
While the crust is baking, mix the butter, honey, brown sugar and zests in a large saucepan. Cook over low heat and stir until the butter is melted. Bring mixture to a boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans and heavy cream.
Pour the mixture over the cooled crust. The mixture will fill the pan to the rim so use caution when placing in the oven. In an effort to keep your oven clean, place a couple of pans on the lowest rack to catch any of the excess topping. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling is set. Let the bars cool in the pan and then wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until cold. Cut into bars and serve.
*If you use a non-stick baking sheet, you might want to line with parchment paper prior to filling with the crust. This will help protect your pan from scratching when you cut the bars.