Pecan Pie Bars
Cookies are a sentimental journey and my favorite thing to bake for the Holidays. There was a great variety of homemade cookies when I was growing up and they were bright spots on the visiting map – Phyllis’ Butter Cookie Press Cookies, Donna’s Jam Thumbprints, Aunt Anna’s Italian Wedding Cookies (for Christmas AND Easter!) and Grandma’s Pepper Cookies. I had one aunt who made Rice Krispies Treats for the kids and the grownups got all the other cookies! I remember being offended by that. Even though I loved the treats, I didn’t understand the distinction being made, but never said a word. I might be over it 40 years later!
One year my mother made Peanut Butter Blossoms with the Hershey’s Kisses on top and stored them in coffee cans. They didn’t last long once my brother and I discovered them! They were soooo good and we were happy to pry off the kisses and eat those first and then pop those cookies right into our mouths.
Every year I sit and go through my stack of recipes and memories. I don’t ever bake without thinking of the past and my family of bakers. I was lucky enough to make cookies with my grandmother a lot – my most favorite memory of all. She always mixed ingredients with her hands and I was a little grossed out, but in awe of that especially since she left her rings on! Guess who was ready with a toothbrush to clean the intricate prongs when we were finished?
Like my family, I do have a same core of cookies I make every year – it wouldn’t be Christmas without them! But, with new friends and family members in my life, I get a sampling of their holiday and more recipes. At Thanksgiving, I was looking for a cookie version of Pecan Pie and read a number of recipes. I’ve made Pecan Tassies before which are like mini pecan pies: dough pressed into mini muffin tins and filled with the sweet, gooey pecan filling. This was also a favorite of my Aunt Rose’s, but a bit more labor intensive than I wanted. I made some adjustments, and settled on this recipe which offers both simplicity and satisfaction: easy to make and of course, tastes exactly like pecan pie. I use salted butter for the crust and it really tastes better. They are on the thin side, but not crispy and it will seem like there won’t be enough topping, but there is.
As I travel down memory lane and make my own along the way, I hope you enjoy the recipes and the magic and love you create. The love is returned with smiles and crumbs left behind.
Pecan Pie Bars
Makes approximately 20 bars
Ingredients – Shortbread Crust
- 2 Cups All-Purpose flour
- 1/2 Cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) cold, salted butter, sliced
Ingredients – Pecan Topping
- 4 Tablespoons, salted butter
- 1/2 Cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 Cup pure maple syrup
- 1 Tablespoon heavy cream
- 1 1/2 Cups pecan pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine flour, light brown sugar and salt. Work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until crumbs form. Press shortbread mixture into the prepared 9×13 inch pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until light golden brown.
Remove the shortbread from the oven and set aside. For the pecan topping, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the dark brown sugar, vanilla, maple syrup and heavy cream and whisk well. Simmer for one minute while whisking continuously. Add the pecans pour over the warm crust. Spread evenly with a spatula and bake for an additional 18-20 minutes.
Cool completely and cut into bars.