Pecan Bars: Easier Than Pie
Pecan pie is great, but preparing a crust from scratch takes time, and sometimes you don't have the ready-made crusts on hand. Enter Pecan Bars, an easier and, I think, tastier variation. The virtue of the bars, in addition to their simple crust, is that they are heavier on nuts than many pecan pies and so are somewhat less sweet. I say somewhat, because the bars are plenty sweet and quite rich. The bottom layer of the bars, which you pre-bake while mixing up the pecan topping, is a simple cookie-style crust. The top layer includes brown sugar for caramel taste but gets additional subtle flavor from maple syrup, which I prefer to corn syrup. Two cups of pecans ensure that the bars really do taste of pecans, not just sugar. These bars are great for dessert with a dollop of whipped topping or on a cookie tray. Coffee or tea is an essential accompaniment!
Pecan Bars -- Makes an 8-inch square pan
1 cup of white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
5 tablespoons of butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat an 8-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray or line the pan with foil and coat the foil with spray. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter with a fork until the mixture is crumbly. Press the mixture into the prepared pan and bake the crust for 20 minutes or until set and just starting to brown. While the crust in baking, make the topping. You can make the topping in the same bowl you used for the crust--no need to wash it out unless you feel compelled to do so.
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of maple syrup
3 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of pecans (half broken and half left whole)
In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, maple syrup, butter, vanilla, salt, and egg and beat well. Stir in the pecans. When the crust has finished baking, pour on the topping, spreading it evenly over the crust. Return the pan to the oven for about 25 minutes or until the topping is just barely set and the pecans are starting to brown.