Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to Win Friends & Influence People One Pecan Shortbread Bar at a Time

Even though it's Wednesday and I'm pressed to grade several papers for the class I teach and projects for the class I help another professor with, I think it's time to share my secret weapon: pecan shortbread bars.

Whatever the stakes, however grumpy colleagues, friends or family might be, these bars are surefire squares of happiness, barring any anti-nut-lovers. The first time I ever made this recipe I was living in Tucson, Arizona. Generally speaking, I don't recommend baking in Tucson beyond March until November. Nature's oven is quite enough! In any case, I really messed up the first batch because I didn't have the appropriate equipment: namely an 18 x 12 x 1-inch baking sheet. So, my shortbread was way too thick and the pecan mixture dripped over the pan and onto the oven.

Fast forward four years later, and, I'm happy to report, that silicon bake ware makes this treat a cinch! That and, my sous chef nee boyfriend, Dave operates a mean food processor when it's time to coarsely chop two pounds of pecans.

So, without further ado, here's the recipe I fully endorse a) if you're not too much of a perfectionist and know that maybe the first try may be a little messy, b) you acquire two pounds of pecans without having to take out a small loan, and c) you're not trying to bake something in 30 minutes or less. Rachael Ray I am not.

Pecan Squares

by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa

Makes 20 Large Squares

1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


1 pound unsalted butter
1 cup good honey (I love Tupelo but I use Trader Joe's clover honey)
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (I put in 2 tsps since I had no oranges)
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (delish!)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For directions, click here.

A word about corn syrup: Avoid it like the plague. Seriously. Don't listen to those on Ina's site who extol its virtues. Honey makes this dessert, as does the lemon and orange zest. Trust me. My English department and writing-center colleagues would not lead you astray. Trying to turn these bars into pecan pie is like making a sunny outdoor picnic go indoors. Just don't do it; sacrifice, and buy the honey.

In other news, my good friend and colleague Patty has brought farm-fresh eggs to work. I keep forgetting to take this bounty home--I don't know why--but I'm excited to use these eggs for a quiche or custard or cookie that I can then regift to my work-day friends. I also am hankering for homemade granola, so stay tuned and let me know if you have suggestions, requests or gripes.


Beth said...

I do recall that particular batch of pecan bars in Tucson, even though it didn't have the Kella seal of approval, it was still pretty darn tasty.

And really, with your awesomeness, you don't need pecan bars to win friends and influence people. It's just the icing on the already lovely cake! :)

Sending a big hug!

Kella said...

Beth!!! Are you at Bucknell yet? I need your address when you land there. I have something to send you (finally). And boy howdy, you remember well. I miss you, love. Keep being awesome! Hugs, high fives, and baked goods to come.

Trisha Bakula said...

Love the blog... still hate Dave's shirt where the baby duck doesn't make it across the road!!!! You guys are awesome! Rock on.