I really LOVE me a good slice of pecan pie. However, I very seldom indulge for the simple reason that I totally, wholeheartedly d.e.s.p.i.s.e. making pie crust. I don’t know why that is, it just is.
You know how there are certain things in life that you’re simply not good at, no matter how hard you try, and almost make you feel like you’re jinxed or something? Well, making pie crust would be one of those things for me. In my world, making pie crust not only takes forever, but it also dirties up the entire kitchen counter (not to mention the kitchen floor) and the finished product is usually a total bitch to handle, in that it cracks and tears just as soon as I try to roll it, or lift it to place it in the pie dish. And if by miracle it doesn’t crack or tear on me, then it just plain sticks to everything in sight. UGH! Just thinking about it drives me completely mad!
Needless to say, you shouldn’t be expecting to see too many pie recipes on here, unless said pies aren’t real TRUE pies, or haven’t been made with the so-called, traditional pie dough. Just like these Pecan Pie Bars, I guess.
HA! Now these guys, they’re the bomb! They’re pretty similar to pecan pie, in that they have a super thick layer of sweet and sticky, silky smooth filling, topped with loads of creamy, toasty and slightly caramelized pecans. The main difference is in the crust, which not only happens to taste like a gazillion times better, but it’s also SUPER easy to make.
‘Cuz really, let’s be honest here for a minute: on top of being a total fuss to make, pie crust on its own isn’t the most palatable thing there is out there. At least, I personally don’t care for it all that much.
But these pecan pie bars? They have a shortbread cookie dough for a base! Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!
Shortbread cookie dough: it tastes good on its own AND is stupid easy to make. Top that with all the good-goody-good-goodness that pecan pie has to offer?
I’m a total fan! And I get the feeling, you will be too!
Step-by-step instructions with pictures immediately follow recipe
- 3/4 cup (150g | 5.3oz) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (37.5g | 1.3oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp corn starch
- 1 tsp salt (I use Himalayan salt)
- 4 large eggs
- 1½ cup (360ml) dark corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, (store-bought or homemade)
- 1/4 cup (60g | 2.1oz) butter, melted
- 2-1/2 cups (250g | 8.8oz) raw pecans
- 1 cup (240g | 8.5oz) butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (60g | 2.1oz) powdered sugar
- 1-1/2 cup (225g | 7.9oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (28g | 1oz) corn starch
- Start by making the filling for the top layer: Combine the flour, brown sugar, corn starch and salt in a mixing bowl and mix well with a whisk until evenly combined and all the lumps have been broken down.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well with a wooden spoon between each addition. Then, add the vanilla extract and corn syrup and mix until well incorporated. Finally, stir in the melted butter.
- For a silkier, thicker filling, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and then let it stand for about 30 minutes at room temperature, stirring occasionally.
- While the mixture is resting, make the cookie layer.
- Grease and line a 9"x 9" baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a bit of an overhang on either side for easy removal of the bars.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour and cornstarch and then add them to the creamed butter mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined.
- Spread this cookie batter evenly onto the bottom of the prepared baking pan and bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges just barely start to turn brown.
- Remove from the oven arrange the pecans nicely and evenly across the top; give the reserved filling a final stir and delicately pour it all over the pecans.
- Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 50 minutes, or until the filling is set around the edges and jiggles ever so slightly in the center if you shake the pan a little.
- Kill the heat, leave the oven door ajar and leave the bars in there to cool until you can safely handle the pan with your bare hands.
- Let the bars cool completely at room temperature and then place them in the fridge until they are completely chilled, at least 6 hours but preferably overnight, before attempting to cut them.
- The best way to cut these bars is to delicately saw through the different layers with a long serrated knife held parallel to your cutting board.
- Keep the finished bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Greatly inspired by The Best Pecan Pie Bars
STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS AND PICTURES
We are going to be making this as a 2 part recipe, starting with the top layer since it will need to rest for a little while. While that’s happening, there will be plenty of time to prep your ingredients for the cookie dough layer, but if you’re like me and like to have everything ready before you start, I’ve broken it down for ya in the picture above…
And then take your electric mixer out of the cupboard…
Let’s get started on that top layer
If you haven’t done that already, combine the flour, brown sugar, corn starch and salt in a mixing bowl and mix well with a whisk until evenly combined and all the lumps have been broken down. Then, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well with a wooden spoon between each addition.
It’s important that you switch to a wooden spoon, as you don’t want to be incorporating any air into the mixture.
You might not be able to mix that first egg in all that well, but beat it as best you can…
By the time you added the second egg, the mixture will already start to look a lot better!
Once all the eggs have been well mixed in, add the vanilla extract and dark corn syrup…
…and mix until well incorporated.
Dark corn syrup works best for this recipe because it will impart a little bit more flavor to the filling, as well as help deepen its beautiful golden color.
Finally, stir in the melted butter.
Your filling is now done and technically ready to use. However, I strongly recommend that you first, strain it through a fine mesh sieve and then let it sit for about 30 minutes or so at room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Straining the mixture will catch any eventual lumps and bits of “cooked” eggs, assuring that the filling is silky smooth, while the resting time will allow the gluten in the flour to “relax”, giving it a much thicker and creamier mouth-feel. Trust me, both operations are totally worth it.
Plus, while the mixture is resting, we’ll work on the cookie layer.
For the shortbread cookie layer
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and powdered sugar with an electric mixer.
Don’t just mix them together until they’re well combined. It’s imperative that you cream the butter and sugar on high speed until they get VERY light and fluffy, which will take about 5 minutes.
Combine the flour and cornstarch together and then add them to the creamed butter mixture.
This time, mix on low speed until just combined.
Spread this cookie batter evenly onto the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Make sure that the batter really goes all the way to the edge: you wouldn’t want your filling to find its way underneath that crust.
Bake the shortbread cookie layer for 15 minutes, or until the edges just barely start to turn brown. We’ll be sending this back to the oven, so it doesn’t need to be cooked all the way. Just a little bit of brown around the edges is plenty enough.
Oh, and again with that tip: if your parchment paper obstinately refuses to stay put, use a couple of small binder clips to hold it in place.
As soon as you remove the par-baked cookie base layer from the oven, pour the pecans over it.
Try and arrange your pecans nicely and evenly across the top. The way they look now is pretty much the way the top of your bars will look after they have been baked.
If you wanted to be real fancy and have all your pecans facing up or look in the same direction, or even do an intricate herringbone pattern (hey, I’m sure it can be done!) now would be the time to do it.
By now, your filling should’ve had sufficient time to rest. Give it a final stir and then very delicately pour it all over the pecans.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 50 minutes, or until the filling is set around the edges and jiggles ever so slightly in the center when you shake the pan a little.
Kill the heat, leave the oven door ajar and leave the bars in there to cool until you can safely handle the pan with your bare hands.
Let the bars cool completely at room temperature and then place them in the fridge until they are completely chilled, at least 6 hours but preferably overnight, before attempting to cut them.
If you attempted to cut them while they were still warm, you’d only end up with a gooey mess on your hands. So really, be patient and wait it out!
The best way to cut these bars is to delicately saw through the different layers with a long serrated knife held parallel to your cutting board.
First, delicately lift them from the pan by pulling on the parchment paper (be very gentle as you do that, for these things are super sticky and might not be all that cooperative at first, but they will eventually come out of there with a little bit of graceful persuasion) and then place them on a cutting board.
Start by cutting 4 equal rows…
Then turn the whole bunch around, hold them tight together and cut once right down the middle.
Then, grab each one of these pieces and cut them in half, creating 16 individual bars.
Keep the finished bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
But I honestly doubt that they will make it that long…
I mean seriously… a week?