December 15, 2009

12 Days of Goodies- Day 3: Caramel-Pecan Bars

It's only day three and I already feel my pants getting ever so snug. But it's Christmas time, so I'm doing my best to throw those concerns to the curb, at least until January 1st when I, like most others, hop on the diet band wagon (only to fall off a couple of days later in order to feed my insatiable sweet tooth). So in the mean time, I'm doing my best to enjoy the calorie-loaded goodies with as little guilt as possible, which is hard to do when these caramel-pecan bars are sitting around in the kitchen. Enjoying them is easy... without any guilt... not so much. Have I yet to mention how much butter I've gone through since the holidays began? Well, I think it's best to keep that information to myself. Let's just say I've been to Costco several times during the month of December, and have yet to leave without a 4 lb. bundle of butter in my basket. 

However, the crust in this recipe is so delicious, you won't mind how much butter is actually in it. I'm fairly new to the pastry-making process, and this recipe seemed a little odd to me when it called for vinegar. Perhaps it's not a very unique ingredient to be in a pie crust, but I personally have never made a pastry that called for vinegar. The finished product was so delectably tangy. I actually found myself peeling the crust off the bottom and leaving the caramel and pecans behind for someone else to eat. Maybe not the most mannerly or polite thing to do, but hey, I made them, so I'm entitled to the crust if I want it, right? I think so. Or at least I'll keep telling myself that. 

Caramel-Pecan Bars
Recipe from Food & Wine Magazine December 2009

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/4 cup ice water, as needed (I used about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound pecan halves

1. To make the crust: in a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the cubed butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle on the ice water and vinegar and process until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Turn the crumbs out onto a sheet of wax paper and knead just until the dough comes together. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until slightly chilled, about 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of wax paper to an 11- by-15-inch rectangle (1/4 inch thick). Trim the dough to a 9-by-13-inch rectangle and place it in the baking pan. Cut the remaining dough into 3/4-inch-wide strips and press them up the side of the pan to form a rim all around. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

3. Line the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the dough is just set. Remove the parchment paper and weights and bake the crust for about 10 minutes longer, until lightly golden and set. Let cool.

4. To make the topping: in a large saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, honey and salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until melted and slightly foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer inserted in the caramel registers 240° (soft ball stage), about 10 minutes longer. Add the pecans and cook for 2 minutes longer. Pour the filling over the crust, spreading it evenly. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and the topping is bubbling. Let cool completely. Slide the parchment onto a cutting board. Cut into bars and serve.

The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Makes 16 bars

No comments :

Post a Comment