Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rich, Delicious Pecan Caramel Squares

This recipe came recommended from Pat C., a dear friend, honey (and honey bee!) enthusiast, and community volunteer extraordinaire.  We first met Pat at Hollow Oak Land Trust meetings and reconnected with her as volunteers at the B.F. Jones Memorial Library in Aliquippa.  She's a marvel!  The original recipe is from Martha Stewart, whose recipes are the epitome of perfection. Yet--couldn't help myself--I fiddled with the recipe a bit.  For starters, I halved it, figuring it wouldn't be good for my hips to keep a 9x13 pan of these around for too long.  I also skipped the granulated sugar in the original recipe, figuring the brown sugar and honey were enough sweetness.  I also added a bit of vanilla extract to the cookie base just because. And finally, I cut them a bit smaller, which makes them less like bars and more like squares.

These were a big hit for dessert at our weekly Monday night dinner at my parents' house. I think my dad may have had three of them that night!  My sister said they would make a great cookie swap recipe-they're unique, pretty, and yummy!  Everyone took some home. Thanks for the recipe, Pat!

Pecan Caramel Squares
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/8 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecan halves
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush an 8x8-inch baking pan with melted butter--or spray with oil. Line with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang on all sides. Butter or spray parchment.

Beat the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in salt. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition. Continue mixing until dough begins to come together in large clumps.

Press dough about 1/3-inch thick into prepared pan.(I used the base of glass to press it in firmly.) Pierce the dough with a fork. Chill until firm, about 20 minutes. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 22 minutes.  Reduce oven to 325 degrees. Cool base completely.

When cookie base is cool, place filling ingredients (including pecans) in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; pour filling into the cooled crust. I fiddled with the pecans a bit to make sure they covered the whole cookie base.

Bake until filling bubbles, about 20 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, carefully use the parchment to lift the cookies from the pan to a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into 1-by-1 -inch bars. This recipe makes about--I don't know--about 16 squares?  Store well wrapped at  room temperature for up to 1 week.

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