These are the amazing, the delicious, the irresistible Pecan Bars of happiness. A couple of years ago these bars walked away with a blue ribbon at the Oregon State Fair, and with good reason. They contain all of the wonderful flavors of pecan pie, and then some. The thick fudgey texture, toasted nutty pecans, the sweet caramely filling, and buttery shortbread crust combine together into something magical. People really go crazy for them. It may make you feel a little bit better to know that while I was granted the ability to produce these fabulous confections, unfortunately, (through some horribly evil, cosmic, voodoo curse) I am allergic to pecans. I therefore cannot, must not give in to their siren song, no matter how delicious they may look, no matter how good they smell, and no matter how decadent they taste. These bars can be made up to two weeks (or dare I say, even a month?) in advance, wrapped tightly and stored in the refrigerator, which makes them perfect for entertaining. One pan of bars can be cut into anywhere from 20 to 75 pieces depending on how you are serving them (using a sharp chef’s knife, and keeping in mind that the chilled bars cut much more beautifully – that’s how I get those perfect, sharp edges). And if you are feeling a little extra indulgent, you can dip half of each bar in melted dark chocolate; for a treat that is sure to satisfy the sweetest of teeth.
I use a variation of Ina Garten’s Pecan Square recipe, which I’ve tweaked a little over the years, the most important differences being the addition of extra orange and lemon zest into the filling mixture, and the use of salted butter throughout [because no matter what your recipe says, or what they like to tell you on TV, your baked goods are simply going to taste better with salted butter…period… it’s what your grandmothers used, it’s what my grandmothers both used, and it’s what I still use today in everything that I bake….so pick a brand and stick to it (I always use Tillimook because it’s made locally), and you won’t ever have any problems…I promise you]. The honey, orange and lemon zest really make these bars special, and add a floral like quality to them that is deeply delicious. Know that the pan will bubble over and make your oven smoke (don’t be alarmed!)…. so it is imperative that you line your oven wrack with a thick layer of aluminum foil to prevent any unfortunate oven messes. I also find that the crust needs to be compacted while still hot from the oven (carefully pressed down evenly with the flat bottom of a water glass or metal measuring cup wrapped in paper towels) which I think makes for a better final texture, and allows the bars to slice more beautifully in the end.
Make these. Seriously. Right now….