Shavuot is here! You know what that means? You guessed it – DAIRY DESSERTS! Delicious buttery crusts and caramels. Cheesecake. Ice cream. Yup, desserts just taste better on shavuot. This year, Mommy Foodie’s birthday is the second day of the holiday. Aside from making her an awesome cake, I made her these nut bars. My mom loves nuts, so I know she’ll really enjoy these for dessert! A dairy dessert with shortbread crust and a caramely nutty topping – how can you go wrong?
Ina really knows how to write a decadent recipe! This recipe for pecan squares has more than a pound of butter in it – enough said. These “pecan squares” are really a shortbread crust with caramel and pecans on top. Kinda like a pecan pie, just in bite size portions. How bad can that be? Well, after reading through hundreds of reviews on the food network site, I realized that many people did not really like the crust. And there were a lot of complaints about burnt sugar on the bottom of ovens. Even though I have a self-cleaning oven, I was not about to let that happen. So I halved the recipe, to make sure it really would fit on a half sheet pan. A lot of people said they just made them in 9×13 Pyrexes, but I wanted that flat look all over, plus I wanted very thin bars – once you see how much sugar and butter are in these, you’ll know why.
In the recipe online (and when she makes it on the episode), Ina dips these in chocolate. To me, that’s just too much. Especially because these are not the only dessert that was going to be served, so no need to add even more calories.
When I started baking these, I realized I did not have enough pecans. Which would normally be a time for me to run around the corner and buy a bag of pecans, but I have a ton of nuts in my pantry, so that seemed like a waste. I decided to mix in some sliced almonds, and I’m so glad I did! The combination of almonds and pecans is great.
Because so many reviewers said Ina’s shortbread crust was sub par, I decided to use the one in The Art and Soul of Baking. Their recipes never fail me.
This made 88 little nut bar squares. Most of them were 1 inch x 1 inch, though some were a little bit more rectangular. They all tasted equally yummy.
For the shortcrust:
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 4 large egg yolks
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2-6 tablespoons cold water
1. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Pulse about 5 times to blend.
2. Add the butter pieces and pulse 6-8 times, until the butter is the size of peas.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eg yolks, vanilla, and 3 teaspoons of water.
4. Add egg mixture to the flour mixture, then process until the dough forms small clumps, about 5-10 seconds. Don’t let the dough form a ball!
5. Test the dough: squeeze a handful of clumps together in your palm. If they hold together, you’re good. If they fall apart, sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over the dough and pulse several times, then test again. Repeat until dough holds together.
6. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently 2-3 times. Shape into a disc. If dough is still cool, press into cookie sheet. If it’s a little warm, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
7. To press into cookie sheet, first line with either aluminum foil or wax paper. I actually used 3 pieces of aluminum – one for each side, then one down the middle, and then oiled the foil. I didn’t want a mess or stickiness! Then, place clumps of the dough around the entire sheet. Using the heel of your hand, press the dough flat, connecting them into a smooth and even layer. I didn’t make a “crust,” though you can if you want to.
8. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Take out to cool while you make the topping:
For the nutty topping:
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 12 ounces pecans
- 4 ounces slivered almonds
1. In a medium sized heavy bottom pot, combine the butter, honey, sugar, lemon zest and orange zest. Place over medium-low heat and mix until the butter melts.
2. Turn heat up to high and boil mixture for 3 minutes.
3. Turn off the heat and add the heavy cream and nuts.
4. Pour mixture over the crust and spread with a rubber spatula, making sure it’s even. Make sure to cover all of the crust and especially make sure that the mixture doesn’t leak underneath the dough.
5. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely, then place in fridge to harden for about 20 minutes.
7. Remove from fridge and take the nuts bars with the foil layers off the cookie sheet. Cut into squares using a long knife. I made 11 cuts one way and 8 the other, totaling 88 squares. You can make them into rectangular bars if you want (I was actually going to do that, but since they’re so rich I cut those in half).
8. Serve and enjoy!