I am, generally speaking, a chocolate-caramel kind of girl. For me, chocolate in combination with almost anything, from coffee to raspberry to pumpkin is a Winning Combination. Caramel can be even more alluring than chocolate, especially when you start experimenting with flavored caramels: red wine, honey, salt. When it comes to desserts of the Pie Variety, though, I usually go with the Fruity Offering.
When made well--not too sweet, not too cinnamon-y--apple pie is magical. I love a juicy, sweet-tart, mace-kissed cherry pie. Key lime pie? Yes, please. Someone offers pecan pie, though, and I pass. It's not that I don't love pecans--I rather enjoy their earthy sweetness and the crunchy/creamy thing that they Do when you bite them. I love the smell of toasting pecans, and I Really love them spiced and candied on the stove top.
Most pecan pies, and here I apologize in advance to all of you pecan pie lovers out there, are just tooth-achingly sweet. They suffer from an Over-Abundance of corn syrup and sugar and a severe Dearth of salt. When you hold a thin slice up to the light, you can see through it. And that's just disconcerting. I don't want translucent pie.
There is in this world, however, a shining beacon of Pecany Goodness that exists to a)prove that not all pecany items need be translucent and b)make me Very Happy. Oh look! Here's the beacon now. It's the last one. I had to stop myself from eating him until I had taken a couple of pictures for you. That is how dedicated I am.
This Paragon of Pecaniness comes to us in the form of a bar cookie which consists of three layers:
- a sable-type crust
- pecan-coconut filling and
- tart lemon glaze
The original recipe comes from Joy of Cooking and has been in print at least since 1962, which is when my copy was printed. Auntie Ev--by now you guys know Auntie Ev, right--made them every year. She cut them in wee squares, and they were perfect. My mother makes them every year too. She cuts them in bigger squares which makes them perfect-er. And when I make them, I cut them As Needed. Plus, I use a bit more salt in mine.
Here is the recipe, as printed in my venerable copy of Joy:
Do you see down at the bottom of the first column where it says, and I quote, "Many a copy of the "Joy" has been sold on the strength of this recipe." So, guess what they did when they put out their 1997 edition? They changed it! And guess what else? Two things:
- It's not as good, and
- It still says, "Many a copy of..." in the recipe introduction!
Well, I call shenanigans, but that's another post. For now, suffice to say, use the old recipe. If you're not sure which you have, if the glaze calls for anything other than lemon juice and powdered sugar, you have the new and inferior recipe. Use the recipe printed above to be Absolutely Sure. Here, I'll type it up for you all nice and neat. (I'm also using my salt measurements. You do what you want. As for me and my house, we will use salt).
For the crust (in the picture, the crust is the same one they use for the Nut Bars):
- 4 oz butter
- 1/4c sugar (optional, it says, but I use it)
- 1 whole egg
- 1 1/4 cups AP flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Cream butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until smooth and creamy. Mix in the egg and then, on low speed, mix in the flour until mostly incorporated. Finish folding the dough together by hand to minimize gluten formation.
Press into the bottom of a 9X12" pan and bake at 350F on the middle rack for 12-15 minutes, or until just beginning to color and firm.
For the filling
Whisk the following together until smooth:
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup flaked coconut (fresh is great here, if you have it)
- 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
- 2 Tablespoons AP flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Once your crust is set, pour on the filling in an even layer. Spread with a spatula if necessary. Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, or until the filling is a lovely medium brown, is slightly puffed and firm on the top.
Let cool completely, and then spread on a thinnish layer of glaze made with powdered sugar and lemon juice. The glaze should be about the consistency of slightly thick Elmer's glue.
Let the glaze set up for a few minutes and then slice into whatever size you want.
This would make an Absolutely Amazing pecan tart. Just bake the crust in a 9-10" tart pan with a removable bottom. Proceed as if you were making bars, but cut this guy in wedges.
But, back to their wonderful cookieness. These guys are not overly sweet--they are just sweet enough. The pecans and the coconut complement each other nicely, although if you are not a Coconut Fan, you could sub more pecans for the 1/2 cup of coconut. The lemon glaze crackles when you bite into it, the filling is firm-yet-a-little-chewy, and the base is crumbly. It is a delightful combination.
So, that's it. My last post before Christmas. I wasn't sure if I was going to get one in today, but The Beloved has to work longer than we had thought and I found myself with a sliver of time. I hope that you make these guys, and I hope that you love them as much as I do.
I wish you all the very best Christmas and the happiest of holiday seasons!