Pecan Angel Slices are seriously the best cookie, for Christmas or whenever. Sandy shortbread-type cookie base, chewy, butterscotchy pecan-coconut filling, and a crisp, sharp lemon glaze all come together in cookie perfection!
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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.
I do have a pecan tart recipe I like though.
Are you a fan of pecan pie? If not, you may find these a bit more to your liking:
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.
The Anatomy of an Angel Slice
This Paragon of Pecaniness comes to us in the form of a bar cookie, angel slices, 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. My Auntie Ev 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.
The Angel Slices Recipe in Joy of Cooking Has Changed Over the Years
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 for pecan slices. 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 here to be Absolutely Sure. (I’m also using my salt measurements. You do what you want. As for me and my house, we will use salt).
Decorating Pecan Slices to Make Them Look Christmassy
I am sure you can tell that angel slices are basically shades of brown, beige, and white.
In good news, some people will overlook them as not flashy enough.
Angel slices are just sweet enough, especially if you use unsweetened coconut.
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 of sandy cookie, chewy nutty goodness, and crackly glaze. Perfection!
More Bar Cookie Recipes
Bar cookies just seem like less work than individual cookies, but they’re every bit as tasty. If you like angel slice bar cookies, you might try these others as well:
Other Christmas Goodies You Might Enjoy
Here are a few other of my Christmas baking recipes for you to take a look at. Right after this list comes the angel slices step by step instructions and recipe. Huzzah!
- Christmas Stollen Recipe
- Rudolph the Bread-Nosed Reindeer Shaped Bread
- Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruit Cake (The Beloved’s Version)
- Vegan Chocolate Christmas Cake
- Overnight Fruitcake Baked Steel Cut Oats
- Moravian Sugar Cake
Step by Step Instructions
Angel slices are by no means hard to make, but since they consist of three layers, it is a bit of a process. Here are some step by step photo collages and some tips to help you make these cookies for you and your family to enjoy!
Making the Sable Dough
Sable means sandy. This is a lovely, not-too-sweet dough that bakes up crunchy and crumbly.
No stand-mixer needed, either! And if it came down to it, you could make the dough with no problem in a bowl with a wooden spoon, as long as your butter is really soft.
- Cream butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla. It doesn’t have to be light and fluffy–you just want a pretty smooth mixture with no pieces of butter.
- Mix in the egg. Your dough will look a little curdled, but it will be fine once you add the flour.
- Mix in the flour until just blended. You can finish mixing by hand using a spoon or a spatula.
Baking the Sable Base
The dough is slightly sticky so be prepared: oil your hands with pan spray to make the dough easier to pat into the pan without sticking to your hands.
- Use oiled hands to press the dough into the pan. You’ll end up with a thin layer somewhere between 1/8″ and 3/16″.
- Go slowly and press and press until you finesse the dough into all the corners in as even a layer as you can.
- Bake at 350F for about 12-15 minutes until the dough is just beginning to color around the edges.
Making the Pecan-Coconut Filling
This part is super straightforward. Plop all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. See? Easy!
- Once you’ve mixed up the filling, pour it on top of the hot sable base.
- Spread it out evenly with an offset spatula. This layer will be just slightly thicker than your sable base. Maybe about 1/4″-1/3″ of filling.
- Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes and cool completely.
Glazing the Pecan Angel Slices
This is another easy step.
Tip: To keep the glaze as white as possible, don’t spread it onto your bars until they have completely cooled. I sometimes even chill them in the fridge to make sure.
- Whisk powdered sugar, lemon zest (if using), and lemon juice into a thin-ish glaze.
- Pour onto cooled bars.
- Spread in a very thin layer with a small offset spatula.
- Notice the glaze is so thin you can see through to the bars in some places. Resist the urge to make more glaze. If your glaze is too thick, the lemon could overpower the other flavors.
Okay. Now we’re ready for the recipe!
For the Sable Base
- 4 oz unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 1/4c sugar (optional, it says, but I use it)
- 1 whole egg
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For the Pecan Coconut Layer
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
- 1/2 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened preferred. These bars are plenty sweet enough on their own)
- 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the Glaze
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)
- 2-3 Tablespoons freshly squeeze lemon juice
!For the Sable Base
- Set a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350F.
- Have ready a 9"x13" baking pan, preferably nonstick.
- Using a hand or stand mixer, 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.
- Press into the bottom of your pan and bake at 350F on the middle rack for 12-15 minutes, or until just beginning to color and firm.
- Remove from oven and top with the pecan coconut layer.
!For the Pecan Coconut Layer
- Place all the filling ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together until evenly combined.
- Pour onto the baked base layer and spread out evenly with an offset spatula.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until the filling is a little puffy, no longer shiny, and firm-ish around the edges (even if it's still a little gooey in the center)
- Remove from oven and let cool completely before glazing.
!For the Lemon Glaze
- In a small bowl, mix together the powdered sugar, zest, if using, and enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to make a glaze about the consistency of Elmer's glue.
- Once the Bars are completely cool, pour the glaze on top of the bars and spread evenly with an offset spatula. The glaze layer will be very thin. Resist the urge to make extra glaze because it will overpower the pecan coconut layer.
- Allow the glaze to set up until it crusts on top, about an hour or so, and then cut into bars to make 48 small bars (6 rows across the short side of the pan and 8 down the long side. Let the glaze set up completely before serving, another 3 hours or so. If you can wait that long.
- Share. Or not. It's totally up to you.
You can easily convert this to a gluten-free recipe by substituting your favorite gluten free baking mix in both the cookie base and in the pecan-coconut layer.
If you do not like coconut or are allergic, you can leave it out and substitute an additional 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.
Do not overbake. The original recipe calls for baking for 25 minutes. I think this is too long. You want the pecan layer to have a nice bit of chew to contrast with the crumbly base and the crunchy glaze.
To get the sprinkles to stick to the hard glaze, I used a small dot of corn syrup. You can also add sprinkles while the glaze is still wet, if you prefer.
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Nutrition InformationYield 48 Serving Size 1 bar
Amount Per Serving Calories 97Total Fat 4.5gSaturated Fat 1.7gCholesterol 15mgSodium 70mgCarbohydrates 13.8gFiber 0.4gSugar 10.6gProtein 1g
I wish you all the very best Christmas and the happiest of holiday seasons!
Take care, and have a lovely day.