Georgia’s Finest {pecan bars}

Sometimes I don’t know how I feel about my home state of Georgia. I think as far as states go, the name is one of my favorites (I just typed “flavorite” and yes, that too). We have our ups and downs, whether it’s schools or traffic or water-wars, but when you really get into it, the three things that Georgia is known for are three of my flavorites (see how I did that?): peanuts, peaches and pecans.

I always knew I liked two of these things.

Peanuts – no question. Dad would come home from work, change clothes and pour a Dewars at the bar. He’d reach under the cabinet and pull out a jar of Planters Peanuts and pour some into his hand and some into the lid for me. I still eat my peanuts this way – out of the upside-down lid of the Planters jar.

Peaches – I would and will eat those in any fashion. Straight off the side of the road at a fruit stand, churned into homemade ice cream or  in a cobbler. Just hand them over.

Now pecans are a different story. I never liked nuts in my cookies or brownies. I didn’t eat pecan pie even though I think my Nana used to make one of the best (oh, such an array of regrets in my life but not eating Nana’s pecan pie is definitely at the top – and for those of you who know me, that’s saying something). However, at some point in the last 5-10 years I decided that, in fact, I do like pecans. A lot. And I’m making up for last time.

So yesterday, thinking that we were going to be invited to a neighbor’s house for a gathering to celebrate their recent out-of-town wedding, I decided I should make something to take with us. Well, let me just say the joke’s on them for not actually inviting us because these pecan things were damn good. In your FACE!

This recipe is sort of like a pecan pie without the pie crust but with a pecan shortbread crust instead. They’re salty and sweet and delicious and even though I don’t follow instructions very well and get impatient when I bake, they still turned out great. I encourage you to make them now. Or at least soon and at the latest as an easier substitute for pecan pie at Thanksgiving. That is, unless your Nana is like mine was. In that case, eat the pie, dammit.

Ok – here’s the business. Preheat your oven to 350°F and line an 8″ square baking pan with a foil sling (see below). Be sure to grease the foil. This sling-thing is worth doing. It makes this and all bars a heck of a lot easier to get out of the pan and slice nicely.

For the crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped coarse*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, and cut into 1/2″ pieces
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled*
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups pecans, chopped coarse*

*This asterisk indicates a portion of the recipe that I didn’t exactly follow but that somehow still managed to not affect the outcome.

Let’s make the crust. Put the flour, brown sugar, pecans, salt and baking powder in your food processor and pulse until combined – about 5 times. Then add the butter and pulse some more until the mixture is light yellow and has a cornmeal-esque texture. Dump that into your foil-lined pan and press down with a spatula or measuring cup or something smooth and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

While that’s baking, go ahead and get your filling on. Whisk up the sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, bourbon, vanilla and salt together in a large bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add the egg and whisk until combined. Have that at the ready. When the crust is done cooking, pour the corn syrup mixture over the hot crust and sprinkle the pecans on top.

Bake these for 25-30 minutes and let cool completely before cutting and eating.

With all desserts, I think they make great breakfasts too. These were as good with coffee this morning as they were the four or five different times I ate them yesterday afternoon.