My mom and I have been working on our Thanksgiving menu for the past week or so. Choosing our dishes for the main meal was a snap, but we got stuck on dessert. I could think of at least five or six things I would love to serve, but we would have ridiculous amounts of leftovers. (Leftover turkey? Yes, please. Two weeks’ worth of leftover pie? Trouble.) We finally agreed that we should have something pumpkin (Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter Dessert Squares), something apple (the Caramel Apple Pie I made last year), and something pecan (my dad’s favorite!). As much as I enjoyed it the first time I made it, I knew I didn’t want to make Martha’s Maple-Nut Tart again after the struggle I had getting it out of the tart pan. I found a basic recipe for Pecan Bars on her site, though, and thought they could be a fun, easy-to-serve option.
To make the crust, I used the paddle attachment on my stand mixer to beat together 2 sticks of unsalted butter, 1/2 cup of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt until light. On low speed, I beat in 2 cups of all-purpose flour until the mixture formed a mass. I transferred the dough to a 9 x 13-inch pan and used a sheet of plastic wrap to press it evenly into the bottom of the pan. I discarded the plastic wrap and baked the crust at 375°F until golden (25 minutes).
While the crust baked, I made the filling. In a small bowl, I whisked together 2 more tablespoons of all-purpose flour, another teaspoon of salt, and a scant 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. Using an electric mixer, I beat 2 large, room-temperature eggs with 1 1/2 cups of packed light brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of dark corn syrup until light. I folded the flour mixture into the egg mixture, followed by 2 cups of pecans (coarsely chopped) and 1 cup of sweetened flaked coconut.
When the crust had finished baking, I gently spread the filling over it and baked until the filling was set (20 minutes). Immediately after the pan came out of the oven, I ran a metal spatula around the edges and then set the pan on a wire rack to cool. Once cool, I cut the bars into 24 servings.
First things first: If you’re into salty-sweet things (I am!), these bars are absolutely delicious. You get a buttery, flaky, tender crust on the bottom, a chewy center, and oodles of coconut-pecan flavor. If you don’t like sweet things, these may be too much for you; substituting unsweetened coconut for the sweetened coconut would dial things back a bit.
My only beef with this recipe is that it extolled the virtues of serving something that guests could hold in their hands. Unless you’re into crumbs everywhere, there’s just no way. I tried using several different kitchen tools (spatulas, bench scrapers, knives) to get a nice, clean edge when cutting the bars; as you can probably tell from my photo, things didn’t work out very well. For better or for worse, crumbly deliciousness apparently equals mess. If you served these on a plate, though, you’d be fine. If you served them warm on a plate with ice cream, your guests might try to move in. Choose your serving method wisely.😉
Recipe link: Pecan Bars