GOLDEN PECAN BARS
I know I say it about far too many recipes, but these are a real favorite. In fact I seldom bake them much in advance of serving them because I can’t be trusted around them – they are that addictively good. This is loosely based on a recipe shared by my old friend Jayne Sutton who’s been attending my classes for over 30 years.
About 24 2-inch square cookies
SWEET PASTRY DOUGH
2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 8 pieces
2 large eggs
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup or Golden Syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 1/2 cups (about 14 ounces) pecan halves and pieces
One 9 x 13 x 2-inch pan lined with buttered foil
- For the dough, pulse dry ingredients in food processor and add butter. Pulse to mix in finely. Add egg and pulse to form a ball. Roll dough on a floured surface and line pan, pressing well against the bottom and side. Chill crust while preparing filling.
- Place the dough on a floured surface and gently knead it until it is pliable and slightly softened. Form the dough into a rectangle and flour the surface and the dough again. Roll the dough, remembering to occasionally add pinches of flour under and on it, to a 12 x 16-inch rectangle. Gently fold the dough into quarters and line up the folded corner with the center of the pan. Unfold the dough into the pan and gently ease it down into the pan. Trim away all but about 1 1/2 inches of dough on the sides of the pan. Chill while preparing the filling.
- For the topping, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup one at a time. Add the salt and stir occasionally while the mixture comes to a full boil. At the boil, add the cream a little at a time (the mixture will bubble up). Continue cooking for a minute, stirring often, so that the water in the cream mostly evaporates. Stir in the almonds and scrape the mixture into a buttered bowl to cool slightly.
- Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
- Use a large kitchen spoon to deposit mounds of the topping all over the chilled crust. Then use the point of a spoon to join them and make a fairly even layer of the topping. Just make sure that the pecans are all evenly distributed – the syrupy part of the topping will come to a boil while the bars are baking and even itself out.
- Bake until the dough is baked through and the topping is gently bobbling, about 30 minutes.
- Cool on a rack for at least an hour before attempting to cut the cookies.
- To unmold and cut the bars, cover the pan with a light cutting board and invert. Lift off the pan and peel away the foil. Place another cutting board on the back of the bars and invert the whole stack. Lift off the top board. Neatly trim away the sides of the bars and use a ruler to mark, then cut, 2-inch squares.
LEMONY ALMOND DISKS
The French name for these cookies, palets des dames, is one I’ve always translated as ladies’ disks, not really knowing what the name referred to. After close to 40 years of making these cookies, I decided to look up palet in a dictionary; I found that it refers to a discus, the flat round object thrown by an athlete. Does the French name mean that ladies throw cookies as a competitive sport? In any case, these are much better when inserted into the mouth than when thrown at a target.
Currants are often added to the batter (they distort the shape of the baked cookies) or arranged, 3 in a little triangle, atop the cookies. If you want to add currant in or on, go ahead, you’ll need about 2/3 cup for the batch below. About 35 2-inch cookies
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup whole or slivered blanched almonds
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/4 teaspoon seeds scraped from a split vanilla bean)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
2 cookie sheets or jellyroll pans covered with parchment or foil
- Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
- Combine the sugar and almonds in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
- Combine the almond mixture, butter, lemon zest, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until lightened, about 3 or 4 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating smooth after each addition.
- Scrape down the bowl and beater and beat for half a minute longer. Scrape again and add the flour.
- Re-start the mixer on lowest speed and only mix until the flour is absorbed.
- Use a large rubber spatula to give a final mixing to the batter. Add the currants, if using.
- Use a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tube (Ateco #806), to pipe the batter in 3/4-inch mounds, keeping them about 2 inches apart all around to allow for spreading.
- Bake the cookies until they have spread and are golden and firm, about 12 minutes. If your oven gives strong bottom heat, bake the cookies on the lower rack stacked on a second pan for insulation.
- Cool on the pans and store in a tin.