Will the baking ever end? My coworkers and family members must wonder this constantly. This recipe, as part of my 2011 challenge, came to me by chance. The timing could not have been more perfect! I could eat a constant stream of pecans and caramel this time of year. Perhaps someone could constantly walk beside me, alternately offering me pecans and spoonfuls of caramel.
I realize Thanksgiving is tomorrow and most of you probably have had your menus planned for weeks, but these pecan-caramel bars would be a great last-minute dessert to bring to the table. They are sooooooo delicious. I brought the bulk of this batch to work and they were gone well before lunch-time.
In a food processor, pulse together:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
Add 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter (cut into cubes).
Process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle over top:
1/4 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
Process until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Turn the crumbs out onto a sheet of wax paper and knead just until the dough comes together. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until slightly chilled, about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9x13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of wax paper to an 11x15-inch rectangle 1/4 inch thick. Trim the dough to a 9x13-inch rectangle and place it in the baking pan. Cut the remaining dough into 3/4-inch-wide strips and press them up the sides of the pan to form a rim all around. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.
Line the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the dough is just set. Remove the parchment paper and weights and bake the crust for about 12 minutes longer, until lightly golden and set. Let cool.
In a large saucepan, combine:
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until foamy and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add:
1/4 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
Cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer inserted in the caramel registers at 240 degrees F (soft ball stage), about 10 minutes longer (it took me about 20 minutes to reach 240 degrees).
Add 1 pound of pecan halves and cook for 2 minutes longer. Pour the filling over the crust, spreading it evenly. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is golden and the topping is bubbling. Let cool completely. Slide the parchment paper onto a cutting board. Cut into bars and serve. The bars can be kept at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Tempted to squeeze these into your Thanksgiving menu?? :)