OPINION | FRONT BURNER: No eggs in these butter-rich nut bars

Ultra Nutty Pecan Bars (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Ultra Nutty Pecan Bars (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

These pecan bars are easier to make than pie and just as tasty. Unlike pecan pie, they're safe to serve those with egg allergies.

The foundation of the bars is a simple, butter-rich shortcrust pastry and then brown-sugar-and-butter-coated pecans are piled on top, and the whole thing is baked until bubbly and golden.

The original recipe, from Cook's Illustrated, called for toasting the pecans first. I skipped that step, and they turned out great.

These would be an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving table.

It's funny how our tastes change. I was never much of a fan of pecans in desserts until the past few years. I liked them plain or in savory dishes but never dessert. Pecan pie, with its caramelly custard, was just too sweet, even for my insatiable sweet tooth. Cakes, cookies or brownies with nuts? No, thank you. It's the crunch of a nut that I find so appealing, and baking nuts in batter changes their texture.

But gradually, I've come around to pecan pie. I'll eat it in tiny slivers alongside apple or pumpkin.

Pecan bars offer the best of what pecans have to offer. The bars are sweet and caramelly thanks to brown sugar and plenty of butter, and the nuts are nice and crunchy.

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Ultra Nutty Pecan Bars

  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided use
  • 15 tablespoons butter, divided use (I used salted)
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound (about 4 cups) shelled pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving about 2 inches overhang on two opposite sides.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon salt.

Melt 8 tablespoons of the butter and stir the melted butter into the flour mixture until a crumbly dough forms and no dry flour remains. Continue mixing until a small portion of dough holds together when squeezed in your palm. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan; using your hands, pat and press mixture into an even layer, making sure to get into the corners; set aside.

In the same bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Melt the remaining 7 tablespoons of butter and whisk the hot butter into the sugar mixture, whisking until smooth. The mixture may look greasy and separated at first, just keep whisking. Fold in the pecans, gently stirring until the nuts are completely coated with the sugar mixture. Spoon or pour topping over crust and spread it as evenly as possible, making sure to get into the corners of the pan. There will be bare patches. This is OK.

Bake about 25 minutes or until crust is golden and the topping is bubbling rapidly.

Let cool completely in pan — at least 1 ½ hours. Using the overhang as handles, lift bars from pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares.

Makes 20 to 24 bars.

Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated November/December 2020

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