High Country Baking: Sweet and crunchy toffee pecan bars
High Country Baking
A recipe you’ll turn to over and over again, that’s what this is. It yields a bar cookie with the sweet tastes of chocolate and toffee and the sharpness and crunch of nuts. Served cold, it’s wonderfully chewy; at room temperature it has the gooey texture of pecan pie. It gets high marks from just about everyone and is so fast and easy to prepare that even the baker loves it.
You can play around with the ingredients. Try butterscotch or peanut butter chips; almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts instead of pecans; chocolate chips for the toffee bits; or a different extract or flavoring for the vanilla. Just make sure the crust and the base mixture for the topping (egg and sweetened condensed milk) remain the same.
Toffee pecan bars
Make in an 8-by-8-inch shiny metal square baking pan
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, spoon and level
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
- 1/2 large egg (2 tablespoons of a blended egg)
- 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup commercial chocolate toffee bits
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
- 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon canola or mild vegetable oil
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the pan with nonstick or regular aluminum foil, extending it several inches beyond two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the baked slab of cookies. Grease any exposed parts of the pan and regular foil and with a baking spray that contains flour. Set the pan aside.
2. Make the crust.
- Food processor: Place the flour and sugar in the bowl fitted with the steel blade and pulse to combine well. Cut the butter into 16 pieces, add and pulse until the mixture is moistened and crumbly.
- By hand: Add the flour and sugar to a mixing bowl, whisk/stir vigorously to combine. Cut the butter into small pieces, add and use your fingers or a pastry blender to cut them into the dry ingredients until a moist, crumbly mixture forms.
- Dump the mixture from either method into the prepared pan, press and level it (most easily done through a piece of plastic wrap). Bake for about 15 minutes, until set. Remove to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes; leave the oven on.
3. Make the topping: While the crust cools, place the half an egg, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla in a bowl and whisk/stir to blend thoroughly. Gently stir in two-thirds of the toffee bits and pecans until they’re evenly distributed. Spoon this into the still-warm crust, level it into an even layer, and sprinkle the rest of the toffee bits and pecans on top.
4. Bake until the top is golden, with slightly darker edges, and is still a little sticky, about 23 to 26 minutes. (If you bake it until the top is fully set, the bars will lose their chewy, gooey texture.) It may puff up right before it’s done, but it will deflate quickly. Remove the pan to a rack to cool completely.
5. Make the drizzle: Place the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at a low temperature in a microwave for 1 minute. When the chocolate is mostly melted, with a few small lumps remaining, remove it. Add the oil and stir until the chocolate is smooth and shiny. Let it cool and thicken a little and then drizzle it decoratively over the top of the uncut slab of cookies, still in the pan. Refrigerate, covered, until the chocolate is set and the slab is firm. Use the foil handles to remove the slab from the pan and cut it into bars. Serve or store, covered, in the fridge for up to two days or freeze for a month. For a chewy texture, serve the bars cold, for a gooey one, serve at room temperature.
Editor’s note: This recipe is a variation of one published on TasteOfHome.com.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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