Eating good, healthy food is an admirable goal. It’s a really good goal.
Sometimes though, it’s just. so. dang. hard. Ya feel me?
Exhibit A: three sticks of butter. When does that ever make sense? Well, a lot of times, that’s when. Just ask Joy the Baker, or Bon Appetit magazine, or Paula Deen, or my Aunt Faye. They’ll tell ya the truth about butter.
Exhibit B: bourbon and homemade vanilla extract? These make sense practically all the time, and I’m not even joking. They are much less problematic than those sticks o’ butter.
Exhibit C: pe-cans? coconut? These are problems, too. I grew up shelling pe-cans, eating ice cream full of pe-cans, pies loaded with them (and not just Thanksgiving day, either), and almost everything sweet is better with pe-cans.
Coconut? Well, I even like coconut in my hair, so I think I don’t need to say anything more here.
So let’s imagine a utopia where all of these things existed at one time. Let’s imagine that such a place was fat-free, calorie-free, and just as tasty. But truthfully, that isn’t the case, as we all know. Truthfully, some things are just meant to bust your gut.
These bars are those things. I can’t even begin to warn you about how ridiculous they are, how sweet and rich and heavy and butter-laden they are. How much they remind me of every Southern pe-can pie I’ve ever eaten, which is to say that they are a-freaking-mazing, each and every little gram of fat contained in them. Which, if you haven’t noticed, is probably a lot.
But some things are worth a splurge. Like maple cheesecake. Red velvet cake. Homemade Oreos (yep!). Rhubarb-Cornmeal tarts. And now, these: ooey, gooey, buttery “bars” that taste just like your favorite Southern woman’s pe-can pie.
Go ahead, bust a gut. Or three.
Pecan Pie Bars
Adapted from The Pastry Queen; makes 2 1/2 dozen bars
time commitment: 2 hours (includes 1 hour cooling time)
1 1/2 c (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
4 c all purpose flour
1 t salt
8 large eggs
6 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 c bourbon
6 T unsalted butter, melted
2 T vanilla extract
1 c all purpose flour
1 t salt
2 c unsweetened flaked coconut
2 c pecan halves
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter in a large bowl on medium speed (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat about 1 minute, until fluffy. Add the flour and salt; mix on low speed until evenly incorporated but still crumbly. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan (I used a 9×13″ pan and used about 2/3 of the mix, but the recipe itself calls for 12×17″ pan but I didn’t have one that big. You could probably divide the mixture between two 8×8″ pans as well and just adjust the baking times accordingly and watch more carefully). Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until it has darkened to a deep golden brown. Leave the oven at 350.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until blended. Stir in the bourbon, butter, vanilla, flour, and salt, then the coconut and pecans. Once the crust is parbaked, pour the filling over the crust, spreading evenly. Bake until set, 25 to 30 minutes (mine baked longer, like 40 minutes, since I poured all of the mix into a smaller pan, resulting in less “surface area” to bake). Cool thoroughly, at least 1 hour. Once cool flip over on wax paper to cut into 3-inch squares or diamonds. (Yields about 2 1/2 dozen bars)