Pecan Sandy Bars

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pecan sandy bars
A perfect little treat!

As we head into fall, it’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas, specifically, what kind of treats to make for Christmas. Naturally, they should be easy to make, tasty, and they need to be sturdy enough to stand up to the rigors of being shipped. Not necessarily a small order, by any means. Fortunately for us, Shirley Fan has put together a whole bunch of recipes that will fit the bill in her book, The Flying Brownie: 100 Terrific Homemade Food Gifts for Friends and Loved Ones Far Away. When we saw it available at the library, we immediately placed a hold.

Looking through it, we found a number of recipes that are similar to ones we already have, but it’s nicely divided into bars, cookies, savories, etc., making it easy to find recipes based on what you’d like to make. Plus, it gives suggestions for wrapping and shipping. Since she did all that work, we figured we had to scratch up at least one of the recipes, so we looked for the easiest one for which we had all the ingredients in-house. We found the Pecan Sandy Bars, which we modified just slightly (doubled the amount of vanilla).

Makes 16 2×2-inch bars.

Pecan Sandy Bars

Pecan Sandy Bars

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (120 g) toasted pecans, chopped

Abbreviated Instructions

Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with baking parchment, leaving some to overhang the edges.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-low until smooth and creamy. Add sugar, and beat on medium-low until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add vanilla, and mix on low. Scrape down bowl.

Add flour mixture in two additions, mixing on low until just combined between additions.

Mix in pecans.

Press dough into prepared pan. Score lightly into 2x2-inch squares. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.

http://scratchinit.halversen.com/2013/10/pecan-sandy-bars/

Ingredient discussion:

Not many ingredients, so you have to make sure that each one will stand up to the challenge. Vanilla, better use real vanilla extract; it has subtle flavors that aren’t in the imitation. Butter, only use unsalted, you’ll be adding salt to these bars, so you don’t need some factory helping you out. And, speaking of salt, use kosher, if possible; if not, cut back a bit, because there’s less salt per teaspoon in kosher salt than in table salt.

Procedure in detail:

mise en place
While the butter warms, you might as well get everything else measured and ready to go.

Mise en place. We knew the butter had to be room temperature, so we went about measuring everything while the butter warmed. We also did the next three steps before our butter was warm enough to get started.

pan with parchment
It’s a bit of a pain, but it is possible to line the pan with parchment.

Line pan. First off, line an 8×8-inch pan with baking parchment, leaving some overhanging the edge so you’ll be able to pull the bars out later. I hear you say, “do I have to?” Well, we can’t force you, but we can tell you that these bars are delicate, and, while they aren’t likely to stick, turning them out of the pan in another way will probably result in broken pieces. Still tasty, just not as nice-looking.

Mix flour and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and the salt. We didn’t really use a whisk, we actually just stuck our hand in (yes, it was clean), and swished together the flour and salt. Set aside.

Toast and chop pecans. Your choice: you can toast the pecans on a baking sheet in a 350°F, or toast them in a medium skillet over medium heat. Either way takes about 10 minutes. We chose the latter as we didn’t have turn on the oven. Once toasted, chop the pecans into roughly 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside.

Beat butter. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and start beating on medium-low. In a minute, it should be smooth and creamy. If not, your butter might not be warm enough. Wait 15 minutes and try again.

adding sugar
Even the tiny crystals in powdered sugar will act like little whisks to whip air into the butter.

Add sugar. Once your butter is warm enough, add the powdered sugar and beat on medium-low until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

adding vanilla
We doubled the amount of vanilla, and, to be honest, next time we’d increase it a bit more, to 1/2 tablespoon.

Add vanilla. Measure in the vanilla, and mix until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

adding flour
Two additions of flour make it less likely to poof out of the mixer.

Add flour. Scoop in about half of the flour-salt mixture and mix that on medium-low until it’s incorporated. Add the second half and mix that in. You might have to scrape up some of the flour from the bottom of the bowl to get it all to mix, but it will. Trust us.

adding pecans
Mixing in the pecans will take part mixer, and part folding in with a spatula.

Add pecans. Add the pecans and mix for 15 to 30 seconds. Most likely, not all the pecans will have mixed in by then, so, take the bowl off the mixer, and, using your spatula, fold the remaining pecans into the dough. The dough should be dry and feel a bit sandy to the touch.

ready for the oven
Once pressed into the pan, score the top, lightly marking off 16 two-inch squares.

Press into pan. Scrape the dough out into the paper-lined pan, press it down, and smooth it out. Once the dough is level, use a chef’s knife to lightly score the top into 2-inch squares.

Refrigerate. Place the pan in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to chill.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Yes, that does seem low, but 300°F is correct.

Bake. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the edges are a nice golden brown.

baked an cooling
The bars don’t get very dark, but they should have a slight golden color that’s deeper gold near the edges.

Cool and cut. Let cool in the pan until just warm. Remove from the pan by lifting out the baking parchment. Cut along pre-scored lines.

 

pecan sandy bars
A perfect little treat! Really easy and really tasty.

Enjoy. We did.

We’re not sure if we just happened to pick the best recipe in the book or what, but these bars are fantastic! They have a little salty kick to them, almost as though made with salted nuts, that counteracts just a bit of the sweetness. The shortbread has a nearly perfect texture; a bit crumbly when you bite, but not so crumbly that the bar disintegrates into pieces that make them hard to eat. In fact, that may be the only “problem” with these bars: they are easy to eat. In no time flat, we went through three bars each before deciding to save some for the next day. These are, easily, a high five!

Worth the trouble?

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