So I have this friend – R. And I love him so, so much. R lost his mom last week, after a long and unpleasant battle with a chronic illness.
I’ve been talking to R a lot over the past few weeks, as things seemed to be escalating, and the prognosis was not good. Hearing him on the other end of the line, unable to really console him or do much of anything other than listen, I had one of those moments of complete and utter helplessness. I hung up and thought, I have to do something. I need to do something. But what? R has a lovely wife and lots of family and friends who are as crazy about him as I am.
So, of course, I turned to food. R is one of my biggest fans, particularly when it comes to sweets. And when it comes to sweets, the richer, more buttery, more chocolate-y, the better.
And then I suddenly remembered. The pecan bars. His favorites.
I hadn’t made them in over a decade, as they were from a book that I gave away long ago – only to realize shortly thereafter that it contained R’s pecan bars. I tried to find the book, but this was over 10 years ago, when it was not so easy to find what you needed on-line. I eventually gave up and forgot about it. And the bars too.
But now? Nothing else would do, and I knew that these bars were as close to a “make it all better” as I was going to get with my sweet friend.
As luck would have it, I found the exact recipe on-line in almost no time (I somehow remembered that the recipe was called “Chocolate Tipped Pecan Bars” – most use the word “Dipped”. I don’t know how I remembered that but I’m glad I did).
I got right to work and could feel my spirits lifting as the familiar smells of butter, chocolate and sugar filled my kitchen. It was like welcoming an old friend back from a long trip.
These bars are small and thin but devilishly good, like a tiny little pecan pie dipped – I mean tipped – in melted chocolate.
And so, after a long hug – and some more tears – I handed R the box. He didn’t even have to ask; he knew exactly what was inside.
What he didn’t know was that they were filled with even more love than ever.
Actually, he probably knew that too.
Can you relate to this? Have you ever cooked or baked for someone you love who needed some cheering up? What are some of your favorites to share?
adapted from The International Cookie Cookbook
For the shortbread:
3/4 c. (105 g.) flour
1 T. sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 – 1 ½ T. half-and-half
For the pecan topping:
1 ½ c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. (5 1/3 T.) unsalted butter
½ c. (100 g.) packed light brown sugar
2 T. honey
2 T. granulated sugar
1 T. half-and-half
1 ½ t. vanilla extract
For the chocolate glaze:
3 oz. semisweet chocolate (chopped or chips)
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 T. + 1 t. vegetable shortening
2 t. honey
Pre-heat oven to 350. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with a parchment sling.
Prepare the shortbread: in a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Add butter and cut into dry ingredients using a pastry blender, forks or your fingers, till the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1 T. half-and-half and toss till well distributed and dough just begins to come together. Add more half-and-half if necessary, 1 t. at a time, until a dough forms, but do not over moisten (to use a food processor: combine all ingredients except the half-and-half - pulse a few times till combined. Add half-and-half as above, starting with 1 T. and adding more only if necessary, pulsing to combine).
Turn dough into prepared pan and press evenly (I use a small angled spatula to assist). Bake for 12 minutes, remove from oven and set aside.
Prepare the pecan topping: place pecans on a small baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, or just till fragrant. Remove from oven and set aside. Place butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium heat. When melted, stir in honey and both sugars and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat. Add the pecans, half-and-half and vanilla; stir until well combined. Spread mixture evenly over the shortbread.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until topping is bubbly. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. While the dough is still warm, cut into 16 squares. Using a spatula, transfer squares to a cutting board and cut into 32 rectangles. Place bars back on the wire rack and set the rack over a baking sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper
Prepare the glaze: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring occasionally. When glaze is completely melted remove from heat. Working quickly, dip one end of each bar into glaze and place on the wire rack to set (about 1 hour).
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for one week, or in the freezer for several months.
This delicious recipe brought to you by Donuts, Dresses and Dirt