Pecan bars are usually a variation of thick, custardy pecan pie, however, this Cook’s Illustrated bar cookie recipe makes nuts the main focus. For the filling of a 9 X 13 sized pan the recipe calls for a full pound of pecans (4 cups) along with a mixture of brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter and you will be surprised that despite the detailed recipe it is super quick and easy to make and more delicious than pecan pie!
These nutty pecan bars are part chewy and slightly crunchy. By using melted butter, the crust easily pats into the large cake pan and does not require par-baking because there is not gooey thick custard layer.
Although I didn’t use the optional final sprinkling of flaky sea salt called for in the recipe, I’m told the salt elevates the flavor and appearance of the bars. I served these treats to my lady friends and every one wanted the recipe, so add this recipe to your repertoire and I guarantee everyone will be asking you for the recipe.
Tip about Pre-toasting the Pecans before Baking
For deep nutty unbelievable flavor, toast the pecans in a 350degree pre-heated oven in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet like a jelly roll pan. You will know the nuts are ready when they are fragrant, and darken very slightly about 8-12 minutes. Shake the pan once halfway through the toasting to prevent over browning.
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
6 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and hot
1 teaspoon salt
4 Cups (1 pound) pecan halves, toasted
1/2 tsp flaked sea salt (optional)
CRUST: Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Make a foil sling for a 13 X 9 inch pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil that should be about 13 inches wide and second sheet should be 9 inches wide. Lay the sheets of foil in the pan perpendicular to each other, with the extra foil hanging over the edges. Push the foil into the corners and smooth it up the sides of the pan. Lightly spray with oil spray. DON’T skimp on this step as it makes clean-up and cutting the
bars a breeze.
Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir with wooden spoon until the dough begins to form. Using your hands, continue to combine until no dry flour remains and small portions of dough holds together when squeezed into the palm of your hand. Evenly scatter small tablespoon portions over the pan and using your finger tips and palm of your hand smooth and press the dough into an even thickness to cover the bottom of the pan.
FOR THE TOPPING : Whisk sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla and salt together in a medium bowl until smooth the mixture will look separated at first but will become homogeneous in half a minute or less. Fold the toasted pecans into the sugar mixture until the nuts are evenly coated.
Pour the topping over the crust. Using a spatula, spread it out over the crust as evenly as possible. Don’t worry, the baking process will evenly distribute the rapidly bubbling topping across the entire surface i. Bake for
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and slightly sprinkle with optional flake sea salt if desired. The BARS MUST COOL FOR A FULL 90 MINUTES before cutting, trust me on this. After 90 minutes you can lift the bars out of the pan using the overhanging foil liner and transfer the batch to a cutting board. Cut them into 24 bars. Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature for up to 5 days.