Caramel Pecan Bars

January 15, 2010

I warned you about this caramel obsession. And I still can't quite explain the fascination. Maybe I just like to perform kitchen alchemy and watch the way white sugar transforms into a dark camel coloured creamy substance. It's as close as one can get to feeling as though they are taking a class at Hogwarts. If only I could carry that magic through to every aspect of daily life. I'm a terrible typist, my method is more of a pecking technique which results in a lengthy process. Not to mention all the misspellings, run-on sentences, and misplaced commas. And, after all this time, I still have problems with figuring out all the aspects of Blogger.

These bars hold their own kind of magic. They make Snickers bars a distant, boring memory. In moments of weakness, I have indulged in a few Snickers dark candy bars. But I couldn't help it, I was faced with the self-consciousness which comes after a bad hair cut, or the prospect of having to get gas for my car ( a process I hate for some reason ), or the knowledge that I forgot to buy cat litter and my laziness in not wanting to get out of the checkout line and walk across the store despite that fact that there was barely enough litter left to cover the bottom surface of the box, and/or worst of all, the store was out of my favourite Häagen-Dazs ice-cream (black walnut). Snickers dark was there for me during those various moments of frustration.

These bars are the home made, punched up version of a candy bar. Just imagine that the buttery shortbread base is the vanilla nougat. The caramel is rich and creamy, the pecans add the perfect crunchy texture, and the topping is a smooth layer of dark chocolate. If you cut these up into long, thin bars, they would be perfect to serve as dessert for casual dinners. Just don't leave them unattended for too long because they have that salty sweetness which makes them irresistible to wandering guests.

Caramel Pecan Bars

* printer friendly Recipe *

Crust Ingredients:
(recipe for crust from Food & Wine)
2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of sugar
3/4 tsp. of salt
1 1/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) of frozen butter, cut into cubes
1/4 cup of ice water
1 Tablespoon of distilled white vinegar

Caramel Ingredients:
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons of sugar
1/2 cup of light corn syrup
5 Tablespoons of water
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/2 cup of heavy cream (half & half will work too)
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
2 cups of chopped, toasted pecans

Ganache Topping:
2 ounces of coarsely chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup of heavy cream

Crust: In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the cubed butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle on the ice water and vinegar and process until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Turn the crumbs out onto a sheet of wax paper and knead just until the dough comes together. Pat the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until slightly chilled, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of wax paper to an 11- by-15-inch rectangle (1/4 inch thick). Trim the dough to a 9-by-13-inch rectangle and place it in the baking pan. Cut the remaining dough into 3/4-inch-wide strips and press them up the side of the pan to form a rim all around. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Line the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the dough is just set. Remove the parchment paper and weights and bake the crust for about 12 minutes longer, until lightly golden and set. Let cool. You can turn off the oven since you won't be needing it anymore.

Caramel: In a three quart heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil. Once it boils, stop stirring, and cook the mixture until it turns a golden caramel color, about 10 - 12 minutes. (Swirl the pan as needed so the caramel cooks evenly.) Remove from heat and carefully add the cream and vanilla (the mixture will sputter and steam so be careful). Stir in the pecans and immediately pour over the cooled shortbread crust. Cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate until the caramel is set.

Ganache: Place the chopped chocolate into a medium heat-proof bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream to just under a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate, cover and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Once the chocolate has softened and melted, stir it with a whisk until smooth. Pour or drizzle the chocolate over the set caramel. Refrigerate until the chocolate has set. Cut into bars using a hot, sharp knife.



  1. These are right up my alley! Wish I could sink my teeth into one right now...

  2. Valerina, these look wonderful! You've got the caramel gene for sure. Now I'm convinced I should try (again! LOL).


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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