Monday, September 20, 2010

Will Bake for Eggs

We have already discussed the fact that I would likely sell my sons in order to get my hands on some farm fresh eggs (well, not really guys, but you get the idea) so I won't go into that again.  If you want to refresh your memory about the subject, here is the post:

My mom brought me up right, so I do have a few principles.  One is that if you are in a restaurant and the kitchen sends out a freebie, you have to eat it.  All of it.  Even if you hate it (I'm reminded of the time someone lavished sweetbreads upon us) or if you are on a diet or if you are stuffed to the gills.  Those are the rules in Lizworld.  Poor Henry knows this all too well, largely because I am a short hitter and will usually pawn it off on him.  He doesn't complain too much, though.

The other rule is that when someone gives you a gift (like farm fresh eggs), it is necessary to reciprocate.  Henry's colleague once again bestowed a dozen upon us last week, so I headed for the kitchen.

That was the easy part.  More difficult was trying to decide what to bake.  Cake was out since I made that marble cake for him a couple weeks ago.  It was also complicated by the fact that Henry wasn't going straight to the office the next day, so whatever I made would have to hang out in his car for a couple of hours.  That ruled out anything with chocolate or pastry cream, unless I wanted to ruin someone's car with melted chocolate or kill them with spoiled eggs.  I didn't think that would win me any points however, or guarantee additional fresh eggs in my future.

So I turned to my favorite old stand-by, Honey-Pecan Bars.  You can whip these up in a flash and they are always a hit.  The base is a buttery shortbread-like crust which is then adorned with a rich, gooey pecan topping.  Oh, and in addition to being delicious and addictive, they can withstand a short seige in a warm car!

HONEY-PECAN BARS   (adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies)

For the crust:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

For the topping:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup good honey (I used Fireweed)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups pecan halves
1 tablespoon vanilla paste*

Preheat oven to 375-degrees.  Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan (preferably with squared edges) with heavy duty foil to overhang sides.  Grease well with butter or cooking spray and set aside.

In electric mixer, cream butter, brown sugar and salt until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl several times.  Add flour, one cup at a time until incorporated.  Continue mixing until dough forms large clumps and starts to come together.

Sprinkle mixture into prepared pan and press down to form an even layer (a fondant press is good for this task).  Chill until firm, about 20 minutes.  Place in preheated oven and bake until just barely golden, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a baking rack to cool and reduce oven heat to 325-degrees.

For topping, place butter, brown sugar, honey, granulated sugar and heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, then stir constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth and homogenous, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in salt, pecans and vanilla.  Pour over the cooled crust.

Bake until topping starts to bubble, about 10-12 minutes.  DO NOT OVERBAKE.  (Trust me, I know this from experience.  If you do, the filling will turn hard and gluey and won't be at all appealing.  As I am known to say, less is better here).  Transfer to a baking rack to cool completely.

When cool, lift out using the foil "handles" and transfer to a cutting board.  Remove foil and cut into 24 squares.

Don't refrigerate these (try not to store them in a warm car, either).  They will keep for up to a week in an airtight container.

Yield:  24 squares

*If you don't have vanilla paste, pure vanilla extract will be just fine.  Just don't use imitation vanilla, okay?

I was a good girl and managed not to eat any of these before I got them packaged up.  Of course I went to Leon's Full Service for lunch on Sunday and managed to eat a fair share of fries with smoked tomato mayonnaise.  Oh, Liz!

One final note:  unless you love these, or love baking them, DO NOT bring them to a potluck or any sort of recurring event where you will be asked to bring something at a later date.  That's because once you introduce your friends to these, they will never want you to bring anything else.  You can trust me on this one also!

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