Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ina Garten's Pecan Bars

I have had my share of favorites on the Food Network since I began watching it over a decade ago. Every year I have a different favorite show/cook/chef. My taste changes as the host changes lifestyle/personality or the cinematography changes or the style of cooking changes. The one person whom has been my favorite from the absolute beginning is...you guessed it...Ina Garten.
Her personality is just darling. I love how the show is set in her home, I love her kitchen supplies, her pantry, the relationship she has with Jeffrey, her garden...I'm not a stalker, I swear! It's really funny, I'm not vigilant by any means (though I am working on it), but when it comes to her show, I notice just about everything from the background to the foreground. I digress. One Sunday morning or afternoon, I was watching an episode of Barefoot Contessa. She was making a packed lunch to have with one of her friends who owns a flower shop. The main course was a seared salmon, which will be shared with you later, and a these pecan bars.
(the sis wanted to share the limelight)
Ina made making the bars look so easy and so fun that I had to try it. Well, it was easy and it was fun, but it was also time consuming having their different components. However, it is completely worth it. The recipe yields over two dozen! More if you cut them into bite size pieces. I brought them to work and never had I received so many compliments in one day over something I baked. They were gone before I knew it, regardless of the amount I brought in. Magic! They even keep really well in the freezer for weeks. When you want to use them, just bring them out to thaw for about 10 minutes. Just lovely.
Pecan Bars adapted from Barefoot Contessa


1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


1 pound unsalted butter
1 cup good honey
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped


*For an extra touch, melt some bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler (or a bowl fitted over simmering water - make sure the bowl isn't touching the water). Dip the bars in the chocolate and place on parchment paper until set. You can also place them in the freezer for about 5 min-10min. to help the chocolate set quicker.*

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

3. For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy- bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.