Rich honey caramel pecan bars with a buttery shortbread base. The perfect combination of sticky, chewy, sweet and crumbly. A delicious pairing of caramel and pecans.
Prep Time 25minutes
Cook Time 25minutes
Time for the bars to set 2hours
Servings 24large or 36 small
¾cup (170g, 6 oz)cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
⅓cup (68g)granulated sugar
1 ½cups (180g)all-purpose flour
CARAMEL PECAN TOPPING
6Tbsp (75g, 3 oz)unsalted butter
¼cup (85g, 60 mL)honey
¼cup plus 2 Tbsp (75g)brown sugar
¼cup (60g, 60mL)heavy cream, at room temperature
2tspespresso powder (optional, see ingredient notes in text)
½cup (60g)whole pecans
½cup (60g)coarsely chopped pecans
½tspsalt flakes (I used Maldon)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 C, gas mark 4).
Line an 8" square (20 cm square) pan with parchment paper, extending a flap of parchment over opposite sides as a handle to aid in removing the bars later.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, flour, and salt and mix until the dough begins to come together with a lumpy, sandy texture.
Dump the dough into the prepared pan and press with your fingers until it is spread evenly into all areas of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and use the flat base of a drinking glass or the bottom of a measuring cup to firmly pack down the dough and smooth the top. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Bake the shortbread for 24-26 minutes, until top has gone from shiny to dull, shortbread is baked through, just barely beginning to turn golden brown, and beginning to smell like toasted butter. Remove from oven and set aside to cool on a baking rack.
Caramel Pecan Topping
In a heavy 3 quart pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot so that you can monitor the temperature of the caramel. Add the honey, brown sugar, espresso powder, vanilla and salt and stir minimally just to incorporate. Without further stirring, continue cooking over medium-low heat until the mixture reaches 225 degrees.
Carefully add the room temperature heavy cream (it might bubble) and stir just to incorporate. Continue to cook on medium without stirring until the mixture reaches 240 degrees. Immediately add both sizes of pecans, stirring to coat. You might need to stir gently every little while to make sure the pecans don't burn. Cook until thermometer reads 245 degrees. Immediately remove the caramel from the heat.
Quickly and very carefully pour the hot caramel pecan mixture onto the cooked shortbread layer, using a silicone spatula to scrape all the caramel out of the pan. Distribute the pecans evenly (with the spatula - too hot for fingers!) and make sure the caramel reaches the edges and into the corners of the pan. If you're feeling particularly enthusiastic, use a toothpick or knife to flip the whole pecans so they are flat side down. Cool completely and sprinkle with salt flakes if desired.
Once completely cool, lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper and place on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into squares and serve.
Recipe adapted from Honey Walnut Bars by Mindy Segal in her book Cookie Love. I changed pan sizes (hers was 9 x 13 - I used an 8" square pan) to end up with a smaller batch, but doubled the original ratio of shortbread to caramel. The espresso addition is mine as well. After a few attempts, also I ended up cooking the caramel to a higher final temperature to ensure that it firms up enough to slice and maintain its shape.