Tag Archives: Shortbread

Pecan Pie Bars

Pecan Pie BarsI’ve been thinking about Texas a lot lately, partially because I haven’t been to visit my family in 14 months and also because there was a devastating winter weather/energy crisis all over the state last week. Truly, I was consumed with horror listening to the news and compulsively checking in with friends and family to make sure they were alright.

Thankfully, all my loved ones seem to be “okay” (all things considered) and have handleable structural damage. I am obviously not personally affected as I haven’t lived in Texas for 13+ years, but I learned a few things about myself last week while I held my breath for everyone who does.

1) It doesn’t matter how far away I live or for how long, I will always hurt when Texas hurts.

2) If I am ever in a full-scale disaster, I’m calling my sister-in-law so she can tell me what to do. She thinks of everything and is the most prepared person I know. She ground coffee beans in her car, y’all.

3) Thinking about Texas makes me think about pecans, which make me think about pecan pie.

If you didn’t know, the pecan is the state nut of Texas (though we have a lot of men of note who might give it a run for its money). We call them “puh-cahns” in my neck of the woods and we put them in everything: chocolate chip cookies, sticky buns, Thanksgiving stuffing, you name it. The queen of all pecan desserts is obviously Pecan Pie, which (surprise!) happens to be the Texas state pie. It’s been declared by the Texas House of Representatives, so it’s legit.

I make a killer Maple Pecan Pie and have recipes for Pecan Pie Brownies and Pecan Pie Kolaches, but Pecan Pie Bars were missing from my culinary arsenal until last week. Rest assured, they were worth the wait.Pecan Pie BarsMy Pecan Pie Bars are thick and buttery, with equal layers of brown sugar shortbread and sweet pecan pie filling. While some pecan pie bar recipes have a single layer of pecans perched on top of approximately 100 feet of sugar goo that goes everywhere the second you take a bite, that’s just not my style. Nope! These babies are packed to the gills with toasted pecans and will not disintegrate before you finish them. Handheld desserts shouldn’t require a fork and three napkins, y’all.Pecan Pie BarsI prefer the pecans in my Pecan Pie (and adjacent desserts) to be chopped pretty thoroughly, but feel free to leave the pieces larger (or even whole) if that’s what makes you happy. You could also tile whole pecans on top of the filling before baking if a pretty topper is important to your Pecan Pie Bar enjoyment. As for me, I think these are pretty perfect as-is. They may not quite be the state pie of Texas, but they sure are delicious.Pecan Pie BarsIf you’d like to make a donation to help with hunger, housing or damage from the events in Texas last week, please consider supporting Funky Town Fridge, Austin Mutual Aid, or Lucha Dallas. I am seriously considering hosting a virtual baking class (either via Zoom or live on a social media platform) in the next few weeks to benefit continued relief down there. Would you be interested in participating or donating? Let me know in the comments!

Pecan Pie Bars
makes one 8- or 9-inch pan, about 12-16 bars

Pecan Pie Filling:
1 1/3 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped
2/3 cup maple syrup or light corn syrup
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Shortbread Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch rimmed square baking pan with butter. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on two sides for easy removal. Set aside.

Scatter pecans on a dry rimmed sheet pan. Roast 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside.

Make the shortbread crust. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add cold butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It may be powdery, but should hold together when pinched.

Press shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using the flat bottom of a measuring cup (or the heel of your hand) to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 10 minutes to set.

Make pecan pie filling. In a medium saucepan, whisk together maple syrup (or corn syrup), brown sugar, eggs, vinegar, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Add butter. Whisk constantly over medium-low heat, just until it’s just beginning to bubble at the edges (about 7 minutes). Mixture will barely thicken.

Set a mesh strainer over a heatproof bowl. Pour filling mixture through to remove any bits of cooked egg. Fold pecans into filling.

Spoon pecan pie filling over par-baked shortbread. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the center barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let bars cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Chill for 1-2 hours for cleanest slicing.

Use parchment overhang to remove bars to a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice into bars, wiping clean between cuts as necessary. Serve.

Leftovers will keep an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Pecan Pie BarsPecan Pie BarsPecan Pie Bars

Sparkling Shortbread

Sparkling ShortbreadHappy Christmas week! Happy Solstice! Happy almost the end of 2020!Sparkling ShortbreadI’m coming at you on this winter Monday to give you one last cookie recipe before Christmas. Don’t worry, it’s super easy—just a slice & bake shortbread that’s been rolled in sparkling sugar so it looks *fancy.* And it is. But it’s also stupendously easy. I don’t know about you, but when it’s four days before Christmas, I only have time for things that are stupendously easy.Sparkling ShortbreadThis dough is super rich and buttery, and comes together in 15 minutes. Once mixed, divide it in two and shape each half into a log. Don’t worry about perfect round shaping—you can fix flaws after an hour-long chill. It’s much easier to form smooth shapes when the dough isn’t so pliable.Sparkling ShortbreadSparkling Shortbread Next up, coat your shortbread in sparkling sugar! Working with one log at a time, give your shortbread a few rolls to even out any odd shaping. Then, roll them in a few tablespoons of festive sparkling sugar (this is the Mistletoe Blend from NY Cake Supply). I find it easiest to coat the shortbread by using my hands and a sheet of plastic wrap. Just do your best with this and don’t worry about perfection—these will all be a little different and they will all be gorgeous.

Don’t have sparkling sugar? Use sprinkles. I recommend using jimmies (the cylindrical kind) instead of non-pareils (the little balls), as those will bleed their colors.Sparkling ShortbreadAfter coating, the shortbread will need another hour chill. I know—I know!—two chills are too many, but they are easily the most annoying part of this recipe. One upside, however, is that this means you can make the Sparkling Shortbread dough days in advance and then slice & bake when you have time.Sparkling ShortbreadSparkling ShortbreadWhen it’s time to bake, slice the dough in 1/4-inch rounds and bake for 20 minutes at 300F, so they’re fully done but not brown. Despite not containing any leaveners, these cookies will puff and spread (but not too much).Sparkling ShortbreadOnce the shortbread are baked and cooled…well, that’s it! Time to eat. Sparkling Shortbread are crisp and buttery with a little extra crunch and zazz from their sugared edges. Truly, they’re so simple and stunning that I don’t know why you’d bother to make any other cookies this close to Christmas. Keep a few for yourself, drop a few off with a friend and leave a few for Santa. Everybody needs a little sparkle right now.Sparkling ShortbreadThere’s only one more E2 Bakes recipe left this year, and it’s coming up Wednesday! Any guesses???Sparkling Shortbread

Sparkling Shortbread
makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

For coating:
6-8 tablespoons (about 3 ounces) coarse sparkling/decorative sugar

Place softened butter in a medium-large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat it until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add dark brown and confectioners sugars and mix until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and salt. With the mixer on low, beat in flour. Dough will be crumbly looking, but should hold together very well when pinched.

Divide dough in two parts. Form each into a 9-inch log and wrap in plastic. Don’t worry if they aren’t perfectly round. Chill for 1 hour.

Line a small sheet pan or a surface with a sheet of plastic wrap and place 3-4 tablespoons of sparkling sugar on top. Unwrap one log of dough. Give it a few light rolls to form more of a round log shape. Place dough on top of sugar and use your hands and the plastic wrap to coat the log in sparkling sugar. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 3 days. Repeat this process with remaining log of dough and remaining sparkling sugar.

Place oven racks in central positions. Preheat oven to 300F. Line 2 rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.

Unwrap one log of dough and place on a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice log into 1/4-inch rounds. Place at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans.

Bake cookies for 20-22 minutes, or until no longer shiny but not brown at all. Let cool on the pans for 10 minutes. Use a thin spatula (not your fingers!) to remove cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.

Serve. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.Sparkling ShortbreadSparkling ShortbreadSparkling ShortbreadSparkling Shortbread

Pecan Sandies

Pecan SandiesWhen the folks at Fisher Nuts gifted me a bag of their delicious pecan halves a few weeks ago, the first recipe that came to mind was Pecan Sandies.Pecan SandiesThere was a package of storebought Pecan Sandies in our pantry for my entire childhood, but I never cared for them. In fact, the kindest thing I can think to say about them is that they were inoffensive. These shortbread were too hard, flavorless at best, and seriously lacking in pecans for something with the word “pecan” in their name…but they’d do if there were no other desserts available.Pecan SandiesI remember going into the pantry to grab a snack and eyeing that package of cookies—who in their right mind would buy those over and over again?!

My dad. That’s who. I can’t tell you when or why he started eating Pecan Sandies, but I can’t see the packaging without thinking of him.Happy Father’s DayMy dad’s a great guy. He’s sweet, he’s smart. He looks great in a hat. He took us to a gazillion baseball games, danced with me in six of my dance recitals (once in tights), and tried to teach me to golf for years in hopes that I’d ever be good enough to play with him (I’m not). He’s the kind of guy who uses pecan halves to write your name on brownies on your 35th birthday and then sends you a video of your family singing “Happy Birthday to You” and blowing out candles in your honor, even though you are halfway across the country and unable to travel due to a pandemic.

Y’all, my dad deserves better Pecan Sandies.Pecan SandiesLucky for him, they’re easy to make and far superior to anything on store shelves. We’re talking thick, rich, buttery shortbread loaded with chopped toasted pecans. They’re crunchy with ever-so-slightly soft centers and a sort of smooth meltaway quality (sandiness?) from the addition of confectioner’s sugar. That’s a long way of saying that they’re very good.Pecan SandiesThe dough is a seven ingredient slice-and-bake situation loaded with real butter and toasted chopped pecans. It comes together quickly, but does require a two hour chill, so plan ahead. Once it’s nice and cold though, you’re just twenty minutes away from the best dang Pecan Sandies you’ve ever had.Pecan SandiesPecan SandiesThe recipe makes three dozen and they keep like a dream for days on end. If you’re a better daughter (or son or child) than I am, these would be perfect for sending to your dad on Father’s Day. Unfortunately for my dad, I’m terrible with anything involving the post office, so he’s getting something I can order online that will not make it on time. Ah, well.Pecan SandiesHappy Father’s Day to everyone celebrating, especially my sweet dad. He loves all his daughters, but I think the dog is his favorite. Pecan Sandies

Pecan Sandies
makes 36 cookies

1 cup raw pecan halves
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened to room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 300F. Place pecans on a cutting board and use a large, sharp chef’s knife to chop them finely. Place them on a dry rimmed baking sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes, until fragrant and toasted. Let cool completely.

Place softened butter in a medium-large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to beat it until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add granulated and confectioner’s sugars and mix until fluffy. Mix in vanilla and salt. With the mixer on low, beat in flour. Dough will be crumbly looking, but should hold together very well when pinched. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in chopped pecans.

Divide dough in half. Take one half and lay it on a piece of plastic wrap. Using the plastic wrap and clean hands, form the dough into a log (roughly 8 1/2 x 1 1/2-inches) and wrap tightly. Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 325F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Remove one log of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place it on a cutting board. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice the dough into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place them 1 1/2-2 inches apart on prepared pans. Refrigerate any leftover dough between batches.

Bake cookies for 18-20 minutes minutes, rotating the pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back at the halfway point. Let cool on the pans for 10 minutes before using a thin spatula (not your fingers!) to remove cookies to cooling racks to cool completely. Repeat slicing and baking processes with any remaining dough. Serve.

Shortbread will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.Pecan SandiesPecan SandiesPecan Sandies

Coconut Lime Squares

Coconut Lime SquaresI started fiddling with this recipe pre-social distancing, and have gotten close to posting it twice, but then hesitated at the last second both times. The first attempt was just golden toasted coconut on shortbread. Tasty, but also a little dry. The second involved a can of sweetened condensed milk drizzled over the top before baking. The consistency was right, but the results were a little one note—they needed acid.Coconut Lime SquaresThis, the third and final go-round, has the zest and juice of two limes,* an egg yolk and a little salt stirred into that sweetened condensed milk, so that it bakes up reminiscent of Key Lime Pie filling. Yum!

*Yes, you can use lemons. Then they’ll be Coconut Lemon Squares.Coconut Lime SquaresFor those of you concerned about using only an egg yolk in a recipe right now (no food waste allowed in a pandemic!), you’ll be relieved to know that the white gets used in the coconut layer. It’s whisked together with sugar, salt and vanilla, and then used to coat a bunch of flaked coconut before baking.Coconut Lime SquaresI used large-flake unsweetened coconut because that’s what I had on hand, but feel free to swap in a finer flake/shred style. If you’re using sweetened coconut, cut the added sugar in the topping to 1-2 tablespoons. I wouldn’t leave it out completely, as you want it to get really good and toasty and for the coconut below to be vaguely…marshmallowy? Sounds weird, yes, but that’s the word to describe its flavor, if not its texture. Trust me, it’s like a big macaroon and you’re going to love it.Coconut Lime SquaresAs for the crust, it’s just shortbread: flour, sugar, salt, cold butter. It’s crunchy, flaky and buttery—the perfect vehicle for the lime filling and coconut topping. I understand that a lot of people cannot get their hands on flour right now, so please note that you can use a graham cracker, Oreo (or Golden Oreo), or another crumb crust and it will work just fine. It may even be better…maybe I should have done a round four? Should I have bailed on posting at the last second again?

Oh lord. Somebody social distance me from myself.Coconut Lime Squares

Coconut Lime Squares
makes 1 8- or 9-inch pan, about 16 servings

Shortbread Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold

Lime Filling:
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
zest of 2 medium limes
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 2 medium limes)
1 large egg yolk
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

Toasted Coconut Topping:
1 large egg white, room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups flaked unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with foil. Grease. Set aside.

Make the shortbread crust. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold butter. Use your fingertips to rub butter into flour until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. It will be powdery, but should hold together when pinched.

Pour shortbread mixture into prepared pan. Spread it around to cover the bottom of the pan before using the flat bottom of a measuring cup (or the heel of your hand) to pack it down into an even layer. Prick several times with a fork. Bake 10 minutes to set. Wipe out bowl (no need to wash) and set aside for coconut topping.

Make the lime filling. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, lime zest & juice, egg yolk, and salt. It may thicken slightly. Set aside.

Make the toasted coconut topping. In a medium mixing bowl (I use the same one I used for the crust), use a fork to whisk together egg white, sugar and vanilla, just until bubbly/a little foamy, about 1 minute. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in coconut.

Spoon lime filling over shortbread crust. Use a silicone spatula or the back of a spoon to carefully spread into an even layer. Scatter coconut filling over the lime filling, making sure to get it all the way to the edges. Press down lightly.

Bake 30-35 minutes, or until coconut is deeply toasted on top and center barely jiggles when pan is jostled. If coconut begins to burn during baking, tent with foil.

Let pan cool completely in a pan on a rack. Use foil overhang to transfer to a cutting board. Peel off foil. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice into squares, wiping clean between cuts as necessary. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Squares will keep covered at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 4.Coconut Lime SquaresCoconut Lime SquaresCoconut Lime Squares

Friday Favorites: Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a divisive occasion, but whether you love it or hate it, it’s a week away. I, for one, think any excuse to show people you love them is a good one, and you won’t be surprised to learn that I express love primarily through food (and videos of dogs on Instagram).

Here are some of my favorite treats from Valentine’s Days past. Look out for a new one next Wednesday!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayRed Velvet Cheesecake Bars

I may associate red velvet with Oscar Night, but most bakers like to make it for Valentine’s Day. These bars are much simpler to make than the traditional cake, and bypass the frosting in favor of a thick layer of cheesecake.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayStrawberry Sugar Cookie Squares

I’ll never understand why strawberries are so popular for Valentine’s Day. Who wants to eat a flavorless February strawberry?! That said, freeze-dried strawberries are good year-round, especially when pulverized and mixed into soft sugar cookie squares and buttercream. They provide both flavor and color here—these are food coloring-free!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate-Covered Strawberry Buttercreams

Speaking of strawberry buttercream, that’s the name and filling of these homemade candies! The frosting is made and chilled before being scooped, rolled, and enrobed in dark chocolate.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayCoconut Cluster Brownies

I have a bit of a thing for cheap drugstore chocolate, which is exactly what inspired the milk chocolate-coconut candy layered on top of these brownies. I’ll take these over a heart-shaped box any day of the week!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread

These Chocolate-Dipped Brown Butter Shortbread hearts are one of my favorite recipes on this site. They’re simple to make and the flavors are universally loved, and while you can make them in any shape you like, I think they are particularly adorable as half-dipped hearts.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate Cut-Out Cookies

For all the class and restraint embodied in those shortbread, these cookies go in the exact opposite direction. They’re brash and bright and snarky and I l-o-v-e love them. Oh, and while icing is great, the rich chocolate cookies underneath are the real stars of the show.Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayChocolate Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}

Valentine’s falls on a Friday this year, and if you’re anything like me, making a fuss after a long workweek is not my idea of a good time, especially if it means I have to wear real clothes. Skip the fancy dinner and celebrate the morning after with a Chocolate Puff Pancake. It’s super delicious and easy to make and you don’t have to change out of your pajamas to make it.

Have you made any of these or any of my other Valentine’s Day recipes? Let me know in the comments or on social media!Friday Favorites: Valentine’s DayFriday Favorites: Valentine’s Day