Merry Bakemas!

When Hubby first moved over from the States he would bake up a storm at Christmas – we’re talking every type of cookie under the low winter sun, and staying up into the wee hours making sure the batches were as fresh as they could be before we parcelled them out on Christmas day.  As a non-baker it was all a bit of a novelty for me, but there is something properly magical about the smell of freshly baked gingerbread cookies filling the house on Christmas Eve, and it is now the smell of Christmas for me, not to mention Hubby’s gingerbread cookies are zomgscrumptious… But! That’s for another post, because this post is for something else entirely 🙂

The only non-cookie baked goods that get a look in at Christmas are these tray bake bars which are simply amazing. They are the perfect marriage of contrasts; sweet and salty, soft and crunchy, with one of those moreish digestive biccy bases and then topped with bits of Daim bar on top, and soooooo ooey and gooey that you can’t help but lick every last bit off your fingers and then hope you find a bit you missed!

He assures me they are easy to make, and I assure you they are every bit as delicious as they look and then some. And they freeze like a dream so your batch could last for months (if you have the willpower, that is!). Chase with a glass of cold milk for optimum nom…

Before I hand you over to Hubby for the recipe, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and that your turkeys were plump and your stockings well and truly stuffed 🙂

Sticky, sweet & salty pecan bars
Sweet and salty, soft and crunchy, all on top of a moreish digestive biscuit base.
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Stuff you’ll need for the base...
  1. 2 1/3 cups /200g digestive biscuits, crushed to crumbs (graham crackers work too)
  2. 2/3 cup / 150g butter
Stuff you’ll need for the caramel...
  1. 1 cup / 170g pecans, roasted and chopped
  2. 1 cup / 220g packed brown sugar
  3. 3/4 cup / 170g butter
  4. 2 Tbsp whipping cream
  5. 1 tsp good quality vanilla extract, never essence
Stuff you’ll need for the topping...
  1. 1 1/3 cups (or 14oz) / 397g sweetened condensed milk
  2. 2-3 bars hard toffee (Heath bars in the US, Daim bars in the UK), roughly chopped
  3. coarse sea salt
Bake!
  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 350F / 175C.
  2. Spread your pecans in a single layer on a baking tray, and roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes. You don’t want them to actually blacken.
  3. Set aside the pecans to cool, and then roughly crush them in a bag with a rolling pin, or in the food processor, once cooled. Be careful not to get too carried away, you don’t want to end up with a bag of pecan crumbs or, worse, pecan dust!
  4. Grease your baking tray with butter before topping with a layer of non-stick baking parchment (the butter helps to hold the parchment in place which you’ll be thankful for when you’re trying to get the bars out neatly).
  5. Prepare the base by melting the butter and then adding to the digestive crumbs, mixing as you go to incorporate fully. Now press the mixture into your baking tray, spreading evenly in one uniform layer. Pop into the fridge and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes but up to 2 hours if you can.
  6. When the base has chilled, prepare the caramel by combining the sugar, butter and cream in a medium-size saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium heat, stirring occassionally. Once the mixture is smooth and well-mixed, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and add your pecans. Stir to combine.
  7. Now pour the caramel-pecan mixture over the base, tilt & angle the pan until the mixture is as evenly distributed as possible.
  8. Give this a few minutes to set, and then drizzle the condensed milk all over the top.
  9. Pop in the oven and bake for 12-16 minutes, until browned and bubbly.
  10. Remove from the oven, and while the bars are still hot, scatter over the chopped Daim bars and lightly press into the mix (non-stick implements are best for this) to help set, and then scatter with sea salt. If you have any eddible stars or glitter to make the bars even more festive then now’s the time to scatter them on top too.
  11. Allow the bars to cool for about an hour before refrigerating overnight. This will help to ensure that the base is fully set and the bars are gooey and delicious. Don’t try to cut them until they’re fully cooled (try being the operative word), you’ll thank me for this later.
  12. Enjoy!
Hubby’s notes on the recipe
  1. This recipe really is an amalgam of many parts; thrown together to create the Frankenstein’s monster of baked goods.
  2. After trying the salted caramel bars at Starbucks, I thought I’d have a go at making them at home. After doing a bit of research, I stumbled across this (http://www.eat-drink-smile.com/2010/12/salted-caramel-pecan-bars.html) blog post which credits the recipe to Southern Living magazine.
  3. Inspired, I thought I’d have a go. But, I couldn’t resist tweaking it a bit, and so I decided on using a standard cheesecake base for this. 200g digestive finely crushed digestive biscuits to 150g butter is a good base to start with. This will be ok for most baking sheets, but I up it to 300g/200g for the larger baking tray I have at home.
  4. To cap it off, I remember my mum making these really delicious tray bakes when I was a kid, and so I incorporated elements from what I could remember of her recipe, which included adding the condensed milk and the toffee bars.
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