Sticky, sweet & salty pecan bars

Sticky, sweet & salty pecan bars

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
  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 ( 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.
Salted Caramel Sauce

Salted Caramel Sauce

I am a savoury head.  It’s not that I don’t like sweet things, I just prefer savoury.  Hands down.  Every time 🙂 Hubby, on the other hand, has a serious sweet tooth, which means that we rarely steal each other’s snacks (one of the many secrets to a happy marriage if you ask me!) Unless they’re sweet AND savoury, then all bets are off!  Fortunately (or should that be unfortunately??) sweet and salty combos are quite popular at the moment so there’s been quite a bit of happy sharing going on – sea salted fudge should be outlawed it’s so insanely delicious, and there are still two batches of Hubby’s salted gooey caramel pecan bars in the freezer from the Christmas bakefest!  And then at the weekend Hubby made this… zomg…

I’m sure there are a million things you could pour this over but sometimes simplest is best, and over vanilla ice cream (Mackie’s in this case) and sliced bananas that epic salty sweet combo was impossible not to appreciate.

Hubby says – Having tried, and failed, to make a good caramel sauce before – the others of which are bitter, burnt memories – I can attest to the fact that this is the easiest, loveliest caramel sauce you can make at home.  Thank you Kelsey’s Essentials for the recipe!

As the grateful recipient slash guinea pig of this caramel sauce I can attest at least to the loveliness of it if not the ease, but judging by the lack of potty mouthage going on in the kitchen during the cooking process then it’s probably safe to assume that he’s not lying about the easy either 😉

Salted Caramel Sauce
Salty and sweet liquid gold for pouring over ice cream or just eating straight out of the jar with a spoon.
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Stuff you’ll need…
  1. 1 cup white granulated sugar
  2. 1/4 cup water
  3. 3/4 cup double cream (heavy cream)
  4. 3 1/2 tbsp/70g unsalted butter
  5. Sea salt – to taste, up to 1 tsp
  1. 1. Combine the sugar and water in your saucepan and set over a low heat. Gently whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved. Do not be tempted to turn up the heat because you absolutely do not want this to boil! And it’s important to make sure the sugar is dissolved first otherwise there’s a high chance that it will crystalise when you add the cream later. Also, if you do this right then the cream and the butter don’t need to be at room temperature and you can use them straight out of the fridge.
  2. 2. When the sugar has completely dissolved, then turn the heat up to high until the liquid is gently boiling – without stirring. Keep a close eye on it as you need to watch for the liquid changing colour, usually about 5-6 minutes from when it starts to boil. You’re watching for it to turn a deep amber, like a good ale. Once it starts to change colour it becomes really time sensitive and it’s literally a matter of seconds between perfect and burnt. So as soon soon as it turn that amber colour, immediately remove the saucepan from the heat.
  3. 3. Carefully whisk the cream in first, pouring slowly as you whisk as the mixture will bubble up. Once the cream has been whisked in, add the butter and whisk until smooth.
  4. 4. Finally add salt, stir, and set aside to cool – you might want to transfer it out of the pan for this bit.
  5. Hubby says it will keeps for up to 2 weeks in the fridge… HAH! Good luck with that! Ours didn’t last 2 days 😉
Adapted from Kelsey's Essentials
Adapted from Kelsey's Essentials