Gooey Pecan-Pie Bars

From my new book, Ancient Heritage Cookies. The perfect substitute for a pecan pie on Thanksgiving Day.

I was once asked by a colleague if I could make a “nutty pecan-pie bar with a bourbon-maple flavor.” That request inspired this recipe. It uses whole wheat pastry flour for a tender, crumbly crust.

Gooey Pecan-Pie Bars
Makes 16 Bars

1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (65 grams)
2 tablespoons cornstarch (16 grams)
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (78 grams)
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (57 grams)
1/3 cup powdered sugar (42 grams)

1 1/3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped (145 grams)
1 tablespoon whole-wheat pastry flour (8 grams)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (57 grams)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (110 grams)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons regular or honey-flavored bourbon
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure maple extract
2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas Mark 4. Line the bottom and sides of an 8- x 8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two opposite edges. Lightly oil the parchment and the sides of the pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, with speed set to high, beat butter and cream cheese 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth. Add powdered sugar. Beat until combined. Set mixer speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture until just combined. Mixture will be a gooey paste.

Drop mixture into prepared pan. Using a knife, spread mixture into an even layer. Pierce with a fork. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, until crust is set and light golden brown. Edges should be a shade darker. Remove from oven. Set pan on rack to cool, while filling is prepared.

Prepare Filling:
Clean mixer bowl and blades.

In a medium bowl, combine chopped pecans and flour. Toss to lightly coat. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, with speed set to high, beat the butter and brown sugar, about 1 minute, until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat 2 to 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the salt, corn syrup, bourbon, and extracts. Beat about 1 minute, until smooth. Set mixer speed to low. Add heavy cream. Mix until combined. Add pecan-flour mixture. Mix until evenly distributed. Pour pecan mixture evenly over crust.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until filling is firm and dark golden brown. Remove from oven, place on cooling rack, and cool completely in the pan. When ready to serve, using the foil overhang, lift uncut bars from pan. Cut into 16 servings.

Store bars in airtight container, at room temperature or in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.

Baker’s Note: Do NOT line pan bottom with parchment paper, as the filling will seep underneath it.