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Maple Pecan Squares

In early spring, the warm days and cold nights start the sap flowing in sugar maple trees. It takes 40 gallons of sap to produce only 1 gallon of pure maple syrup, and just a small amount of the concentrated syrup to give these toffeelike pecan bars their distinctive maple flavor. The bars will be set but soft when warm, and become crisp and brittle when cool.

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter,
     cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  •  

For the filling:

  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
  •  

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Carefully line a 9-inch square baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, letting the foil extend up the sides and over the edges of the pan. Butter the foil liner.

To make the crust by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar and salt until blended. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until large, coarse crumbs the size of small peas form.

To make the crust with a food processor, in the bowl of the processor, combine the flour, brown sugar and salt and pulse 2 or 3 times to blend. Add the butter and pulse 8 to 10 times until large, coarse crumbs the size of small peas form.

Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust until the edges are lightly browned and the top feels firm when lightly touched, 12 to 17 minutes. Set aside.

To make the filling, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, maple syrup and brown sugar and stir together until the butter melts and the brown sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the cream. Then stir in the pecans. Pour the hot filling over the partially baked crust, spreading it evenly to the edges with an icing spatula.

Bake until the filling is set when you give the pan a gentle shake, 22 to 25 minutes. During baking, the filling will bubble vigorously, then the bubbles will subside and become smaller toward the end of baking. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool until the filling is firm, about 1 1/2 hours.

Using the ends of the foil liner, carefully lift the maple-pecan square in its liner from the baking pan. Run a small knife around the edges of the square to loosen it from the foil. Using a large, sharp knife, cut into 25 small squares. The squares will slide easily off the foil. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 25 squares.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking, by Cathy Burgett, Elinor Klivans & Lou Seibert Pappas (Oxmoor House, 2003).