I actually love to cook on vacation. I love shopping at grocery stores and food markets in foreign climes. On my most recent trip to London, I was tasked with bringing dessert to a dinner party, and though the rented flat kitchen was spacious and very nice, it wasn’t particularly well equipped. No mixer, one baking pan, one mixing bowl. I wanted something that had a nice southern flair for my British friends so I actually googled “one bowl no mixer desserts”. A pecan blondie recipe popped up in a story and it fit the bill – no particularly odd ingredients (though I did have to try two places for pecans). But I wanted to zazz it up, so I browned the butter and added a dose of bourbon, which came in the suitcase with me. I thought it would be simple, served with some ice cream, but it was a much bigger success than I imagined. Seconds were eaten and pieces taken home. It was such a surprise hit that I rebuilt by google search on my phone on the bus ride home and marked it with notes about my changes.
These make a delicious little snack, but are also amazing served in big squares topped with ice cream. The bourbon adds a nice kick, but isn’t strictly necessary. Browning the butter gives these bars character.
Brown Butter Bourbon Pecan Bars
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups pecan pieces
2 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 Tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan (light colored or stainless is best so you can see the butter as it browns). Heat over medium high heat, watching constantly, until the butter is melted. It will start to spit and hiss, then you will see brown speckles appear. Swirl the butter around to distribute the browned bits, and as soon as the butter has an even brown color and a nice nutty smell, pour it into a heat proof measuring jug. Leave to cool.
- Put the pecan pieces in a dry skillet and toast over medium high heat just until they smell nice and nutty and take on a little brown color. Transfer to a plate and leave to cool.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper with some overhanging edges. Spray with cooking spray.
- Put the brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and pour in the brown butter, leaving any dark sediment behind. Stir well to combine. Add the eggs, vanilla and bourbon and stir to completely combine. Add the flour and salt and stir until combined and there are no streaks of dry ingredients left in the bowl. Break up any large pieces of pecan, then stir them into the batter until evenly distributed. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and press into an even layer filling the pan. Bake for 20 – 22 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it. Cool completely in the pan, then lift the bar out by the overhanging foil and cut into squares. The bars will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.