Gluttony is a sin, as listed and described by the Bible, but every Thanksgiving is secretly about gluttony. The coinage of the term “holiday weight” must have been based on the massive binge that begins with Thanksgiving and ends with New Year, when after, more than a month of stuffing one’s face with every possible sweet and savory delight that we can concoct, our bodies have had enough and is ready to take the plunge into the empty promise of a New Year resolution. But while it lasts, lets stuff it with things that can make grown men weep with satisfaction. One of the desserts on my table for this thanksgiving were Pecan Bar, I had a pumpkin chiffon pie and the thought of another pie was too much to handle, so the pie became a bar.
Let me first talk about photographing this. I had decided that I wanted a dark, moody background, because the bars themselves have very warming browns and caramel colors in it and the dark background was to tone it down. It also worked in my favor that today is a dark, gloomy, snowy day in New Jersey – so light was perfect. The pictures were shot near an open window and the background and surface are both black foam boards. I used a white foam board to reflect some light back to cut out some shadows, besides this NO other equipment was used. When you see the pecan bars, you will notice their raggedy edge, it is by default and by design. I hate when things are TOO perfect and the organic feel is lost.
The recipe is from Ina Garten with just the addition of a little bit of grand marnier.
- 1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 extra-large eggs
- 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- 1 cup good honey
- 3 cups light brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 1/4 cup cream
- 2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp grand marnier (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.
For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream , grand marnier and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.
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