Happy First Day of Fall! Whipping Up a Batch of Butterscotch Pecan Cookie Bars

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Happy first day of fall, everyone!  Well, for those of you who enjoy four seasons that is.  The tree leaves have been changing to reds and oranges, it’s chillier, I’ve started shopping for new sweaters (my selection of cardigans is rather sad), and my craving for fall comfort food is just getting started.  So, how did I celebrate the first day of fall, my favourite season?  By sleeping in (I can’t even remember the last time I slept in until 10:45) and then hauling out my baking bags of goodies and electric mixer for some good old fashioned fall baking!  I’m already thinking well ahead into the holiday season but before I got too ahead of myself, I thought it would be nice to bake another batch of cookie bars and what better way to ring in the new season with a batch of yummy butterscotch pecan cookie bars? 

I’ve been so inspired by fall food that I’ve been doing a ton of research on restaurant items around the city including searches for apple menu items (both sweet and savoury), pumpkin, butternut squash, and pecan.  I think I’m covered on the pumpkin and butternut squash for the time being, but I’m still searching high and low for some standout pecan dishes.  Pecan pie is wonderful and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into some, but aside from that, all I’m really finding is salads with candied pecans and while that’s nice, it’s hardly what I’d consider out of the ordinary, you know?  I’m going to keep digging around, but in the meantime, here’s some fab butterscotch pecan cookie bars to celebrate our first taste of fall!

Recipe for Butterscotch Pecan Cookie Bars (adapted from Chocolate-Chip-Pecan Cookie Bars recipe from March 2011 issue of Food & Wine magazine).  

Makes 12 big squares or 24 smaller rectangular bars.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1/2 a stick)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil 
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (*Deb’s Note: the original recipe called for whole wheat pastry flour but I didn’t have any and also didn’t feel like buying any so I just used regular all-purpose flour!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips (*Deb’s Note: the original recipe called for semisweet chocolate chips)

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.  Spread the pecans in a pie plate and toast for about 8 minutes until golden.  Chop the pecans and let cool.  (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t toast my pecans and went straight to coarsely chopping them as they were.  It’s entirely up to you if you want them toasty or not!)
  • In the bowl of a standing electric mixer (*Deb’s Note: I used a hand-held electric mixer and a plain old mixing bowl), beat the butter and oil with the granulated sugar and brown sugar until creamy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth.  In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and salt; beat the dry ingredients into the wet mixture at low speed.  Add the butterscotch chips (or chocolate chips if you’re following the original recipe) and pecans; beat just until incorporated (*Deb Note: I didn’t use my mixer for this step, I just mixed it all with my hands).
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned and nearly set in the center (*Deb’s Note: I baked mine for 18 minutes).  Let cool completely.  Using parchment paper “handles”, lift out and cut into squares or bars.

I sprinkled mine with cinnamon just before I popped the baking pan into the oven because I felt like it, but you could also drizzle some melted white chocolate over top after they’ve finished baking and cooled to jazz things up.  These would so good with some vanilla ice cream too!  For next time though, I would adjust the bake time.  I know the original recipe called for a 20 minute bake time, but I never follow it to a tee because my oven runs hot so I normally knock 2 minutes off.  I would even do for around 16 minutes the next time, just so they can be a little gooeier on the insides and a little more chewy.  I loved using the butterscotch chips though because the squares tasted like a cross between rich caramel and butterscotch brittle.

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Recipe adpated from Food & Wine magazine.  “Dessert Redux: Chef Recipes Made Easy”.  Food & Wine March 2011: 86.

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Dark Brown Sugar, Meet Butterscotch – Butterscotch Brittles and a Winter Cookie Party, Part I

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Remember the butterscotch chip cookies I baked during the holidays in December?  The ones I photographed with cute snowmen in the background and the ones my mum went all cookie crazy over because she admitted she had a weakness for butterscotch?  Okay, so imagine those cookies, but crunchier in texture, richer in flavour and aroma, with more beautiful crackling, and just as delicious if not more!  It was cookie baking day in my house on Saturday and I was prepared to bake two kinds of cookies: another batch of butterscotch chip and a new lemon coconut almond cookie I was trying out.

I was so excited to bake cookies (like there’s ever a time when I’m not!) I literally went out during a snowstorm to buy extra butterscotch chips because another store I had visited earlier in the week had run out.  My mum thought I was crazy.  I call it determined.  And maybe a little stubborn.  But if the cookies we baked were any indication, walking around town with snowflakes hitting me in the eye was worth it.

I couldn’t believe how fabulous these cookies turned out!  You must be thinking though, “why were you surprised?  You baked these cookies before!”  That is true.  But there’s an important difference between these cookies and the ones I baked during Christmas: these ones have dark brown sugar in them, not light or golden.  The darker the sugar, the more molasses it has in it and you can clearly see and taste the difference.  I knew the amount of molasses in brown sugar would make a difference in baking, I just didn’t know how obvious the difference would be.

The ones I baked in December were chewier and lighter in colour while the ones I baked on Saturday turned out incredibly golden, like my cookies had been sunbathing on their parchment paper beach towels on the cookie sheet beach.  Not only was there a difference in appearance (check out the crackling!), but there was also a change in texture and taste.  These cookies were crunchier and the flavour was so incredibly rich!  It was like a cross between rich butterscotch fudge and brittle.  Hence, butterscotch brittles!

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The recipe for the butterscotch chip cookies can be found here.  For chewier, lighter cookies, follow the recipe as is.  For cookies like the ones I showed you all here, substitute the brown sugar with dark brown sugar.