Rick Rodgers: Baking Season Begins

Tea and CookiesAs I write this on my back porch, there is (finally!) a discernible nip in the air. Every year, I wait for this change in the weather to signal the unofficial start of the baking season. When summer’s heat is as relentless as it was this year, baking, which requires turning on the oven, often gets short shrift. Now my thoughts are returning to my favorite baked goods, especially cookies for filling my empty cookie jar. I want to share Maple Pecan Squares, from my latest book Tea and Cookies—a not-too-sweet, nutty bar cookie that features one of autumn’s essential flavors, maple syrup.

The classic recipe for pecan pie (from which this cookie is clearly descended) starts with a base of corn syrup. After years of making these the old-fashioned way, one day I substituted maple syrup in the filling, and the resulting cookie was entirely new and improved. Look for pure Grade B maple syrup, which has a full flavor that can be detected in baking, at bulk markets such as Trader Joe’s and Costco. Grade A syrup can be used, but it has a delicate taste that is best reserved for pouring on pancakes and other breakfast goodies. If you use Grade A, you might want to add 1/4 teaspoon maple extract to the filling.

Maple Pecan Squares
Makes 2 ½ Dozen Bars

Crust

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Tea and CookingsFilling

  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar, rubbed through a sieve to remove lumps
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) chopped pecans

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly butter a 13 x 9- inch (quarter-sheet) rimmed baking sheet.

2. To make the crust, pulse the flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture begins to clump together. Press the dough firmly and evenly into the baking sheet. Pierce the dough well with a fork.

3. Bake until the crust is lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven.

4. To make the filling, whisk the maple syrup, brown sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla until the sugar dissolves. Sprinkle the pecans evenly over the crust, and pour the filling on top. Return to the oven and bake until the filling is set, about 25 minutes.

5. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire cake rack.

6. Cut into 30 bars and serve. (The cookies can be made up to 3 days ahead, stored at room temperature in an airtight container.)

Comments
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