There’s a storm front moving through our area. It’s been rainy and windy all week. I know that I should be used to it by now but I’m not. I don’t enjoy walking the dog in the rain. Personally, I don’t think she likes it much either. She’s from California and I get the feeling every now and then that she’s wondering what she did wrong. But this weather is conducive to turning the oven on and baking.
I am still meandering through Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts. The recipes contained in this book are one’s that she made for her husband’s restaurant. She made them in her home kitchen. I think that’s why they seem so accessible.
I have cooked and tested every one of the recipes in this book over and over so that they worked out perfectly. But in order for these recipes to work for you as they do for me, it is of the utmost importance that you follow every direction exactly. Many instructions might seem trivial, arbitrary, or unimportant, but there really is a practical reason for everything.
And she means it. Her recipes feel like they have been tested over and over again. She tells you exactly what brand of chocolate she used in certain recipes, what type of baking pans, whether they should be lined or not and why. I truly believe if you follow her advice, you will have success in baking every one of her recipes.
Which brings me to the Pecan-Coconut bars. Our cookie jar was bare and the kids wanted macaroons. I didn’t have any egg whites sitting in the refrigerator and no plans for egg yolk only recipes in the pipeline. The one thing this weather doesn’t make you crave is ice cream. Maida’s book happened to be sitting on my desk. I flipped to the “Bar Cookies & Rusks” section of her book. Being close to Thanksgiving, these were the flavors we were all craving. Pecan pie without all the fuss.
I was able to whip this together during dinner so that goes to show you it’s pretty simple. Making them in the evening is not the best idea as they have to cool completely before they can be cut. The recipe does include a lemon glaze which I omitted. We thought the cookies had the perfect amount of sweetness and didn’t need further enhancing. But you be the judge.
(from Maide Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts)
- 1/4 pound (1/2 cup) butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
Adjust rack one-third up from bottom of oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a shallow 9 x 13-inch pan and only line the bottom with aluminum foil (I used parchment paper, and yes only line the bottom of the pan.)
In small bowl of electric mixer cream the butter. Beat in the sugar on low speed add the flour. Beat only until dough holds together. Transfer dough to prepared baking pan. With fingertips press it to cover the bottom of the pan evenly–not the sides.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes until the crust is lightly colored. While the crust is baking, prepare the topping.
- 2 Tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
- 3 1/2 ounces (1 1/3 cups) shredded coconut (I used organic flaked coconut, unsweetened)
- 3 1/2 ounces (1 cup) pecans, coarsely cut or broken (I put them in a zip lock back and whacked it with a rolling pin until they were in small pieces)
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In small bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs slightly just to mix. Beat in vanilla and sugar. On low speed beat in sifted dry ingredients. Remove from mixer and stir in coconut and pecans.
When bottom crust is baked to a light golden color, remove it from the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and raise the rack to the center of the oven. Pour topping mixture over the hot crust. Spread evenly. Return to oven.
Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool in pan on a rack. When completely cool, cut around edges to release. Cover with a cookie sheet and invert. Remove pan and aluminum foil. Cover with a rack and invert again. Prepare following icing.
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Mix sugar and lemon juice until very smooth. The icing should be quite thick about the consistency of a heavy cream sauce. Adjust the consistency by adding more sugar or lemon juice as needed. Pour it over the cake and spread with a narrow metal spatula. Let cake stand for a few hours until icing is dry. Transfer cake to a board. Use a ruler and toothpicks to make even pieces. Cut with a long, heavy knife, cutting down firmly with the full length of the blade.