Monday, November 19, 2012

Adventures in Baking: Pecan Pie Bars...Sorta

Well, I’ve had another near disaster in the kitchen y’all. See, this past weekend, the AWA hosted a craft fair to exhibit some of the local artisan goods, and as a personal contribution the board asked us to donate baked goods for the Sweet Shop booth.

As soon as I found out that they expected 100% participation, I started hyperventilating. Perusing Pinterest only made it worse. Not only did I have to find a recipe so simple that I could not mess it up, I had to find a recipe in which all of the ingredients are readily available in Scotland. That took several graham cracker, pumpkin, and reeses pieces delights off the table for me.

After hours of research, I finally narrowed it down to these Pecan Pie Bars.
Knowing my track record with baking, I made sure I had all my bases covered. For instance, I bought three times the necessary ingredients along with all the fixings for Cookies and Cream Popcorn, because I always need a back up plan y’all.
Since these treats were supposed to be sold to the public instead of politely endured by my friends, I even did a practice run on Thursday to make sure they were edible. The first attempt was at least palatable, with slight room for improvement.
Since my first try was pretty near successful, I had confidence that by my second try, I’d surely be able to perfect this sweet treat. Of course, this wasn’t the way it unfolded in my kitchen...

You see, I’ve always been better at cooking than I have been at baking. To bake, you have to be precise, and I’m just not a very precise person. If the recipe calls for all purpose flour, you better not use self-raising. If it calls for 2 sticks of butter, 2 cups ain’t gonna cut it.

Whereas with cooking, it’s a bit more artistic. 1 teaspoon of salt? 4 bay leaves? 2 sticks of butter? We’ll call those judgment calls and move on. In cooking, there is room for both experimentation and error. Not so with baking. Baking involves measuring. Reading directions carefully. Undivided attention. Let’s just say, not my strong points.

I knew pretty early on that my second attempt at Pecan Pie Bars was going a bit off script. I was supposed to use the paddle attachment on my kitchen aid mixer and of course, I forgot to do this. Using the paddle would have involved reading the directions carefully. Like I said, not my strong point. But a whisk should work the same way right? It’s all going to the same place right? Wrong.

Also, for some reason the recipe I was using used two different terms for butter measurements in the crust and the topping. For instance, the pecan topping called for ½ cup of butter. The crust called for 2 sticks…which I read as 2 cups, logically. Seriously, what kind of trickery is the author of this recipe trying to get at?   
But according to Paula Deen, there is no such thing as too much butter, so I figured it wasn’t that big of a deal that I used double the required amount. Wrong again. My crust that was supposed to be crumbly was doughy instead.

No worries; I prepared for this sort of mishap and bought enough ingredients to make another batch of crust. This time I used the paddle and 2 sticks of butter. What could go wrong? I opened the new bag of flour and paddled away. But yet, it still came out doughy.
I racked my brain, and reread the directions and ingredients carefully. 2 ¾ cups of all purpose flour. Which, in case you were wondering, is not the same thing as self raising flour. Whoops.
With no more back up ingredients and Jonathan out with the car, I had no choice but to proceed with a doughy crust and hope and pray that the bottom layer would be strong enough to support the caramel pecan heaven on top. Once the baking part of the equation was done, all that was left was the waiting and praying while the concoction cooled.
After 2 hours of mental anguish over whether or not I would have to start from scratch with the backup popcorn, it was time to face the facts. As I peeled the foil back, all looked well in Pecan Pie Bar land.
But the true test was whether or not the doughy crust could sustain the weight of the top layer. So without further adieu, I began to cut the block into individual bars. And lo and behold, they didn’t fall apart. Then it was time for the all important assessment: the taste test. Jon and I cut one of the edge pieces in half and dug in. Hallelujah it was heavenly!
Turns out the doughy crust gave the treat more of a chewy texture than a brittle effect. It may not have been what the recipe was aiming for, but Jonathan and I both preferred the 2nd batch. It was like a pecan pie cookie. Ain’t nothing wrong with that! Take that All Purpose flour!

So we’ve already established that baking is not my strongest domestic skill, but even lower on my list of housewife talents is crafting. Now that I had an edible (and fairly delicious) snack to offer the Sweet Shop, I had to come up with a pretty way to display them.

I originally bought zip lock bags, but since they were the foggy kind, I felt like they didn’t flatter the pecan pie bars very well. I worked too hard on them to have them be overlooked because of haphazard packaging. I tried just plain plastic wrap with a ribbon but the wonky and uncohesive shapes of the bars made this look too messy.

When I went to Jillian’s house that night for Football watching and Mahjong playing, I saw that she had cut a square out of card board and wrapped it with Christmas wrapping paper as a way to display her Rum Cake. I decided to steal this brilliant idea and make mini squares for my dessert.
And while I know it doesn’t look good enough for pinterest, I was sure proud of myself for managing to come up with a baked good that I wasn’t terribly ashamed of. Now I’ll be scouring the newspapers and BBC to make sure no Aberdonians fall ill from a Pecan dessert bought at the AWA craft fair. Fingers crossed.

Come back tomorrow to see the loot I scored at the Craft Fair. Lots of Scottish adorableness is coming your way!


  1. Ugh, I despise being crafty as well. They definitely look good enough for pinterest! And good enough to eat from my end....mmm yummm.

  2. I don't know who told you it was 100% participation as I never baked anything for the fair but I sure enjoyed shopping and spending money at it. Hope you found some real goodies too!!! Missing you over here. Put stockings up on hearth yesterday and realized I won't be filling your and Jon's boo hoo. Have a wonderful week and know Mom is missing you and wishing she had some of those pecan bars!!!!

  3. Baking is very unforgiving, and every time I bake, I'm constantly reminded of that. Good job on the pecan pie bars! Wish I snagged one...