My son reminded me that I never once sent him a care package last year.
Seriously? The poor starving college student has a mother who bakes constantly, and she never once bothered to pack up a box and send it west? Alas, it’s true. I have no excuse, just loads of Catholic guilt.
I set out to right this particular wrong by overcompensating for my “neglect” this week. While there was a request from the boy for my Salted Alfajores Bars, I felt a need to include a little something with chocolate – and bourbon. While I was at it, I baked for a couple more of my favorite college kids. Seemed a good start to my atonement.
I have been eyeing these chocolate-bottomed, maple pecan bars in the wonderful Brown Sugar Kitchen cookbook since I received it for a birthday present this summer. This is the sort of cookbook I adore – not only is it brimming dozens of recipes for comfort foods with original twists, but it contains the colorful stories and photos of the Oakland restaurant and the people that frequent it. It’s a keeper (and not just because of the perfect title.) My copy is littered with post-it notes marking the recipes I’d like to try. I’m tempted to fly to Oakland for the day just to feast at this place.
These drool-worthy bars were even more incredible than I imagined. The chocolate crust has a delicate sandy texture… like a french sable, and is not overwhelmingly chocolately… Then I spiked the maple-pecan topping with a hint of bourbon… which lent a bit of husky smokiness to the maple-caramel drenched pecans. Perfection. Oh, and a bonus: they’re a snap to pull together.
The rounds of calls and texts from my favorite college kids came in this afternoon, effusively thanking me for the goodies.
That was fun. I really should send care packages more often.
Chocolate-Bottomed Bourbon Maple Pecan Bars
Adapted, just barely, from a recipe in Tonya Holland's Brown Sugar Kitchen
Serves: 25 small squares
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup butter, chilled
- 6 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or a bit more to taste)
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line an 8 x 8 square pan with parchment paper.
To make the crust:
- In a standing mixer, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar and salt until combined.
- Cut the butter into small cubes, and toss them into the mixer. Mix on medium low speed until the mixture looks like course crumbs. Do not overmix; the dough should look dry and crumbly.
- Press the dough evenly into the pan. Bake until the crust looks dry and slightly puffed, about 15 minutes.
To make the filling:
- In a small saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, bourbon, and salt and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the pecans and cream, reduce to a simmer, and cook until bubbling and warmed through, about 15 minutes.
- When the crust is done, pour the filling evenly over the crust. Bake until the filling has thickened and is bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
- Cut into squares (You may cut them into any size you like - I cut them into 25 squares.)