pecan pie bars with browned butter & cardamom (vegan & gluten free)

Happy mid-November, reader friends! I hope that this time of year puts the honey glow in your cheeks (stole that gem from Wreck It Ralph, if you're wondering). I am doing just great, because I am one of those people who freaking LOVES the holidays.  

It probably has something to do with all of the seasonal foods and treats and goodies and such. Shocking, I know.  

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To be clear, the time that I get to spend with my family is > baking. I swear. But as stated above, I freaking (FREAKING) love the baking part. And deciding what to make. And developing the recipe. While listening to Elvis's Christmas album on repeat. You know, the whole holiday-infused and GLORIOUS process.

In thinking about it, to have several holiday eating occasions coming up and not attempt to bake at least a few desserts just seems, I don't know, like not taking advantage of an opportunity.  And of the poor souls who have to eat it whether it's good or not out of politeness. It would be dishonest of me to say everything I've put on a holiday table was edible. But we will not go there, friends. And it was a long enough time ago to where it doesn't count. 

Anyway, for some reason, baking pecan pie bars this year sounded really lovely. Actually the reason was because I needed to one-up my mother's favorite jarred pecan pie (long story). However, because holidays are about loving your loved ones and such, the pie is not being touched. So I made pecan pie bars instead, which are totally different. And they will be served alongside the (INFERIOR) pecan pie.  

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I kept seeing browned butter everything, so I really wanted to brown some butter and use it. Under the assumption that Earth Balance could become browned Earth Balance, I gave it a go.

Behold, friends, vegan browned butter. That then became browned butter shortbread crust. 

And pecan pie-esque filling to put on the browned butter shortbread.

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What emerged from the pan was some exciting stuff that was totally holiday table appropriate and 100% edible (and better than the silly pecan pie).  

These bars are, in a phrase, browned butter amazingness. 

In a word, they are WOW. Or WHOA (you pick :D).

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All this to say, they are quite impressive despite not being in whole-pie form. Dare I say better? I do dare say. 

I will tell you why in list form, which seems to be the trend here with my baked-goodie rants: 

1. Are HOLIDAY EDIBLE! This is a very good thing.  

2. Quite simple as far as pie and pie bar things go. 

3. A nice segue-way for the pecan-pie curious, but who have never entered that territory. 

4. Except for our nut-allergic friends, are appropriate to serve to most peeps (looking at you, Friendsgiving).  

5. Easy to make an 8x8 or 9x13, depending upon your pie bar needs (still looking at you, Friendsgiving).

6. Have hints cardamom & love for extra special-ness. 

 

In an action statement: GO, friend, and make these bars for holiday things. 

And, if you celebrate, have a wonderful Thanksgiving :). 

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pecan pie bars with browned butter & cardamom

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vegan & gluten free

Prep time: 15-20 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes + 25-30 minutes

Makes:  1 9x13 OR 8x8 dish*

Ingredients:

For the shortbread crust:

1 cup Earth Balance + 1 T soy milk* or 1 cup butter  

¾ cup brown rice flour

½ cup sorghum flour

½ cup cornstarch

¼ cup white rice flour

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup coconut sugar

1 tsp xanthan gum

⅛ tsp sea salt

For the pecan pie filling:

3 T Earth Balance or butter

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup coconut sugar

6 T pure maple syrup

3 T coconut butter

2 T sorghum syrup*

2 T soy milk

3 T cornstarch

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp sea salt

Scant ¼ tsp cardamom, optional but lovely

2 ½ - 3 cups raw pecan halves*

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 9x13 dish with parchment paper.

  2. Combine flours, cornstarch, salt, and xanthan gum in a small bowl. Set aside.

  3. Heat Earth Balance and soymilk (or butter) over medium heat in a saucepan, whisking frequently.* Once small bubbles form/it begins looking foamy, whisk constantly, watching for the bottom/sides beginning to brown. Once it smells nutty/is browning (NOT burning), remove from heat, pour into a small bowl, and set aside for 5 minutes to cool.

  4. Once cooled, combine browned Earth Balance, granulated sugar, and coconut sugar in a medium bowl. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine, mashing with the back of your spoon if necessary. It should come together pretty easily.

  5. Press into the bottom of the prepared 9x13 dish and bake for 15 minutes.

  6. In a saucepan, combine Earth Balance or butter, coconut butter, granulated sugar, coconut sugar, sorghum syrup, and maple syrup over medium heat. Once bubbles begin forming on the sides, whisk together frequently for ~5-8 minutes, or until it smells like caramel. Add cornstarch, vanilla, and salt and whisk until incorporated. Stir in pecans.

  7. Spoon saucepan mixture over baked shortbread crust, spreading in an even layer.

  8. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-35 minutes. Watching carefully in the last few minutes so it doesn’t burn!

  9. Allow to cool for 1 hour before slicing into squares.

  10. DEVOUR. Lord, I love these. 

Notes

* If making an 8x8, just halve the recipe and bake away. With cooking the 8x8, mine was done in 28 minutes and with the 9x13 it was done in 33 ish minutes. 

* I would recommend sticking with soymilk or another plant milk with protein. Apparently the proteins help with the browning process. Idk, I read it somewhere. 

* You could probably sub molasses, honey, or brown rice syrup. Sorghum syrup to me is kind of like a toned down blackstrap molasses(?)

* If you seem to have a ton of filling mixture, use 3 cups pecans.