"Deep, dark, brown rice caramel, lots of crunchy pecans, and a buttery crust. What else is there left to talk about? A huge hit with our testers, these bars were reported to have the power to win friends and inﬂuence people ... so put down the self-help book and get baking! These bars are a little stickier than most bar cookies so you may want to store them in their baking pan until its time to serve. For an oh-so-hip n current variation, sprinkle the top ever so lightly with your favorite gourmet coarse-grained salt for (you guessed it) Salted Caramel Pecan Bars."
Makes 16 big, gooey bars
For the Crust
2 cups all-purpose ﬂour
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
A big pinch of salt
3/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine, slightly softened
For the Pecan Topping
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup nondairy milk
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
2 tablespoons melted non-hydrogenated margarine
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/ 4 teaspoon salt
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13x2-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, making sure the foil completely covers the sides of the pan, with about 2 inches folded outside over the edges. Spray the bottom and sides of the pan generously with nonstick cooking spray.
Prepare the Crust
2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Use a pastry cutter or two knives held together to cut in the margarine until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Pour crumbs into the prepared baking pan and press down evenly and very firmly, making sure to press the mixture all the way to the edges of the pan. Bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes until firm and very lightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and set it aside.
Prepare the Topping
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and nondairy milk until foamy. Stir in the dark brown sugar, brown rice syrup, melted margarine, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Fold in the pecans and pour the mixture onto the crust, using a spatula to spread the topping evenly.
4. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until the filling is rapidly bubbling. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes, then move it to the refrigerator to finish cooling and setting. Chill for at least 2 hours or, even better, overnight.
5. To slice completely cooled bars, grab a hold of the foil and carefully lift the whole thing out of the pan and onto a heavy cutting board. Peel away the foil and cut bars with a heavy, sharp knife.
Salted Caramel Pecan Bars: Right after the bars are out of the oven and the topping is still hot, sprinkle the surface very sparingly with your favorite coarse-grained gourmet salt. Cool and slice as directed.
From the book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group (2009).
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