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Not actively searching for pecans & not even a die hard pecan pie fanatic, it felt like Xmas when I spotted a pack of these nuts casually sitting on the shelf of the spice bazaar section of an Istanbul Carrefour. They actually looked exotic to me because I’m just not accustomed to them anymore. In fact, I have never seen them sold in a grocery store in Turkey before.
It’s funny sometimes, or at least character building to be denied things which you were formerly accustomed to having regularly. You aren’t fully aware of the infinite choices available in America until you live outside the shiny bubble for a while in places where there are shortages, hold-ups in customs, lack of suppliers for certain products, and merchandise banned by the government of the country in which you reside. It really changes you, making you more aware of what you took for granted; so you slowly begin to lose that inherent sense of entitlement.
So there I was, in the store, intensely longing for a taste of the sweet, caramel rich flavors of a good, southern pecan pie. I opted for instant gratification in the form of pecan pie bars, a way easier, but totally scrumptious version of the classic American pie.
Pecan pies and bars typically call for corn syrup, which is not sold in Turkey, so I made my own substitute. I combined 2.5 cups granulated sugar with boiling water, stirring until most of the sugar dissolved. For a darker corn syrup substitute add .25 cups molasses and a Tbs of honey. (This works just about as well as corn syrup). Using whole wheat flour intensifies the rich, caramelized nutty flavors of the bar, but you can substitute any readily available flour.
Pecan Pie Bars
Preheat oven to 350 F or 176 C
1.75 cups whole wheat flour
.75 cups soft butter
.33 cups sugar
.5 cups chopped pecans
1.5 cups sugar syrup
.66 cups brown sugar (add a bit of molasses to white sugar and stir if you don’t have brown)
6 Tbs whole wheat flour
2 tsp. vanilla, or a pkg. of the powdered stuff (commonly sold in the baking aisle in Istanbul)
1 tsp salt
1.5 cups chopped pecans
Mix up the crust ingredients with a fork, beater, or mixer… whatever you have on hand to give it the look of course crumbs. Press this mixture into a small to medium square pan with sides. You can either butter this, or just line it with baking paper. I use baking paper, because its easier to clean, but the edges are not quite as precise (which I don’t care about).
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are light golden brown
While the crust bakes make the filling.
Beat together everything except the pecans, scraping down the sides of the bowl well as you mix. Fold in the pecans, and set aside.
When the crust finishes, take it out and pour the filling into the hot crust, placing it back into the oven immediately for another 30-35 minutes, or until a knife inserted 1 inch from the side comes out clean.
When the bars cool, refrigerate, then slice into bars.
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