Friday, September 28, 2012

Chocolate pecan sticky bars

chocolate pecan sticky bars

About this time eleven years ago, I took a plane trip to Texas. It was my first flight after 9-11 and everyone was still shaky about air travel. Many of my friends advised me to postpone my trip, as they thought it was too soon to fly and were concerned about what might happen. But I had longtime plans to be in Houston to celebrate my mom’s birthday, and despite my fears and anxiety it was an occasion that I did not want to miss.

This year, I found myself back in Texas on her birthday. Last week I was in Abilene for the West Texas Book Festival, and when I learned that I’d have a layover in Dallas, I decided to extend it from a few hours to a few days so I could see my family. But as soon as I made those plans, I started feeling anxious. The airline I was on was experiencing problems, which made returning on time a shaky proposition. I began to worry.

Now, at this point I had a choice—I could fret about my plans and make myself miserable, or I could just let it go and enjoy the precious time I was spending with my family. As I did eleven years, I opted to stay the course. And it was the right decision as we ended up having a landmark time.

chocolate pecan sticky bars

Sometimes I tend to over analyze events, but I do think the lesson I learned this trip was important. I often get so wrapped up in my working life that I find it hard to pause and savor those rare moments shared with those special people in my life.

When I was growing up, I had a laid-back friend who measured the importance of every decision by asking the question, “Will this matter in five years?” And it’s true—in five years I would probably not recall the content of my working day if I’d opted to return early to New York. But in five years I’ll definitely remember the fine time my family and I had in honor of my mom’s birthday. We cooked, we sang and we ate slices of pie—it doesn’t get much better than that!

I’d like to tell you more about my trip and soon I will. For now, however, I’ll leave you with a plate of chocolate pecan sticky bars—gooey layers of chocolate and pecans sandwiched in an oatmeal cookie crust. I think you’ll like them.

These are adapted from Lou Lambert’s recipe for Carmelita bars, though I cheated a bit and swapped out the caramel for sweetened condensed milk. That said, the sweetened condensed milk caramelizes as it bakes, so it’s a fair exchange. I also added cinnamon and sprinkled flaked sea salt on top for a salty kick.

chocolate pecan sticky bars

These chocolate pecan sticky bars were baked for my mom’s birthday, as they travel well and she has quite the sweet tooth. That said, neither a trip nor a birthday is required to make these. Nope, all you really need is a simple desire to show those you love just how much you care.

Chocolate pecan sticky bars

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped roasted pecans
1/4 teaspoon flaked sea salt (optional)

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350°F and fully line a 9-inch square pan with foil, leaving the ends draped over the edge. To insure the bars do not stick, either use non-stick foil or lightly grease the foil.

To make the bars, cream together the butter and the brown sugar until smooth. Whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, and then stir into the butter and sugar mixture until well combined. Take half the dough and pat it into the bottom of the pan and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, and pour over the oatmeal cookie base half of the sweetened condensed milk, half of the chocolate chips and half of the pecans. Crumble the remaining oatmeal cookie dough into the pan and then pour over it the rest of the sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips and pecans.

Return the pan to the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the edges are set and the bars are lightly browned. If using, sprinkle the flaked sea salt on top immediately after removing from the oven. Cover the pan and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours so the bars can continue to harden. To serve, lift the Carmelita bars out of the pan before slicing.

Yield: about 16-20 bars

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38 comments:

Patricia said...

This is such a timely article for me. On Monday, a close friend was killed. Murdered actually. It is still hard to say that word. What matters is not what you might have done but what you did. There are no dress rehearsals.

God was gracious and gave me a chance to speak to him just a few weeks ago. I am so glad you took the time to spend with your family. Each day is a gift.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Patricia--I'm so sorry about your loss, though I'm glad you got to speak to him recently. It's true--each day is a gift.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar said...

These sound so lovely!

Kava said...

I was hoping you'd post a sweet treat (made with love as always) - seems like it is needed for some of us today!

ileana said...

Family first! Glad to hear you had such a nice time at home. Thanks for this recipe... this is exactly the kind of treat I love. Oats, cinnamon, nuts, and chocolate - what could be better?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how dulce de leche would be in lieu of the caramel? May be an other alternative?

Dana said...

My Australian husband is beginning to really enjoy the Texas food and when I read him this one he laughed and said,"go for it" I will make him a Texan yet!

Dana said...

I couldn't wait, I ordered your cookbook 'cause I do get sooooo homesick for Texas food and you have captured the best way to make it far away from home. I have to compromise on some things as in Oz they don't have some of the ingredients but we "make do" the best we can and savor the results. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, my. I need more oatmeal, and I need it NOW!! These will be on our table very, very soon.

Thanks! Yes, you made the correct decision 11 years ago and you made it again this/last week. My most precious memories with my parents are those late in their lives. There are many other good ones, but those which required a bit of sacrifice on my part are the absolute best.

Patricia (another one!)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Katrina--I'm a little biased, but they are!

Kava--It's been too long since I made a sweet treat. Glad it arrived at the right time.

Ileana--I agree--those are some of my favorite things together.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--Dulce de leche would work.

Dana--Thank you for spreading the Texan cuisine love!



Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Patricia--I agree--time with loved ones is a gift.

Kevin said...

Those bars look so good!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kevin--They are indeed very good--thanks!

Linda said...

The recipe looks delicious, and the post, as always, is from the heart, honest and simple, and reads like a very good book. Yep, I am a fan.

I guess you could say The Homesick Texan Cookbook made us so homesick for Texas that we decided to move back here. Truthfully, after an absence of 6 years, it was a job offer that lured us to return, but your cookbook, I swear, helped sell our house. The couple that bought it was indeed homesick for Texas and when the woman saw your cookbook sitting in my kitchen (yes I staged my kitchen with it, it is so attractive) she said it "spoke" to her - LOL! :) At any rate, your cookbook is not only special to me because it was a Christmas gift from my daughter, but also because I'm no longer homesick for Texas. (It is my favorite cookbook, and I have a ton!)

Sally said...

Those sound delicious. I'll try them as soon as I get some pecans and chocolate chips.

"Will it matter in 5 years?" That's been my mantra for a number of years and helped me pick my battles with my kids -- especially in their teen years.

Gayle said...

I'm making them today, well a version anyhow. I have no pecans but do have walnuts, am allergic to chocolate so using carob chips, and just used part of a recipe of oatmeal cookies to double your recipe. My family is excited to try them though because I bake so rarely anymore.

Sue/the view from great island said...

I'd get on a plane for these...I'd even take a middle seat! They look great.

DessertForTwo said...

When in doubt, always always always spend extra time in Texas :)

I've been living by that principle for years and it's never let me down!

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

What a great treat to share with someone you love!

Nomadic Samuel said...

These look absolutely delicious! Chocolate and pecans do well on their own but when combined they're such a treat.

LoneStarLifer Paula said...

I have a dear friend coming into town this weekend for serious medical tests. I have invited all sorts of friends to have dinner and commune with her the night before tests begin. These treats will be part of our celebration of all the years we have all loved each other. I will make them with my mom's front yard West Texas pecan trees. Thanks for the recipe.

Julia | JuliasAlbum.com said...

Those sticky bars look delicious on your photos! I look forward to exploring more of your blog.

Unknown said...

These sound wonderful!!!!!! No eggs?

Rosita Vargas said...

Simplemente deliciosa muy bien elaborad,abrazos y abrazos DE CHILE.

LoneStarLifer Paula said...

I made these this weekend. YUM.MY.

Shelley said...

And so often a really good dish is what gets us to "stop and enjoy."

The more we stop, the less we regret.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Linda--Thank you for reading and welcome back to Texas! I'm honored my book helped sell your house!

Sally--It's a good mantra, isn't it?

Gayle-I hope they made your family happy.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Sue--A middle seat? Now that's high praise!

Dessertfortwo--Yep, I agree!

Rocky Mountain Woman--Indeed they are!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

NomadicSamuel--The two together are definitely one of my favorite combinations.

LoneStarLifer Paula--You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed them and I hope your friend is on the mend soon!

Julia--Thank you and happy reading.

Unknown--Yes, no eggs.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Rosita Vargas--Muchas gracias!

Shelley--It's always good to stop and enjoy.

Wyldtxn said...

Lisa, hope you will share some of the context of the speech you made back in Texas. I think we would all enjoy that. Whenever I come here to check out a recipe or read what you have to say I always feel like I've taken a little trip back to Texas. I hope you didn't suffer any damage from Sandy.

Nishta said...

love this photo essay! I might steal this idea for the next time I am in Memphis, the seat of *my* memory.

Kakemilla said...

SERIOUSLY!!!!! This must be the most DIVINE sweet EVER!!!! :) :) :) Just had a piece hot and fresh out of the oven - it was just no way I was going to wait for it to cool down!!! WOW!!! Also, another great thing about these is that they're egg-free. I just know what I'm going to make for my dad when I go home to Norway for Christmas! He's allergic to eggs so he is not much of a cake eater but I am positive that he'd enjoy these tremedously! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! Happy Thanksgiving. Best regards, Camilla

Kakemilla said...

......and now I have tried it cold from the fridge (as per description in your recipe). These are MAGIC!!!!!! :):):) Two in one I'd say, either hot and soft from the oven (as a brownie) or cold, sticky, chewy from the fridge. Awsome either way! Have a great Sunday! Best, Camilla

Knatolee said...

THese look great! I just bought your cookbook and am really enjoying it. Made corn tortillas for the first time. Thanks!

Gammy Tammy said...

Lisa, I'm a northerner now living in your home state. Seems we switched locations. The three pecan trees on my property produced well this year and I was searching for "gooey and chewy and chocolaty" pecan recipes to use them up. Your recipe fits the bill and sounds fantastic!!! Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

I've had 3 bars. This morning. For "breakfast" with coffee. They are a delicious twist on the Hello Dolly bars. Ladies, make these!

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