Fix This Recipe! (Gooey Caramel Pecan Squares)

When I’m arriving at an interview for my research, I like to bring the participant a little something that I made as a thanks for their time.  It’s kind of a rule for me.  I made the following recipe for a family I interviewed a couple of weekends ago and I was disappointed at how it turned out — I’d appreciate your views on what you think went wrong and how we could make this a super awesome dessert.  In light of this being Groundhog Day, I would say this recipe saw its shadow and needs a do-over.

I pulled this out of Esther Brody’s The 250 Best Brownies Bars & Squares, which has also yielded the no-bake peanut butter crunchy squares and the extreme comfort brownies.  So I figured this would be another excellent concoction.  I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of adding salt, which I never do anyway.  And I doubled the recipe, of course.  Something, however, went horribly, horribly wrong …

Preheat your oven to 425°F and line an 8″ square cake pan with foil, then spray the foil with cooking spray or grease with butter.  I used spray.

For the Base:

In a bowl, mix together 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup granulated sugar.

Using your handy-dandy pastry blender (or two knives), cut 6 tablespoons cold butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

One tablespoon at a time, sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water over the mixture, mixing lightly after each addition.  The dough should be just moist enough to hold together at this point.

I found I had to add more water in order to get the dough to stick together, probably about double the amount.

Press the dough evenly into your prepared pan.

Bake it in your oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown, then place on a rack to cool completely.  When I pulled mine out of the oven it was bubbling with butter and not golden at all.  I think I would perhaps use less butter.  Suggestions?

For the Filling:

In a saucepan over high heat, melt together 3 tablespoons butter, 1/3 cup light corn syrup, 1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup whipping cream, and 1 teaspoon white vinegar.  Bring the goo to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla until the bubbling stops (bet you didn’t know it would bubble when you added vanilla, did you?)

Pour the filling over the cooled base (I let the filling cool a bit first, as it was rather molten).

Sprinkle the top with 3/4 cup toasted pecans and set aside to cool.

For the Topping:

In a double boiler or bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate and stir until smooth.  Let cool very slightly and then drizzle over the pecans.  Chill until the chocolate is set.

Using the foil as a handle, transfer your chilled squares to a cutting board and cut into squares.  My problem here?  The darned caramel didn’t set.  It got thicker, sure, but still remained steadfastly liquid.  What did I do wrong?

The bottom was pretty rubbery, too, which made eating this sweet confection impossible without a jackhammer, but it is definitely worth trying again, because while it didn’t work out the way I had anticipated, at least it wasn’t floor pizza.

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Author: allythebell

A corgi. A small boy. A sense of adventure. Chaos ensues.

3 thoughts on “Fix This Recipe! (Gooey Caramel Pecan Squares)”

  1. Hi Ally, when I first saw the picture I thought the pecan caramel goo looked scrumptious! I still think it does. What to fix?
    1. Have you checked that you doubled the ingredients correctly (ie used single amount of sugar instead of double). I often make that mistake when halving / doubling, so’ve learnt to triple check!
    2. Pastry: bubbling could also be caused by sugar. I have a good pastry recipe that I think would be perfect for this, let me know if you’d like it…
    3. Caramel: I’d use 1/4 cup cream instead and reduce the amount of glucose by half probably. It’s sweet enough and this is only adding liquidity…
    Not sure if any of it will help, but I’m going to keep your recipe for a day when I’m feeling naughty for a high sugar snack. 🙂

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  2. Ali – I think you had 2 problems – too much water in the base made it rock hard. The other problem is not cooking the caramel filling long enough. I would use a candy thermometer and cook the filling until soft ball stage at least – I don’t think just bring the mixture to a boil is enough, especially with the vinegar and cream loosening the mix. Hope this helps!

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  3. Thanks to both of you. Jen – I had considered cooking to the soft-ball stage but thought I would follow the recipe. I also agree with you Wholesome Cook that there might be too much sugar in it.

    Definitely worth trying again!

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