[Vanilla Pecan Squares]
Yesterday was my dear grandmother’s 92nd birthday. On this occasion, my parents, myself and a few friends and relatives gathered at her place for a celebratory drink, before we all headed out to eat dinner. My mom had asked me if I felt like making a few sweet nibbles to go with the champagne. Me? Sweet nibbles? Have I ever *not* felt like making sweet nibbles? Ever? Not that I can remember! So I accepted, with glee.
After a happy leafing through my wealth of cookbooks, magazine clippings and saved web recipes, the winner of the day was this recipe, found in the excellent cookbook “Mes Petits Plats 100% Naturels” : Vanilla Pecan Squares. Easy as a breeze and scrumptious.
Carrés de Noix de Pécan à la Vanille
– 100 g pecans (about 40 pieces)
– 200 g sugar
– 2 eggs
– 200 g flour
– 10 cl vegetable oil
– 2 tsp vanilla extract (I used the essence we brought back from the Seychelles)
– 1 TBSP rum
– a pinch of salt
(Makes about 40 pieces.)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).
In a food processor, mix the eggs and the sugar until fluffy. Add in the oil, the vanilla and the rum, mix again. Add in the flour and salt, mix again. The dough should resemble cake batter : liquid but thick.
Pour this into a greased baking dish, ideally nonstick. The recipe does not mention the size, but I used my 33 by 20 cm gratin dish (the closest US equivalent would be a 13” by 9” pan) and it worked fine. Even out the surface with a spatula. Place the pecan pieces regularly across the surface, to make The Path Of The Knife easier later.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and the pecans are fragrant (keep an eye on them, they’d be the first to burn). Let cool for 5 minutes, and cut into squares. Lift all the squares carefully, arrange them on a cookie sheet and leave inside the turned off oven for 30 minutes, to dry them out a bit.
The texture of these is really nice : cakey, but aerated and light, with slightly crunchy edges. They are not too sweet, the vanilla taste is nicely present, and matches the toasted and crunchy pecans beautifully, with a subtle rum afterkick. Interestingly enough, there is a slight almond flavor too, although there’s no almond at all.
The book recommends those squares as an accompaniment to vanilla ice-cream, which sounds good. They tasted great with tea (as we taste-tested them earlier in the afternoon) and they were the perfect companion to a cup of champagne, not to mention pretty.
I will definitely repeat this recipe, it was delicious and very easy. It also seems like a very good basis for variations : next time I may try replacing the vanilla with some other extract or with lemon zest, using other nuts (almonds and walnuts spring to mind), topping the squares with chocolate chips or raspberries…