This is possibly my most complicated recipe.  Well, maybe not complicated, but “involved” with lots of steps.  But is it worth the trouble?  I will let you decide.  This dessert treat earns lots of praise from friends and family members who try it.  I normally make a double batch as the holiday season approaches, so that I have plenty to hand out all during the holiday season.  What makes this treat involved is that it has a delicious pecan pie-like filling carried on a home made pastry shell that can all be cut up into bite sized squares for nibbling.  It looks great and tastes even better. The recipe is measured out to fit a standard pastry jellyroll pan which has the dimensions of 15.5 x 10.5 x 1 inch.  If you cannot find a jellyroll pan, try a cookie sheet with a large lip on the side and make a double batch to make sure you have enough material to fill the larger cookie sheet.  If you use a cookie sheet then a double recipe will be too much dough, just make the dough in the pan a little less than a ¼ inch thick. Let’s begin with the ingredients for the pastry shell: 8 ounces (two sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature ½ cup sugar 1 egg, beaten ¼ teaspoon salt The grated rind of 1 lemon (just use a grater to scrape off all the yellow peel part) 3 cups sifted flour aluminum foil jellyroll pan Use some extra butter to grease the whole inside of the pan, including the sides.  To butter a pan, I peel off just a quarter of the paper wrapping of a new stick of butter and hold it by the paper end and rub the whole pan with the exposed end. Turn the pan upside down and roll out and tear off enough foil to cover the whole pan with ¾ inch extra on all sides.  Fold all the sides down to mold the foil to the shape of the pan, then remove it.  Turn the pan over, right side up, and fit the molded foil inside the pan.  Then use that extra butter to butter the foil well.  So, now you have a buttered pan with a foil liner that is also buttered on top in turn.  Place the pan in the freezer to chill, so that the pastry dough will stick well to the foil. I use a mixer to beat the rest of the ingredients but you can beat it by hand if you like.  Start with the softened butter, then add the sugar and mix well.  Then add the egg, salt and lemon rind and beat to combine.  Now add the flour gradually, using a spatula to make sure the flour is incorporated fully. Now it’s time to remove the pan from the freezer and line it with the dough.  What I do is use my fingers to break off tablespoon sized chunks of dough and line them up like soldiers in lines all through the pan, 1 1/2 inches apart.  This is a way to measure out the dough on the pan so that I don’t use too much on one side and run out of dough.  Be sure to reserve a few tablespoons of dough aside for patching the pastry shell after it cooks.  Use your thumbs and work the dough flat to cover the pan.  Work a little dough up each side of the pan to contain the filling to come.  It helps if you dust your fingers with a little flour so that your fingers don’t stick to the dough when you are working it. The important thing to remember is to not have any thin spots on the bottom of the shell so you will avoid leaks.  Also, work the dough all the way up the sides of the pan, even a little over the sides, so that the filling will not overflow.  When you are done, take a fork and prick the bottom of the shell, spaced all over at about 1 inch apart or so.  Then take this prepared shell and place it back in the freezer to chill for about 15 minutes. Then you are ready to bake the shell in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  Watch the shell carefully.  The pricking by the fork should help keep the shell from puffing up, but if it puffs on you then briefly open the oven door and use a fork to prick the puffs and they will settle back down ok.  An extreme trick if you need it:  with stubborn puffing you can place a small potholder on the puffing dough and that will keep it down for good. When done, the tops of the shell will start to turn brown and the bottom of the shell will be dry.  Remove it from the oven to cool down, but keep the oven on while you prepare the filling.  Patch any holes or cracks with the reserved raw dough.  You don’t want any of the filling to leak out.  The raw dough will cook ok in the steps that follow. Whew – we are half done! And now for the filling: 8 ounces (two sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature ½ cup honey ¼ cup sugar 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, firmly packed ¼ cup heavy cream 20 ounces (about 5 cups) shelled raw pecan halves or large pieces, first toasted on a cookie sheet in a 325 degree oven for 10-12 minutes and cooled Making candy filling like this requires high temperatures so be careful, and keep stirring to prevent burning.  If anything burns the burnt taste it imparts will be horrible and the filling will be ruined. Use a 3-4 quart saucepan over nearly high heat to warm the butter and honey, stirring constantly so that nothing will burn.  Add the white sugar and the brown sugar and bring everything to a boil.  Now stop stirring and let this mixture boil for exactly 2 minutes on nearly high heat, then remove the pan from the heat and pour in the heavy cream.  This is the cool part, the cream sizzles the mixture and it all shrinks and turns candy-like in seconds.  Then stir in well all the pecans and let the mixture sit and cool for 2-4 minutes. Take the pan with the pastry shell out of the freezer.  With a slotted spoon, ladle all the pecans onto the shell, and use the back of the spoon to spread the pecans all over the shell.  If you are using a cookie sheet instead of a jellyroll pan, ladle on only just enough pecans to cover the shell and only overlap them a little bit. After ladling on the pecans, pour on all the rest of the sugar/cream mixture evenly over the whole pastry shell and pecans.  It will look as though there is not enough liquid, but there really is.  Again, if you are using a cookie sheet, just pour on enough mixture to barely cover the whole pastry shell.  If you pour on too much it will overflow and burn the inside of your oven and smell really bad.  The filling swells up a great deal while it bakes in the oven. Bake the shell and filling at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.  If you position your oven rack one third up from the bottom of the oven that will help prevent burning the tips of the pecans.  You will see that the filling expands to fit the shell very well.  Cool the sheet.  When it has cooled, place an extra cookie sheet over the top of the pastry shell.  Hold the two sheets together tightly and flip them over so you can remove the jellyroll pan and the foil.  The shell may look greasy, but that’s ok since the butter will be absorbed with time.  Cover the upside down pastry shell with that extra cookie sheet and flip it over again so that it is right side up. Let everything cool very well, or chill it in a refrigerator for a time. The sheet is easier to cut when chilled.  Move the sheet to a cutting board and use a long chef’s knife to cut the sheet into squares that are 1.5 inches or so square.  They freeze well, if you like. I hope you think this dessert treat is worth the trouble - enjoy! Extra Help: To make one sheet of pecan squares here is everything that you need.  I have added together all the ingredients for both the shell and the filling to make an easy shopping list: 16 ounces (four sticks) unsalted butter ½ cup honey ¾ cup sugar 1 egg one lemon 3 cups flour 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar firmly packed ¼ cup heavy cream 20 ounces (about 5 cups) shelled raw pecan halves or large pieces, first toasted on a cookie sheet in a 325 degree oven for 10-12 minutes and cooled
Pecan Squares
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