Pecan Pie Bars

Pecan Pie Squares

The Tree at Granny’s House

~Terri
My grandmother lived out in the country in an area in the middle of South Carolina.  Her house was surrounded by acres of farm land and pine forests.  It was always very quiet at Granny’s house except for the sounds of cicadas, bobwhites, and crows.  The summers were hot and the humidity was so heavy that freshly washed clothes hung on the clothes line in the hot Carolina sun never seemed to get quite dry.
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My mother would take my brother, sisters, and me to visit Granny often, but we children were almost always told to go outside and play while mom and Granny talked.  Actually, what she and Granny really did was watch their “stories”, otherwise known as soap operas.  The cows and pigs would keep us occupied for a short while, but we would always reach the point of unbelievable boredom and would count the minutes until we could go home.
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One day the most glorious thing happened…my cousins moved to South Carolina and put a mobile home on my grandmother’s property.  Suddenly, going to Granny’s house was never boring anymore.  We loved it when Aunt Ernestine, Granny, and my mother would watch their stories because it meant that the five oldest kids could go to The Tree.
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The Tree was an old pecan tree located in a field about ½ mile away from Granny’s house.  The field was always planted in either corn or cotton, except when it lay fallow.  I think that The Tree had been there since the beginning of time.  My mother said that it was old when she was a little girl and my grandmother couldn’t remember a time when it wasn’t there.  The Tree was crooked and bent at a forty-five degree angle to the ground with its branches still rising at correct angles to the sky.  There were two other pecan trees in close proximity to our Tree, but they were uninteresting proper tress with straight trunks that did not invite children to play beneath them and definitely never issued an invitation to climb them.  So, we scorned them and played for endless hours on and beneath our beloved bent Tree.
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The Tree witnessed our passage from middle childhood to young teenagers and heard all of our secrets.  When we were 8, 9, and 10 we would play “I Dream of Jeanie”, “Star Trek”, and “Tarzan”.  My cousin, Michael, who was the oldest would play the parts of Major Nelson, Captain Kirk, and Tarzan.  I was the oldest girl so I always got the best female parts to play.  I was Jeanie, Ensign Rand, and Jane.  My brother was Major Healy, S’pock, and Boy.  My cousin, Kathy, who was a year younger than me would play Jeanie’s wicked sister, Lt. Uhurah, and various jungle parts—a white hunter, an African tribesman, or Cheetah, Tarzan’s pet chimpanzee.  My cousin Pam never had a clear-cut part except when we played “Tarzan” and then she was always a monkey.
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As we grew older our playing changed to talking and we would talk about who we liked at school, compare religions (my cousins were Southern Baptist and I was Mormon), and try to figure out what was wrong with our parents.  We all promised that we would never grow up to be like our parents.  Unfortunately some of us kept that promise.
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Some years ago I returned to South Carolina after a 12 year absence.  I went to see The Tree.  There was an ache in my heart as I looked at it and saw that it truly now was an old tree.  Its bent trunk seemed fragile and its branches had become sparse with few leaves…it was an old man whose health and zest for life had slipped away unnoticed.  Perhaps that old tree knew that there would not be another generation of children to play beneath it and so having fulfilled the measure of its creation it began its journey back to becoming part of the dust of the earth.
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Pecan Pie Squares
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I wrote the above some years ago, obviously about a favorite pecan tree from my childhood.  Because the tree was bent, it was easy to climb.  A few yards away from the tree were the remains of a house where my mother had lived as a child.  A tornado had ravaged the house leaving behind some broken steps, bits of glass, and nails. My cousins and I would periodically scavenge the site looking for things to use as props for our pretending.  I remember that the old rusty nails were always a prize; we’d draw squares in the dirt then stick the nails in the ground within the squares. These would serve as our control panels when we played Star Trek.

Oh, how I wish that I could go back in time and watch us all playing as children. We’d roam at will through the nearby pine forests, corn fields, and cotton fields. It was a magical time.

A part of those childhood memories and The Tree revolves around pecans. In the late Autumn we would gather pecans which had fallen to the ground. Dry pecan leaves have the most remarkable spicy scent and that spicy scent would swirl around us as we stirred up the fallen leaves in search of the pecans. What a lovely thing that God created when he made pecan trees.

In this recipe I’d like to pay homage to pecans. A product of the environment in which I was raised, I keep pecans on hand for baking. Pecan pie is my very favorite pie and these pecan pie bars are a wonderful reminder of the joy of that pie. Bet you can’t eat just one.

Note: These are very, very rich. I cut them into about 1″ x 1″ square bite-sized pieces. They can be topped with a little bit of sweetened whipped cream.

Pecan Pie Squares

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Pecan Pie Bars

Ingredients

    Crust
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine, cut up
  • Filling
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Topping (optional)
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1-2 tablespoons white sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9- x 13-inch baking pan; set aside.
  2. For the Crust:
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.
  4. Cut in cold 3/4 cup butter thoroughly with a pastry blender until mixture resembles very fine crumbs. Press mixture evenly into baking pan. Bake at 350° F for 17 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  5. For the Filling
  6. While crust is baking beat eggs lightly in a small bowl. Set aside.
  7. Combine brown sugar, white sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring gently. Once the filling is brought to a boil, turn off burner and remove saucepan from heat.
  8. While stirring eggs briskly, slowly pour about one cup of hot mixture into beaten eggs.
  9. Stir the tempered egg mixture into the remaining hot filling mixture. Stir in pecans and vanilla.
  10. Pour filling over crust. Bake at 350° for approximately 35 minutes or until set. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Note: Because these are so rich, I cut them into 1" x 1" square 'bites'.
  11. For the whipped cream:
  12. Whip together the cream and the sugar until desired thickness. Serve on top of the pecan pie bars if desired.
http://tsgcookin.com/2011/11/pecan-pie-bars/

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Pecan Pie Squares

Comments

  1. says

    Love your adventures/chats under The Tree. (Reminds me of our days playing Star Wars under our air hockey table.) Good times! Pecan pie is one of our favorites . . . I can’t wait to try these!! Oh, and you are my photography idol. 🙂

  2. says

    Carol–Star Wars under the air hockey table–perfect! (Confession: I almost hit the ‘post comment’ button, but stopped myself in the nick of time. As I glanced by at the sentence I had just written I saw that I had typed ‘hickey table’.)

  3. says

    I really loved reading that story! What a lovely memory, trees are amazing aren’t they?
    I’m definitely making those Pecan Pie Bars!

  4. says

    Anna–Thank you and welcome! I hope that you enjoy the pecan bars. And yes, trees are pretty darn amazing. A few years ago we had begun the slow (and costly) process of doing some re-landscaping on our front yard. We planted five new trees (lindens) in the parking strip along the front of our house. One morning about a year later my sister in-law rang our doorbell. “What happened to your trees?” were the first words out of her mouth. My husband looked passed her shoulder towards the street and saw that during the night vandals had cut down all but one of the trees. We literally cried at the insult and the destruction.

  5. says

    I loved your story (and the recipe.) My parents were from North Carolina, and I had family in South Carolina. All of my grandparents had pecan trees, and Miss Tinny, who lived next door, needed help with her gardening. As a teen I would go next door to send off for Miss Tenny’s seed catalogues, and she would put one of those old-fashioned sun bonnets on me for garden work. One thing we did every year while visiting was take burlap bags and jam them with pecans. Then when we got home, I would have to help my mother shell and freeze them for Christmas cooking. As a child, I had to be warned to crack the thin shell carefully so we could get as many whole “halves” as possible, and to be sure to get all of that bitter pith out with a nutcracking pic. I miss the old ways.

  6. says

    Yes! I had forgotten all about the burlap bags! We did that, too. And, yes, I got the same warning about whole ‘halves’ and the bitter pith. Wow, I’m so glad that you remembered those details because they are my memories also. Thanks for dropping by and sharing.

  7. heidi wightman says

    I am going to definitely make these. I have had them before but your recipe looks like the best. I loved the story about the Tree.

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