There are some recipes that I’ve tried out thinking that they won’t really work out, when it seems like they’re missing an ingredient or the instructions are very strange. Sometimes, they really are missing an ingredient, but other times, the recipes really surprise me and Maida Heatter’s Pecan Chews, from Maida Heatter’s Great Cookies, fell into this category the first time I tried them years ago. The recipe promised a moist, chewy cookie and had no added fat in it at all. No butter, no oil. Frankly, the cookies sounded like they might be a bit odd, but I bit the bullet and tried them as-written (which I would always do for already recipes from a reliable source!) and was won over by the great pecan flavor and chewy texture.
Over time, I kept making the recipe when I wanted a quick and relatively light bar cookie, but made some tweaks to the recipe to make the flavor more my own. These squares are packed with chocolate chips and salted, candied pecans, with a vanilla and brown sugar background. They’re simultaneously cake like and candy like, largely because they’re soft, sweet and very moist and chewy. I like to use candied pecans because they add a nice punch of flavor to the squares, and while I will mix it up with different brands, one of my favorites is one from a local farmer’s market, where the nuts are salted as well as candied, which makes for a great contrast with the sweetness of this recipe. Both regular candied pecans and roasted, salted pecans will work well in these.
These bars might look a little underbaked when they are done, so you need to judge doneness by looking around the outside edge of the pan for a hint of brown, as well as by testing the bars with a toothpick. The bars will dry out if they are overbaked. I tend to use semisweet chocolate chips, but dark chocolate chips will go very well in these bars, too.
Chewy Salted Pecan and Chocolate Chip Squares
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/3 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed (dark or light is fine)
1 cup/4-oz candied or roasted &salted pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla extract and brown sugar until well-blended. Add in flour mixture and stir to combine. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips. Do not overmix. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the squares are golden brown and pull very slightly away from the edges of the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool squares in pan before slicing.
Makes 20 bars.