Salted Caramel Pecan Shortbread Bars Overview
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Components Used: Shortbread Crust
A few years ago at Christmas my sister’s mother-in-law gave my family a tin of pecan shorbread bars (aka pecan diamonds). Essentially they are shortbread on the bottom and a layer of caramel and pecans on top.
That little tin sat out in the kitchen all weekend while we were home and I had the hardest time leaving it alone every time I walked through the room. Absolutely moreish. I figured it was about time for me to do my own version of this holiday treat!
My version combines the shortbread crust with a salted caramel topping that is made with honey. The simple and crumbly nature of the shortbread contrasted with the chewy/crunchy/salty/sweet layer on top is just perfection. And kind of dangerous. These were even more difficult to leave alone!
Baking Science Fun Fact!
Adding honey to caramel not only changes the flavor, in a totally delicious way, but it also helps prevent the dreaded crystallization when working with cooked sugar! Honey is an invert sugar, meaning that it contains both glucose and fructose! This is handy because sucrose has a more difficult time piling up on each other and crystallizing when glucose and fructose are in the party!
How to Make Salted Caramel Pecan Shortbread Bars (Pecan Diamonds)
Step 1: Make the Shortbread Dough
The crust is a standard shortbread crust meaning it combines only a few ingredients: butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, and flour. After the butter and sugar are creamed together, the other ingredients are mixed in until you have a crumbly dough.
Press the crust into a 9×9″ baking pan lined with parchment paper. It will be slightly crumbly, but will come together with a little bit of pressure.
Step 2: Bake the Shortbread Crust
Dock the crust with a fork so that it doesn’t puff up in the oven. Then bake it until lightly golden brown. It is going to back in the oven for quite a long time once the topping is added so if it isn’t baked all the way through at first it will be okay.
Step 3: Make the Caramel Pecan Sauce
Combine all of the ingredients for the caramel sauce minus the pecans and heavy cream in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once the mixture starts boiling, let it cook for 3 minutes without stirring.
After the caramel has cooked the cream and pecans are added to the sauce and stirred in to finish the topping.
Step 4: Add the Topping to the Crust and Bake
Pour the caramel sauce over the top of the shortbread crust and then bake to set. When finished baking the bars will be bubbly when the caramel the topping is finished cooking. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
Step 5: Slice the Cooled Bars
You can slice the bars into squares or I like to slice them into diamond shapes. These bars are incredibly rich so you can cut them very small.
To slice into diamond shapes cut straight lines going one direction about 1″ thick. Then cut on a diagonal going the other direction. The ones pictured I cut a little too big. Again, they are extremely rich so cutting them small is best.
These are one of my favorite cookies to put in a holiday tin. Everyone raves about them, and they are quite easy to make while yielding a lot of cookies!
For the Shortbread
- 1 1/2 sticks (168 gr) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100 gr) granulated sugar
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup (180 gr) all-purpose flour
For the Topping
- 12 oz (about 3 cups, 336 gr) pecans, toasted and chopped
- 1 1/2 sticks (168 gr) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 3/4 cup (170 gr) brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (50 gr) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (168 gr) honey
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
For the Shortbread
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Line a 9x9" (23x23 cm) baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer) cream together the butter, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla extract and salt and mix to combine.
- Add in the flour and mix just until incorporated and then stop. Do not over-mix. The dough will be fairly crumbly.
- Press the dough into the parchment lined baking dish. Try to spread the mixture out as evenly as possible. Using a fork, poke holes all throughout the dough so that the cookie mixture doesn't rise much.
- Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 22-25 minutes until lightly browned. Then remove from the oven to a cooling rack while the caramel topping is made.
For the Topping
- While the cookie base is cooking, toast the pecans in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant. Roughly chop the pecans and set aside.
- Once the cookie base is done cooking, place the butter, brown sugar, sugar, and honey in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the mixture is boiling cook for 3 more minutes. Do not stir during this time!
- Remove from the heat and add the chopped pecans, salt, and heavy cream, stirring until combined.
- Pour the pecan salted caramel over the cookie base evenly. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 F (180 C) until the topping looks very bubbly.
- Let cool completely on a cooling rack before removing from the pan and cutting. The topping will solidify completely as it cools.
- Once completely cooled use a very sharp knife to cut. If you want to cut in squares cut at about 1" diameter going both directions. To cut into diamond shapes, cut in 1" diameter straight lines going on direction. The cut at a 1" diameter diagonal going the other directions. These bars are incredibly rich so you want to cut them into very small pieces.
- Store bars in an airtight container at room temperature for 5-7 days.