Where Mr G works, they have a weekly team meeting every Thursday and a cake rota to go with it. And every so often, Mr G puts his name down for it. Not that he bakes for it, of course.
The first time this happened, he said "oh, I'll just go to the supermarket and buy something". Go to the supermarket and buy something?!?! We couldn't be having with that! You know me and baking. So ever since then, if he puts his name on the rota (or I feel like making an unfeasibly large cake that we'd never finish ourselves), I bake the work cake.
So today Mr G went off to work with a sponge cake filled with homemade lemon curd and mascapone (but I think it is going to all squish out when he cuts it - eeek!) and these pecan squares, which I have been wanting to try for ages.
And when I say ages, I mean since 1983.
They're from Food for Presents by Patricia Lousada, which is a little A5 book published by Sainsburys, and probably only available now in jumble sales or the like. The poor thing doesn't even have an ISBN number!
As it was my first attempt, I tried (mostly) to stick faithfully to the recipe in the book, but I think there could be a number of variations so long as the nuts had a reasonably distinctive flavour.
The result was pretty good considering that my tin was too shallow so I had a) too much caramel and b) a serious overflow problem when the squares went back in the oven (but fortunately I thought this might happen so I put a baking tray on the next shelf down to catch the spill - phew! thanks goodness I did!).
My other (on-going) problem is a not very co-operative fan oven (ah, the joys of renting) which is hotter on one side than the other, and generally too hot (I do have an oven thermometer but I frequently forget to use it!), so one end of the tray came out a bit burnt looking, but we tried one and it just about passed the taste test.
And they taste very good. The pastry comes out like a shortbread and then you have the lovely toffee nutty topping. You could even go crazy and drizzle chocolate over the top (white chocolate would look pretty). They're quite rich though; my tin was 9"x13" and I got 24 rectangles out of it, and thought that one piece was quite enough.
Anyway, enough about me...
Pecan Squares from Food for Presents by Patricia Lousada (published by Sainsburys, 1983)
10oz/275g plain flour
pinch of salt
2oz/50g caster sugar
6oz/175g cold butter
1 small egg (I used a medium egg and thought it was only just enough)
grated rind of 1 lemon
4tbsp runny honey
3oz/soft light brown sugar (I used muscavado)
3 tbsp double cream
6oz/175g shelled pecans (I used 8oz and 6 would have been fine)
Butter a tin approx 8x12x1" (20x30x2.5cm). Preheat oven to gas 5/375F/190C (I had my fan oven at about 175C).
To make the pastry, soft the flour with the salt into a mixing bowl. Stir in the caster sugar. Cut the butter into small pieces (I grated mine) and rub into the flour with your fingertips. Add the egg and lemon rind until the mixture just holds together. Distribute the pastry by the spoonful overt the bottom of the tin. With floured fingertips, press it into the bottom of the tin. Prick all over with a fork and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Then bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven but keep the oven on.
Melt the butter for the topping with the honey in a heavy saucepan. Add both sugars and stir to dissolve. Bring to the boil and boil without stirring for 1 minute. Take off the heat and stir in the cream and pecans. Immediately pour over the crust and return to the oven for 25 minutes.
Allow to cool before cutting around the edges and inverting on to a baking sheet. Cover with another baking sheet and invert again so that the right side is up. Dip a sharp knife into very hot water and cut into squares. Pack in pretty boxes or bags (for giving as a present).
A couple more things now that I think of them.
Lots of recipes suggest grating fat when pastry making but I'd never tried it before. I'm pretty rubbish at pastry (too hot hands) but I found this method really speeds up getting to the 'breadcrumb' stage, so I recommend it as it really cuts down handling time. And the butter grates like soft cheddar even when it's only just come out of the freezer.
As I said, I had too much caramel. This was a combination of too shallow a tin and too much cream (I wanted to use it up). I really thought that I ws going to have problems getting the squares out of the tin due to the concrete layer of overflow, but the combination of all that butter and a non-stick tin made it a doddle. So no big washing up hoohaa.
Also, because you effectively bake it twice, the finished squares come out pretty hard. I found that sliding a knife under one edge and levering it a bit, I didn't need to do the invert it onto two baking sheets routine - it just slid out.
(added 01-10-10) Store them in an air tight container otherwise they go very sticky!
I think I'll be making it again, but with a deeper tin for certain!