Ladies and gentleman, I am here today to announce an exciting discovery in the dessert department.
Up until this point in my life, I’ve defined desserts and sweets as cakes, cookies, bars, squares, custards, puddings and so on. It’s been a blissful existence investigating the possibilities of each and every one of these definitions. How many chocolate cake recipes can I actually accumulate? As it turns out … quite a lot. And I’ve often said that one can never have too many recipes for lemon bars. That’s just not possible.
When it comes to squares, I’ve always believed that squares are just as their name would suggest … square pieces of sweets with some sort of base, topped by some sort of sweet filling and often finished with icing sugar or whipped cream. You can’t imagine my surprise when I discovered a new category of sweet … "the goopy square".
What’s a goopy square? Well, it’s sort of like a square except that when you slice and serve it, it doesn’t remain a square. It becomes goopy. Hence, the name.
The goopy square has a base that is very similar to a shortbread crust. The filling, which is where the goopiness eventually comes from, is a caramel sauce that is firm when chilled, but goopy when allowed to come to room temperature. Goopy squares are best served slightly warm, preferably with ice cream. But you can enjoy them just as they are.
Unlike regular squares, goopy squares are messy. This of course means they are far more fun to eat than regular squares. I came upon my goopy square discovery when I decided to make the New York Pecan Squares from Out to Brunch by Donna Dooher and Claire Stubbs, which of course is the Cream Puffs in Venice Flavour of the Month for May 2006.
I thought I was making a typical square that was rich with butter and pecans. But as often happens with amazing discoveries, you think you’re going one place and you end up somewhere else.
I hope you will discover the joy of goopy squares. And I dare you not to eat the whole pan.
I dare you!
New York Pecan Squares
Adapted from Out to Brunch by Donna Dooher and Claire Stubbs.
For the shortbread crust:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 cups cake and pastry flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar for 2 minutes. Add the pastry flour and salt and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until just combined and the dough gathers in a ball.
- Using your hands (wet them if the dough is a bit sticky), spread the dough evenly in the bottom of 9 x 11-inch pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Cover the dough with a sheet of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or with dried beans in order to blind bake the pastry. Bake for 20 minutes and then remove to a wire rack.
- After 10 minutes remove the parchment paper and let the crust cool completely.
For the goopy squares:
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1-1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/3 cup heavy cream (35% cream)
- 4-1/2 cups pecan halves (you can also use walnuts)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine the butter, sugars, honey and salt in a large saucepan. Cook over high heat until it comes to a boil. Once it’s boiling, let it boil for 6 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and very carefully add the heavy cream. Have a bowl of ice water nearby in case the sauce overcooks or in case you get burned. Safety is very important when making a caramel or a caramel sauce! Stir the cream and then immediately add the pecans and mix well to coat the pecans.
- Pour the filling over the cooled crust. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely before cutting into goopy squares.
Note: This recipe will make anywhere from 12 to 18 goopy squares depending on how large you cut them. The pan size called for in Out to Brunch is 9 x 11 x 2 inches. I found it very difficult to find a pan this size, however, I did find aluminum pans that size in the grocery store. I was told that you can find glass baking dishes in that size as well.