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For the Love of Pecans

December 25, 2014

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I’ve always been fascinated by how a simple scent, sound or flavor can suddenly and powerfully evoke memories of a specific time, place or person.   Whenever I hear Garth Brooks singing The Thunder Rolls, I’m immediately transported to the back seat of an SUV where, in the midst of a downpour, my first boyfriend kissed me for the very first time. The scent of Faconnable cologne will always remind me of my dad, and I can’t eat pecans without feeling like an 8-year-old girl sitting in a sticky leather booth at Emil Villas Hickory Pit.

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Emil Villa’s was a local diner in Oakland that was infamous for their vast assortment of pies. It was also responsible for sparking my passion for pecans. Their pecan pie was the stuff of legends, but it was their pecan waffles that really had me hooked.

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Sadly, Emil Villa’s closed its doors for the last time several years ago. My love affair for pecans, on the other hand, has never been stronger. As such, it’s no surprise that I incorporated a couple of pecan recipes into this year’s holiday bake-a-thon.  While I usually default to The New York Times’ bourbon pecan pie, I tweaked the recipe a bit and swapped the pie for bars, for the ease of distribution to friends and family. The Coconut Pecan Pralines, however, were a first-time endeavor from a recipe that I stumbled upon on Pinterest.   They are absolutely to die for, and are guaranteed to satisfy even the most demanding of sweet tooth’s.

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Both treats featured my beloved pecans, but that’s where the similarities in their flavor profiles end. The bars were caramel-ly with sticky and crumbly textures, while the pralines melted in the mouth with a distinct coconut finish.

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While I still miss Emil Villas, I remain thankful that the simple flavor of pecans can remind me of the many birthdays, dates and family breakfasts that were enjoyed there over the years.

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Merry Christmas, and bon appétit!


Pecan Pie Bars


2 cups butter

2 and 2/3 cups brown sugar

2 2/3 cups flour

1/2 tsp Maldon or other sea salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

4 tbsp heavy whipping cream

2/3 cup honey

5 cups pecans, either whole or chopped

2 tbsp vanilla extract



Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a 9X13 baking dish with aluminum foil, allowing the edges to hang over the side by 1-2 inches

Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup of the butter (softened) with 2/3 cups of the brown sugar for 1-2 minutes.

Add flour, salt and cinnamon and mix thoroughly

Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the baking dish, and bake for 20 minutes

While the dough is baking, melt the 2nd cup of butter in a medium to large sauce pan

When the butter has melted, add the rest of the brown sugar, heavy whipping cream, honey and vanilla extract, and whisk until mixed thoroughly and mixture begins to boil

Stir in the pecans, and when the dough is ready, remove from oven and pour the pecan mixture over the top

Return the baking dish to the oven for another 25 minutes

Remove from oven, and allow the bars to cool for at least 30 minutes

Lifting the overhanging foil, transfer bars to a cutting board and cut


Coconut Pecan Pralines:

Click here for the recipe!

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