Anyone who has been to New Orleans is probably familiar with the praline, a sweet, buttery confection studded with pecans. In this recipe from the Big Easy, it’s been merged with a crisp brown shortbread crust, for something that may remind you of pecan pie.

Creole Pecan Praline Bars

Active: 30 minutes | Total: 1 hour 55 minutes



Makes 32 (or more) bars

FOR THE BASE

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

2½ cups large pecan halves

FOR THE TOPPING

12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

Make the base: Preheat the oven to 350 F with a rack in the middle. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan (with at least 2-inch sides) with a piece of foil large enough to cover the bottom and sides. Press in the foil so it’s as smooth as possible. Do not butter it.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the butter on medium-high until smooth. Add the sugar and salt and beat until thoroughly combined. Add the flour and mix on low until the ingredients form tiny crumbs that will hold together when you press the mixture between your fingers, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and spread to form a level layer, pressing down to compact it.

Cover the base with the pecan halves touching each other, flat sides down, all in the same direction.

Make the topping: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the butter and sugar, stirring with a spatula, until the mixture comes to a hard boil all over the surface. Continue to stir for 30 more seconds, then remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot mixture over the pecans, trying to coat the entire surface.

Bake for 22 minutes, until the butter and sugar caramelize and start to solidify around the nuts. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Cover the pan with a baking sheet and invert the slab onto the sheet, removing the pan and then the foil. Re-invert the slab onto a cutting board and cut it into 32 or more thin strips. (Small squares are nice, too.) Let the bars to come to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition: Calories: 180; Total Fat: 13 g; Saturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 20 mg; Sodium: 10 mg; Carbohydrates: 15 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugars: 8 g; Protein: 2 g

Adapted from “Maida Heatter’s Brand-New Book of Great Cookies” by Maida Heatter. Random House, 1995

***

Big, chewy molasses cookies are homey and satisfying. This egg-free version was first served in a Marblehead, Massachusetts, tavern run by freeman Joe Brown, says Albert Lukas, supervising chef at the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Sweet Home Cafe, where visitors can buy them today. As to the name? The story goes that Brown’s wife made the cookies as big as the lily pads that frogs sat on in a pond outside the restaurant.

Joe Frogger Cookies

Active: 45 minutes | Total: 1 hour 5 minutes, plus an overnight chill

Makes 24 to 30 large cookies

1 cup unsulfured molasses

1/3 cup water

2½ tablespoons dark rum

3½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons fine sea salt

Generous 1¼ teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground allspice

Generous ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the molasses, water and rum and bring to a lively simmer. Cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and let cool completely.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, baking soda, cloves, allspice and nutmeg until aerated and combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer and a large bowl, combine the butter and cup of sugar, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add the cooled molasses mixture and beat on low speed until well incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating just long enough to form a homogeneous dough. Cover and refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours) and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 375 F with the rack in the middle. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper, and line your work surface with more paper. Sprinkle a generous amount of sugar over it.

Working with half the dough at a time (leaving the rest in the refrigerator), roll it out on the sugared surface to a thickness of ¼ inch. Cut out about 12 cookies, re-rolling the scraps as needed. Using a wide, thin spatula, transfer the cookies to the baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the tops with more sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes, or just until the cookies are set yet still seem soft in the center, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through. Let cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Nutrition (based on 30 cookies): Calories: 140; Total Fat: 3 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 10 mg; Sodium: 380 mg; Carbohydrates: 26 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugars: 15 g; Protein: 2 g

Adapted from a recipe developed by Albert Lukas, supervising chef at the Sweet Home Cafe in the National Museum of African American History and Culture

***

This style of ultra-thick chocolate chip cookie, popularized by the New York bakery Levain, requires a dough with less sugar than flour and more chocolate chips than sugar. These ratios keep the cookies thick, not caky, with a flavor defined by the chocolate.

Part of the novelty of the cookies is their enormous size. They are eye-catching, but we recommend splitting them with a friend. For nutritional purposes, that means we’re assuming one person is eating a quarter of a cookie.

Cookbook author Stella Parks does not recommend leaving the nuts out of this recipe, as they help provide non-melting bulk.

Super-Thick Chocolate Chip Cookies

Active: 40 minutes | Total: 1 hour 25 minutes, plus 12 hours chilling

32 servings (makes eight 6-ounce cookies)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to cool room temperature (about 65 degrees)

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (may substitute 1 teaspoon table salt), plus more for sprinkling (optional)

1¾ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

2 large eggs, cold

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

2½ cups assorted chocolate chips (not chopped chocolate), such as a mix of milk, bittersweet and semisweet

8½ ounces (scant 1¾ cups) raw walnut pieces or lightly toasted pecan pieces

Combine the butter, brown and granulated sugars, vanilla extract, salt, baking powder, baking soda and nutmeg in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low to moisten, then increase the speed to medium and beat until soft, fluffy and pale, about 8 minutes; halfway through, pause to scrape down the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula. With the mixer running, add the eggs one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Reduce the speed to low, then add the flour all at once. When the flour is incorporated, add the chocolate chips and nuts and keep mixing until the dough is homogeneous.

Divide the dough into 8 equal portions (about 6 ounces each) and round each into a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 12 hours before baking; if well protected from air, the dough can be kept in the fridge up to 1 week.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. When the oven comes to temperature, arrange up to 4 portions of cold dough on the prepared pans, leaving ample space between them to account for spread. If you like, sprinkle with additional salt.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, for about 22 minutes, until the cookies are puffed and lightly brown or to an internal temperature of between 175 and 185 degrees. The ideal temperature will vary from person to person; future rounds can be baked more or less to achieve the desired consistency.

Cool the cookies directly on the baking sheet until no warmer than 100 degrees (they should feel lukewarm) before serving. Enjoy warm, or within 12 hours; these cookies taste best freshly baked.

Note: Toast the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350-degree oven until slightly darkened and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes.

Nutrition: Calories: 200; Total Fat: 12 g; Saturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 20 mg; Sodium: 130 mg; Carbohydrates: 23 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 14 g; Protein: 3 g

Adapted from Stella Parks at SeriousEats.com

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