Reunions are a pretty amazing concept when you think about it. Bringing together all those old and new folks from all branches of a family. Gathering the brood. Because even though you see some of those people throughout the year, there are usually quite a few you just don’t have time to visit. And then there are all the new husbands and wives entering the family, and of course the new 4th and 5th and 6th (etc.) cousins. When it comes to the Peters’ reunion, we’re talking a lot of people—I’d guess about 200, and growing strong!
What brings everyone together better than anything else? Food! So when deciding what to bring, you have to make sure you aren’t competing in a tough category. There’s one cousin who brings the most amazing giant-sized chocolate chip cookies. They only last a few hours on the buffet table, but we talk about them all year. When I found a recipe for Caramel ‘n Chocolate Pecan Bars that makes 36 bars and had lots of 5-star reviews, I knew I’d found a winner. It also looked easy to transport and serve—two very important characteristics for a reunion dessert. And, technically, I felt it wasn’t directly competing in the cookie category.
They were easy, too. Begin by cutting the cold butter into pieces and letting it soften for 15 minutes. I put mine right into the bowl where it was headed!
For accurate flour measuring, be sure to spoon the flour into the cup measure and level.
When all the crust ingredients are measured and ready, simply add the flour and brown sugar to the butter that’s already in the bowl. Save the pecans for a few minutes later.
Mix on medium speed, starting out slow so the flour doesn’t fly out and get all over you. After about 2 minutes, the crust mixture will resemble fine crumbs.
Simply pour the mixture into a 13"x9" baking pan. I used a baking sheet with sides, hoping I might be able to transport easily and serve bars right from the pan.
Next, press the pecans into the crust.
Making the caramel layer involves only two ingredients—butter and brown sugar!
Just cook on medium until the entire surface, including the middle, comes to a boil. Then boil for 1 minute, and you’ll have a foamy bubbling pot of caramel!
Immediately, pour the caramel onto the crust, trying to cover the entire pan of bars. I recommend a spatula to get every little bit of caramel out of the pan and onto the bars!
When the caramel is covering all or most of the crust, pop the bars into a 350˚ oven for 18-22 minutes.
When you pull the bars out, the caramel layer should be bubbly. Then, simply sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the bars and wait a couple minutes.
The heat from the bars will melt the chocolate, so you can take a spatula and swirl it about atop the bars.
After the bars are fully cool, cut them into squares or other shapes (see tutorial for diamonds or triangles).
I felt it was important to test the bars, so I lifted out a corner. I was happy to see that they would serve easily and they looked fantastic. Oh, and I loved the caramel-chocolate-pecan-butter cookie flavor!
I decided they would serve well right from my pan, so I just inserted a small spatula into the open corner and took them to the reunion.
The bars were all ready to set on the table, already filling up with plates of other goodies, tuna and chicken pasta salads, assorted cheeses, BBQ pork, baked beans, watermelon, and much, much more. There is never a shortage of food at this event! (Note that the hosts have tables inside so there’s no concern that the chocolate will melt and make the bars too gooey.)
If you have a reunion or another event with a crowd to please, you should definitely try these Caramel ‘n Chocolate Pecan Bars. They were truly a hit, especially with the teenagers!
Check back in a few days when Emily will share a quick dinner idea.
Liz is paid to write for the Land O'Lakes Recipe Buzz® Blog.