Orange zest and pecans join forces in these amazing orange and pecan salted caramel cookie bars. This cookie bar recipe is incredibly simple and super easy to follow. From the melt-in-the-mouth salted caramel layer, to the buttery, crumbly pecan cookie base with bursts of aromatic orange zest – every single bite of this delightful dessert will blow your mind!
As I’m sure you’ve noticed so far, if you’ve been following my posts, I love to describe food and recipes in excruciating detail, with way too many flowery adjectives and an almost scary amount of enthusiasm. This will continue. After all, you can’t taste the deliciousness I so very much want to share with you, so hopefully my words are powerful enough for you to get at least a hint of the amazing flavours hidden in every single one of my recipes.
I’ll also continue labelling all the relevant recipes as gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, vegan, and so on. This can hardly be an allergy friendly (a.k.a. “free from”) food blog without this information. Moreover, despite my scientific background and the fact that calling anything ‘healthy’ is annoyingly vague, I’m bound to call a recipe ‘healthy’ or ‘nutritious’ on occasion. But you can be certain that I’ll support this with at least a short list of the most important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. There won’t be any calorie count information. Ever. But that’s a whole other post.
Here’s what you won’t hear me say… or read me write. I’ll never call a recipe guilt-free. Because… just no. Food has no inherent moral value, and your eating a certain food does not make you a good or a bad person. (I am aware that dietary choices – or lifestyle choices, if you prefer – such as veganism are often based on ethical arguments, but that’s a separate story.) Eating more fat, more carbs, only green salad, no veggies ever, etc. – this has no bearing whatsoever on what kind of person you are. And while you might feel better eating and cooking a certain way, this shouldn’t be because of an absence of guilt. It should be because the food is tasty, you enjoy preparing it, and it nourishes your body.
Why this serious topic all of the sudden? Because I come across way too many (very tasty, at that) recipes that are labelled ‘guilt-free’. And no matter how yummy, scrumptious or super nutritious they are, if I notice such a label, I won’t share them further. Because such language is not OK and I won’t help propagating it. Remember, words matter.
Okay, now that we’ve covered that, let’s go on to talk about the delicacy of the day. I present to you: orange and pecan salted caramel cookie bars. There are hardly any words for how delicious these cookie bars are. I’m talking serious decadent indulgence levels here. From the salted caramel with salty notes underneath the sweetness, to the buttery, crumbly pecan cookie base with bursts of aromatic orange zest – every single bite is a symphony of flavours and textures.
Just like the salted caramel chocolate chip cookie bars, this recipe is super simple and easy to follow. But the taste, oh, the taste. These are seriously dangerous. One cookie bar transforms into two… three… and all of the sudden you’re looking confusedly at an empty plate. Those cookie bar ninjas sure are sneaky little things. Nothing whatsoever to do with you. Nope.
In the name of science, I sacrificed myself and tested these salted caramel cookie bars both at room temperature and straight out of the fridge. After repeated testing, I still can’t decide which version I prefer. When cold, the cookie base is firmer, denser, and as the salted caramel warms in your mouth, it melts slowly and the saltiness comes through delightfully.
The room temperature salted caramel cookie bars, on the other hand, are more crumbly and their buttery pecan flavour is intense and wonderful. The salted caramel seems sweeter, and is stickier – a wonderful texture combination, which is virtually impossible to eat in a polite manner.
But let’s be honest here. When faced with a plate of these mouthwatering pecan and orange salted caramel cookie bars, politeness is just about the last thing on anyone’s mind. Your brain will go into a salted caramel haze, one highly mistrustful of other people, muttering: “Yes, yes, I’ll share. Have half a piece. Actually, have a quarter of one. And hands off, that last piece is mine!”
All I can say is: enjoy.
ORANGE AND PECAN SALTED CARAMEL COOKIE BARS
For orange and pecan cookie bottom:
- 175 g unsalted butter, softened
- 50 g caster sugar
- 1 large egg
- 225 g plain flour, sifted
- pinch of salt
- 100 g pecans, ground
- zest of 2 oranges
For salted caramel:
- 250 g caster sugar
- 100 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 210 mL double cream, room temperature
- 1 – 2 tsp salt (Note 1)
- whole pecans
For orange and pecan cookie bottom:
Preheat the oven to 350 ºF (175 ºC) and line a baking tray, at least 1.5 inch deep, with greaseproof/baking paper.
- Cream together butter and sugar.
- Add the egg, and mix thoroughly.
- Add the flour, salt, ground pecans and orange zest, and mix until a smooth, not sticky, cookie dough forms.
- Press the cookie dough into the lined baking tray and even it out so that it is approximately 1/2 inch (about 1.5 cm) thick. Put into the fridge for about 1/2 hour.
Bake the cookie dough in the preheated oven at 350 ºF (175 ºC) for 18 to 20 minutes, or until light golden brown at the edges. The cookie dough might feel soft immediately out of the oven, but will firm on cooling.
- Leave to cool completely (in the baking tray!). In the mean time, make the salted caramel.
For salted caramel:
- Heat caster sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
- The sugar may form clumps but will eventually melt into a thick golden brown liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn the caramel.
- Once the sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. On its addition, the caramel will bubble rapidly – be careful.
- Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes. The butter will tend to separate from the caramel – just stir vigorously.
- Very slowly, drizzle in the double cream while stirring. The mixture will rapidly bubble due to the temperature difference and may splatter – be careful.
- Allow the mixture to boil for about 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils.
- Remove from heat and stir in the salt. Allow to cool down before using (the salted caramel should be slightly warmer than room temperature for pouring onto the cookie bottom).
- Any leftover salted caramel sauce (what's that?) keeps well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Still in the baking tray, pour the warm salted caramel onto the cookie bottom so that it forms a uniform layer, about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick.
- Allow to set overnight in the fridge. The salted caramel will firm up, enough to be easy to cut but retain its melt-in-the-mouth consistency.
- Remove the cookie bottom + salted caramel layers from the baking tray, and while still cold, cut them into rectangular pieces (the recipe should give about 20 pieces).
- Decorate the cookie bars with whole pecans. And enjoy!
- The orange and pecan salted caramel cookie bars keep well in a cool dry place (or even in the fridge, just allow them to come to room temperature before serving) for about 3 to 4 days. Just beware of those sneaky cookie bar ninjas!
Note 1: The exact amount of salt depends entirely on how salty you want your salted caramel to be. I advise adding the salt gradually – you can always add more, but cannot take it away!
Looking for more salted caramel treats to drool over?
I’ve got you covered!