It is overwhelming how much conflicting and developing information about farming and food exists. There is the idea that when humans began to farm, our health and the health of our planet took a drastic turn for the worst. There is a notion that gluten is akin to a poison that should be eradicated from our food system. There is a battle raging right now in the public consciousness between organic and conventional farming. There are those who see new developments in agricultural science and technology as the answer to all of our questions.
I don’t know much, but I do know this: we must support and engage with the farmers around us. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions. But when you do ask a question, frame it as a question and not as an interrogation. Have an open mind. If you approach a farmer with respect, that farmer will be honest and forthright with you. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make a decision about where and how you spend your money, but I guarantee that your life and health will improve with less judgment, more knowledge and a stronger connection to the people who grow what we consume.
Pecan Pie Squares
Makes 1 - 9 x 13 x 2 1/4" pan (12 - 2 3/4 x 3 1/8" bars)
For the crust
8 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
4 ounces granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces cake or pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling
9 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
16 ounces brown sugar
13 1/2 ounces light corn syrup or brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
12 ounces whole pecans
To make the pastry crust, cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, for about 3-5 minutes.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well incorporated.
Sift the flour and salt together, then add to the creamed mixture until combined. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
For the filling, combine the butter, sugar, syrup and salt in a medium saucepan. Melt the butter over low heat, then turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
Let it boil for about 3 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 25-30 minutes.
While the caramel mixture is cooling, spray a 9 x 13 x 2 1/4" pan generously. Remove the pastry crust from the fridge and roll it out to a rectangle about the size of the pan. Transfer the dough to the pan and press it evenly over the bottom and half way up the sides of the pan. Chill the crust in the freezer for about 15 minutes or the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat a conventional oven to 350 F.
Whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract. Slowly whisk in the eggs to the cooled caramel mixture, which will be very thick. The eggs should not curdle! If the mixture is cool enough, they will incorporate smoothly into the caramel base. Be sure to scrape the bottom edges of the pan. You will notice the mixture thinning into a beautifully smooth, deeply caramel colored filling as you whisk in the eggs.
Remove the crust from the freezer and sprinkle the pecans evenly over the bottom. Pour the filling over the pecans. Bake on the center rack for about 45 minutes, or until the filling no longer jiggles and the crust is golden brown.
Let the bars cool completely on a rack.
Chill them well in the fridge or freezer before cutting.
A long, serrated knife works best.