Bar cookies are the workhorse of the cookie world—they bake up in one pan, yet can be cut up to serve a crowd. Sometimes bars are lacking in the glamour department, so I’ve jazzed up the look of this particular bar cookie by baking it in a fluted tart pan and covering the top with chocolate and nuts. When finished, they resemble sophisticated scallop-edged fans and have a down-home toffee taste. If you need to bake a slew of cookies, I’ve included instructions for making 6 dozen (see Notes).
Yield: Makes one 9 ½-inch (24cm) tart, or 16 wedges
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (4 ounces/113 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 yolk from large egg
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ½ ounces/128 grams) all-purpose flour
5 ounces (142 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons heavy cream
½ cup (2 ounces/57 grams) chopped pecans, toasted (see Notes)
1. Position an over rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 350 degrees (180°C). Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9 ½-inch (24cm) tart pan with a removable bottom.
2. In a large bowl, combine the butter, dark brown sugar, and salt. Beat with an electric mixer (stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or handheld mixer) on medium speed until well blended. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat just until combined. Pour in the four and beat on low speed until the dough begins to clump together. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan, scattering the pieces evenly. Using your fingertips (lightly floured, if necessary), pat the dough onto the bottom (not up the sides) of the prepared pan to form an even layer. Bake until the top looks dry and the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 25 to 27 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate with the cream in a double boiler or in the microwave (see Notes). Stir until smooth. When the crust is baked, transfer the pan to a rack. Pour the warm ganache (the chocolate-cream mixture) over the warm crust and spread evenly to within ½ inch (1.25cm) of the edge. (An offset spatula is a great tool for this job.) Scatter the pecans evenly over the ganache and gently press them into the chocolate. Let cool completely until the chocolate is set, about 4 hours at room temperature or about 2 hours in the refrigerator. Remove the outer ring of the tart pan and cut the “cookie tart” into 16 wedges. Serve the wedges chilled or at room temperature.
Big-Batch Tip: Double all the ingredients, following the same directions and timing, and bake in a 1-by-13-inch (22.75-by-33cm) baking pan. (I like to use a straight-sided metal pan for this version, as it makes a cleaner-looking shortbread cookie.) Once cooled, cut into small bars. You’ll have about 6 dozen or so.
Do aheads: The wedges can be prepared through step 3. Layer them between sheets of parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Toasting nuts: Heat the oven to 350 degrees (180°C) and spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Toast, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure even browning, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned. Depending on the type and quantity of nuts, this takes at least 8 minutes. Immediately transfer the nuts to a plate to cool (they’ll keep browning after you’re removed them from the oven).
To toast nuts on the stovetop, put them in a dry skillet in a single layer and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently to ensure even browning, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned, 8 to 12 minutes. Immediately transfer the nuts to a plate to cool.
A double boiler provides the gentle heat you need when melting chocolate or cooking custards or other egg-based mixtures. These mixtures are more likely to scorch or curdle over the direct heat of a stove burner. You can buy a double boiler, but it’s easy to construct one with a saucepan and a stainless-steel bowl that will rest securely on top of the pan. Fill the saucepan with about 2 inches (5cm) of water and place the bowl on top. Check the water level before positioning the bowl. The water must not touch the bottom of the bowl. Set the pan and bowl over medium-high heat and being the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and proceed as directed.
Though the traditional double-boiler method works well for melting chocolate, I prefer to use the microwave. Judicious use of its power is important. Overmelted chocolate will quickly scorch and become grainy. Start with finely chopped chocolate and use a few short bursts (about 15 seconds apiece) of microwave power, stirring in between, to melt the chocolate.