Whole Grain Vegan Pecan Bars

I had one of those days yesterday when all the stars aligned for me.

Ok, I'm being a bit dramatic...

This month's Recipe Redux really snuck up on me. I recently got back from a trip to Provence with my mom (more on that later!!!). Prior to our trip, I came down with a bad cold. The stay home from work kind of bad cold. I was busy getting some posts lined up to publish while we were gone. I was busy promoting The Casual Veggie Cookbook. And, most importantly, I was busy strategizing my packing (I can get a bit OCD when packing). My plan was to prep my Recipe Redux post so I wouldn't have to worry about it when I got home. That plan failed. 

I was just about to give up on posting this month yesterday when I was going through my mail my new issue of Cook's Illustrated was awaiting. I was flipping through it when I happened upon their Ultranutty Pecan Bars. I realized that with a few simple tweaks, I would have a whole-grain, vegan-friendly version ready in time for my Redux post. The theme this month is "A Nutty Nut Day" to take advantage of the fact that today is National Nut Day! The only problem is, I didn't know when I'd have time to make them. Luckily, jet-lag was working in my favor yesterday morning and I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 5:00 am. I was able to prep most of the recipe in the morning so when I got home from work,  all I would have to do is combine the ingredients, pop them in the oven, snap a few photos, and cross my fingers that they turned out just as I imagined.

The result...

Success!

These Whole Grain Vegan Pecan Bars are nutty, caramely, nutty, chewy, nutty, and delicious. The hardest part of this recipe is waiting 1 1/2 hours for them to cool before being able to sneak a bite. While I wouldn't consider these bars a "health food", they are definitely a friendlier version of the original thanks to substituting oat flour for the all purpose flour, brown rice syrup for the corn syrup, and coconut oil for the butter. 

Whole Grain Vegan Pecan Bars

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Makes 16 bars

Crust:

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons oat flour (to make oat flour, process rolled oats in a food processor until fine)

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Topping:

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 cup brown rice syrup

3 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and hot

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups (8 ounces) pecan halves, toasted

1. FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven rack, to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. 

2. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in medium bowl. Add melted coconut oil and stir with wooden spoon until dough begins to form. Using your hands, continue to combine until no dry flour remains. Evenly scatter tablespoon-size pieces of dough over surface of pan. Using your fingertips, smooth dough into even thickness in bottom of pan. 

3. FOR THE TOPPING: Whisk sugar, brown rice syrup, melted coconut oil, vanilla, and salt together in medium bowl until smooth, about 1 minute. Fold pecans into sugar mixture until nuts are evenly coated. 

4. Pour topping over crust. Using spatula, spread topping over crust, pushing to edges and into corners (there will be bare patches). Bake until topping is evenly distributed and rapidly bubbling across entire surface, 23 to 25 minutes. 

5. Transfer pan to wire rack. Let bars cool completely in pan on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.Lift bars out of pan and transfer to cutting board. Cut into 16 pieces. (Bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days). 

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