Know somebody who is just crazy for chocolate and pecans? They will very much appreciate your sweet homemade holiday gift of Southerly Pecan Dessert Bites.
These two-bite Southerly Pecan Dessert Bites are big on flavor for very minimal effort. They make a great addition to your holiday cookie baking list, are a perfect take-along for book club or to a neighbor’s open house, of for filling a tin for yourself to snack on.
A caveat to this recipe: Southerly Pecan Dessert Bites are very sweet. Cut the brown sugar in half or use a low sugar boxed cake mix if you are not keen on overly sweet bites. Kids on the other hand, are likely to go ape wild for these!
Can you resist pecan desserts?
I think the slogan that year was “got kids?” I borrowed it from the folks from the American Dairy Association. Their “Got Milk” campaign was too clever, and it was perfect for the task I was facing. I was up against a holiday party at a neighbor’s house. Thing is, I waited a bit too long to RSVP.
Along with that RSVP, the hostess was assigning food tasks to each partygoer in specific categories. I got ‘Kids Dessert.’ What?! Guessing I’ll be baking up a batch of my kid-friendly, parent-friendly Southerly Pecan Dessert Bites.
It was doubtful that my mastery of French food and technique would be appreciated, let alone sampled, by a group of ‘sugared up’ preschoolers. The Croquembouche I’d had twirling around in my head would need to wait for an adult gathering, preferably at my own house.
On this day, I would be responsible for some knock-your-socks-off, overly sweet offering that most undoubtedly needed to involve chocolate. But what?
Prepare to bite into what tastes like the chewiest, best chocolate chip cookie you’ve ever eaten…
Enter from stage left, Southerly Pecan Dessert Bites. Trust me when I tell you that I skipped over these several times when sifting through prototype recipes from years earlier. Back then when I first toyed with baking Southerly Pecan Dessert Bites up, they were not exactly, well…dessert bites.
I was still living in New Jersey at the time. My neighbor had a ‘thing’ for cookie cakes. My other neighbors were planning on throwing him a little neighborhood party and when asked what flavor cake he preferred, he matter of factly answered “chocolate chip cookie cake.”
I went to work on a cookie that I thought would meet with approval. I promise you that for several weeks, I tried easily seven or eight chocolate chip cookie recipes, but none baked up they way they said. It felt like I was combating a crunchy finished product whereas he wanted chewy. I experimented with numerous ingredients to get me to the consistency and texture of chewy.
Southerly Pecan Dessert Bites kind of remind me of one of those huge cookie cakes. The soft and chewy kind, that when you pull apart, are bursting with chocolate chips and nuts.
Light corn syrup, a sticky southern pecan pie base as a cookie, the brown sugar and club soda trick…yep…I exhausted them all. And why was I going to the trouble when my local grocer’s bakery surely had one I could just pick up? Well, as it turns out, this cookie cake needed to feed somewhere in the realm of 100 people. Yeah, tall order. I know!
Southern Living Magazine is a treasure trove of home, garden, and cooking ideas. Honest to goodness, every issue provides something entirely useful, even if what ends up turning out is not what it read when you started.
I embarked on a recipe for crunchy pecan pie bites one afternoon. It was front and center in the magazine, and the photos were to die for. Pecan pies are not my most favorite, but the pecan mixture in this recipe read more like a tassie than what I recalled pecan pie tasting like. I was about three quarters of the way through the bake when I realized I had left out an ingredient. I was furious with myself. Never have the television going when you need to focus on a recipe. Lesson learned. Or was it?
You could bake this up on a round 1″ deep pizza pan and leave it as a giant cookie cake to decorate as you would for a birthday with brightly colored frostings. It is a fun way to be clever in your kitchen with a purpose!
What emerged from my oven was a gooey mess of butter, brown sugar, and a basic dry cake mixture I had whisked together. It was so soupy, it looked like it came directly out of the belly of a slow cooker. All that money wasted. All of those expensive chopped pecans.
It would be too easy to throw it all away so I attempted to salvage what I had done by spooning it into phyllo cups and baking it off. But it was the ingredient I’d forgotten that turned out to be my answer for something I wasn’t even thinking about – my neighbor’s darn cookie cake.
After fifteen minutes of oven time, I yanked the phyllo cups and allowed them to cool. I sampled one and darn if it did not taste kind of like a tassie. But chewier. I wondered what cooking it for longer would do. And so it began, the recipe for mini pecan bites and that desire for that familiar pecan pie crunch met my mistake and turned out to eat more like a chocolate chip cookie. How?
The pecan pie bites recipe called for somewhere near equal wet to dry ingredients. I left out a wet ingredient. It made my batter more like dough. In fact, I even recall thinning it with additional vegetable oil to smooth things out a bit.
Make sure you use unsalted pecans and very good quality chocolate morsels. With few ingredients, quality counts!
I went back to the drawing board and kicked out everything I had tried previously for a humungo chewy cookie. Instead, I grabbed for my cake flour again and re-made my mistake…up to a point. Southerly Pecan Dessert Bites were ‘born’ because despite my SUCCESSFUL giant cookie cake making an entrance at Mike’s party, I figured because the recipe turned out to be cheap enough, I would bake up the cookie on a squarish baking sheet, and slice into bars or bites.
They would make PERFECT additions to my holiday cookie party, my holiday cookie gift tins, and I could even make a batch for my homeowners meeting. And, they were going to come in handy again, fulfilling my ‘kids dessert’ bring-a-dish task. WIN-WIN!
I will say that out of sheer laziness and because I had it on hand, I parred down my use of expensive cake flour and grabbed a ready-made boxed cake mix. It worked the same if not better. Use a quality chocolate. Make sure the pecans are meant for baking and are not salted. When there are so few ingredients in a recipe, the quality of those ingredients really does count. I would also recommend greasing whatever pan you use with butter versus a baking spray. It has seemed to matter every time I have made these.
And so it began, the recipe for mini pecan bites and that desire for that familiar pecan pie crunch met my mistake and turned out to eat more like a chocolate chip cookie.
Once the giant ‘cookie-thing’ has cooled, use a very sharp knife to cut large squares, then quarter those large squares for bites. I pop them into colorful or seasonal muffin papers for easy handling.
If your family are not nuts over nuts, skip the pecans and instead substitute a handful of butterscotch morsels or even white chocolate morsels. Crushed salted pretzel sticks would be great, too. Be imaginative, but use this easy recipe base as your canvas!
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
Southerly Pecan Dessert Bites
- 9 x 13 x 1 sheet pan
Ingredients for Southerly Pecan Dessert Bites
- 1 box cake mix white or yellow
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter melted
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 6 ounces semisweet morsels
- 3/4 cups pecans chopped
- butter for greasing baking pan **NOTE baking spray does not allow this final bake to release as well as butter
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 13 x 1 sheet pan and set aside.
- Mix all ingredients except for the chocolate morsels and the pecans. the dough will be very sticky, so use a rubber spatula to turn out onto the buttered baking sheet.
- Use the spatula to spread the dough out onto the pan, being sure to catch the corners.
- Sprinkle chocolate morsels and chopped pecans on top.
- Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes. These bites are chewy and may not appear initially to be done, but really are. Cool and cut into twelve squares, and then cut each square in quarters. Place into individual muffin papers for easy handling and cleaner serving. No refrigeration required.