16 February 2012

Praline Shortbread Squares

FULL DISCLOSURE - These are pricey to make. Almond flour is $10 a bag (for approximately four cups) and, then there's the pecans and agave. BUT, I dare say that I really love them. So yeah, there's always that. There's no gluten, refined sugar, and I'm pretty sure the butter could be substituted for vegan margarine. Otherwise, they're very easy to make and are a good source of protein.

Taken from Elana Amsterdam's The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook (2009).

2 cups blanched almond flour (**I tried just blitzing 2 cups of almonds in a coffee grinder and the blanched almond flour is much better. The cookies stay together more and the shortbread turns out lighter without the almond skins.)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup grape seed oil (**I used canola oil and it worked just fine.)
1 tablespoon agave nectar (**we usually buy the light stuff over the dark. I don't know what the difference is in flavour, though.)

1/2 cup salted butter (**we only ever have unsalted and it seemed to work.)
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (**generous, obvsly.)
2 1/4 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish with oil and dust with almond flour.
  2. To make the shortbread, blend the almond flour, salt, oil, and agave nectar in a food processor until smooth. Press the dough into the prepared baking dish.
  3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. (**Watch them closely. I find they start browning rather early, so pull them out as soon as they start to look gold-ish on top. They don't taste undercooked and will hold together much better.) Remove from the oven and let cool.
  4. While the shortbread bakes, prepare the pralines. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter, then add the agave nectar and vanilla extract. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the pecans. Remove the praline mixture from the heat, cool to room temperature, and spread over the shortbread.
  5. Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours to set. Cut into squares and serve.

The first batch of these I ever made didn't turn out too well. Probably a combination of homemade almond flour, adding the pecan mixture to the shortbread while it was still hot, and starting to cut them up before they were fully chilled. When I followed the directions more closely, they turned out fine, but I think they'll always be slightly crumbly.