Between the crust and the filling, you'll need just shy of 4 cups of crumbs - I used about 24 whole rectangles to come up with that amount (an entire 14 ounce box basically, I ended up with about 1/4 cup of crumbs that I didn't use). You can crush them in a sturdy zip-lock type bag, but I went the snappy (and less messy) route of blitzing the crackers in our trusty food processor. If you go that route, you might as well use the same dirty bowl to prepare the crust in, pulsing in softened butter, a scoop of sugar, flour and a bit of salt until you have a mixture that looks like wet sand and holds together. If you just crush the graham's, a bowl and a sturdy wooden spoon will do, but make your life easy and use a mixer (either stand or hand-held) to get the crumbs thoroughly coated.
While the crust was off getting a head start in the oven, the funky topping was created by whisking together a massive amount of brown sugar (don't go crazy, it only ends up being less than 2 tablespoons per serving!) with several eggs, more graham cracker crumbs (I used honey, but I bet cinnamon would be fantastic), a liberal pour from our bottle of pure vanilla extract, salt and a small spoonful of baking powder for lift. To combat the richness of the eggs and the brown sugar, a cupful of chopped pecans, lightly toasted first of course, was stirred in, then the whole bowlful was flooded over the warm graham crust.
To check when these bars have baked enough, you'll be first looking for the puffy top to have a burnished golden hue, but what's almost more important is the jiggle test (technical, no?). Think cheesecake doneness - when you tap the pan, you want to still see a slight ripple or jiggle underneath the top layer, rather than having it look or feel completely set. The toothpick test isn't good here as the topping remains very moist (almost wet) until it has a chance to cool completely.
The texture of these bars is astounding - the graham crust on the bottom is slightly sweet, firm, buttery and crisp, while the top layer has this sticky, candy-like chewy quality, brimming with a vicious toffee bite. One could say that these bars wrestle with an identity crises - they may look like a subdued brown bar cookie studded with nuts, but as soon as you bite in and close your eyes, letting the flavors melt over your taste buds, Jeff and I both felt it was reminiscent of a rich, gooey pecan pie, only in a handy, easy to eat package.
Graham Cracker Chewy Bars