In two days, I’ll be celebrating my fourth wedding anniversary. Yes, I already know what you’re thinking. You think I’m going to spend the next few paragraphs spouting about marriage, right? About love. About how my husband is the best, or how married life is hard, or about any number of silly things that I may have learned over the course of the past four years. Well, joke’s on you! Today we’re talking all about these derby pie bars.
Brett and I got married on my grandparent’s farm in Kentucky the week before The Derby. It was a small, outdoor ceremony on a private corner of the farm’s rolling green hills. I shivered through the ceremony, half nervous, half chilled from the wet air that blew on that gray day. We said “I Do,” tried not to make out in front of all of our friends and family, and headed to the reception which took place in a tobacco barn a short walk away.
Like any good Kentucky party, we served stout bourbon cocktails and danced to the music of a five piece bluegrass band. Our caterer passed small plates of Southern-inspired dishes to our guests, while others picked at the dessert table filled with bourbon balls, lemon squares, and even a humble little wedding cake that was made by yours truly. The day contained more than a few nods to our families, heritage, and even the Bluegrass state itself, but on the week before the Kentucky Derby, one dish that we really should have served is derby pie.
If you’re not familiar, derby pie is fudgy, chocolate and nut-filled pie that is traditionally served that first Saturday in May at Kentucky Derby. Rich and chocolaty with a subtle crunch from walnuts, the original pie is decadent and one of the few desserts that just screams “KENTUCKY” to me. These derby pie bars are adapted from the original pie but have a few twists of their own that make them a delicious Southern treat you can enjoy all year round.
To prepare these derby pie bars, we start with a shortbread crust. Sugar, flour, and the rest of the dry ingredients work in with a few tablespoons of butter to create a flaky bottom layer for our bars. Once baked, the crust is topped with a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips before being slathered in gooey, brown sugar pecan pie filling. Made with butter, brown sugar, a swig of bourbon, and more than a handful of pecans, the pie filling layer of these bars is sweet and not for the faint of heart. The whole thing gets baked in the oven, drizzled in chocolate, and cut into bite-sized bars. If you love pecan pie and chocolate, these bars are for you. If you love boozy desserts, crumbly crusts, and serving decadent treats at your Kentucky Derby party, these bars are practically begging to be made.
Brett and I have no plans to attend the Derby this year, but I absolutely adore any treat that reminds me of our wedding day. While we may not actually share these bars on our anniversary this year, I am delighted to pass the recipe along to you. I hope that you’ll give them next week on Derby day and think of me! Stay tuned for next week, when I’ve got not one but TWO recipes to share with you guys! It will be a mouth-watering few days in these parts.
And on the off-chance that he’s reading- Brett, I love you. You make my life better and I’m grateful to be yours. Happy Anniversary.
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Derby Pie Bars
These derby pie bars are based on the favorite Kentucky pie. A shortbread crust, bourbon pecan pie filling, and a drizzle of semisweet chocolate make these bars rich, decadent, and delicious to serve a crowd.
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 30
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 16
- Category: Dessert
For the crust
- ¾ cup (90 gm) all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup (35 gm) corn starch
- ½ cup (55 gm) confectioner’s sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (113 gm) unsalted butter, cold and cut into teaspoon sized pieces
For the filling
- ¾ cup (170 gm) unsalted butter
- ¾ cup (160 gm) brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons good quality bourbon (optional)
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 3 cups (320 gm) coarsely chopped pecans
- 3/4 cup (130 gm) mini chocolate chips, divided
To prepare the crust
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9” square baking pan with aluminum foil with enough overhang on each side to easily remove the bars from the pan once baked. Spray with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, corn starch, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or the backs of two forks, cut the diced butter into the dry ingredients until it becomes a coarse meal consistency with pea-sized clumps. Press the mixture evenly into the square pan and then chill for 5-10 minutes in the fridge. Then, bake in the preheat oven for about 15 minutes, or until the crust is set and then edges have just started to turn golden. Do not overbake. Set aside the cooked crust while you prepare the filling.
To prepare the filling
- Combine the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, and optional bourbon in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until the butter and sugar have dissolved. Once melted and no graininess from the sugar exists any longer, increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil, boiling for 3 minutes. After three minutes have passed, remove the pan from the heat. Add the chopped pecans and heavy cream to a medium sized bowl and stir in the butter/brown sugar mixture until evenly combined.
- Sprinkle ½ cup of the mini chocolate chips over the cooked crust. Spread the warm filling over top of the chocolate chips and smooth out. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until the edges and parts of the center are bubbling and the bars have turned caramel in color. Allow the bars to cool completely prior to removing from the pan (you can speed this process up in the fridge). Remove from pan by pulling out the foil liner. Melt the remaining chocolate chips in a microwave on low heat in 15 second increments or over a double boiler. Drizzle bars with chocolate and allow to set. Cut into 16 bars and serve at room temp.
- Be sure to allow bars to cool completely prior to cutting. You can place them in the fridge or freezer briefly to expedite this process.
- The drizzling chocolate can seize up if it gets too hot while melting. Be sure to melt on low heat and (if microwaving) in short increments so that you get smooth chocolate.
Recipe Adapted From: Once Upon A Chef