When I was little, I never saw the appeal of pecan pie. Maybe it’s because I thought all nuts, be they cashews, peanuts, walnuts, whatever, were gross. Besides, next to apple or cream pies, pecan pie kind of looks brown and craggy and not appetizing at all. Given that history, I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to try pecan pie, but try it I did and I saw the light: crunchy, buttery pecans set in a filling of caramel on a shortbread crust? Love!
I now have cravings for pecan pie, be it traditional, bourbon soaked, or as is the case here, studded with chunks of chocolate. I still have my standards when it comes to pecan pie so it saddens me when I have a less than perfect piece, and when I’m saddened so, my craving gets bigger until I make my own. These chocolate chunk pecan bars were born after one such dissatisfied experience. John and I went up to Vancouver for the Olympic games and arrived late on a Friday night. Thirsty and a little peckish after a three-hour bus ride, we dropped off our bags at my family’s condo, then walked a couple of blocks to a nearby 24 hour cafe. I opted for a chocolate pecan bar but was disappointed by how the chocolate just sort of blended into the caramel and didn’t add much to the bar itself.
Unlike these bars: here, I opted for chunks of bittersweet chocolate chopped from a baking bar. The chocolate retains its shape instead of melting into the caramel so when these bars are cooled, the chocolate adds texture and full chocolate flavor to pair with, not lose itself into, the buttery caramel. There’s also less guilt involved since you can cut them into bite-sized 2-inch pieces. Well, less guilt until you can’t help yourself and eat half the pan in 10 minutes…
- 1 stick salted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- cooking spray
- 1.5 cups toasted whole pecans (Toast on a baking sheet in oven set to 325 degrees for 10 minutes.)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 oz bittersweet chocolate bar, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8 x 8 inch square baking pan then line with parchment paper. (Cut two pieces of parchment paper to the width of the pan then layer them perpendicular to one another.) Lightly spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, cream the stick of butter with the 1/4 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in the vanilla. Mix in the flour until just combined. Empty out the bowl onto a lightly floured surface then gently knead until the dough is just formed, a loose, crumbly crust. Pat the dough into the pan so that it makes a uniform layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake for 18 minutes or until golden.
While crust bakes, whisk together the filling ingredients except the chocolate. When ingredients are uniformly blended, stir in the chocolate chunks. When crust is out of the oven, raise the temperature to 375 degrees F. Pour filling into hot crust and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely to allow filling to set before cutting into pieces and serving.