This is my second recent posting on pecan bars, and it is a recipe I have been wanting to try forever: a shortbread-based pecan pie bar. My previous pecan bars from a cake mix, while tasty, were not quite what I had in mind, so I decided to start from scratch, and make my own recipe. And this time, I decided to do something I had never done with pecans before: add some bourbon.
Now, bourbon has a long history of being paired with pecans in pecan pie, although how long, no one knows for sure. For certain, it is a Southern tradition. Bourbon, the drink, is named after Old Bourbon (present day Bourbon County) in Kentucky, the place associated with its invention. To this day, 95% of the world's bourbon comes from Kentucky, and the export of bourbon to the rest of the world is a billion dollar industry.
This recipe starts with the creation of a shortbread crust. I did this all in my food processor today, but I've made this dough before (for thumbprint cookies) in my mixer. Both work fine, so don't worry if you don't have a food processor. I have included directions for making with a mixer in the printable recipe at the bottom of the post.
Whisk together egg yolks and vanilla, and set aside.
Combine the flour and the sugar in your processor, and pulse a few times to combine.
Cut up your cold butter.
Ad it a few pieces at a time, with the machine running, until it looks crumbly, this won't take long.
Then, pour in the egg/vanilla mixture, and process until blended and the dough starts to pull away from the sides.
Take this dough, and pat it into a sprayed 9"x13" pan evenly, but make a tiny lip around the edges to try and contain the filling you will eventually be pouring in there.
This gets baked in a 350F oven for about 20 minutes, until it is lightly golden.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Combine white and brown sugar, light and dark corn syrup (you can use all light corn syrup if you want to lessen the sweetness, this filling is pecan pie-sweet), melted butter, beaten eggs, vanilla and bourbon until well mixed.
Then, stir in pecans and chocolate chips.
When the shortbread base comes out of the oven, and pour the filling on top.
Pop it back into the oven for another 25-30 minutes, until set.
Let it cool completely before slicing.
These bars are great when they are cooled, even better the next day. The shortbread crust is buttery and firm, and pairs deliciously with the sweet filling. These bars are pretty easy, create no mess while baking (unlike some recipes I've seen that actually tell you flat out in the recipe that the bars will overflow the pan and land on your oven while baking), and are a decadent treat. They are a great take-along item too -- a lot of people don't like to fuss with cutting a pie, but no one objects to grabbing a bar.
Don't be afraid to leave out the bourbon, or adjust the amount up or down according to your personal preference. The first time I made these, I actually used about 4 tbls of bourbon in the filling, because I couldn't get enough. I loved them this way, but there were people who thought they were way too strong. Since then, I've dialed down the amount significantly. For me, because I love the bourbon flavor, 2 tbls is just right, but bourbon can overwhelm the flavors, so I would start with 1 tbls the first time you make them if you're unfamiliar with bourbon, and see if you like how they taste. You an always add more the next time you make them if you approve of the bourbon flavor. It is a distinctive flavor, it is definitely not for everyone. These bars will be delicious even without a single drop of bourbon, so don't hesitate to leave it out if you think the bourbon taste is not for you.
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars
For the Shortbread
- 1 C cold sweet butter, cut into pieces
- 2/3 C granulated sugar
- 2 1/4 C AP flour
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla
For the Filling
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup corn syrup (1/4 light, 1/4 dark)
- 1 cup sugar (1/2 white, 1/2 brown)
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tbls bourbon (optional, see note in the text)
- 2 C pecans
- 1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
For the Shortbread
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and vanilla together, set aside.
- Combine the flour and granulated sugar in a mixer with the paddle attachment or in a food processor/mixer and process just to blend.
- For Mixer: Sprinkle the butter onto the flour/sugar mixture and mix on medium until the mixture looks crumbly, this won't take long. Add in the egg mixture and mix until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
- For Processor: With the machine running, add the butter 2-3 pieces at a time and process until the mixture looks crumbly. With the machine still running, add the egg yolk mixture and process until blended and the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
For the Filling and Bars
- In a bowl, combine the sugars, corn syrups, melted butter, vanilla, beaten eggs, and bourbon, and mix well to combine
- Stir in the pecans and chocolate chips, coating well
- Pour the filling over the shortbread crust when the shortbread crust comes out of the oven
- Bake bars at 350F for 20-30 minutes (my oven took about 23), until filling sets
- Cool completely
- Slice and serve
- Even better the next day!