Chocolate Pecan Bars
Chocolate Pecan Bars are rich, moist, crunchy dark chocolate nutty bars that will remind you of a chocolate pecan pie (without the corn syrup) although my daughter says these gooey treats taste like cookie/candy bars. In fact, these bars were born of a “disastrous” mistake made when I added too many pecans to a chocolate pecan pie recipe with the idea that more is better.
Instead of a gooey chocolate pecan pie, I made a pie that was solid as a rock. My husband – not one to let an error fly by without a laugh – literally picked up the center of the baked pie with a fork and lifted it into the air. Seeing that whole pie stand in mid-air with just a fork holding it up, I realized that my decision to add significantly more pecans changed the dessert from a pie to a bar.
Before I would surrender my “pie” to the trash, I decided to taste it. Slicing into the “pie” took some serious exertion but the flavor was outrageously decadent and delicious and the texture satisfyingly crunchy and gooey. So, all was not lost. Everyone who tasted a sliver of my “chocolate pecan pie” thought it was delicious; just more like a bar than a syrupy slice of pecan pie. And, thus Chocolate Pecan Bars were born. Now, I make the bars in a 2-quart rectangular Pyrex pan (7 inches by 11 inches) instead of a pie plate and cut the baked treat into square bars.
Full of roasted pecans, cocoa, and dark chocolate, Chocolate Pecan Bars rely on a filling made of maple syrup blended with a small amount of brown rice syrup, non-dairy milk, and nut butter to hold the nuts in place. A touch of lemon juice, vanilla extract, and salt simply bring out the flavor of the nuts and chocolate.
Using a basic pie crust dough recipe (you don’t have to know how to roll out a crust because you will be patting the dough into the baking dish) and a variation of the filling of Fran Costigan’s Chocolate Pecan Pie recipe from her Vegan Chocolate cookbook, comes the following recipe for Chocolate Pecan Bars:
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 cup vegan butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup Nutiva shortening, chilled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons of ice-cold water.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the flour in the food processor. Add the vegan butter pieces and the Nutiva shortening along with the salt. Pulse about 30-35 short quick times but don’t over process or the crust will not be flaky. Small pieces of the vegan butter and Nutiva shortening will be visible.
Transfer the flour mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the ice-cold water one tablespoon at a time blending with a large mixing spoon. The crust will not come together. Pour the flour mixture into the glass baking pan and using a spatula, gently pat the flour mixture into the bottom of the pan evenly.
Bake the crust for 15 minutes until light brown. Remove from the oven and set aside. Spray the sides of the baking dish with non-stick spray (don’t omit this step or the filling will stick to the sides).
Chocolate Pecan Filling
- 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
- 1 cup pure maple syrup, Grade A or B
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (juice of 1/2 lemon)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup pecan butter (I use Artisana Raw Pecan Butter)
- 1/4 cup dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Valhrona which is available on Amazon)
- 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk (I use unsweetened Milkadamia – macadamia nut milk)
- 3 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (I use a 3 ounce Theo 70% chocolate bar)
- 3 cups (12 ounces) pecans, roasted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Put the brown rice syrup and maple syrup in a large saucepan and heat over medium until gently boiling. Note that syrup expands and bubbles a lot climbing up the sides of the pan so watch the syrup closely and stir occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and allow to gently boil for 6 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and salt, stir and simmer on low for 9 minutes.
Place the nut butter in a bowl and add a 1/4 cup of the hot syrup to the nut butter, gently mixing. Set aside the tempered nut butter.
Add the nut butter and stir to blend. Add the non-dairy milk and gently boil for 3 more minutes. Add the chopped chocolate and cook for 1 minute, allowing the chocolate to melt. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and stir.
Stir in the pecans and then gently pour the pecan mixture on top of the pie crust. Using a spatula, gently press the chocolate pecan mixture to the edges. Place the mixture in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for one hour. Using a sharp knife, cut into small squares (note: some of the crust will crumble so use the crumbles to decorate the plates).
Don’t delay in cutting the squares because the bars get harder as they cool and more difficult to cut) and serve. Store the remaining squares in an airtight container with parchment or wax paper between rows.