Fun fact about me: I never really liked pecan pie.
I know -- crazy right?
It's because I never had a good one. They were always WAY too sweet and as much as I like (ok - LOVE) sugar, it was like eating pure sugar goo in a pie crust and it was rather bland...
That's until I decided to publish my 3rd cookbook "Scientifically Sweet Occasions" (on Sale NOW!) and I developed the ultimate BEST pecan pie recipe to my taste. It's the Brown Butter Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie.
It's not just sweet. It's tangy, rich, nutty, sweet in a robust caramel-like way and balanced by salt. It is perfection.
Pecan Pie bars are dangerous because it just makes it easier to eat more of what could be a pie! haha.
How is this recipe different than others on the web?
It doesn't use the typical shortbread crust which I think is often just dense and gummy. It doesn't have enough colour and brown-ness that I think a crust deserves. This base is a delicate SIMPLE one bowl crumb that bakes golden brown and with a bite.
And the filling? The filling is SO GOOEY!
How to make the BEST pecan pie filling?
Roast the pecans! Just spread them out on a baking sheet and place it in the oven as it is preheating. Once your oven is preheated (or even before!) they should be nicely toasted. It's like not even an extra step because you have to wait for the oven to pre-heat anyway, right? I'm all about saving time!
Secret ingredients for the best pecan pie filling?
The important thing is to use more than just sugar. There needs to be something with complex flavour. Use brown sugar and use another sweetener like dark corn syrup. There's nothing really wrong with light corn syrup (in fact corn syrup gives the best gooey texture, but it is rather bland). Golden corn syrup contains some molasses and will add more richness.
Can you make pecan pie without corn syrup?
Yes, you can replace corn syrup with maple syrup, agave syrup or brown rice syrup. But, note that the texture will be slightly less gooey.
Secret ingredient #1: Acid! Add vinegar -- with all the sugar in the recipe, vinegar really elevates the taste in a way that completely AWAKENS your tastebuds and truly makes them dance. If you've never made pecan pie with vinegar before, then try this now and you will realize what you have been missing. It will change your pie game!
Secret ingredient #2: Salt! Don't forget salt to offset the sugar.
(Not so) Secret Ingredient #3: Bitter chocolate! I love this combo and I've even gone as far as using 100% cocoa (unsweetened chocolate) chunks in this recipe. I love how the bitterness plays off the sweet filling.
Do I need to let it cool?
YES! Pecan pie filling can only reach its full textural and taste potentional once it is completely cooled and set! Don't rush it. I know it's so SOOOO tempting, but these actually taste better as they age.
Why do I need to let my pecan pie bars cool?
The filling for pecan pie is basically a custard without all the milk. It is a wet egg-based mixture. The only major setting ingredient is eggs and there is just 1 teaspoon of flour to absorb the liquid.
As the eggs cook they curdle with sugar syrup suspended within a gel-like network. When the filling is hot the "gel" is firm and the molecules are hot and moving all over the place! As they cool the ingredients will settle into a soft, silky gooey gel and the flavour will become more rounded and rich. Patience is rewarded!
The BEST Gooey Chocolate Chunk Pecan Pie Bars
- ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp 125g all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon 16g corn starch
- ¼ cup 55g packed light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon baking powder
- 5 tablespoon 70g unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoon 28g unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup 110g packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup 60ml dark corn syrup or maple, agave or brown rice syrup (see note in the post)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup 110g roasted pecan halves, chopped
- ⅓ cup 56g dark chocolate chunks (I also love these bittersweet callets)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly butter an 8x8-inch baking dish or line an 8x8-inch metal baking pan with foil and butter the foil.
- For the crust, combine flour, corn starch, brown sugar, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and blend together with your fingertips so that there are no lumps of brown sugar. Add the melted butter and stir with a wooden spoon to combine, then bring it together with your fingertips to blend evenly. Tip the mixture out into your prepared pan and pat it down in an even layer, pressing it about ½-inch up the sides. Run the back of a spoon over the surface to smooth it out. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until very lightly golden and a bit brown around the edges. Transfer to a wire rack.
- For the filling, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar and corn syrup in a medium bowl. Whisk in eggs, flour, vinegar, vanilla extract and salt until thoroughly blended and smooth. Stir in pecans. Pour the mixture over the baked crust, distributing the pecan pieces evenly. Scatter chocolate chunks over top and gently poke them into the filling.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm and set. If using a glass dish, you may need 5 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Refrigerate for 1 hour before slicing into squares.