Chilpancingo's Chocolate Pecan Bars
La Costa Mission Restaurant, Malibu, CA
What possessed Mexican chef Geno Bahena to serve chocolate pecan bars—a quintessentially American-style bar cookie—for dessert at the Beard House? Well, for starters, the chocolate, which is a Mayan contribution to the world. As for the vanilla called for in the recipe, its cultivation and processing methods were kept secret for centuries by the Totonaca Indians, who flourished in what today is the Mexican State of Veracruz. To seal the deal, Bahena added Kahlúa, Mexico’s No. 1 liquor.
Twenty-four (2 x 4-inch) bars
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening or lard, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons ice water (more if needed)
- 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 2 cups (about 6 ounces) pecan halves
- 6 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Kahlúa or brandy
- 2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- About 2 cups sweetened whipped cream flavored with Kahlúa for garnish
To prepare the crust, in a medium bowl, cut the butter and the shortening into the flour with a pastry blender or two knives. Work the mixture until the flour looks a little damp and crumbly (rather than powdery), with small clumps of fat still visible.
In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, and ice water. Using a fork, slowly work the ice water mixture into the flour mixture. If there is unincorporated flour in the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle in a little more ice water, using the fork to work it in. Remove dough from bowl and shape into a rectangle. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 13 x 17-inch rectangle. Gently transfer to a half-sheet pan. Crimp the edges decoratively, trim off the excess dough, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Lay a 17-inch-long piece of parchment paper on the crust. Bake blind by filling with uncooked beans, rice, or pie weights and baking for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust begins to brown around the edges. Carefully remove the beans (or weights) and parchment, return to the oven, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, until the crust is no longer moist. If it bubbles at this point, gently press the crust down with the back of a spoon. Remove from the oven and brush the egg yolk over the crust, carefully sealing all the holes. Cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
For the filling, spread the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast lightly in the oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Chop coarsely. Cool. Transfer pecans to a large mixing bowl, add the chocolate pieces and flour, and stir until everything is well coated.
In a food processor or in the large bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, allowing each to incorporate completely before adding the next. Add the corn syrup, molasses, Kahlúa or brandy, vanilla, and salt, and process (or beat) until homogeneous.
Pour the filling over the chocolate and pecans and stir well to combine. Pour batter into the pre-baked shell and bake until a knife inserted into the center is withdrawn clean, about 1 hour.
Cool. Cut into 2 x 4-inch bars and serve at room temperature or slightly warm, topped with a dollop of Kahlúa-flavored whipped cream.