Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

Among the holidays that Americans celebrate even though they aren’t really our holidays, Cinco de Mayo has to be my favorite.  The reason, obviously, is the food.  And the margs.  And the Corona Lights.

I mean, let’s get serious for a moment.  Have you seen this restaurant-style salsa?  Or these crispy shrimp tacos?  Fresh cherry margaritas??!?!?

Having grown up in Texas, I know my way around Mexican food.  (Ok, maybe it’s really Tex-Mex.  Fine.)  I have multiple favorite Mexican restaurants, and I’m not sure if that’s normal.  I believe that adequately explains my love of Cinco de Mayo.  Also it’s a fantastic excuse to have a ridiculous amount of fun in the middle of the week.  Last year I may or may not have been seen running around my apartment wearing not one, but two sombreros half a pinata on top of a sombrero. 

We don’t need to chat about that right now.

Instead, we should chat about these bars.  They are fit for Cinco de Mayo for 3 main reasons.

1. The word “Mexican” is in the recipe title.
2. The recipe is from Rick Bayless, Mexican cuisine genius.
3. The bars have Mexican chocolate…and I added a little cinnamon and extra chili powder.

They have a super easy crust (the recipe calls for white sandwich bread, but I used cinnamon graham crackers), and they have a fantastic chewy texture.  Slightly gooey, like pecan pie should be, but easy enough to hold and eat without a fork.  And.  AND.  The cinnamon and chili powder give you a little bit of a spicy hit that you only notice after the fact.  It’s an addicting spicy though, so you just want another bite.  Another plus?  You can make almost the entire thing in a food processor.

Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

Makes 24 bars, one 13×9 inch pan (it can easily be halved for a 9-inch square pan, that’s what I did)

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups pecan halves
6 ounces Mexican chocolate, finely chopped (the recipe recommends Ibarra brand, but I used a Lindt Chili bar)
6 whole cinnamon graham crackers
1 cup (= 2 sticks) melted unsalted butter, divided use
1 tsp salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces smaller than 1/4-inch
3 TBS unbleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
powdered sugar for decoration

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325ºF with a rack in the middle position.  Spread pecan halves on a baking sheet, and toast until fragrant, about 8 minutes.  Let cool slightly, then place in a food processor.  Pulse to chop coarsely.  Take out 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans and place in a large mixing bowl.  (You’ll use those later for the filling.)
2. Add about half of the chopped Mexican chocolate to the food processor with the chopped pecans.  Pulse a couple of times to mix, then add the graham crackers.  Process until the mixture is fine crumbs.  Add 1/3 cup of the melted butter and 1/2 tsp salt to moisten the crumbs.  Generously grease a 13×9 inch baking pan, and press the crust mixture evenly oven the bottom of the pan.  Refrigerate crust while you prepare the filling.
3. Add the bittersweet chocolate and the flour to the chopped pecans you set aside in the mixing bowl.
4. Put the eggs and the brown sugar in the food processor (you don’t need to clean it…how awesome is that??) and process until combined.  Add the corn syrup; pulse twice.  Add the rest of the melted butter, 1/2 tsp salt, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and chili powder and process until everything is completely combined.  Pour the sugar mixture over the pecans in the mixing bowl, and stir with a rubber spatula to combine.  Pour filling over chilled crust.
5. Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes, until the middle of the top just begins to crack and the bars just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Let cool completely, then chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Since the bars are kind of gooey, this will make them much easier to slice.  Sprinkle powdered sugar generously over the top of the bars.  Slice and serve.

Recipe adapted from Frontera Kitchens

P.S. I linked this recipe up to Sweet as Sugar’s Sweets for a Saturday.  There are over 100 yummy sweets over there…go check ’em out!

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