The first weekend in May is Derby Day here in Kentucky. Typically, kids draw pictures, the library has special activities where we make crafts and we all turn on the TV and watch the “fastest two minutes in sports.” This year, however, things are a little different. The Kentucky Derby has been postponed until September and there will be no large gatherings in Kentucky with the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all quarantined in our homes instead of celebrating with friends or family this year. Even without the “fastest two minutes in sports” racing on Saturday, it won’t keep me from indulging in one of my favorite Derby treats. These Derby Day Bars keep the nostalgia alive and well!
Derby Day Pie in Bar Form
Derby Pie is a pie served traditionally in Louisville where the derby is run, but you can find it anywhere in the Bluegrass during Derby time. The name, “Derby Pie” is actually trademarked by Kern’s Kitchen, the owners of Melrose Inn who created the original Derby Pie. No other company, shop or store can name their pie, “Derby Pie” without being liable for copyright infringement (the owners are reportedly quite zealous in the defense of their trademark). Instead you will see stores, restaurants and shops advertising things like “walnut chocolate chip pie.” Even big box stores like Costco sell this during Derby time.
Chocolate, Pecans and Brown Sugar
I do have an awesome recipe for my own variation of “the fastest two minutes in sports” pie but I also love these Derby Day Bars, maybe even more than the real pie. They are ooey, gooey, and down right delicious with a shortbread bar base and the traditional chocolate, brown sugar, nut mixture on top. I swapped the walnuts out for pecans because of personal preference but you can opt for walnuts and a splash of bourbon if you want a more traditional flavor. I like to give the pecans a pulse in my blender to chop them up so you get a little nut in every bite.
Use Parchment Paper and One Bowl
Derby Day Bars are ooey, gooey and using parchment paper to line your pan will make your life easier. I wrote a whole post about that here. I also love that these bars can be made using one bowl. I use a fork or spoon to mix together the base ingredients, dump them and press them into my pan and then use the same bowl to whisk up the filling. Not only does this make the recipe super simple, but it also saves you clean up time and gives you more time to decide which horse you’re betting on this year!
The Best Recipe for a Crowd: No Fork Required
These bars are easy to bake, cut and serve for a group or they freeze well if making for your family while quarantined at home. I’m hoping we’ll get to eat them twice this year…once this weekend and again in September for when the Kentucky Derby is rescheduled. Fingers crossed!
Derby Day Bars
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch *see recipe notes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Derby Bar Filling
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup pecans, chopped (or walnuts chopped)
- 1 splash Bourbon optional
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8 by 8 pan with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray.
- In a small bowl, mix together the base ingredients (melt the butter in the microwave): melted butter, brown sugar, flour and salt. Press into an even layer at the bottom of the pan.
- Using the same bowl (or a different one if you really want to wash two bowls) add the filling ingredients: melted butter, brown sugar, flour, salt, vanilla and two eggs. Mix together with a fork or spoon until fully incorporated.
- Pulse pecans in a blender or food processor a few times to chop into small pieces.
- Add chocolate chips and pecans to the filling and mix together. Add a splash of bourbon if desired.
- Spread the filling mixture on top of the base bar layer.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes until edges are brown and the filling mixture is set. See recipe notes about length of baking time needed.
- Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting and serving. Enjoy!