Derby Day Bars

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!

Jump to the Recipe for Derby Day Bars
Wearing our Derby hats at Churchill Downs

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. 

Gooey Derby Pie Bars are perfect for any gathering

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

Amy
The perfect treat for the Kentucky Derby. Ooey, gooey, chocolate pecan pie bars great for a crowd or family gathering.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16 bars

Ingredients
  

Shortbread Base

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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!

Notes

The bake time on these bars is about 40 minutes. Different ovens bake differently, so watch your bars. When they are no longer jiggly in the middle, they are ready to come out of the oven and cool. This may take more or less time depending on your oven. 
*The original posted version of this recipe left out the cornstarch. I like a little bit of cornstarch to give the bar a smoother flavor. You can leave this out if you want.
Keyword Kentucky Derby

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Pi Day Party

As a teenager I remember geeking out in math class with my friends about the idea of “pi,” this never-ending number that is the ratio of the circumference of any circle to the diameter of that circle. It’s amazing how that number appears in so many math equations. When we found out that many people (mostly other math nerds like us) celebrated “pi” on its very own day, we knew had to join in the fun. The number “pi” is 3.14159… and so on forever so March 14th (3.14) turned out to be the day to celebrate. We proceeded to eat circular-shaped foods all.day.long. Yes, this is the kind of stuff that kids who take AP Calculus do and talk about for fun 🙂

The perfect berry “pi” pie.

I have been out of school for many years now and really haven’t used my knowledge of calculus all that much as a stay-at-home-mom. But my love of traditions, living life to the fullest and eating good food has kept “pi” day alive and well in our house. If you know me, I’m always up for some kind of celebration. I taught my kids early on about “pi” and they have been converted to the awesomeness of a “pi” party too. Instead of eating circular-shaped foods all day, we decided to make pie and share it with friends instead.

What we do: Invite over a bunch of friends on 3.14 (March 14th) and ask everyone to bring a favorite pie! Some years we’ve included dinner with “pizza-pie” or “chicken-pot-pie.” It’s really up to you. I’m all about keeping it simple so even though I may throw in a few appetizers, the focus is going to be on the pie. It’s the perfect time of year to be eating pie since we often haven’t thought about it for months since Thanksgiving and everyone is excited for a slice of something yummy.

This is really one of the simplest gatherings you can have. Get your kids involved and make a pie together or pick one up from the grocery store. Don’t forget some plates, forks, napkins and cups from the dollar store and you are good to go. Even if you weren’t a math-lover in high school, pretty much everyone can enjoy a slice (or two) of pie.

And just to get your ideas going, here is one of my all-time favorite pie recipes from where I live in Kentucky. It is a traditional pie around here, especially in the spring time. I hope you try it and enjoy it warm or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Yum!

The “fastest two minutes in sports” Pie 

(“Derby” pie is trademarked here in Kentucky, so I’m calling it by another name)

Ingredients

  • 1 pie crust for a 9 inch pie (store-bought or homemade)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • A splash of bourbon (optional)

Directions

  1. Roll out pie crust into a 9 inch pie dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the butter and mix the brown sugar, flour, salt, eggs and vanilla together. Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped pecans. Add a splash of bourbon if you desire. I always leave out the bourbon, but some really like it.
  3. Pour in unbaked pie shell and bake for about 50 minutes until done. It will be a little jiggly but no big wobbles. Allow to cool before slicing. Enjoy!

Will you celebrate pi day? What is your favorite kind of pie?

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