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Frontera Grill Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

Frontera Grill is the Mexican restaurant in Chicago owned by Rick Bayless.

Source: Salsas That Cook by Rick Bayless with JeanMarie Brownson and Deann Groen Bayless

Frontera Grill?s house specialty dessert for more than 13 years has been a gooey chocolate pecan pie in a tender, flaky crust.

Here we?ve turned that same approach into bars, simplifying our original pie recipe and giving it a form that?s right for a buffet or party.

Rather than pastry, we?ve made an easy crust of bread crumbs and crunchy Mexican chocolate, then filled it with an indulgent cargo of nuts and chocolate held together with a just a bit of not- too- sweet goo.

You may find it easiest to line your pan with a carefully flattened piece of heavy-duty foil to help lift the bars out.

Chilling them first will make them easier to cut.

Makes 24 bars.

2 1/2 cups (about 10 ounces) pecan halves
1 cup (about 6 ounces) finely chopped Mexican chocolate
    (such as the widely available Ibarra brand)
6 ounces (about 6 to 8 slices) fresh white bread, preferably cakey
    sandwich bread (like Pepperidge Farm), broken into large pieces
1 cup (8 ounces) melted butter, plus extra for coating the pan
A generous 3/4 teaspoon salt
5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces
    not larger than 1/4-inch
3 tablespoons flour
4 large eggs
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup, preferably dark (or you can use a mixture of
    corn syrup and molasses, sorghum, Steens cane syrup or most
    any of the other rich-flavored syrups that are on the market)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for garnish

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Spread the pecans on a baking sheet. Bake until richly browned and toasty smelling, about 10 minutes.

Let cool, then scoop into the food processor and coarsely chop by turning the machine on and off.

Remove about 1 1/2 cups of the nuts and put in a large bowl to use in the filling.

Add half of the Mexican chocolate to the nuts in the food processor and pulse the machine to mix them.

Add bread slices; process until everything is fairly fine crumbs.

Add 1/3 cup of the melted butter and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.

Process just to moisten everything.

(Lacking a food processor, you can chop each item separately with any other appliance or gadget you deem appropriate, then combine them in a bowl with the melted butter and salt.)

Liberally butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan, then evenly pat in the crumb crust mixture. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

Add the remaining half of the Mexican chocolate, the chopped semisweet chocolate and the flour to the bowl with the reserved pecans.

In the food processor (you don?t even need to clean it), mix the eggs and sugar until well combined.

Add the corn syrup, pulse a couple of times, then add the remaining 2/3 cup of melted butter, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and all the vanilla. Process to combine thoroughly, then pour over the pecan filling mixture, stir well and scrape everything into your crust-lined pan.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until the bars have pulled away slightly from the side of the pan.

Let cool to room temperature before cutting into 2 inch-squares, dusting with powdered sugar and arranging on an attractive serving platter.

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