Saturday, May 28, 2011

Recipe: Chocolate Pecan Date Bars

I can't remember when I came across this recipe, but I knew I wanted to try it right away. First, though, I had to modify it a bit since I don't have agave nectar or stevia (a syrup & a sweetener). I also didn't include dried cranberries because I wanted Pat to eat some too.

Here's my version, topped off with a decadent Nutella-chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Pecan Date Bars

2 1/4 cups pecans
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
15 Medjool dates, pitted
1 tbsp vanilla
6 tbsp honey

1/3 cup chocolate chips
splash cream
2 tbsp Nutella


1. I started out by gathering my ingredients.
I don't usually do this, but I wanted to this time since the methods call for a food processor. I only have a blender & it isn't very powerful, so I did the blending in small batches. Being organized beforehand made the process move along more smoothly.
Can I just say that dates are gross? I mean, they taste delicious, but they look like giant insects.... and the pit inside.... ugh. I don't know how anyone can eat them whole.

2. Lightly toast the pecans.
I did this in the oven, at 400F for a few minutes. You can also toast them in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat. Either way, just make sure to watch them closely so that they don't burn. Once they start smelling fragrant & have a little bit of colour on them, remove them from the heat & let cool.

3. Meanwhile, chop your dates.
If you have a powerful food processor, you may be able to skip this step - or only cut them in 2 or 4 pieces. Make sure they're all pitted though. You can also get away with using other varieties of dates - I used California dates the first time I made them. They're just smaller, so you need more of them & they're less sweet & juicy, so you'll need more honey.

4. Once the pecans are cool, chop them too.
Again, don't if your food processor can handle whole nuts.

5. Mix the pecans, cocoa & brown sugar.
Blend in small batches, aiming for a coarse, almost-powdery texture.
If you blend the nuts too long, you'll end up with pecan butter. While you don't want to go this far for all of it, some clumps here & there are ok.

6. Mix in the chopped dates.
Again, blend in small batches (or process them all at once if you can). This time we're aiming for a coarse, yet still dry, mixture.

7. Mix in the vanilla. Next, stir in the honey, 2 tablespoons at a time, until a thick dough forms. I needed about 6 tbsp for everything to stick together, but you may need more or less, depending on how sticky your dates are & how much pecan butter you make. Corn syrup or other types of syrup might also work here, but you may want to use less sugar if they're extra sweet. Once the dough holds together without crumbling, press it into a parchment paper-lined square pan.
Freeze at least 15 minutes, or until firm.

8. You could certainly stop here, chop up the bar & eat them as is. But I like to top them off with Nutella-chocolate ganache. I only had milk chocolate chips, but semi-sweet turns out much better.
Mix the chocolate chips, cream & Nutella in a microwave-safe bowl & heat on half power in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted.
I expected this to be smoother in texture - I think it had to do with the milk chocolate chips. A bit more chocolate might also do the trick. I'll have to play with it. As is, it's a thick delicious icing.

9. Ice the bar & return to the freezer for 15-20 minutes.
Once firm, pull it out of the pan with the parchment paper overhang.
Cut it into squares & enjoy!
These do get quite soft at room temperature, so I recommend storing them in the freezer. They would probably do fine in the fridge, but they won't last as long. Besides, these taste amazing straight from the freezer!
Now just try not to eat them all at once! Let me know what you think if you try these!

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