Kentucky Derby traditions: Mint julep and chocolate pecan pie (recipes)
The 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby will be held Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, which means it’s time for big hats, bets and mint juleps.
The mint julep is probably one of the most well-known traditions of the Kentucky Derby. According to the Kentucky Derby website, each year almost 120,000 mint juleps are served during the two-day period of Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs Racetrack. Vaughn Swanson, at Apres Handcrafted Libations in Breckenridge, provided this recipe for the bourbon drink made famous by the race. Apres serves the drink in a tin cup, with crushed ice and garnished with a mint sprig.
“It’s a different take on a bourbon drink,” Swanson said. “Usually, bourbon drinks can be in-your-face and aggressive.”
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From Apres Handcrafted Libations in Breckenridge:
1 brown sugar cube
6 mint leaves
2 ounces bourbon of choice
6 drops of water
Add sugar and mint leaves to mixing container. Add drops of water; muddle all together. Add your choice of bourbon, and stir to mix ingredients without ice. Use a julep strainer to strain over ice in a tin cup. Garnish with a mint leaf or two.
This next recipe for Run for the Roses Chocolate Pecan Pie is one from Vail Daily high-altitude baking columnist Vera Dawson’s new book “Baking Above It All.” The dessert is so famous that its name, Derby Pie, is trademarked.
“When served warm, the chocolate is intense and almost flowing, like thick hot fudge,” Dawson said. “It’s nicely complemented by the chopped pecans, and if you use it, both are enhanced by the smooth, complex taste of bourbon.”
From South Carolina herself, Dawson said the Kentucky Derby is like Super Bowl Sunday for those in the Southeast.
Run for the Roses Chocolate Pecan Pie
From Vera Dawson’s book “Baking Above It All”: Bake in a 9-inch pie pan.
1 single, nine-inch pie crust, homemade or commercial
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 generous tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 generous teaspoon vanilla
1 cup good-quality semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
Vanilla ice cream or unsweetened whipped cream for garnish
If you plan to prebake the pie crust, then do so according to the directions that accompany the recipe or the store-bought crust. You can add the filling to the warm prebaked crust; you need not cool it completely before filling.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the center position.
Beat the room-temperature eggs (if necessary, warm them in a bowl of hot tap water for a few minutes — you want them at room temperature) at high speed with a hand-held electric mixer until lemon colored and light. Slowly add the sugar, beating on high, until the mixture is thickened and even lighter in color.
Add the flour, salt and melted butter, reduce the mixer speed to low, and mix until well-combined. Add the bourbon (if using) and vanilla, and mix again on low speed. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans by hand.
Spoon the filling into the pie shell. Fill only to about a quarter inch below the top of the crust; the filling puffs up as it bakes. You may not use all the filling. Put the filled pie pan on a cookie sheet, and bake until the filling and crust are deep golden. Start checking at about 32 minutes, though it may take closer to 45 minutes if you haven’t prebaked the crust. If you’ve prebaked the crust, you may need to cover it with pie shields or strips of aluminum foil to prevent it from overbaking while the filling cooks.
Remove the pie from the oven. You can serve it when it is has cooled to warm or you can cool it completely, cut it and then rewarm it. Serve it with vanilla ice cream or unsweetened whipped cream. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.