Recipe: Run for the Roses Chocolate Pecan Pie |

Recipe: Run for the Roses Chocolate Pecan Pie

Vera Dawson
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to Daily/Vera DawsonIn honor of Kentucky Derby day, try baking this Run for the Roses Chocolate Pecan Pie. It's as traditional as mint juleps and fancy hats.

Editor’s Note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.

I can still feel the excitement … the first Saturday in May. It’s Kentucky Derby Day … the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs!

It may not mean much to those of us who live in the west, but for many in the southeast, it’s as big as Superbowl Sunday. While I never attended the event, I joined in the celebration for several years. And, oh my, it’s a good one: flowers everywhere, beautiful horses parading to “My Old Kentucky Home,” ladies decked out in fancy hats escorted by elegant southern gentlemen, and a traditional menu of mint juleps, burgoo (a delicious Southern stew), and this chocolate-pecan pie.

The dessert is so famous that its name, “Derby Pie,” is trademarked. I can see why: It is memorable. When served warm, the chocolate is intense and almost flowing, like thick hot fudge. It’s nicely complemented by the chopped pecans and, if you use it, both are enhanced by the smooth, complex taste of bourbon. As an eating experience, this one is rich and addictive.

It’s definitely the taste that makes this pie remarkable; it wouldn’t get much attention for its looks. In fact, I serve it plated; I don’t think it’s pretty enough to bring to the table uncut. I find it much easier to slice when cool, so I recommend cooling it completely, reheating individual pieces until warm to the touch, (either in the oven or microwave), and then presenting them, topped with vanilla ice cream or unsweetened whipped cream.

I like to prebake the crust for this pie, though most recipes don’t call for it. If you like a crisp crust, prebake it. If you don’t care, add the filling to an unbaked crust.

Be sure and use the best chocolate chips you can find … it makes all the difference.

Bake in a 9 inch pie pan


1 single, nine-inch pie crust, home-made or commercial

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 cup of flour

1/2 teaspoon of salt

8 tablespoons (one stick) of unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 generous tablespoon of bourbon (optional)

1 generous teaspoon of vanilla

1 cup of good-quality semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup of chopped pecans, lightly toasted

Vanilla ice cream or unsweetened whipped cream for garnish

If you plan to prebake the pie crust, 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. With one of my shallower pie pans, I have a little over half a cup of filling left over. 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.

This recipe is a variation of one in “The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.”

Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at

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