Last weekend, my fiancé and I took the first of what will be many trips over to Fredericksburg. (That’s where we’ll be married next fall!) It’s an absolutely adorable little town filled with bed and breakfasts, specialty shops and German bakeries. After I showed him around the venue I’ve fallen in love with (he did, too– thank goodness!) we enjoyed live music over beer and a sausage sampler (naturally). It was a perfect fall day.

As we were walking back to the car, we passed a farm stand loaded with a fresh crop of Texas pecans. Now, you may remember us bragging on the summer peaches that we buy by the pound every summer. The same is true for Texas pecans in the fall and winter. Luckily, I had $20 cash and was able to walk away with two pounds – score! My purchase also scored points with my mom, who immediately located a pecan recipe worthy of the first fall crop.

This recipe incorporates all that is wonderful about traditional pecan pie with a few delicious twists: a buttery pretzel crust, chunks of chocolate and a powdered sugar garnish.

Gather Up:
1 cup pecan halves
½ of a 9-ounce bag pretzel rods
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the pan
¼ cup granulated sugar
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into pieces not larger than ¼ inch (not chocolate chips)

For the filling:
1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup corn syrup, preferably dark (I used Steen’s cane syrup)
½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for garnish

First, toast the pecans and prepare the crumb crust. In a 325-degree oven, toast the pecans. Let the pecans cool to lukewarm, then coarsely chop them by hand. ¼ to ½ inch pieces make luxurious-looking bars. Transfer to a large bowl.

Use a food processor to chop the pretzels into fairly fine crumbs. (You should have 1 cup of crumbs.) Melt 1 stick of butter. Add to processor, along with the ¼ cup granulated sugar. Pulse until everything is combined.

Butter the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch baking pan. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan, then press firmly in place. Butter the parchment paper. Press the crumb mixture into an even layer covering the bottom completely.

Next, make the filling. To the pecans, add the chopped chocolate and the flour. Stir to combine, then pour into the pan. Melt the remaining stick of butter. In an electric mixer, combine the eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup and vanilla, and beat at medium-low speed. Slowly add the melted butter, mixing until the batter looks smooth. Pour the batter into the pan slowly and evenly over the surface to ensure even distribution of the chocolate and pecans through the batter.

Bake 45-55 minutes, until the center is almost firm. (This is the tricky part: it’s like baking a pecan pie. The filling should be almost firm but it will still have a little jiggle in it.) Let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate. Use a small knife to cut it away from the side of the pan, then turn it out. Peel off the parchment paper and place it on a cutting board.

Using a long, heavy, sharp knife, cut the entire pan into 1-inch squares. (You’re going to have to cut “with a purpose” – straight down, with a big chef’s knife is best. Clean the knife down between each cut, and return the bars to the fridge to firm them back up if you’re having trouble.) Keep the bars stored in the fridge until just before serving. Transfer to a serving platter and dust with powdered sugar.

It’s a bit of work, but it’s totally worth it. And, it’s a perfect introduction to Thanksgiving pecan pie. Yum!

Recipe from Rick Bayless, as seen on Good Morning America.