This past weekend we hosted friends for their first Kentucky Derby here in Louisville, Kentucky. For most people, the first Saturday in May is just any other weekend, but to those of us who live in Kentucky, Derby Day is a national holiday taken VERY seriously. So seriously that schools are closed on the Friday before Derby. If you ask most people, businesses themselves close down somewhere around mid-week of Derby, as Derby festivities take priority over everything else.
Wanting to make the experience authentic for my friends, I searched for the appropriate souvenirs, shopped for the quintessential local Kentucky food for everyone to sample, and planned an after-Derby meal featuring Kentucky Hot Browns. Normally for dessert a true Kentuckian would serve Kern’s Derby-Pie® or some equivalent, generally referred to as Kentucky Chocolate Bourbon Pie or Kentucky Chocolate Pecan Pie. The original version is made with walnuts while other versions now use pecans. Some use bourbon, some do not. It’s baked in a pie shell somewhat like a tart, and always has plenty of chocolate and chocolate chips.
Well, we’re a food allergy family, with severe allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. So no authentic Kentucky Chocolate Bourbon Pie here. But why should that stop us from having an authentic Derby dinner? Personally I LOVE this pie, with its intense chocolate flavor and hint of bourbon.
So I decided to make a peanut/tree nut free alternative. I searched and searched, put a few parts of various recipes together, and came up with a Kentucky Chocolate Pie Bar, using roasted sunflower seeds. You can make this recipe in a pie pan, tart pans, a square baking pan, or 9X13 glass dish. Knowing my kids would not appreciate the bourbon flavor as much as the adults, I divided the recipe into two separate pans, and added bourbon and orange zest to one pan for the adults. I think bourbon and orange are a match made in heaven so I tend to put them together in A LOT of recipes, but you can also leave out the orange zest if you want. Bourbon on its own is pretty awesome in any recipe.
These are great served warm with vanilla ice cream and whip cream, or chilled. I have eaten way too many this week as I wax nostalgic about how much fun we had over Derby weekend. In fact, I think I’ve eaten all of the leftovers. Which means now I have to go make another batch for everyone else in the household. Enjoy!