Sunday, December 28, 2008
Holiday Cookies: Walnut Bars
It's not too late for one more holiday cookie! Gooey with caramel, buttery and decadent, these tiny walnut bars are showstoppers. One of my favorite all-season treats, I try to only bake them when I'm expecting visitors (otherwise I eat them all!). Cut into teensy two-bite pieces, either rectangles or triangles, they look pretty on any cookie tray. And if walnuts aren't your forte, swap them for pecans.
Honey Walnut Bars
2 c. flour
2/3 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt (don't use if your butter is salted)
1-1/2 sticks (12 T) butter, cold
2/3 c. honey
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
6 T butter
2 T cream (milk works fine, if you don't have cream)
2-3 c. walnuts, halved, whole or in pieces
Line a 9x13" baking pan with foil, crinkling it into the corners, then spray or butter the foil. (Don't skip this step or, if you forget to cut the bars in time, they'll never come out of the pan again.) Heat the oven to 350º, then also clear enough space in your freezer to squeeze in the pan you're using.
Mix all of the crust ingredients together in a bowl and use a pastry cutter to cut in the butter. Press the mixture into the foiled bottom of your pan, spreading it out evenly. Place the pan in the freezer for 15 minutes. Then bake it, straight from the freezer, for 20 minutes. When the edges of the crust are lightly golden, take the pan out of the oven and set aside.
While the crust is cooling slightly, start the filling by heating the honey and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar dissolves, add the butter and cream and simmer for two minutes. Add the walnuts and stir to combine. Pour the filling over the warm crust and smooth the nuts with a spatula — the melted caramel will fill in any spaces left over, so just make sure the nuts are evenly spread out. Bake for 20 minutes and the top should look like the photo below, gooey and thickened.
Let the bars set on a cooling rack for 45 minutes to an hour, until the filling has completely set but is still slightly warm. Set the timer! This is the only tricky part to the bars, as they are impossible to cut neatly once the caramel has set. Cut the bars into whatever shape you'd like, then let them cool completely before eating.