Double-Nut Maple Bars

If anyone has been to my house, they know how large my cookbook cabinet is. Rows and rows of possibilities – old and new, salty and sweet. There also is a cookbook annex in the basement that has yet another plethora of recipes just waiting to be sauteed, sliced, simmered and savored. And, with the internet these days, do I really need any more?

That HAD to be a rhetorical question because the answer is, of course, yes. And, when Bon Appetit had on their facebook page that you could get their new cookbook Just Desserts as a pre-order for half the price, it was a no brainer. Now that my baking infatuation has continued to grow and grow, this book would clearly make it worse – beautiful glossy photos along with the best of Bon Appetit’s sweet treats.

The day it arrived, I settled into my sunroom with a glass of wine and dove in. I read it with the intensity many would read a trashy romance novel – and yes, I read my cookbooks cover to cover.

This recipe was my first trial out of the cookbook. I had recently bought some grade B maple syrup and wanted to keep using it up, so when I saw these bars, I thought it would be the ideal way to use some up.

These are different than my normal cakes, cookies and brownies – it is a shortbread crust with a sticky maple, pecan, caramel filling. Even with making the crust, I was able to make this in less than 1 hour. It was AMAZING – not to mention gone in one day. The sweetness of the topping combined with the texture of the crust is the perfect combination, and a great way to “mix up” my baking with something different.

Not only is this post an ode to these bars, but also an ode to Just Desserts by Barbara Fairchild, from which many of my kitchen creations will surely emerge.

Makes 16

For crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon whole milk

For filling:
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8 x 8 x 2-inch metal baking pan. Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor and blend. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Combine egg yolk and milk in small bowl. Drizzle egg mixture into processor; process using on/off turns just until dough clumps together but is still dry. Transfer dough crumbs to prepared pan. Press crumbs onto bottom and halfway up sides of pan. Bake until crust is set and pale golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer crust to rack and cool.

Make filling:
Combine maple syrup, sugar, cream and butter in heavy medium saucepan. Bring mixture to boil. Boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nuts and vanilla.

Pour filling over crust, spreading nuts evenly bake until filling bubbles all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely. Cut into bars and serve at room temperature. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store cookies between sheets of wax paper in airtight container at room temperature.)


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