Jun 17, 2016

Recipe: Nutty for Nuts Bars

We're well into June now and with the warm weather and long days comes a lot more time spent outside and, by extension, a lot more fun social activities like potlucks and parties for many of us!

I love baking, so I always try to get dibs on dessert when I go to a potluck. Not only is making desserts loads of fun, but desserts are often also easier to make ahead of time and transport to the party location, since they generally don't have to be kept particularly hot or cold in transport.

These nutty bars are a sweet, delicious, and indulgent dessert that's a big hit at parties, potlucks, and bake sales. They're fun to make, a great way to switch things up from the typical chocolate chip cookies and brownies, and are perfect served at room temperature. They're very rich, so you get a lot of bars out of the batch. Read on for the recipe!

Nutty for Nuts Bars
Makes 64 small bars

* 2.333 c. all-purpose flour
* 0.5 c. coconut sugar
* 0.5 tsp. baking powder
* 0.5 tsp. salt

* 0.75 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* 1 large egg, lightly beaten

* 1 c. whole almonds
* 1 c. hazelnuts

* 0.667 c. honey
* 0.5 c. coconut sugar
* 0.25 tsp. salt

* 6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* 2 Tbsp. heavy cream 

* 1 c. salted, roasted cashews
* 1 c. salted, shelled pistachios

To Make the Crust (can be done the day before):

1) Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2" overhang on all sides. Butter the foil.

2) Whisk together the flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3) Blend the chopped butter into the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. There should be no butter clumps that are bigger than a pea left. 

4) Add the egg and stir with a fork until a ball begins to form.

5) Divide the dough into four balls and smear each ball forward with the heel of your hand twice, before gathering all the dough together.

6) Press the dough firmly into an even layer in the baking pan. Prick all over with a fork. 

7) Bake 15-25 minutes, until the edges are golden and begin pulling away from the sides of the pan.

8) Cool for ~40 minutes in the pan on a rack. 

**At this point, you can refrigerate the crust, covered, and continue the next day, if you're making the crust in advance.**

To Make the Topping:

9) Preheat oven to 350F.

10) Toast almonds and hazelnuts* on opposite ends of a shallow baking pan for 8-10 minutes, until fragrant and golden on the inside. If there are a lot of loose skins on the hazelnuts, you can rub them between paper towels to remove loose skins. Don't worry about skins that stay attached.

* As you can see, I toasted almonds and pistachios - that's because, in this batch, I did not use hazelnuts and the pistachios I had were unroasted. The goal is that all the nuts should be roasted/toasted, so that they're flavorful and fragrant, and the great thing about this recipe is that you can pretty much use any combination of nuts that you have. I do recommend always trying to have the pistachios in the mix, because they add a pretty pop of color!

11) Bring the honey, coconut sugar, and salt to a boil in a medium-large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then boil without stirring for 2 minutes.

12) Add the butter and cream. Boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minutes.

13) Remove from heat and stir in all the nuts well, until thoroughly coated in the syrupy mixture.

14) Spread the nut mixture evenly over the crust and bake 15-25 minutes, until topping is caramelized and bubbling.

15) Cool completely in the pan on a rack. When completely cool, lift it out of the pan using the foil overhang and cut into 64 bars. Peel the bars from the foil.

16) Store bars in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper, for up to 1 week at room temperature. 

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