High Country Baking: Mixed nut bars
I’m often yearning for is a mixture of sweet and salty flavors. Oh, the wonderful contrast between those two; it’s downright addictive! And, from what I hear, I’m not alone in loving that combination … it’s a classic.
Its popularity probably explains the raves these little bars get every time I serve them. Salted mixed nuts, topped with a heavy sprinkling of sugar, are baked into a tender, crumbly shortbread crust. Every bite rewards you with the sweetness of melted sugar mingled with the salty crunch of nuts. What’s not to like?
The Mixed Nut Bars are remarkably easy to make. Four ingredients merge into a crust after a minute or two in a food processor or just slightly longer if made with a mixer or by hand. Pat it in a pan, cover it with store-bought mixed nuts and granulated sugar, and voila! It’s oven ready. Once baked, the bars can wait days before being served or can be frozen with ease.
Only one precaution: This is a fragile cookie, not one to send through the mail or throw in a backpack. If you’re going to share it with others, transport it gently or have your friends come to your house; I’m almost sure they’ll think it was worth the trip.
Mixed Nut Bars
- 3/4 cup salted and roasted mixed cocktail nuts
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 8 tablespoons, or 1 stick, unsalted butter
Make in an 8-by-8 inch shiny metal baking pan.
Get ready: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line the baking pan with non-stick aluminum foil or regular aluminum foil, letting it extend several inches on two opposing sides to use as handles to remove the bars. If using regular foil, butter or grease it well. Coarsely chop the nuts.
To make in a food processor: Place the flour and 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Add the vanilla. Cut the butter into 16 pieces and add them to the bowl. Process until a shaggy dough is formed. Stop just before it forms a ball.
To make with a mixer or by hand: Cut the butter into 8 pieces and soften it to room temperature. Beat it with 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar until well combined. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Add the flour and stir (or knead with your hands) until a dough is formed.
Bake: Dump the dough into the prepared pan, level and smooth it. Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over the top and gently press them into the dough so they stay in place. Sprinkle the remaining one tablespoon of granulated sugar over the nuts. Bake until the cookie is set and golden, about 20-25 minutes.
Cool and Cut: Remove the pan from the oven and wait until it is cool enough to touch, about eight to 10 minutes. When it is, use the foil handles to lift the uncut bar out of the pan. If you didn’t line the pan, leave the shortbread in it. In either case, cut the bars at this point, while the shortbread is still warm. The bars may break and crumble if you wait until it’s cool to cut them. Once the bars are cooled completely they’re ready to serve. You may store the bars in an airtight container for five days at cool room temperature or freeze them for up to two months.
Editor’s note: This cookie is inspired by a recipe published in Gourmet Magazine.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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