Chocolate Walnut Squares

Chocolate Walnut Squares

I know what you’re going to say, and I agree that we have all been inundated with holiday baking posts for long enough.  I wasn’t going to post up these squares, despite the fact that they’re rich and buttery…and chocolaty…and full of toasted nuttiness.  Seeing that it is now a week after New Years, it is also officially diet time.  Oh, my apologies, it’s “lifestyle change”  time.  Six of one, half dozen of the other.  However, despite my best intentions, I find myself putting up yet another holiday baking post anyway.  Why?  Because I love my brother.

My brother and his family flew back to Ontario for the holidays, which was fabulous.  When you’re in the “Ye Of Little Income” boat, the cost of flying to the other side of the country might as well be the same as the other side of the world.  In fact, it really gets my goat that I could fly to Paris, Rome, or Dublin for less money than it takes me to visit Vancouver.  Where’s the justice in THAT, Canada?  And we wonder why tourism is down….sigh.  

Family genetics are an interesting thing.  We have the same eyes, he and I.  We also have the same natural hair color (if I peer very carefully at my roots in between dye-jobs) and face shape.  We’re both relatively tall with a penchant for reading and the arts.  Mendel would be proud.  However, when it comes to the dinner table, we veer off at opposite angles.  He’s one of those people who can pile a plate vertically (twice) and then ask what’s for dessert.  And no, you’re right, he never gains a pound.  I’m the kind of gal where you wave a diet coke beneath my nose and I pop a button on my pants.  This works out well, despite what you may think, because I really like cooking and he really likes eating.

I brought a tray of holiday baking over to my parent’s house for Christmas, and the next time I saw my brother he gave me a hug and asked hopefully, “So did you bring more of those walnut squares?”  Uh…I scuffled the rug a bit with my foot….that’s okay, he loves me, baking or not.  But then the second time I saw him, he said, “SO WHERE ARE MY WALNUT SQUARES?  Did MIKE eat them all?”  In the interest of maintaining cooperative relations between my beau and my bro, I made another batch for him to take home when they flew out yesterday.

So, brother of mine, when you’re reading this:  now you can make your own G.D. walnut squares.

Loves you!

Chocolate Walnut Squares

Makes 36 smallish squares

Crust:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar *
  • 3/4 cup cold salted butter **

Filling:

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar *
  • 3/4 cup salted butter **
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

Topping:

  • 300 g (about 2 cups) chocolate chips 

* Don’t pack the brown sugar down too tightly unless you want them to be really sweet.  A nice loosely packed (but full) measuring cup will do you just fine.

** You know how most good baking recipes call for unsalted or clarified butter?  I say that’s a load of malarkey.  Sure, you get to control the salt, or you can just enjoy eating tasty desserts that are perfectly salted through one of the key ingredients.  But I don’t know, it’s your call.  After all, I’m awfully lazy, so that might be part of it.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Spread the chopped walnuts out in an even layer on an ungreased baking sheet and put them in the middle of the oven.  Let the walnuts toast away, but keep an eye on them as it will only take a few minutes for them to go from golden to black.  Give them a shake after 5 minutes to see how they’re doing.  As soon as you can smell the fragrance of the walnuts toasting, they’re done.  And remember, toasty walnuts are tasty walnuts, so don’t be tempted to take them out too soon.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

Cut the butter up into 1/2 inch cubes.  In a food processor combine the flour, brown sugar and butter for the crust.  Pulse this for about 30 seconds, or until the texture is mealy and sandy.  

If you don’t have a food processor, you could do this in a bowl using a pastry cutter or two knives until it’s close to texture, and then use a wooden spoon to finish mixing.  

Chocolate Walnut Squares

Press the crumbs evenly into an ungreased 9×13″ baking pan, or casserole dish if you’re like me and you don’t actually have a 9×13″ baking pan, but seem to have a ridiculous number of 8″ square pans….such is life.  Really tamp it down evenly, and don’t bother too much if it cracks a tiny bit in places.  It will all turn out fine in the end, because any dessert that happens to be crafted almost entirely out of butter and sugar will inevitably reward you with deliciousness.

Bake the crust in the centre of your oven for 15 minutes, or until it’s light golden.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

If your walnuts are in larger chunks, give them a quick couple of pulses in a small food processor until they’re smaller and crumbly.  The largest pieces should be no more than 1/4″, and if some of them are crumby that’s actually ideal.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

While the crust is busy getting golden and delicious, in a small pot or saucepan melt the butter, brown sugar, and sweetened condensed milk over medium heat.  Stir as it melts together to make sure that the bottom doesn’t burn.  As soon as the mixture bubbles up to a boil you can take it off the heat.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

When the crust is golden brown you can remove it, but don’t turn off the stove just yet.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top of the crust.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

Pour the delicious caramel syrup all over the walnuts….

Chocolate Walnut Squares

…and smooth it out with the back of your spoon.  Some of the walnuts will lift up and get into the caramel.  This is not a bad thing at all, so pay it no mind.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

Back into the oven with that pan, for another 15-20 minutes.  It’s ready to come out when the topping is bubbly and the edges are just starting to brown slightly.  Don’t leave it in too long or it will actually harden, like a candy.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

As soon as the pan comes out of the oven, sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and just let this sit for 5 minutes of so.  You’ll see the chips lighten in color as they soften and melt, although they retain their shape.  When they’re slightly glossy and melted, use an offset spatula to smooth them out into a nice even chocolate topping.

Because the top is made entirely of unadulterated chocolate, try to use a better quality chip if you can.  I used Ghirardelli’s semi sweet chocolate chips for this batch, as opposed to my first batch where it was the “No Name” brand….it’s fair to say that there is a difference in both taste and texture, and spending the extra buck or two will yield better results.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

Let the squares cool at room temperature.  When the chocolate has hardened and set completely, cut them into 36 rectangles (9 down the length and 4 across the width) with a short and very sharp knife.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

I have a serious sweet tooth, and it’s not like me to cut such wee tiny little rectangles.  However, these squares are sugary and rich, so a larger square would be too much.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

Is it wrong that I find it totally hot when they’re in formation like this?  ”Give me an S (S!!).  Give me a U (U!!!!!!).  Give me a G (G!!!!!!!!!)………..”

Chocolate Walnut Squares

And, of course, I love my brother but it’s still necessary to save a tithing for myself.  Resolutions be damned, this is about chocolate and walnuts.  Oh, and butter.  Never forget the butter.

Chocolate Walnut Squares

Chocolate Walnut Squares
  • http://www.kalofagas.blogspot.com Peter

    These are reminiscent of Nanaimo Bars and perhaps a care pkge could sent with him to remind him of Ontario.

    There’s condensed milk again…the great provider of world peace and the reason Spanx are in business!

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo!

    Oh, Tina – No need to apologise. We didn’t get nearly our fill of holiday sweets this year… so we’ll be baking well into 2009 to make up for it. :)

    These look scrumtadillyumptious.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Peter – What? Did you see me start licking the condensed milk off my fingers, and then eventually take a spoon to the can? I thought I heard a rustle in the bushes….

    These are like Nanaimo bars in terms of the chocolate topping and the multi-layered goodness, but texturally they’re quite different. The bar is quite firm and holds together well. They’re more like a cookie, as opposed to the ooey-gooey-creamy deliciousness of soft Nammys.

    Lo! – I only protest so much, you know. I don’t stop baking, I just stop POSTING about the baking for a while. Particularly after that horrifying Christmas picture Mike posted (love you boo) which not only reminded me that it’s time for a wrinkle cream, but also more grapefruit and less cheese….

  • http://www.noblepig.com/ noble pig

    This is really sweet. I love these types of desserts. Especially anything with nuts! It’s always nice when someone loves what you bake.

  • Stephen

    Santa Claus brought me some chocolate walnut squares for Christmas!! THANKS SANTA! They are, as expected, absolutely delicious and full of wonderful walnutty goodness.

  • Nanco

    Yay! I see a familiar wooden spatula! These look amazing. I’m glad your brother appreciated the ones he got from Santa…

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

      We fully love both the spatula and the apron, thank you! If Tina ever let me take pictures of her that aren’t immediately censored, you’d see how cute she looks in it.

  • Nanco

    Dan and I think you, Mike, should model the apron, and post the photo on here. Just so we can see what it looks like on. :)

  • http://www.warmolives.blogspot.com Kate

    Oooh. I’m making this G.D. Walnut Squares this weekend for sure! Thanks.

  • http://www.thekneadforbread.com Chuck

    Yummy, Yummy, Yummy!! I love recipes that are simple and delicious all at the same time.

  • Jikke

    Wauw those look so good! I’m making them right now! Because I’m in Europe I always have to convert the measurements, and every time I wonder how you people measure a cup of butter? Do you melt it first, and then pour it into the cup? Or scoop it in with a spoon? It puzzles me! Anyway, thanks for the recipe!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Jikke – thank you for visiting our blog!

      Now then, DON’T MELT THE BUTTER unless the recipe calls for melted butter!! Fats and dairy proteins are funny little beasts, and being temperature sensitive means that they’ll behave differently depending on how you treat them. For example, you would never make pie crust using melted butter because a flaky pie crust depends on having tiny little pockets of butter in the dough. When you melt butter the water and milk solids separate out (this is how clarified butter is made). Sometimes this is good, but other times? Not so much.

      Pastry or most things that should be flaky usually need ice cold butter. When you’re baking cookies, cakes, etc and the butter will be creamed, it’s good to have the butter very soft at room temperature – easier to beat but the fats, water and protein are still combined. For a dish which needs a buttery taste but the butter cannot be creamed in (certain rice dishes, breads, etc) melted butter is usually fine…..but again, only if the recipe asks you for it!!

      In terms of measurement, I’m not sure what the standard size of butter is where you live. In North America, butter is usually sold in pounds (a rectangular brick) or sticks (4 sticks is 1 pound). As a basic reference:
      - Each pound of butter is 2 cups, so if you cut it into 2 square each one will be 1 cup. If you want a half cup you would cut off a quarter, and so on.
      - If you buy butter in sticks, each stick is a half cup, which is why 4 sticks (1 pound) is 2 cups.
      - Each stick of butter is 8 tablespoons. This means that there are 8 tbsp in 1/2 cup of butter, or 16 tablespoons in a full cup.
      If I need a cup and a half of butter, I would score my widthwise (the full pound) in quarters and take 3/4 of that.
      If I need several tablespoons of butter, I will usually cut lengthwise in half (2 long rectangles) flip it 1 turn and cut lengthwise again to make 4 sticks. That can be cut in half (4 tablespoons), quarters (2 tbsp) and so on.
      I hope that helps!!!!

  • http://fiestasaurus.blogspot.com/ Jessica McKeil

    I just made these.
    I found the recipe through tastespotting.com

    MAN – can I make these everyday? They are so amazing.

    Although next time I will really spend extra on the chocolate… it could be better.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Jessica – we’re so glad that you made – and enjoyed – these squares!!! They’re one of my guilty pleasures as well….. and yes, the quality of the chocolate definitely makes a difference.

    Thanks again for stopping by, and we’re so glad you liked the recipe!