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.
Chocolate Walnut Squares
Makes 36 smallish squares
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup brown sugar *
- 3/4 cup cold salted butter **
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 3/4 cup brown sugar *
- 3/4 cup salted butter **
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When the crust is golden brown you can remove it, but don’t turn off the stove just yet.
Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top of the crust.
Pour the delicious caramel syrup all over the walnuts….
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!!!!!)………..”
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.