Monday, January 16, 2006

Mondays with Maida - Hungarian Walnut Bars

Page 102 in the old book / page 142 in the new book

This was entirely different approach to bar cookies for me... both the top and bottom layers are rolled pastry flavored with lemon zest and leavened with baking powder. In between is a sweetened walnut filling. The end result is a crumbly, nutty, lemony bar.

These were quite easy to make - you really don't even need a mixer. Unfortunately, I made the walnut filling more difficult than necessary. The recipe says to beat rum (or water) with an egg white "only until it increases in volume and starts to thicken". I started out beating with a whisk and wasn't seeing much change, so I dumped the mixture into the bowl of my mixer and tried that. I still saw little to no change in volume or consistency, so I had dirtied an extra bowl needlessly. I could be wrong, but I really think the only goal here is to break up the egg white so that it can mix well with the nuts. Briefly beating the mixture by hand with a whisk should be sufficient for that purpose.

I thought the cookies were very good and quite different from most bar cookies. I used dark rum in the filling, but couldn't taste it at all - no one else seemed to pick up on its presence either. I'm fascinated by the way these cookies are constructed and the texture of the pastry (I think the baking powder makes the pastry lighter and more crumbly). It would be fun to play with different fillings and flavorings.

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "This cookie was great! Lots of walnuts, sandwiched in between the cookie, and a slight lemony taste. Rating - 5.0"

Denny: "Definitely 5.0. Particularly liked the lemon taste after I figured it out. I think they're the best ones so far, although I loved some of the chocolate ones. Believe it or not, they may be better than my Mom's and Grandmother's nut horns. Thanks for those memories triggered by taste. Rating - 5.0"

Terri: "Outstanding - crunchy but moist with walnut paste-like filling. Rating - 5.0"

Phil: "A sweet layered combination of a generous portion of walnuts sandwiched between pastry dough. While a definite "keeper" this sampler kept searching for a moment of click like flavor which distinguishes the best from the very good. Rating - 4.1"

Overall rating by the panel - 4.8

Next week - Butterscotch Walnut Bars

Nutrition Facts


Brian W said...

Wow, this might be the best-reviewed cookie I've seen on your site yet. I should go stick a post-it on that page in the book!

Nic said...

Wow! Impressive results from the panel. I still think I'd prefer these with a fruit filling, but I love the idea.

Amy said...

Wow again! Based on the description and the ratings, these sound like a real winner. The picture looks like they cut nicely too. I always like that.

Nupur said...

OOh that looks so good. I am a huge fan of walnuts...and the results from the panel are awesome so this is a must-try.

Zarah Maria said...

I have a bag of organic walnuts I need to use - maybe these would be the solution? Impressive score I must say!:-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Cathy, I am a big fan of Maida's and have been reading your blog for some time now. I just wanted to say that your posts are fabulous and you are what originally inspired me to get started blogging. Happy blogging and looking forward to reading more Mondays!

Cathy said...

Hi Brian - actually it is in the number 2 spot - just behind the All American Brownies! I guess the classics are always popular. This wasn't my favorite so far, but I liked it a lot.

Hi Nic - I agree - I think it needs the sparkle of some fruit. I'd be tempted to maybe try a jam and nut mixture, leaving out the sugar and rum (or water), because I do like the texture of the nuts in there.

Hi Amy - they did seem to be a hit! Chilling them before cutting helped. The other "trick" I learned from Maida long ago is to pop the whole thing out of the pan and then cut them. That way you're not dragging the knife through them and you get a cleaner cut.

Hi Nupur - I'll bet you would like these. I remember that you like walnuts from when you made the frozen dessert with figs and walnuts (I'm going to have to try that!). Anyway, you'll definitely get a healthy dose of walnuts in these cookies!

Hi Zarah - Gosh, I'll bet there's no shortage of cookies that feature walnuts, but these are one good choice! Only problem is they've got a ton of fat and calories! :(

Hi Jenny - thank you so much! There are at least a couple years of "Mondays" yet to come, so I hope you'll keep coming back! I took a quick look at your blog and it looks great! Hope you have fun with it - the food blogging community is fantastic!

Joycelyn said...

hi cathy, how very gorgeous! i still have heaps of walnuts leftover from christmas baking and was just wondering what to use them for - thanks for the inspiration!

Cathy said...

Thanks so much Jocelyn! I like having a stockpile of nuts in the freezer. In fact, recently I've been hoarding because of stories of almond prices going sky-high and changes in pricing/packaging at my grocery store. Can't hang on to them too long though... I tomay be hunting for walnut (and pecan and almond) recipes in a few months!

Anonymous said...

I make my bars a bit different than you did. First, I triple grind the walnuts so that they are fine ground. Second, I use one of the new lemon zesters so that there is a strong lemony accent in the dough. Third, I cut them small. Finally, I dust them with powdered sugar. We loves these bars, too.
Pie Susan