Walnut Maple Bars with Shortbread Crust

Walnut Maple Bars with Shortbread Crust
I never cared for pecan pies when I was a kid. I found that most of them had fillings that were too sweet and too gooey, overwhelming both the nuts and the crust of the pie. Actually, I still find a lot of pecan pies to be this way, which is why I prefer to make my own. With a homemade pecan pie, I get a much better balance of the nuts and the rest of the filling, and I can use sweeteners that add flavor, such as honey and maple syrup, instead of just sweetness, like commonly used corn syrup does. Pecan pies encouraged me to branch out and use other types of nuts more often in pies and tarts, like these Walnut Maple Bars.

These bars are a bit of a takeoff on pecan pie. In fact, they would be a great stand in for pecan pie at a holiday party, pleasing pie lovers in the flavor department and bakers for their easy preparation! They have a shortbread cookie crust and a topping packed with walnuts and maple syrup. The topping is similar to that of a pecan pie, but with a fairly high nut to filling ratio that leaves every bar with a generous amount of nuts, a buttery crust and lot of flavor. Walnuts work very well in these bars because they have a buttery flavor to them that other nuts don’t have. They still offer a bit of a crunch, but they blend in with the rest of the topping very well. In fact, I’ll throw in that they’re high in fiber and Omega-3s just because that is the justification I used to go for seconds after I had my first piece!

I added a little bit of cinnamon to the shortbread crust to give it a little more character. I used Grade B maple syrup in these bars because it has a stronger flavor than Grade A, but any flavor of maple syrup will work well. The vanilla adds a nice highlight to the flavor and the small amount of butter in the filling ensures that it stays tender, in addition to bringing out that buttery note from the walnuts. I used untoasted nuts, but toasted would work equally well in this recipe, as would a blend of pecans and walnuts if you want to mix things up.


Walnut Maple Bars with Shortbread Crust
Cinnamon Shortbread Crust
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into 4-6 pieces

Walnut Maple Topping
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9×9-inch square pan with aluminum foil.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine all of the crust ingredients. Pulse several times until a coarse, sandy mixture forms. Pour into prepared baking dish and press into an even layer.
Bake for 13-15 minutes, until crust is very lightly browned around the edges.
Spread walnuts in an even layer over the still-warm crust (crust does not need to cool before filling).
In a medium bowl, make the rest of the topping. Whisk together sugar, maple syrup, eggs and melted butter until very smooth. Add in flour vanilla and whisk until well combined. Pour over walnuts and put the baking pan back in the oven.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tart is set and topping is golden brown.
Cool bars completely in the pan, then use the aluminum foil to easily lift them out before slicing.

Makes 20 bars.

Serves 10-12

10 comments

  1. cinnamon shortbread sounds like a delicious base for these bars!

  2. Oh these sound so amazing!! I love the shortbread crust idea :)

  3. These look like a great alternative to pecan pie. I wonder how they’d be with black walnuts. Yum!

  4. these bars look soo good! i love, love, love, pecan pie, so i’m sure i would be crazy about these!

  5. I reallllly want to make these… like, right now! :)

  6. I have a lot of walnut-haters in my group of eaters (and 1-2 with walnut allergies) so I tend to shy away from walnuts unless requested (or at least asked about in advance). I get tired of it always being pecans and even macadamia nuts (since they are relatively less expensive on the west coast side of the country). Would macadamia nuts work? Or maybe pistachio nuts? I think the pistachios have a great buttery flavor about them as well.

  7. Elizabeth Kay Pinder

    What kind of knife do you use to slice these so neatly? Do you have a favorite brand? I’m in the market for s couple of knives. Thanks.

  8. Elizabeth – I used a very sharp Shun chef’s knife, but as long as your knife is sharp enough to cut cleanly through the nuts, you should get great slices.

  9. Wow, these maple bars are amazing. I used pure Ohio maple syrup and have already made two batches to send to my daughters in Denver and Los Angeles. They should travel well……..much better at least than the “Lacy Oatmeal Cookies” I had intended to send. Thanks.

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