With their buttery cookie base and caramelized pecan pie-type filling, these bars are nothing short of addictive. (In fact, looking for more excuses to enjoy them, we created the variations below.) Chopping some of the nuts and leaving others whole creates a pretty mosaic effect.
3 cups raw, skin-on hazelnuts*, divided
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
2 cups flour
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. cold butter, cubed
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
7 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 350°. Roast hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet until light golden, about 18 minutes. Rub the warm nuts in a kitchen towel to remove half of skins. Finely chop 1/2 cup nuts in a food processor. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.
Put chopped nuts, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, the flour, 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Blend on low speed with a mixer until well blended.
Grease a 9-in. square baking pan, line with foil (let it hang over edges), then grease foil. Press dough evenly into bottom of pan. Bake until golden and firm, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, very roughly chop half of remaining nuts to make 1 cup.
Bring remaining 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 3 tbsp. butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, the maple syrup, and the brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, whisking frequently. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup whole hazelnuts and the chopped nuts (2 cups total; you may have leftover nuts). Pour over crust and spread evenly. Bake until set when pan is tilted, about 18 minutes.
Let cool on a rack. Lift foil with cookie to a board. Cut cookie into 16 squares, then cut each square in half diagonally.
Extra-Toasty Hazelnut Shortbread Bars: Follow directions for Hazelnut Shortbread Bars. Keep temperature at 350° throughout recipe. In step 3, bake crust until very deep golden, 45 minutes to 1 hour. In step 4, reduce the baking time to about 15 minutes.
Chocolaty Hazelnut Shortbread Bars: Follow directions for Hazelnut Shortbread Bars. After spreading nut topping on the crust in step 4, scatter 1 cup (5½ oz.) roughly chopped bittersweet chocolate on top, then bake.
Fruity Hazelnut Shortbread Bars: Follow directions for Hazelnut Shortbread Bars. In step 4, stir 1 cup tart or sweet dried cherries or cranberries into nut topping.
*Hazelnuts from Oregon--where virtually all the U.S. crop grows--taste much sweeter and fresher than imports. Find them in bulk bins in grocery stores (check the country of origin) and at freddyguys.com, hazelnuthill.com, or yournw.com?
Yes, there is effort involved, and time. If you read through a recipe before attempting it, you'll know that. I decided to toast my hazelnuts at 325 over 350, and pulled them out at about 12 minutes. They were smelling fragrant, and had turned a nice light golden color. Trust your instinct/nose/skill/whatever on this. Burnt nuts aren't worth pursuing! I followed as described when making the top layer - using 1 C roughly chopped filberts and 1 C whole. I used a cleaver to cut the triangles once it had cooled and firmed up a bit. Just like brownies, you don't want to cut it too soon or you likely won't be happy with the results. This recipe has great flavor. I had dried cherries to try the "fruity" variation, but stuck to the original recipe, and am glad I did. Though I'm sure it's wonderful with cherries, also.
I gave these as Christmas gifts and some people said they were the most delicious things ever had. It is a fair amount of work, and like the other reviewer frustrating to cut. Do not leave in pan overnight to cool as I did, because it was impossible to get out. I'd butter both under the tinfoil and over it. Also, I'd chop the hazelnuts for top layer smaller so they don't fall off as much when you cut. I personally wouldn't add chocolate as i think it would distract from the flavor. I used a very good (Grade B) maple syrup and roasted the Hazelnuts myself.
This was a fair amount of work. When we tried to cut this and it was impossible to get it to not break into random crumbs and chunks. We did add chocolate chips which elevated the flavor. Flavor was a 4, but for the amount of work involved in it's prep and the inability to cut into individual portions dropped it to a 2.