A layer of buttery shortbread topped with a gooey mixture of honey and nuts, these walnut bars are easier to make than you'd think and very delicious! It's a great recipe for the holiday season and as a finger dessert for parties.
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Whether you call them honey walnut squares or bars, these are delicious, crunchy, and perfectly gooey.
A twist on traditional pecan bars, I love that the shortbread base and the topping are easily made with a bowl, a spatula, and a saucepan.
It's a great dessert for winter gatherings and holiday parties as they can be cut into small pieces and used as finger food. Everyone will rave about them!
About this recipe
This recipe, as it usually is with bars and squares, has a crust and a filling.
- The crust is a shortbread (flour, powdered sugar, and butter) and comes together in no time.
- The filling is made in 5 minutes in a saucepan. And you probably have all ingredients in your kitchen right now.
- Baking: the final step and a very important one because the chewiness will depend on the correct baking time, so the filling is neither too hard nor too runny.
- Unsalted butter.
- All-purpose flour.
- Powdered sugar: also called confectioners or icing sugar, you can easily buy it online. Domino powdered sugar is a very popular one.
- Walnuts: they will be in pieces, so broken pieces are fine (they're usually cheaper) no need to buy the more expensive whole ones.
- Honey: any runny honey works. If you choose a flavored one (eucalyptus, for example), the bars will have a different flavor.
- Unsalted butter.
- Vanilla: I use pure vanilla extract or pure vanilla paste when available, but a good vanilla essence (artificially flavored) also works and is infinitely cheaper.
- Brown sugar: light or dark.
- Cream: I use heavy cream, but double or heavy whipping cream also works.
- Lemon zest: it cut through so much sweetness and butter.
See the recipe card at the end of this post for quantities.
- Organization: read the recipe first and ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier.
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer(like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you need to adjust.
- Shortbread base: it can easily be frozen before baking. Prepare the dough, pat it, prick it and freeze it in the pan. Then bake it directly from the freezer.
- Nuts: I think honey and walnuts is a fantastic combination, but you can use pecans, of course, any other nut or a mix.
- Storing: these bars can be stored in the fridge for several days, always well wrapped to prevent them from drying out. Or keep them in a tin separated in layers by parchment paper.
Making shortbread is super easy, and all you need, besides a few simple ingredients, is a bowl and a spoon.
Start by integrating the softened butter and powdered sugar. Sift it before adding it to the butter so it's easier to incorporate.
After adding the flour, patiently work it with the spatula until it's all mixed and a cohesive dough forms.
Once you have the shortbread dough mixed, you need to pat it in the pan.
Lining the pan: it will make it much easier to remove the nut bars from the pan. Butter or grease the baking pan and cut a strip of parchment paper wide as the base. Place it covering two sides and the bottom. When ready to cut, lift the block of walnut bars with the help of the paper. Super easy.
Put small pieces of dough all over the bottom of the pan. Then, with your hand, pat the dough until it covers it completely.
Prick the bottom lightly with a fork, chill, and pre-bake as directed.
This honey walnut filling is made in a saucepan and is similar to the butterscotch bars but uses honey.
Start by putting butter, honey, and sugar in a medium saucepan with high edges. It's important because the mixture will rise as it boils.
It boils for 5 minutes and foams a lot during that time. Have a timer (I use my phone) to be exact with the time the preparation boils.
The rest of the ingredients are added to the honey mixture, and the filling is poured into the prepared pan.
Bake according to the instructions in the recipe card, cool down, loosen up the edges, and chill before cutting.
Vintage Kitchen tip: run a smooth-bladed knife around the edges while the honey bars are still warm, so you loosen up any parts where the caramel is stuck to the sides.
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For shortbread base:
- 1 cup (140g) all-purpose or cake flour
- ½ cup (60g) powdered sugar
- ½ cup (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the filling:
- 6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter
- ½ cup (60g) brown sugar
- ½ cup (175g) runny honey
- 1 cup (120g) walnuts, very coarsely chopped, or in halves
- ¼ cup (60g) whipping or double cream
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest (about ½ a lemon)
For the shortbread base:
- Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.
- Butter or spray an 8-inch square pan and line with a wide strip of parchment paper. It will cover the bottom and two of the sides.
- In a large bowl mix soft butter with powdered sugar. It should be creamy.
- Add flour and patiently incorporate it all until you have a soft dough. I use a spatula or a wooden spoon.
- Put this dough in the bottom of the prepared pan in small mounds. With your fingers pat until it covers the whole surface.
- Prick with a fork and bake for 15-20 minutes, until starting to dry and barely color. Reserve on a wire rack while making the filling.
- Leave the oven on.
For the filling:
- Put butter, honey and brown sugar in a medium saucepan.
- Cook on medium heat until it breaks a boil. It will start to bubble.
- Cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. It will foam and maybe you want to lower the heat a bit.
- Remove from heat and immediately add the walnuts, cream, salt, vanilla, and lemon.
- Pour into the pre-baked crust and return to the oven for 20 minutes. It will be bubbling and still look wet and somewhat runny, but not as much as before baking. The filling hardens a lot when it cools down, and if you bake it too much it will become so hard it will be almost impossible to eat.
- Remove from the oven and let stand 5-10 minutes on a wire rack.
- Carefully run a smooth-bladed knife around the edges so that they don't stick when it cools completely.
- Cut into squares and serve. Or refrigerate for 1 hour after it has cooled down completely and then serve. The squares will hold better.
Shortbread base: it can easily be frozen before baking. When I have a lot of baking to do, I prepare the base, prick it and freeze it in the pan. Then I bake directly from the freezer.
Filling: I think that honey and walnuts is the best combination, but you can use pecans.
Storing: these bars can be stored in the fridge for several days, always well wrapped to prevent drying out. Or keep them in a tin separated in layers by parchment paper.
- Prep Time: 30
- Cooling time: 90
- Cook Time: 30
- Category: Bars & Brownies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: International
- Serving Size: 1/9
- Calories: 500
- Sugar: 33.3 g
- Sodium: 9 mg
- Fat: 35.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 45.7 g
- Fiber: 1.4 g
- Protein: 3.9 g
- Cholesterol: 71.6 mg
Keywords: honey walnut squares, honey bars
Adapted from Rosie's Bakery Cookbook, by Judy Rosenberg