With Halloween behind us, the holiday season is in full swing. It’s the time of year when you dust off your best recipes, regardless of fat, sugar, or carb content. There’s an unapologetic-ness to holiday cookery that I love; taste is all that matters. Cream, butter, and sugar reign supreme in the months of November and December. Soon chocolate truffles, rum balls, buttery cookies, and liquor soaked cakes will saturate every blog post and cooking show.
Sticky Walnut Ganache Bars are my contribution to the seasonal recipe Rolodex. They meet all the criteria for an indulgent holiday treat:
~Buttery shortbread base
~Sticky, sweet layer with bourbon, molasses, and toasted walnuts
~Rich, bittersweet chocolate ganache topping
These bars are incredibly delicious and will be a welcome addition to your next party or potluck (or when you just feel like treating yourself).
Sticky Walnut Ganache Bars
Yields 16 Bars
4 cups walnuts (you can substitute any type of unsalted nut you like)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter (2 sticks at room temperature, 4 tablespoons melted, and 4 tablespoons cold and cubed)
1 2/3 cups lightly packed brown sugar
2/3 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups light corn syrup
1 tablespoons full flavor molasses (optional)
2 tablespoons whiskey or bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with parchment paper. It is very important to use parchment for this recipe (these are sticky bars after all).
Step 1: Toast Walnuts
Spread walnuts onto an un-greased cookie sheet. Toast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Let cool and chop coarsely.
Step 2: Make Shortbread Base
Mix 1 cup (2 sticks) of room temperature butter, 2/3 cup brown sugar, and salt until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Stir 2 2/3 cups flour into the butter mixture until it starts to come together. At this point, mix the dough with your hands until all the flour is incorporated into the butter. The dough will still look crumbly. Pour dough crumbles into the parchment lined pan and press evenly. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from the oven.
Step 3: Prepare Walnut, Corn-Syrup Filling
In a large bowl whisk together eggs, light corn syrup, 1 cup brown sugar, molasses, bourbon, vanilla, and 4 tablespoons melted butter. Once thoroughly mixed, add the chopped, toasted walnuts. Pour the walnut, corn-syrup mixture on top of the baked shortbread base (the base doesn’t need to be cooled). Bake for 35-40 minutes. The walnut, corn-syrup topping should look set (no giggle) and be a little brown around the edges. Remove from the oven.
Step 4: Prepare Chocolate Ganache Topping
Place chocolate chips in a large bowl. Chop 4 tablespoons of butter into small cubes and put into the bowl with the chocolate chips. Scald heavy cream on the stovetop or in the microwave. Pour scalded cream over the chocolate and butter and mix until the chocolate/butter is melted and smooth. If the chips don’t melt completely you can put the bowl into the microwave (or warm oven) for about 30-60 seconds to help melt it completely (also keep in mind that bits of un-melted chocolate chips won’t hurt the finished bar). Pour the ganache on top of the baked walnut bars. Let cool for about 30-60 minutes at room temperature. Lift the bars out of the pan then put them in the refrigerator to chill. Cut into squares once completely chilled.
These bars are delicious when they are first baked but even better the next day! A night in the refrigerator gives the syrup a chance to soak into the shortbread base.