Nussecken – Nut and Fruit Bars

I recently bought Luisa Weiss’s ‘Classic German Baking’ and wanted to make this very popular German treat. But, I lacked the main ingredient of these hazelnut bars; so I used what I had to hand – pecans. (The original recipe says you could use almonds or walnuts instead of hazelnuts.)

These are the most luxurious and posh gluten-free flapjacks you’ll eat.

Makes: up to 24 bars depending on size

Ingredients
For the base:

  • 160g gluten-free plain flour
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 50g caster sugar – golden or white
  • 65g unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 1 large egg, beaten (60-68g when weighed in its shell)
  • 100g apricot jam, redcurrant jelly, or other sharp jam/jelly (see Jam Footnote)
  • Vegetable oil or cold butter to grease tin

For the topping and garnish:

  • 150g unsalted butter – cold is fine as it will be melted
  • 150g finely chopped pecans (or hazelnuts to be authentic)
  • 150g caster sugar – golden or white
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g ground almonds (or ground hazelnuts to be authentic)
  • 150g dark baking chocolate (50-70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces (see Chocolate Footnote)

Kit

  • A 9x12″ / 23x30cm standard traybake tin
  • Baking/parchment paper, to line tin
  • 1 large mixing bowl (and 1 small mixing bowl, optional)
  • 2 small bowls (for used baking beads and beaten egg)
  • Rolling pin and clingfilm (optional)
  • Tin foil
  • Baking beads or beans
  • A medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • A sharp knife
  • A heavy-bottomed saucepan that fits a small mixing bowl over (optional)
  • Cooling rack

Steps
Making the base:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C (160 C fan-assisted). Very lightly grease your tin and line with paper. Ensure you have an overhang on both long sides to use as ‘handles’ later.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and sugar together with a fork. Add the butter and beaten egg, and quickly knead together into a smooth (but still sticky) dough.
  3. Press the dough into your prepared tin, ensuring you cover the entire bottom of the tin leaving an even, flat surface. Alternatively (and easier), you could roll out the dough between 2 pieces of clingfilm then transfer to the tin. Pierce the surface lightly all over with a fork.
  4. Cover with tin foil and pour in baking beads/beans. Bake for around 20 minutes, turning the tray halfway through for even baking, until it’s just starting to colour (pull up a corner of the foil to check).
  5. Remove the tin from the oven, leaving the oven on. Tip out the beads into a small bowl to cool, and discard the foil. Set the tin on a cooling rack and spread your jam/jelly in a 1/4″ layer evenly over the base.

Making the topping and garnish:

  1. Melt the butter in a pot on the hob over a medium heat. Add the chopped nuts and cook around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the butter starts to colour.
  2. Add the sugar, water, and vanilla, and increase the heat to bring the nuts to the boil. Immediately remove from the heat and fold in the ground almonds gently until well combined. Spread evenly over the jam layer.
  3. Return the tin to the oven and bake for around 30 minutes (don’t forget to turn the tin mid-way) until the top is a deep golden brown and the edges are starting to carmelise. Remove the tin and set on a cooling rack for 15 minutes.
  4. Slice into thirds lengthwise, and quarters crosswise to get 12 squares. Then slice each square once diagonally to form 2 triangles from each (see Shapes Footnote). Leave in the tin to fully cool.
  5. When fully cooled, move the tin to a worktop, remove the contents using your paper handles, and lay on the worktop. Cut again through all slices to fully separate the pieces and leave on the paper.
  6. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl over a pot of simmering water (don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Alternatively, you could use a microwave on high in 10-20 second bursts.
  7. Dip the 2 pointier ends of each triangle in the chocolate about 1/2″ deep, and leave on the paper until the chocolate is set (up to 2 hours depending on room temperature).
  8. These will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Jam/Jelly Notes
I didn’t have any jam or jelly to hand, but I had dried pitted dates which I wanted to use up; and I thought dates and pecans would work well together (note: they do!). However, Luisa says in her original recipe that the reason for this layer is to provide a sharp counterpoint to the rich and sweet nut layer. So, I made a tart date jam by cooking finely chopped dates with some water, lemon zest/pulp/juice, orange zest/pulp/juice, molasses sugar, and ground cloves & cinnamon.

Chocolate Garnish Notes
You don’t have to ‘dunk’ – you could drizzle if you like. White chocolate, with dark or on its own, would be a great garnish either dunked or drizzled, too. If drizzling, you should only need 75-100g of chocolate.
As you can see from the recipe pics, I opted for no chocolate at all (some of my tasters can’t eat it), and the Nussecken bars were perfectly wonderful that way, too.

Shapes
You can cut the bars into any shapes and sizes you prefer. I needed 24 so I opted for the traditional Nussecken triangles, but 12 squares, or even rectangles of any size, may suit your needs better.

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