From Recipes

Gascon Walnut Bars

If you love walnuts, this recipe is for you. It’s all walnut, walnut, walnut. And oh yeah, butter. But mostly walnut. The “batter” is walnut, the frosting is walnut. A pity that several family members are allergic to walnuts. Which is why I waited 10 LONG YEARS to make this recipe. That’s right! I’ve had this recipe in my files for ten years. I finally made it a couple of weeks ago. And hah! You’d think I’d have the sense to make it perfectly after waiting to make it for TEN YEARS. But nooooo….. I had to mess it up. Thank goodness butter is so forgiving. My friend Debby said it reminded her of her grandmother’s nut roll — I’ve never had a nut roll. Mostly I kept this recipe because of the word “Gascon”. There was something romantic about that. And the walnuts, which I love. So here we go. You can also find the recipe here. I made a few changes to the recipe, first of all with the eggs. WHY OH WHY do they always ask you to beat the egg yolks first, then the whites? That would only work if you had a hand-held mixer and two clean mixer bowls. If I were to write the recipe I’d start with the whites first. Get them all whipped up and ready to go, transfer to a clean bowl THEN beat the egg yolks. The whites will keep, if you don’t expect them to wait long.

2 cups walnut halves
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz. unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9-inch cake pan and line with parchment.

Grind walnuts with 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar plus 1/2 teaspoon salt.

In a mixer bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.

Beat 4 tablespoons of butter with the remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Add in the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well before adding the next. Stir in the ground walnut-sugar mixture.

Gently fold the beaten whites into the walnut batter, then pour into the prepared pan. Tilt the pan to evenly distribute the batter. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake is set and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the side of the pan and turn the cake out onto a serving plate to cool completely.

In a food processor, pulse the remaining 1 cup of walnuts with the confectioners’ sugar until finely ground. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and pulse until creamy. Spread the frosting evenly over the cake.

Using the edge of a tablespoon, make a decorative pattern in the frosting. Cut the cake into 1-by-2-inch bars and serve.

I had dropped my 8-inch square baking pan (porcelain) on the floor a few months ago and shattered it — so I had to make do with a metal cake pan. Which means that, when you cut the bars, there are ends leftover from the trimmings. Hee. A nice little treat for the baker. No need to remind me that I had most of it anyway, after the party.

Now, here’s where I made a mistake. Because I was following the original recipe (not very well, obviously), I did the butter with the sugar and then the yolks, BUT I put in ALL of the butter into the mixer instead of just 4 tablespoons. UGH. I hate it when I do that. I didn’t want to add more ingredients to make up for the over-abundance of butter, since I needed the eggs for another recipe. So I transferred the beaten yolks into a sieve, pressed out some of the butter-egg-yolk-sugar until I had about four-tablespoons-worth, and used the remaining amount to whip into the egg whites. The 4-tbsps-worth of butter-eggyolk-sugar mixture, I cooked on very low heat for just a few minutes, just so the egg yolks (that aren’t supposed to be there) don’t stay uncooked. Then added 2 more tablespoons butter, to make really yummy oh-my-heavens-what’s-in-it frosting. The frosting was FABULOUS and no one was the wiser so I can safely say that if you want to do it my way, you won’t regret it. I’m sure this compensation for my mistake isn’t going to make any sense at all to someone trying to follow a nicely-written recipe. I merely put it here to document my blunders and remind myself not to do it next time. If there is a next time. Maybe in another ten years.