I’m a terrible daughter. My dad’s birthday falls on or around Thanksgiving every year, and even though walnut desserts (namely walnut pie and Walnettos) are his favorite, I always bake him a pecan pie instead. The sole reason being that my namesake passed her award-winning pecan pie recipe down to me and the recipe calls for pecans, not walnuts. This is a pitiful excuse, I know. Not this year. Nope – this is the year I turn things around. I’ve got walnuts on the docket and I’m mixing things up with these easy-to-eat maple walnut bars.
Partially because my dad deserves it, but mostly because my kitchen is overflowing with walnuts. A couple of weeks ago, Diamond of California invited me and ten other bloggers to tour their walnut orchards during the peak of harvest and see their processing plant, where they sent us home with a holiday-supply of nuts.
As a girl who learned how to hunt for Easter eggs in the branches, tree roots, and tractors of my Great-Granny’s 20-acre almond orchard, I was so there.
I grew up in a town that greets visitors with miles of nut orchards lining both sides of the highway on their way in. There’s a row of almond trees (that’s pronounced “Am-und” in my family) across the street from my childhood home and up until this past year, a walnut grove kissed the back of the property with a branch of stray nuts dropping over the fence.
Yet, surprisingly, I knew very little about the process of nut harvest. You know those pick-up claw tools people use when they’re too lazy to bend over and pick their socks up off the floor? (That’s their primary use, I’m sure of it). Well imagine one of those – except monster-sized and manned by a tractor – grabbing on to a tree trunk to shake the walnuts right out of the branches. Makin’ it rain on the family farm!
Another tractor sweeps the walnuts into tidy rows, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake. The final tractor sucks up the nuts and loads them onto a truck for their way to the huller where they’ll be stripped of their green jackets and sit in a 105°F sauna to dry before heading over to Diamond for processing.
After a nut-filled lunch, we got to taste-test walnuts (belly = so fulllllll). Fun fact: There are more than 10 varieties of walnuts (probably way more, but that’s how many I tried) that range in size, shape, color, and taste. Because certain varieties do better than others some years, farmers grow multiple varieties in a single orchard, but by the time they get to your bag in the store they’re all mixed up together. Let’s just say: There are lasers involved.
About a week after I got home from the trip, my aunt shipped me a large priority mail box filled with shell-on organic chandler walnuts from her boyfriend’s orchard. So now I’ve got a shelf in my cabinet dedicated only to nuts and there are no complaints.
You’ve been patiently waiting to hear about these maple walnut bars.
Picture pecan pie but sub in walnuts, and instead of pie, imagine cut and serve easy-to-eat bars. Pecan pie meets lemon bars, but with maple walnut flavors. There’s a flakey tender all-butter shortbread crust on the bottom coupled with a sweet maple pie topping with crunchy chopped walnuts.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever made a pie (or two or three) for Thanksgiving and the sad leftovers sat on the counter for a few days waiting to be eaten?
Yeah, that doesn’t really happen at my house either – I love pie.
BUT, I’d love it even more if I could just walk by and grab it on my way to the living room to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade. Pre-cut, no plates involved (napkins necessary). My dad will surely eat no less than 6 of these grab-n-go treats during the Thanksgiving football games.
Also, don’t wait until Thanksgiving to try these – that’s WAY too far away. Better make a test-batch first.
For more nut inspiration, check out the group of nutty bloggers I got to hang out with in the orchards (from L to R):
- Lynda of TasteFood
- Amy from Amy’s Healthy Baking
- Tiffany from Creme de la Crumb
- Trish from Mom on Timeout
- Karen of The Food Charlatan
- Hayley from The Domestic Rebel
- Liz from The Lemon Bowl
- Annalise from Completely Delicious
- Melissa from Fit n’ Well Mommy
- Not pictured: Alex of Delish Knowledge
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- ¼ cup millet flour *For non gluten-free, replace the millet flour, oat flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, and xanthan gum with 1 cup all-purpose flour.
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons oat flour (I make my own by grinding oats in my food processor)
- ¼ cup sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice flour)
- ¼ cup tapioca starch
- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use Rodelle vanilla)
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 8x6 glass baking dish with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the millet flour, oat flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, and brown sugar.
- Add the vanilla and unsalted butter and use your fingers to work the butter into the flour, until it becomes a crumbly dough.
- Press the dough into the parchment paper and bake until set and begins to turn golden brown, about 14-17 minutes. Let cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, beat egg in a bowl. Whisk in the tapioca starch until completely combined.
- Add the maple syrup, dark brown sugar, melted butter and vanilla to the eggs and mix thoroughly.
- Sprinkle the chopped walnuts in the par-baked shortbread-lined baking dish.
- Evenly pour egg mixture over walnuts.
- Bake until the filling is completely set, about 20-25 minutes. If the center of the filling still jiggles a bit when the pan is moved, then return to the oven until set, about 5 minutes longer.
- Let cool completely before slicing and serving.
*I was not compensated to write this post. Diamond of California gifted me some nuts and hosted me on the tour, but as always, the opinions expressed here are solely my own.