Nut allergies are a fascinating subject. I secretly suspect – safe in the knowledge I’m not a sufferer – that they are evolution’s secret weapon, the tool to eliminate random human specimens thus exercising population control.
Nuts are one of nature’s ready meals so were an original basic foodstuff, together with roots, insects, berries and an odd squirrel the early man managed to clobber. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger so if you were a paleo allergic – tough luck, mate. You survived it or pegged it.
As the human menu and their brain power extended, the choice made it possible for the cleverer ones to suss that eating pecans gave them a dodgy tummy, and they’d better nibble on kibbled grains. You see, gluten intolerance hadn’t been invented back then.
Jesting aside, I fully sympathise with nuts avoiders as I do with anyone who genuinely needs to deprive themselves of the pleasures a food group. The bars below are a nutter’s paradise and a take on the original pecan pie bars from NY Times Cooking. I like nuts but pecans and walnuts are probably my least favourites so I replaced them with what I like best: almonds and pistachios.
maple shortbread barsServings: 24 barsTime: about 1 hour
- For the base:
- 175g (1 1/3 cups) plain flour
- 70g (1/3 cup) icing sugar
- ½ tsp fine salt
- 160g (1½ stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
- For the topping:
- 40g (3 tbsp.) unsalted butter
- 210g (1 heaping cup) brown sugar
- 145g (½ cup) maple syrup
- 2 medium eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp fine salt
- 75g (¾ cup) blanched almonds coarsely chopped
- 75g (¾ cup) shelled unsalted pistachios coarsely chopped
It’s a variation on pecan maple bars; as I’m not a huge fan of pecans, I have replaced them with almond and pistachio mix. Replace them with pecans, walnuts or any other nuts if you wish, making up the total amount about 150g (1 ½ cup).
Line a 23cm (9in) square cake tin with parchment. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.
Blitz the base ingredients in the food processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Pour it into the tin and press down firmly with your fingers over the bottom and up around the sides a little, to make a rim for the filling. Bake for 15 minutes until a little coloured. Cool completely on a rack.
Melt the butter in a large bowl in a microwave or over a pan of hot water. Add the sugar, maple syrup, eggs, vanilla and salt and beat with a spoon until smooth. Pour it onto the cooled base and arrange the nuts on top.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until the topping is set. Cool again on the rack in the tin before cutting into slices, squares or fingers.