My baked goods platter alone was awesome: cherry walnut bars (recipe below), mini banana bundt cakes (from The Art of Breakfast), and an apricot kringle from my friend's favorite bakery in Wisconsin.
I also made grapefruits brûlées, basically grapefruit cut up, with homemade vanilla crème, sprinkled with brown sugar, and then torched. So the bonus here was that I got to break in my new kitchen torch.
The final lineup on each plate also included cheesy mushroom hash with fried eggs. All of it was really easy to make in advance and leave in the warm oven. The whole brunch was really fun to make and I definitely want to keep cooking my way through this book.
So, I haven't mention how especially awesome the cranberry walnut bars are, but now it is time. We had a cookie exchange at work, and getting the recipe for those made the whole thing worth it. Here is the recipe, and it's not even as bad as Ina's evil pecan bars, which, if I recall correctly, use something like 8 or 9 sticks of butter. (This is only 3!)
Cherry Walnut Squares
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp. almond extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 3/4 cup butter, cubed
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 2 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 3/4 cups chopped walnuts, divided
- 1 cup dried cherries, chopped
- 2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup white baking chips
- Crust: In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugars, and almond extract until light and fluffy. Combine flour & salt and gradually add to the mixture, mixing well. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9 x 13 in. pan. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden.
- Filling: Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, heavy whipping cream, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, cook and stir for 4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 1/2 cups walnuts, cherries, & vanilla.
- Assembly: Spread walnut / cherry filling over crust. Don't worry that the crust is totally coated with the filling, as the filling will spread in the hot oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until bubbly.
- Finishing: Sprinkle with baking chips and remaining walnuts, lightly pressing into filling (use a spoon for this, as the filling is hot). Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.
I used white chocolate chunks from Whole Foods, but otherwise I used the ingredients as listed. I even bought and used almond extract, which I hate, but I see how it helps make this dish awesome. Make these bars, you won't be sorry.
Happy almost new year to my readers!