When I was little my mom would receive a package from “down south” (I think it was from her friend in Missouri and we lived in Colorado so why “down south” I don’t know) every fall – it was filled with black walnuts. I hated to see it come ‘cause it meant hard work and blackened hands as we had to use a hammer and vise to hold the nuts and then our hands to extract the meat. Black walnuts are hard as nails and black as soot.
All of this came back to me the other day when my friend Lynn showed me a bucket of nuts that she had picked up in her yard that she had planned to plant hoping for future trees that would yield their wonderfully hard, dense, and deeply colored wood. I decided that I would like to save some to use in holiday baking but first I had to show Steve exactly what the process entailed. I pulled off the outer husk but couldn’t show him the extraction as I want to let the nuts dry a bit. There is one theory that says that you should remove the outer husk while still green for the sweetest meat and another that says you have to let the outer husk dry and shrivel – I’ll probably do something in between. Here is an old-fashioned recipe for a great black walnut bar cookie.
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups light brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted plus 2 tablespoons
½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups chopped black walnuts
½ cup shredded coconut
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Lightly spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.
Place the butter in a medium mixing bowl and, using a hand-held electric mixer, beat until creamy. Add ½ cup of the brown sugar and beat to blend. When blended, add the cup of sifted flour and beat until completely mix.
Using your hands, spread the dough over the bottom of the prepared baking pan, making a neat, even layer.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Do not turn off the oven.
Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add the black walnuts and coconut, stirring to blend well. Set aside.
Place the eggs in a small mixing bowl and again using a hand held electric mixer beat until light. Add the remaining cup of brown sugar along with the vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape into the walnut mixture and, using a wooden spoon, beat to blend well.
Spoon the walnut mixture onto the baked dough, smoothing out to an even layer. Return the pan to the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the topping has set.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly before cutting into bars.