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Maple Walnut Squares

I know it’s almost Christmas, but I’m about one month behind (on everything) and right now, I need to commit a tiny act of Thanksgiving blasphemy. I tell you this: the best dessert I ate on Thanksgiving was not pie.

By 7 pm the evening of the holiday, our house was full of neighbors who had decided to stay local. Our table was overflowing with pies, many of which our friends had brought: a glistening, lattice-topped sour cherry pie; several bourbon/brandy-filled pumpkin pies; a gorgeous rendition of Deb’s chocolate tart with gingersnap crust (a slice of which I carefully set aside for myself, which my unsuspecting and always-cleaning lady accidentally threw away, *sob*) and many more. I tried too many; I loved them all. But I think my favorite bite of all was a slice of these maple walnut squares.

The crust is a shortbread, from which I accidentally left out two tablespoons of the butter, yielding a somewhat crispier, sandier texture. The top is like pecan pie, but – dare I be even more blasphemous? – better. Little bits of walnuts instead of big nutty chunks; maple syrup instead of corn syrup, duh; a different ratio of everything else. Just a better overall texture. Not that I’m knocking pecan pie: I especially love the one we served, from David Lebovitz, which has bourbon in the batter and a whole load of chocolate chips mixed in. Yum.

Meanwhile, I realize I have told you only about sweets these past few months. I promise, we’re eating dinner before dessert; I just can’t seem to get the camera into the kitchen before the food disappears. But last week I made a handful of things that I really want to share with you, so stay tuned for some not-so-great iphone photos of some really good food in the next couple weeks. Happy holidays to all of you celebrating. To the rest of you, I wish you delicious Chinese food, a movie or two, and some quiet time with people you love.

Maple Walnut Squares
Adapted slightly from Saveur

I accidentally forgot 2 tablespoons of the butter in the crust. The result was a sandier dough that came together more slowly, but I loved how it came out. If you want to stick with the original, use a full stick of butter for the crust.

For the crust:
6 tablespoons (3 oz.) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into pieces; plus more for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/4 cup maple sugar (which I miraculously had from a trip to Montreal; turbinado sugar also works here)

For the filling:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup maple sugar* or turbinado sugar
1 cup maple syrup (preferably American Grade B or Canadian Grade A Dark)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper, allowing the excess to hang over the sides. Butter and flour the parchment, tapping out any excess flour.

In a food processor, process the butter, flour, and maple sugar until combined. Press the crust evenly in the bottom of the pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Whisk together the flour, maple sugar or turbinado sugar, maple syrup, walnuts, salt, and eggs. Pour the filling over the warm baked crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is golden brown and set, 30 to 35 minutes.

Let the maple walnut squares cool in the pan for about 2 hours. Then lift out the entire block using edges of the parchment paper as handles, place on a cutting board, and cut into squares.

The squares keep for at least a week, but really two. They’re quite sweet, so cut them small.

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