It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas! And it’s scented with nostalgia. I don’t know how come it hit me so hard this year, but I catch myself thinking about all the good old cakes and cookies that were very popular in my family and it brought back so many wonderful memories. To be perfectly honest, it also had something to do with a huge stash of homemade apricot jam growing bigger in my pantry every week. So I decided it was high time to begin this years’ Christmas baking, make an old traditional recipe and start using that lovely jam.
So I present to you my walnut triangles. These are basically bars consisting of pie dough as a base, then comes a generous layer of jam and finally, a walnut meringue. They are traditionally cut into triangles, but of course, cut them into any shape you prefer.
And now for the real question – what do they taste like? Well, let’s see. You have a crispy buttery base, tangy but sweet spreading of apricot jam that basically gives these cookies (I know they belong to the “bars” category, but I somehow consider them to be cookies, so I’ll just go by that) the “filling” component. As I spread it rather thickly (jam is one thing I never worry about wasting), it made the cookies juicy and rich, not at all dry. Jam adds wonderful fruity sweetness, almost refreshing. Even though apricot is my all-time favourite jam, I could easily see a variation with some good raspberry or cranberry preserve. By all means, use your favourite flavour.
And now for the topping – the crunchy rich fluffy topping. It is basically a meringue mixed with ground walnuts (leave some chunks for the texture) which crisps as you bite into it and then melts in your mouth. If you want to, dust them with icing sugar, but I love the old-fashioned look. After all, this is a nostalgic recipe. If you are with me, go ahead and try these walnut triangles, you won’t go wrong!
preparation time: about 30 minutes, does not include cooling the pie crust
baking time: 15 minutes at 200°C (400 F), then 30 minutes at 180°C (350 F)
baking pan size: 22×30 cm (8,6×12 in)
Ingredients for the pie crust:
260 g all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
50 g granulated white sugar
150 g cold unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
1-2 Tbsp sour cream*
320 g jam of your choice (I always use apricot because it’s my favourite and I think it is a perfect match to walnuts, both for its flavour and bright orange colour.)
*Use sour cream with high fat percentage, ideally 20%. It adds richness and crispiness to the pie crust, but if you must, substitute for milk or low-fat cream.
Ingredients for the meringue topping:
180 g ground walnuts
3 egg whites
a pinch of salt
140 g granulated white sugar
1. Start by making the pie crust. In a large bowl combine flour, salt and sugar. Add cold butter cut into small pieces and crumble it into the flour mixture until it gets well incorporated and breaks into tiny pieces.
2. Separate three eggs. Place egg whites into a separate bowl and add egg yolks into the flour mixture. Using a fork or a knife start incorporating them into the dry ingredients. Once they are well-spread throughout, add a tablespoon of sour cream.
3. By this point the dough should come together, but if you find it is dry (which can depend on the size of the egg yolks), add another tablespoon of cream. The dough should be somewhat crumbly, but it should stay together if you press it tightly.
4. Form the dough into a square, wrap it into plastic wrap and put in the fridge to cool for at least half an hour. If you want to, make the dough a day before and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it.
5. Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 200°C (400 F). Prepare baking pan by placing a piece of parchment paper to the bottom and up the longer sides. That way it will be easier to take the cake out of the pan once it is baked.
6. On a well-floured surface roll out the dough into a rectangle big enough to cover both the bottom and the sides of the baking pan. Transfer it to the pan and press tightly against the sides. If it breaks, don’t worry, pinch it together and it will be fine.
7. Using a fork prick the pie crust all over its surface to allow the steam to get out during baking. Bake for about 15 minutes at 200°C (400 F).
8. In the meantime, make the meringue topping. Using a food processor, crush walnuts to your desired texture. You could grind them finely, but I like to leave some slightly bigger chunks to give the cake a crunch.
9. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Then add sugar and walnuts and combine them with whipped egg-whites using a spatula. Slowly incorporate so you don’t deflate the meringue.
10. Take the prebaked pie crust out of the oven and lower the oven temperature to 180°C (350 F).
11. Spread jam evenly to the bottom of the crust and gently cover with meringue making a thick even layer. Level it smoothly using a spatula and put back into the oven. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, moving the pan to the bottom third of your oven half way through baking so the meringue does not get too dark.
12. Allow the cake to cool completely after baking so everything gets a chance to set. Using a sharp knife cut into triangles. The meringue will crack inevitably, so don’t worry about that. If you want to, dust the top with some icing sugar, but I like it just the way it is. Enjoy with a cup of milk or coffee.