The hazelnuts, almonds and pine nuts in these cookies testify to their Italian origin. But other kinds or combinations of lightly toasted nuts are equally good. Just be sure to use 1 1/2 c., no matter what nuts you choose.
For the bottom layer:
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 c. light brown sugar
- 1 c. whole wheat (preferred) or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
Preheat the oven to 375. Fold two pieces of foil or parchment so that they fit in to a 9-inch square metal pan (i.e. 9 inches wide). Make them long enough so that the edges hang over the pan’s rim. Put them crosswise into the pan and run your finger along the pan bottom’s edges to crease them. In a mixer, food processor or large bowl, thoroughly combine the bottom layer ingredients. Press into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely, then spray with cooking spray or butter the foil/parchment-covered sides of the pan.
For the top layer
- 1/3 c. plus 1 T. mild honey
- 1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt
- 1 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 T. sour cream or heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole almonds with skins, cut in half and toasted
- 3/4 c. hazelnuts, toasted and any loose skins rubbed off in a kitchen towel
- 1/4 c. lightly toasted pine nuts
Bring honey, brown sugar and salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil without stirring for 2 minutes. Add butter and sour or heavy cream and boil, stirring, 1 minute. Remove from heat. As soon as the mixture ceases to boil, add the nuts and stir until they’re completely coated.
Top the crust with the nut mixture, and spread it evenly with a spatula.
Return the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is bubbling, 12-15 minutes.
Place the pan on a rack and cool completely in the pan. Use the overhanging foil or parchment to lift it out of the pan in one piece. Use a serrated knife to cut it into bars or squares. Honey nut bars will keep for at least a week, stored in single layer and tightly covered.
Makes between 16 and 25 pieces.