Pistachio Walnut Bars with a Citrus Glaze {And My Obsession With Cookbooks}


It’s hard to believe that before my sister-in-law came into the family, I didn’t own any of my own cookbooks. I pretty much just went off the internet and printed out recipes. I know the internet now has pretty much every recipe that is printed in books, but there is something really comforting about holding a cookbook in your arms and looking at all of the post-it notes of opportunity in sticking out at you.

About three years ago, my brother and sister-in-law gave me my first cookbook – Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. To this day, it still is one of my favorite cookbooks because it gives you a huge variety of desserts, breads, pastries, and even some savory baked items. Over the following year I received a few more from them, The Sono Baking Company Cookbook, Desserts By The Yard, and The Craft of Baking. Each one filled with amazing recipes so different than the book before it. I don’t think either of us realized what that one Martha Stewart cookbook would kickstart for me.

I have a routine when I get a new cookbook. I see it at some cooking store/bookstore and instantly am sucked into it’s cover. I flip through the pages to see if there are pictures, because for me if there are not pictures it gives me a bad first impression. (Except for cookbooks like Betty Crocker’s Joy of Cooking & The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. It is just common knowledge that these are going to be awesome recipes, no picture necessary to entice the tastebuds.)

Once the cookbook has passed my picture approval stage, then I find at least 5-10 recipes in it that I know I’m going to make. When you first look at a cookbook, you’re not going to love every recipe. But as I have learned over time, those recipes that at first glance sounded bizarre or too difficult, will soon sound delicious and attainable. I’m not inclined to buy a cookbook that is full of basic recipes, a little challenge is good in the kitchen.

Then I take my new beautiful cookbook home with me and whip out the stack of Post-it notes. I go through each page, look at the picture (if available) and read through the ingredients & instructions. Sometimes I will make a note on the Post-it of an idea that I want to add on to the recipe. After about an hour or more of serious scanning, the cookbook is covered with little yellow (or pink) Post-its bursting out of it, begging for me to open to their page and start cooking.

Now I am going to let you in on my secret. Technically, I only own 8 or 9 cookbooks but recently I have discovered this amazing new way of getting cookbooks for free. Let me introduce you to the Public Library of Los Angeles County (& the Santa Monica Library). Seriously, I know this is weirding you out right now, and it did for me at first too, but the library is overflowing with every cookbook imaginable. These are just some of the ones I checked out today:

And my routine is the same, I go through and post it note them, and then probably a second round too. For library books I will either scan the recipes I want, or type them up. If the book turns out to be really good, I will go out and buy it, but usually I am only copying down a handful of recipes. This way I get to try out a ton of new books, without spending all of my money on cookbooks (although I would have a wall of them if that was an option).

This recipe today is coming from a new cookbook I picked up recently from of all places, Costco! Normally the book is about $35 and I got it for $18! I read about it online and put it on my list of books I wanted to pick up from the library. Then when I was making the trip to Costco for bulk amounts of sugar (yeah), I saw this cookbook sitting there and couldn’t resist.

The collection of recipes is so perfect for the kind of baker I am, it only made sense for me to own it. It is called Home Baked Comfort and has featured recipes from Huckleberry in Santa Monica (I have a post coming about them soon!), the amazing blog Smitten Kitchen, the famous Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, and more! Don’t get me started on the beautiful food photography in this book.

The first recipe I tried from this book was the Pistachio-Almond Bars with a Citrus Glaze. I altered it to fit my kitchen, which was not stocked with almonds but with walnuts instead. Also, I personally am not a big fan of orange flavors in desserts so instead of lemon & orange glaze, I did a lemon & lime glaze.

I know it’s a pain, but you need to get the food processor & your mixer out for this recipe.

The nuts, sugar, and rinds will all come together into a sand like texture. To this you will add the flour, baking powder, and salt.

There is no saying this nicely, the batter looks baby food. Trust me though, a little green in your life isn’t bad.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. It was probably my fault for making these during lunch time.

I brought these little bars to a few people, and everyone had positive feedback. They are so moist but with a crunch from the nuts, and a little bite from the citrus in the glaze. The thing with these is that they really are not that sweet, but its the citrus that gets your taste buds craving more.

Pistachio Walnut Bars with a Citrus Glaze

Yield: 18 Bars

Ingredients

  • Finely grated zest & juice of 1 lime
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon & juice of 3 lemons (I used Meyers)
  • 1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup of walnut pieces (dont bother getting full sized)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter & flour a 7 1/2-by-12 inch or 9-by-13 inch baking pan with flour.
  2. Strain the lemon & lime juices into a bowl, then measure out 3 tablespoons and place in a separate bowl for the glaze later. You should have about 1/3 cup of juice remaining, if you are short just add more of either of the juices.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the nuts, zests, and around half of the granulated sugar until finely ground, it should look like sand. Take out the blade and stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachement, beat the butter and remaining sugar on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between each one. Add the reserved 1/3 cup citrus juice. Gently stir in the nut mixture until just combined.
  5. Spread the batter in the prepared dish. Bake until light golden brown, about 25 minutes. Check at 20 minutes. To test if it is done, gently press the top and if it springs back it is done. Let cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, the flip over onto a wire rack set over a baking sheet and let cool completely.
  6. Stir the confectioners sugar into the 3 tablespoons citrus juice. If it is too thick, add a tsp of water at a time until it reaches a desired consistency. Pour over top and spread evenly. Let the glaze set for about 30 minutes before cutting. Cut into 18 bars.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Home Baked Comfort by Kim Laidlaw

Can’t wait to share more of these recipes with you!

Enjoy!

Madeline

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2 Comment

  1. I also have tons of cookbooks and I really try to make their recipes but sometimes it’s hard to decide which one to do, luckily for you it was simple, the bars look amazing and I really love the changed that you did, they sound way better

  2. I feel a strong connection with you Madeline! A few years ago I didn’t really own any cook books but then I was given a few, then started buying a few and now it’s like an addiction. But I really like the tips you’ve given, I think I should start applying your rules to when I purchase a new cookbook, because it seems like I always end up buying either really ‘basic’ books or really ‘difficult’ books. Instead I should really test out the cookbooks first before I actually get it ~

    I’m gonna have to go raid my local library hahaha 🙂

    This is a great recipe!!! I love pistachio and walnuts YUM YUM! Thanks for sharing!

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