These bars are a special Nordic treat. Nordic, because hazelnuts have been a favorite food in Scandinavia for centuries; hazelnut shells have been found in excavation of Viking settlements, with particularly large quantities found at Hedeby. They’re a treat because, sigh, hazelnuts have become expensive. If you are baking a gift and you really want the recipients to know how much you care about them, using hazelnuts sends that message. And there are times when simply nothing but the taste of hazelnut will do, making them worth the splurge. This recipe is your friend in both situations.
It’s not just the Nordic countries that appreciate these tiny, flavorful nuts. The Ferrero family of Italy is the world’s 25th richest family in the world thanks to the world’s love for Nutella, hazelnuts mixed with chocolate. Nutritionists point out that hazelnuts contain manganese, a vital nutrient for bone health and is instrumental in fighting depression – a handy fact to have at your disposal in case you need to justify your hazelnut consumption to someone.
Anne Gillespie Lewis developed this recipe expressly for Ingebretsen’s 100th anniversary. She suggests toasting and grinding your own hazelnuts for the richest flavor (details below). You can, however, buy finely ground hazelnuts at co-operatives and most large grocery stores. This recipe is a variation on a classic crisp, so even with toasting and grinding the nuts, the prep time is minimal and the result well worth it.
Hazelnut Jam Bars
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
For the crust:
½ c. butter, softened
½ c. sugar (either brown or white)
1 c. flour
1 c. finely ground hazelnuts (See note below)
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
For the filling:
In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar.
In another bowl, combine the flour, nuts, baking powder and salt and stir.
Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine well. Add the remaining flour mixture and stir, making sure all ingredients are well mixed. Place two-thirds of the crust in an 8- by 8-inch greased pan, patting it in place evenly.
Stir jam to make it easier to spread and use a spatula to smooth it evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining crust with your fingers and sprinkle evenly over the jam pressing it in slightly. It will not completely cover the jam.
Bake for about 35 minutes or until the crumbles on top are a light golden brown. Cool before cutting.
Note: If you are using ground hazelnuts, you can enhance their flavor by toasting them in the oven before grinding. Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the nuts in a single layer in a pan. Bake for about seven minutes. When they have cooled slightly, rub the skins off by wrapping them in a towel and rubbing them together. Not all the skins will come off. Grind in batches in a coffee grinder or use a food processor.
Ground hazelnut flour is available at most food co-ops and in many grocery stores. It is often found in the baking section with gluten-free flours.
Pssst, if you’d like a little hazelnut and chocolate treat, there’s always Freia Firklover Bars: