browned butter Nutella crumb bars

DSC05524When I was four, my idea of baking involved cutting out pieces of puff pastry with cookie cutters and glazing them with jam for an extra something special: “jam tarts”. This would ideally be punctuated by a photo opportunity involving candidly brushing my hands off onto my apron. While I have not purchased puff pastry for myself to relive my childhood, I remain a secret butter sneaker; enjoying the butter that was meant to be for greasing the trays nearly as much as licking the bowl.

Now that I’m an adult, I can slither off bits of butter from time to time and call it low carb dieting. Or I can brown the butter and call it genuinely delicious.

The idea behind this slice has been bugging me for a while, and I’m pleased it’s both simple to execute and open to adaptation. I’ve made the bars twice now, and have altered the crumb topping with both malt biscuits and chopped chocolate used on separate occasions. If you’re short on time, you could even skimp on the browned butter and simply use regular, but this is definitely a recipe where it makes a difference (plus the perfect excuse to keep it on hand to slather it on anything).

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Makes ~24 small pieces:

  • 160g browned butter, left to reach room temperature for an hour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 360g plain flour
  • 1 large free range egg
  • 350g Nutella
  • 40g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • Extras for the crumb topping: chopped dark/milk chocolate, malt biscuits crushed to crumbs
  1. Brown the butter in advance by heating in a small saucepan to melt completely, then stirring frequently as it starts to come to the boil. Keep your eyes close to the saucepan as the butter can go from brown to burnt very quickly. As the bottom starts to become flecked with caramelisation, stir to ensure it doesn’t catch and continue until the tan is reasonably even. Remove from heat, pour into a sterilised jar and freeze solid if planning to use immediately, or refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C bake. Grease and line an 8×8 inch square pan.
  3. Mix together the dry shortbread ingredients (sugars, baking powder, flour) until combined through. Using a pastry fork or your fingers, meld the egg and butter into the dry mixture until it is crumbly but even.
  4. Press 3/4 of the mixture into the prepared pan. Prick all over with a fork and bake for 10 minutes
  5. Remove the base from the oven and spread the Nutella across the top of the shortbread – a process made infinitely easier the longer the Nutella has to warm. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 shortbread base over the top in a rough crumb, along with the malt biscuits if using.
  6. Bake for a further 15 minutes, then sprinkle the hazelnuts and chocolate chunks on top before baking for a final 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven, cool completely (I don’t take my own advice and haphazardly tried to flash cool this in the freezer prior to cutting it still warm to take to work. A messy, but rapidly consumed experience) before cutting into small squares.

Shortbread recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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