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Coffee, Walnut & Meringue Squares

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I got the recipe for these sweet bites from a familiar source: the Middle River Hospital Auxiliary’s Cookbook, published in the year 2000, to raise funds and also commemorate my tiny Cape Breton community.

When I say tiny, I mean minuscule. I come from a minuscule place. The valley where I grew up stretches out over a wide expanse of land, but is so sparsely populated you wouldn’t even know you were driving through a community. That is, save for the “Welcome to Middle River” sign that greets travelers as they zoom down the side of the mountain.

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Yes, the name of my community is Middle River. Because of the river running through the middle of it. Not the most creative of names, but I don’t think my ancestors were too concerned with place names as they got to know the local Aboriginal tribe, felled trees, dug massive stones out of the earth to make fields, built log homes and scary makeshift bridges and tried not to get scurvy during the long, cold winter.

They were just a touch busy.

Back then, women would have to wait for weeks on end for peddlers to come visit and sell them the things they could not make. Sugar, tea, pots & pans – the peddlers would trek on horse or by foot and the families they visited would feed them and put them up for the night. They brought not only house and farm-wares, but news and stories, too. In such a remote place, their visits were always eagerly anticipated.

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It’s not so difficult to get sugar now, although you still can’t get any in Middle River (we don’t have a grocery store). You need to hop in your car and drive for 20 minutes to the town of Baddeck. Still, no biggie. Most people have to go there for work and school, anyway.

So getting back to this Millennium Cookbook and these tasty little squares. In the book, this recipe is called “Yum-Yum Squares”. I find it a little bit vague, however true the statement. So we’ll break it down into it’s delicious components and call them, for the sake of clarity, Coffee, Walnut & Meringue Squares.

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I should also confess at this point, just in case someone from home, with the same cookbook, is reading this. I messed with the recipe. Like – a lot. There was initially no coffee in these squares. It was just walnut and meringue. But hear me out:

There’s a popular type of cake in Ireland called a coffee cake. I know what you’re thinking – “We have coffee cake in Canada, too, dummy.” Well, no we don’t; not like they have here.

In Ireland, coffee cake is literally flavoured with coffee. It also consists of two layers of moist, dense, buttery cake and chopped walnuts. The majority of the coffee flavouring is in the buttercream, which is delicious. This flavour combination makes me really happy, which is why I added the coffee to these squares.

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Aside from adding coffee to the mix, I also upgraded the amount of walnuts in the recipe by about a bazillion. There are now chopped, toasted walnuts in each layer, as well as a generous sprinkling on top. Lots of crunch and nutty flavour result.

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Coffee, Walnut & Meringue Squares

Ingredients:

1st layer:

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups AP flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/3 cup crushed, toasted walnuts

2nd layer:

2 egg whites

1 cup superfine sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 tbsp instant coffee granules

1/3 cup crushed, toasted walnuts

3rd layer:

1/3 cup crushed walnuts (don’t toast these – they’ll toast in the oven while baking)

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius, no fan) and line a small cookie/baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.
  • Using a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Mix. Add the flour, salt & baking powder. Mix until just combined. Fold in the toasted, crushed walnuts.
  • Spread the dough onto the lined cookie sheet and gently press down with your fingers until the dough is evenly spread out along the bottom.
  • This time using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar until soft peaks are reached. Add the vanilla & coffee granules. Gradually add the superfine sugar while continuing to whisk. When stiff, glossy peaks are formed, your meringue is ready. Gently fold in toasted, crushed walnuts.
  • Spread the meringue mixture evenly over the cookie dough base. Top with the remaining, untoasted crushed walnuts.
  • Bake for 45 minutes. Check after 30, if you have a hot oven the walnuts on top may brown too quickly. If this happens, just place a sheet of tin foil over the top until the base is fully baked.
  • Allow to cool completely before portioning into squares or bars.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Do you think I could make these gluten-free???

    May 26, 2014
    • Yes! If you use almond flour in the base. In fact, it might make them even more delicious.

      May 26, 2014
  2. Those bars look spectacular!

    May 26, 2014

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