Baking With Nuts

For as long as I can remember I’ve collected conkers in the autumn. I love the rich brown sheen that the best ripe nuts have. But conkers, or horse chestnuts to give them their proper name, are the least collectible nut as far as baking goes for, as every mother has warned every child, conkers aren’t edible.

The sweet chestnut is the nut that we associate with street vendors and sweet chestnut trees can be found in many of Britain’s old woodlands. The chestnuts need to be removed from their husks before roasting – a job for a long winter’s evening.

Another edible nut that you’re likely to find while foraging is the beech nut. These are so small though that the effort involved isn’t really worth it unless you’re a huge fan of beech nuts.

So for our autumnal baking with nuts we’re using nuts that are easily available in supermarkets.

Choc’n’nut cookies

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 40g plain chocolate, grated
  • 225g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • vanilla essence
  • 40g shelled walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180ºC, gas mark 4. Grease 2 baking sheets.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg and stir well then add the chocolate. Sieve together the flour, cream of tartar, bicarb and salt and beat into the mixture to form a dough. Shape the dough into a roll about 4 cm in diameter then wrap in cling film and store in the fridge until firm.

Slice thinly and place the cookies on the baking trays, well-spaced to allow room for them to spread. Bake for about 10 minutes. Cool. This quantity should make about 50 cookies.

Almond Fingers

Pastry base

  • 100g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g butter
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons raspberry jam


  • 50g caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 3 tablespoons flaked almonds
  • almond essence

Preheat the oven to 180ºC, gas mark 4. Grease a 19 cm square tin or equivalent. Separate the egg.

Sieve the flour and salt together into a bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and the egg yolk with enough water to make a firm dough. Roll out to fit the tin. Cover with the jam going almost but not quite to the edges.

Whisk the egg white until stiff then fold in the sugar, ground almonds and a few drops of almond essence. Spread over the jam and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until crisp and golden. Allow to cool in the tin and then cut into fingers.

Sweet nut bread

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 50g margarine
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 150 ml orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange rind, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 75g walnuts, chopped
  • 100 g cranberries, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180ºC, gas mark 4. Grease and line a loaf tin about 21 by 11 cm.

Sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt together into a bowl. Rub in the margarine. Stir in the sugar. Mix together the orange juice, rind and egg. Stir into the dry ingredients. Fold in the walnuts and cranberries and pour into the tin.

Bake for about 1 hour or until golden and firm to touch. Turn out and allow to cool. Serve sliced spread with plenty of fresh butter.

Hazelnut meringue

A special treat

  • 5 egg whites
  • 275g caster sugar
  • 75g chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • 300 ml double cream
  • icing sugar
  • 100g raspberries
  • 50g plain chocolate

Preheat the oven to 160oC, gas mark 3. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the caster sugar a little at a time, whisking well after each addition. Beat until stiff and glossy. Stir in the hazelnuts.

Divide the mixture between the 2 trays levelling each out into circles of roughly the same size. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Try to pull the paper away; if it comes off easily then it’s ready. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

When the meringue layers have cooled – it doesn’t matter if they’ve cracked a bit – whisk the cream with 2 tablespoons icing sugar or to taste. Stir in the raspberries and spread over one layer of meringue. Top with the second layer.

Melt the chocolate and dribble over the top layer. Dribble the chocolate that is – save your dribbles for your own slice! Serve, with extra pouring cream, and be prepared for the cries of delight.

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