These nut bars are super popular in Germany, called Nussecken there. Authentic and super addictive, this recipe is from my hometown of Trier, Germany. There, German Schlager singer Guildo Horn made Nussecken popular.
These German nut bars consist of a cookie-like crust on the bottom, and a nut layer on top that is glued together by a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle. After baking, they are cut into triangles and the corners are dipped into chocolate. Guildo doesn't like chocolate on them, which I think is a mistake! The caramelized edges of these baked, layered nut bars are my favorite!
Follow the easy steps in this recipe, and you'll make amazing nut bars every single time! They are perfect for breakfast or as an afternoon snack with coffee for the popular German Kaffee & Kuchen time. My kids love them, too.
How to make them
I am here to tell you that Nussecken are much easier to make than you think! At first you'll make a simple, cookie-like crust that you press down onto the bottom of a pan covered in parchment paper.
Then, before baking, you will brush your crust with apricot jam (this one's my favorite!).
Now it's time to make the nut filling. You can use whichever nuts you would like. In Germany, you will find nut bars made with mostly hazelnuts. But I love the combination of half hazelnut and a quarter each of peanut and almond in my recipe. I buy ground almonds (or almond flour, which has the skins removed), and then grind my own hazelnuts and peanuts using a food processor. Super easy! This is also where a kitchen scale comes in handy (or you could grind your nuts first and then measure them out).
You heat up butter, brown sugar, rum and vanilla on the stove until just starting to bubble. Then you stir in your ground nuts and distribute it over the apricot jam until it's nice and even.
Now it's time to bake your Nussecken for just about 30 minutes (or 35 minutes if you like those caramelized edges like I do!).
Finally, I recommend letting your nut bars cool down at room temp (while still in the pan) and then putting them in the fridge overnight. This way, you end up with the cleanest edges when cutting and no excessive crumbles falling into the melted chocolate when dipping the corners.
Let the chocolate harden at room temperature or by putting them in the fridge (way faster). And FINALLY, it's time to enjoy them with a cup of coffee! You can also cut these bars into smaller versions to make mini Nussecken (great for parties or brunch!).
Most ingredients for these German nut bars are staples (at least at my home), but there are just a few things you will likely need to plan ahead for.
- Nuts. I use a mixture of ½ hazelnuts, ¼ peanuts and ¼ almonds. I buy almond flour (with skins removed), but you can also buy ground almonds (with skins on) or buy whole almonds and grind those too. The other nuts I buy whole and grind them myself using a food processor. Because they don't need to be finely ground, a food processor works great for this task!
- Butter. You'll use quite a bit of it, so may need to stock up!
- Flour. I use all-purpose flour.
- Baking powder. Just a bit to give the bottom layer lightness.
- Sugar. You'll need white sugar for the dough and brown sugar for the nut layer.
- Eggs. A couple of whole eggs go into the base dough.
- Vanilla. This helps flavor the dough and the nut filling.
- Rum. A little spiced rum goes into the nut filling for that extra, warming flavor. I like to use STROH rum. You could totally add water instead.
- Chocolate. I use semi-sweet chocolate chips and melt them, but feel free to use milk or dark chocolate as well.
- Oil. I use a flavor-neutral oil like avocado oil to add with the chocolate for melting. It gives the chocolate a nice shine and makes it smoother for dipping the baked nut bars in it.
Nussecken just like from a German bakery
I vividly remember getting off from school and stopping at a bakery in the city to pick up a Nussecke as a snack on my way home. This recipe tastes exactly like the ones from the German bakeries, and maybe just a touch better since I can control the ingredients. I also added ground peanuts into the nut mix for an additional flavor component, but you can stick with the hazelnut and almond mix if you wish.
If you're allergic to any of the nuts in this bar, feel free to substitute with other nuts. It will alter the flavor to leave the hazelnuts out, but I don't think you could possibly do anything to ruin these little guys!
Nussecken for Christmas
Nussecken tend to be more popular around Christmas and winter time since they are more dense nut bar, and not as light and fluffy as some other pastries. They have always been a favorite of mine since forever. And since they are 'similar' to cookies, I included them on my list of 5 favorite Christmas cookies along with Vanillekipferl and Spitzbuben! You could make them look more like cookies making them into mini versions (basically cut each Nussecke into 3 smaller ones).
To help you understand how to make German nut bars, watch this short video.
Amazing German Nut Bars (Nussecken)
- 1 Food Processor Unless you can find all your nuts already ground.
- 1 Rubber Spatula This one is my favorite ever rubber spatula! For evenly distributing the nut layer. Could also use a butter knife.
- 1 Kitchen Scale Optional, but I do feel like it makes life easier and less frustrating with baking.
- 1 Baking Sheet About 15 x 10 inches or 38 by 25 centimeters.
- 1 Parchment Paper For easier release of the nut bars.
- 1 Pastry Brush To brush on the apricot jam. Could also use a butter knife.
- 120 grams apricot jam Bonne Maman is my favorite!
- 200 grams butter
- 75 milliliters rum I use a spiced rum like STROH. Can also use water instead, but the rum does help give extra warm flavor.
- 200 grams brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 400 grams ground nuts I use a mixture of ½ hazelnut, ¼ peanut and ¼ almond. Use any nuts you like, but I think the half hazelnut is a MUST for authentic flavor.
- Preheat oven to 350℉ o 175℃ (conventional setting, NOT convection).
- Combine all ingredients for the dough with a kneading hook until smooth. The dough should be pretty soft and like cookie dough.300 grams all-purpose flour, 5 grams baking powder, 130 grams sugar, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 2 eggs, 130 grams butter
- Prep a 10 by 15 inch (38 by 25 centimeters or similar size) rimmed sheet pan by fitting it with parchment paper. I like to use a bit butter under it to help it stick, so my dough won't slide around when I try to distribute it.
- Work with your hands to distribute the dough layer onto the baking sheet as evenly as possible. This will take a few minutes.
- If the jam is too hard, heat in microwave for 30 seconds, then brush onto the dough using a pastry brush.120 grams apricot jam
- Melt butter, rum (or water), sugar and vanilla in a large pot until the sugar dissolves completely. Try not to let it boil. But if it does, just remove it from the heat.200 grams butter, 75 milliliters rum, 200 grams brown sugar, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Add in the ground nuts/almonds and combine with a rubber spatula. If you want the taste to be authentic, I recommend using at least half ground hazelnuts.400 grams ground nuts
- Spread the nut mixture evenly over the jam using your rubber spatula.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes on the middle rack. I like to bake mine for 35 minutes because it gives you those nice, caramelized edges.
- If time allows, let cool at room temperature until you can touch the pan and then cool overnight in your fridge (or at least for 3 hours total). This will help you get clean lines and you'll end up with less crumbles.
Cut & Dip Bars
- Cut into 18 triangle-shaped nut bars (see picture)
- To make the glaze, simply melt together chocolate and oil in a bowl sitting in a pot with some simmering water. You can also combine both in a microwave-safe container and heat in 30-second increments, stirring in between, until melted.200 grams dark chocolate, 30 milliliters flavor-neutral oil
- Either dip the corners of each nut bar into the chocolate glaze or cover all sides (you may need more chocolate if dipping the sides instead of the corners).
- Allow to cool until the chocolate is hard again (or don't). I like to transfer them back to the fridge to speed up this process.