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Walnuts (Recipe: white chocolate brownies)

Updated July 2010.


Two things I did not learn by watching Jennifer Lopez pretend to be a wedding planner:

In ancient Rome, a groom would throw walnuts to the wedding guests, much as we toss rice today, as a sign of his transition to manhood, and to bring good health and increased fertility.

In Romania, on the other hand, a bride would place one roasted walnut in her bodice for every year she wished to remain childless.

Walnuts -- Viagra or birth control?

Whatever their mythical powers, walnuts are just plain good food, and I always have a bag of shelled walnuts in my freezer. For years those bags would come from my friend Candy, whose mom would send them from Oregon along with an equally large quantity of prunes (not sure about the connection between the two). Though walnuts are indigenous to India as well as parts of North and South America, they are cultivated in California, Turkey, China, Iran and France.


Persian walnuts, often called English walnuts in the US, boast a relatively thin shell, large "meat", and mild taste, making them the all-around favorite for snacking and cooking. Black and white walnuts have a stronger flavor and are, literally, tough nuts to crack.

On the health front, walnuts provide an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, up to 90 percent of the recommended daily requirement in just a quarter of a cup of nuts.

All nuts are perishable. Store walnuts in an air-tight container, in the refrigerator (for up to six months) or in the freezer (indefinitely), away from foods with strong odors like fish or onions. They'll be ready whenever you need them, to make candied walnuts, tarator sauce, or pesto. 

All of which would be delicious at a wedding, whether in Rome or Romania.


White chocolate brownies

This recipe comes from the Nantucket Open House Cookbook, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks by Sara Leah Chase. Only the nuts have been changed. Makes 20-25 brownies; can be made days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator, but beware of nibblers.


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
10 oz white chocolate, broken into small pieces
1-1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 11 x 9 inch pan with aluminum foil, leaving a little overhang around the edges of the pan. Butter the foil.

In a large saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir the sugar into the melted chocolate, then stir in the eggs and vanilla. The mixture will look curdled. Add the flour, salt and nuts and quickly stir just until mixed. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake the brownies until the top is lightly golden but the center is still somewhat soft when pressed lightly, 30-35 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 3 hours. Using the foil, lift the brownies from the pan. Cut into small squares.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Walnut squares
Armenian brioche filled with dates, honey and walnuts
Nutella with apples and walnuts
Lucia's walnut cake
Lemon yogurt walnut dessert

Other recipes that use walnuts:
Honey walnut shrimp, from Rasa Malaysia
Fresh spinach reginette pasta with walnut pesto, from Ms. Adventures in Italy
Maple walnut popcorn, from Food Blogga
Gluten free cranberry walnut chocolate chip cookies, from Elana's Pantry
Banana chocolate walnut bread, from The Wednesday Chef

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Did they shell the walnuts before throwing?? ;)

I love walnuts! Of course growing up with a black walnut tree in my front yard probably didn't help my love of the nut.

My only issue is that I'm allergic to walnut husks, just not the meat of the nut.

wow!!! throwing walnuts on his wed day?! THat's interesting, at least it's tastier than raw rice:P

I'm a nut lover too, they're so handy & versatile in dishes! Your recipe sounds so good, a perfect sugar fix!

When I was a kid I didn't like walnuts, Lydia, can you believe it?

Now I really like them. And in brownies... Just perfect. :)

How I remember the super-human strength it took to open black walnuts...and the stained fingers! Haven't thought of them in years. Nice post.

And walnuts were also used in Roman times as a cure for headache, them working on the theory that the walnut resembles a brain. Not sure if it worked but they DO look like little brainios!

I love walnuts, too. And we have our very own tree! We are just finishing up the nuts I gathered last fall. They just sat on the kitchen table in a big basket with a cracker and pick for nibbling whenever.

What a fun post. I always learn something new here, but walnuts as Viagra or birth control breaks new ground.

Jeff, inquiring minds want to know!

Jerry, you're lucky to have had a black walnut tree -- they are such a treat.

Valentina, tastier indeed, but more like getting pelted with rocks, don't you think?! The white chocolate brownies are rich and delicious.

Patricia, I wasn't a nut person when I was a kid, except I did love peanut butter. I think cashews are my favorites now.

Susan, I forgot about the finger stains!

Freya, don't know if walnuts really cure headaches, but they surely do look like brains. Glad they don't taste like brains....

Katie, you are lucky lucky lucky to have a tree! Do you cook or bake with the walnuts?

Christine, I do try to inform and amuse!

I'm with Christine, the walnuts as birth control or Viagra is completely new to me. That said, I've long been a big fan of walnuts due to not only their omega-3 benefits but also because they taste just so darn wonderful; I probably eat a handful daily. Plus, if I'm out of pecans, they're excellent in cilantro pesto.

mm. Don´t know, I´m a stickler for brownies, they must be dark. But plain white chocolate with walnuts I love. something else to try, then.

Lisa, I do see it as my mission to make you giggle from time to time! I've made walnut pesto once or twice, when I ran out of pine nuts -- you're reminding me how delicious it is.

Lobster, the white chocolate brownies are definitely more sweet (because of the added sugar in the white chocolate itself), but surprisingly delicious. And when they're baked, they're more light brown than white -- though definitely not the dark fudgy brownies I usually make.

hmmmm... I don't like walnuts, but those little ethnographic, uh, chestnuts? you dug up are fascinating! thanks!

Did they shell them? hahaha. I assumed they'd be shelled and just a funny tradition, but if they were in the shells still they could have been a little nibble for the guests on the way to the feast!

Those brownies look lovely, Sarah LC is a good author, so happy and full of fun - and good food of course!

I've recently discovered that walnuts are a wonder food. I knew they were full of omega-3, but they have another component that protects your arteries too. And the taste! I love that brownie recipe.

I love walnuts too. And almonds. Another great Trader Joe's find for me recently was shelled pecans. We usually have at least two kinds of nuts on hand at any given moment.

A word to the wise, though. Even though these nuts all contain good fats, they are fats nonetheless. Go easy. A handful a day is about right.

I love walnuts too! Thanks for all the links...they look so interesting.

Ann, I'm laughing!

Kelly-Jane, somehow I picture them in the shells. Funnier that way!

Sher, they are yummy, and I'm trying to incorporate them into my savory dishes as well.

Terry, you're right, all nuts in moderation. Trader Joe's has some great nuts and dried fruits.

Nupur, you're welcome!

On my first date my dad greeted my date, turned to me and handed me a walnut. He said, "Put this between your knees and don't let it drop all night." Great form of birth control,

Laurel, I love this story! On my first date, my dad waited up for us to get home, and just at the moment when I thought I might get a goodnight kiss, he flung open the front door and stood there in his bathrobe, black socks and slippers, with his dentures removed -- and scared the daylights out of my date!

Regarding your friend Candy's mother sending walnuts and prunes - both used to be major crops here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Lots of old walnut and prune orchards have been removed are now planted in vineyards.

It's still possible to find both local prunes and walnuts; to my taste they are superior to most other purchased products, but that may just be my provincialism showing.

Keith, I agree that those prunes and walnuts were the best I ever tasted! I never remember to ask Candy, who is from Oregon, if she has a recipe that uses the two food items together. Do you, and would you share?

That was a funny post! :D I'm not a big fan of walnuts but I loooove pecans.

Yum, these look awesome!

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