Nussecken are the insanely delicious German chocolate hazelnut bar cookies. The crisp shortbread crust topped with a buttery caramelized hazelnut layer and dipped in chocolate is the stuff of sweet dreams. A must try for any baker or dessert lover. Easy recipe with rewarding results for weeks.
What is Nussecken?
These are German “nut corners” (nuss is nuts and ecken is corners) or nut triangles made with a shortbread base and a hazelnut layer on the top and then dipped in chocolate. Nussecken are quite popular in Germany and found in bakeries all over.
Hazelnut and chocolate pairing tastes phenomenal. Think Nutella and Ferraro Rocher chocolates - that’s the same flavor combination in these nut cookie bars.
Chocolate Hazelnut Bar Cookies
I have tried these nut bars everywhere in Germany, but the one I liked the most was in my husband’s home town in North Rhine Westphalia, the northern state in the country.
Those bar cookies had a thin shortbread crust and a thick hazelnut layer topping with a nice soft bite but speckled with crunchy hazelnuts.
The nussecken I tried in other places seemed to have more butter than needed, a thicker cookie crust, thinner hazelnut layer and the topping was too crunchy or didn’t have a soft bite.
I wanted to recreate the amazingly delicious nussecken from my husband's home town. So, I tried many easily available recipes and they gave me the results as I mentioned above.
Then I looked into German sources and watched several German videos. And finally came up with that same great taste using ingredients more common here in the USA.
What do we Need
- Whole Nuts - Hazelnuts are the preferred nut and they are to be chopped rather finely. But you can try almonds or other nuts too.
- Nut Meal - Again, hazelnut meal or super fine ground hazelnuts is traditionally used and it pairs greatly with chocolate. But you can try almond meal.
- Butter and Nut Butter - Traditional recipes use butter. Some recipes also use creme fraiche to give that soft bite to the nut layer. I used some nut butter which works very well.
- Sugar - You can try brown sugar also. Maple syrup or honey can be used for the nut layer, but skip the additional water. See below for more details.
- Eggs and Water - These ingredients help with binding everything together and provide the necessary moisture.
- Flavoring - Vanilla is a standard flavor used for these bar cookies. But some traditional recipes also add a little bit of flavored alcohol, rum or non-alcoholic rum flavor.
- Flour - All purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour can be used.
- Jam - Apricot jam is commonly used in German recipes as it has a flavor and color that blends well with other ingredients.
- Chocolate - Choose a high quality brand for a smooth coating.
To make even sized nut triangles, lightly score equal sized squares, using a measurement guide. First cut the squares and then cut on the diagonal. Here I have cut them into 2½ inch mini nut bars. But in Germany, nut bars commonly have 4 inch sides.
Hazelnut meal and finely chopped nuts can be easily made at home using a food processor. Just make sure to use the pulse action. And especially when making the nut meal, don’t let it become too fine and turn into butter.
Pairing finely chopped hazelnuts with almond meal may be an easier and less expensive option here in the US.
The proportion of crust ingredients and especially the addition of eggs, results in a smooth dough that is fairly easy to roll out. To make it easier, try to flatten it into a rectangular disc using your finger tips and then roll it out.
Some suggestions for those with dietary restrictions or preferences, but I have not tried the variations myself.
Dairy free: Try coconut oil instead of butter but the flavor will be different.
Vegan: Try coconut oil, vegan chocolate and use flax eggs.
Gluten free: Use gluten free flour to make the crust.
Egg free: Use flax eggs.
Less refined sugar: Use ¾ cup maple syrup or honey instead of sugar to make the hazelnut topping layer. Make sure to skip the additional water in the recipe.
Other nuts: Hazelnuts are traditional for this recipe. But almonds would be a close second option to try, followed by other nuts of your choice.
Make it healthier:
- I have already replaced some of the dairy butter with nut butter and coincidentally that fits perfectly well with the traditional nut base to give the authentic taste.
- Use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose flour.
- Swap ¾ cup maple syrup or honey for sugar in the nut topping, although these are still high in sugar they come with some nutrients.
- Use grass fed butter.
Like all desserts and cookies, these are to be enjoyed in moderation. What I like about these cookie bars are that they are loaded with hazelnuts, which are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats.
Hazelnuts are a great source of monounsaturated fats, protein, fiber, iron, vitamin E, calcium, folic acid and phenolic antioxidants. They are especially rich in vitamin E, manganese and copper.
These nuts may help with improving blood sugar levels and lipid profile, lowering the risk of cancer and heart disease, regulation of blood pressure, reducing inflammation and such.
Among the tree nuts, hazelnuts have the highest concentration of proanthocyanidins, which are flavonoids that may lower the risk of certain cancers.
How to Store the Cookies
You can make a lot of nussecken at a time and store them. They stay fresh for 3 to 4 weeks in an airtight container at room temperature. These cookie bars can also be wrapped in parchment paper and frozen in freezer safe bags. Thaw the cookies and enjoy.
More German Baking Recipes:
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Nussecken (German Chocolate Hazelnut Bar Cookies)
Nut Topping Layer
- 1 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon butter optional
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut parchment paper to fit the size of the baking sheet (18 x 3 pan).
- Stir in the flour and baking power until well incorporated into a smooth dough.
- Roll the dough over the paper in the shape of your baking pan, until it is close to that size. Then transfer it and press it further to fit the pan uniformly. Use a fork and prick all over the dough. Tip: You can also roll the dough between layers of parchment paper if that is helpful.
- Spread apricot jam over the dough evenly and set it aside.
Nut Topping Layer
- If using raw whole nuts, then scatter hazelnuts in a single layer on a sheet pan, and toast for 10 to 15 minutes, until light brown and the skin blister. Rub the nuts in a kitchen towel to loosen the skin, and discard some or all of the skin.
- In a saucepan, heat butter, nut butter, sugar, water and vanilla, whisking it together. Cook it only until the sugar dissolves, and not further than that.
- Add the hazelnut meal (very finely ground nuts) and chopped nuts and stir it very well.
- Drop dollops of the nut mixture all over the dough and using a rubber spatula, smooth it into a uniform layer.
Bake and Cut
- Lower the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake in the center of oven for about 25 to 35 minutes, until light golden brown on the edges. Cool it overnight and/or chill it. This helps the layers firm up.
- Using a sharp knife, score 35 squares and cut them. Then cut across the diagonal of the squares into 70 nut triangles.
- Melt the chocolate in microwave or in a bowl set over steaming water. Adding a little butter may help but that’s optional.
- Dip the corners or sides of the nussecken in the melted chocolate. Use a spatula or brush to remove any excess chocolate. Place the nut corners on a cooling rack or parchment paper lined sheet and let the chocolate set.
- Warm up the chocolate if it becomes too thick while dipping.
- Store these Nussecken (German chocolate hazelnut bar cookies) in an airtight container at room temperature.
- To make even sized nut triangles, first lightly score equal sized squares, using a measurement guide, cut them and then cut on the diagonal.
- Hazelnut meal can be easily made at home in a food processor, using the pulse action and let it not turn into butter.
- Pairing finely chopped hazelnuts with almond meal may be an easier and less expensive option here in the US.
- Less refined sugar: Use ¾ cup maple syrup or honey instead of sugar to make the hazelnut topping layer. Skip the additional water in the recipe.
- These stay fresh for 3 to 4 weeks in an airtight container at room temperature. To freeze, wrap in parchment paper and pack in freezer safe bags. Thaw to room temperature and enjoy.