Walnut, anise and honey bars with shortbread base

Spiced walnut and honey shortbread slice.
Spiced walnut and honey shortbread slice. Photo: William Meppem

Many people tell me that while they love to bake, they draw the line at making pastry. I think this has to do with the need to work quite briskly, to keep everything cool so that the pastry does not soften and collapse. Here's a pastry base that's child's play. You literally pat the dough into the pan, with no risk of a rolled base tearing when transferring to a pie dish. The blind-baking is done without any need for weights, and the filling is combined in one pot.


For the shortbread base

280g plain flour

80g icing sugar

¼ tsp salt

zest of one orange

250g unsalted butter, cut into roughly 4cm cubes

For the topping

160g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

160g runny honey

100g light brown sugar

60ml cream

2 tsp aniseeds, lightly crushed

350g walnuts, roughly chopped

½ tsp flaky sea salt


1. Preheat the oven to 200C conventional (180C fan-forced) and line a 20cm x 30cm baking pan with baking paper.

2. Place the flour, icing sugar, salt and orange zest in a food processor and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse until fine crumbs form. Tip the mixture into a bowl and knead gently just until the pastry comes together, then transfer into the prepared baking pan. Press or pat the dough so that it forms an even base, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

3. In the meantime, place all the ingredients for the topping except the walnuts and sea salt into a large saucepan. Place over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, then stir in the walnuts, ensuring they're thoroughly coated.

4. When the base is cooked, remove from oven and reduce the temperature to 195C conventional (175C fan-forced). Spread the walnut mixture over the cooked biscuit base, using a small spatula to even it out. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges are bubbling and the nuts are golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the sea salt on top. Allow to cool completely before slicing into bars. Store any leftover bars in the fridge, where they will keep for a week.