Desserts Pies / Tarts / Pastries / Sweet Things in Pans

candied walnut wedge

Candied walnuts = walnut pie without the crust: divine ::::
It was college: I was standing in the Kwik Shop near campus, looking for Tootsie Rolls and chips. He was there: Crazy Tony. Most students on our small campus knew of Crazy Tony, aptly named for his oft-seen antics in local shops. This was one of those times. Avoiding eye contact to head off a tirade about Vietnam and other war-time discontents, I walked briskly over to the snack aisle. Tony remained hovering over the hot dog condiments, shoving hastily opened ketchup, mustard, and mayo packets into his mouth and muttering to himself.

“He’s off of his medication,” many students would explain when Tony turned up at our haunts. “He’s scary! Don’t be walking around the park after dark,” others would caution. And most often, “He’s nuts.”

While no one ever witnessed violence, Tony was a formidable presence if close by. His dark greasy hair, lumbering gait, and always furrowed brow was enough to make anyone want to turn around and walk the other direction. Whenever I encountered him, I never quite knew what he might do, and wisely steered clear quickly.

Medical school opened my eyes to patients with similar stories: back from a war, psychologically teetering on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) mixed with a pre-war Axis 2 disorder and able to function in the community with medication. I suddenly had more compassion for Tony, and I learned how to physically, psychologically, and pharmacologically treat these types of patients from a medical student’s perspective. PTSD is so often forgotten or not clearly realized in patients with pre-morbid psychological issues and I wonder if Tony was one of these people.

With leaps and bounds, I jumped out of my Psychiatry rotation into Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), or Physiatry. While extremely different focus and training that Psychiatry, PM&R welcomes holistic treatment of patients, part being psychological issues. I’ve seen patients grieving the loss of a limb after amputation. I have had to tell more than one patient that while the field of Medicine is not absolute, his/her spinal cord injury is likely to result in the inability to ever walk again. But with loss of function comes adaptation.  Restoration. Rebirth. Rethinking how to live. It is an undertaking, but it is possible. People with disabilities can play sports, have children, and be gainfully employed. Quality of life is achievable and attained.
So what does this have to do with walnuts? We’re all a little nutty, somehow, and a little sweet. And we adapt. This wedge is overflowing with walnuts, nuttiness, and a little sweet. This is like a pecan pie without the overly sweet filling in which the nuts normally sit. Not that I don’t like sweet, I just think some pecan pie recipes go overboard on syrupiness. I’m not into sweetness that makes my teeth ache with each bite. Think of this as an adaptation  on a pecan pie recipe. It makes my quality life a little better.

June 27 is National PTSD Awareness Day in the US. Please check out this link if you are interested and want to understand more.


candied walnut wedge
Recipe type: dessert
  • 3½ tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more to butter pan
  • 1½ cups coarsely chopped walnuts
  • scant 2 cups walnut halves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3½ tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3½ tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2½ tablespoons dark rum
  • 7½ tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • orange zest, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Close the latch and place the pan on a large sheet of foil. Fold foil up around the sides of the pan to prevent filling from leaking out while walnut wedge bakes. Place the pan on a baking sheet.*
  3. Toss the chopped walnuts and walnut halves separately on a baking sheet, 6 to 8 minutes, until browned slightly and smell nutty.
  4. Place butter in a small saute pan. Add vanilla extract. Cook over medium heat, swirling the pan a few times, until the butter browns and smells nutty.
  5. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat sugars, rum, and corn syrup at medium speed 4 to 5 minutes. Add the warm brown butter, and mix another 2 to 3 minutes to incorporate. Add eggs and yolks and continue to mix at medium speed for another minute.
  6. Spread chopped walnuts in an even layer in the prepared pan. Place walnut halves in concentric circles over the chopped walnuts. Pour the filling evenly over the nuts, and bake 35 to 40 minutes on the middle shelf of your oven.
  7. Cool 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cut into wedges. Top of whipped cream and a couple of scrapes of orange zest.
* Lots of filling leaked. Don't forget the foil wrap step. Definitely a lower quality of life if you have to scrub that pan.

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