As always, I drag my feet when I think about Christmas baking. It isn’t the baking part, it’s the Christmas part — it’s hard to get into the holiday spirit when balmy breezes are wafting through the coconut palms and we are talking about going to the beach this afternoon.
David Lebovitz takes beautiful photos, and his recipes turn out as good as they look. A photo of his Fruitcake Bars motivated me to start baking (and he was inspired by someone else’s recipe, and of course, I too made changes to the recipe).
While stirring the fruit and nuts into the batter, I saw that there would not be enough batter to coat all the nut and fruit pieces to my liking. So I quickly mixed up the same amount of batter ingredients again, thereby doubling the batter. I wanted more cake between the pieces of fruit and nut. It helps to cut the sweetness. And cake is nice. But I didn’t double the brown sugar, as dried fruits are so sweet. I also made a few other changes, like doubling the vanilla and baking powder, the latter to compensate for using whole wheat flour, which is heavier.
I always like to see dates in fruitcake, but the other fruit called for can be whatever you have on hand. I used cranberries, candied ginger and a dried fruit mixture. You can also use dried apricots, golden raisins or pineapple. Just don’t use candied fruits. They have been cooked in sugar syrup and, in addition to having extra sugar, they don’t have as intense a fruit flavor as dried fruit. I also spooned warm rum over the bars when they came out of the oven. All fruitcakes need rum or brandy to complete the flavor.
Holiday Fruitcake Bars
- 3/4 cup flour (optional 50% white flour, 50% wheat flour)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder (1/2 teaspoon if using 50% wheat flour)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups chopped walnuts, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups pitted, quartered dates
- 1 cup dried fruit of your choice, chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons warm rum or brandy (optional)
- Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180C.).
- Line an 8″ square baking pan with one piece of foil that is long enough so that the overlap serves as handles on opposite sides of the pan to help lift the bars out when done. Butter or oil the foil.
- Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Beat eggs, vanilla and sugar and mix with dry ingredients.
- Stir in dried fruit and nuts.
- Spread mixture in prepared pan, smoothing top.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes or until top is slightly brown.
- Upon removal from the oven, brush 3-4 tablespoons of warm rum or brandy over bars. Cool in the pan 10 minutes.
- Use foil overlap to carefully lift out of pan and set on a cake rack to cool. When cool, cut into bars and store in an airtight container.