We’ve got the soup, we’ve got the chicken, now we need something sweet for Tu Bishvat.
I searched for a recipe that wasn’t the obvious “fruit cake” that’s popular on Christmas. Personally, I’m not a fan of traditional fruit cakes as they’re just too heavy for my liking and have too much alcohol in them for kids to be able to enjoy them. And in my house, if my kids can’t enjoy the dessert then I don’t really see the point of making it.
My first attempt at a non-traditional fruit cake was a dismal failure. I found a recipe on an obscure website that had the potential to be good. When it came out of the oven, it looked fine, but it had the consistency of a rock and by the next day, it’s weight and texture could have placed it in a category with any weapon capable of inflicting serious blunt force trauma. So note to self: Beware of recipes from obscure websites!
I was not going to let that unpleasant experience deter me. I continued the search and stumbled on an interesting recipe in Stephanie Alexander’s wonderful recipe book “The Cook’s Companion”. The recipe has few ingredients, but her instructions were scarily precise and I was very nervous that the slightest change in temperature inside my kitchen or a even someone turning the overhead lights on by mistake, might have instantly turned these fruit bars into toxic waste. But I must have done something right because they came out beautifully, and between you and me, I think this recipe is more resilient than Stephanie let on.
I have stuck to her weight measurements because if it works, it works and I’m not messing with it. I will omit all the warnings and alerts because I don’t see the need to alarm you! Life’s too short to get stressed out over a recipe.
I love the dominance of the brown sugar in this recipe as it makes the bars chewy and rich, and the flavor combines perfectly with the dried fruit. I used as many different dried fruits as I could, trying to get an assortment of colors and flavors to make these bars look good as well as taste good. Just make sure you cut them into smallish pieces so you don’t land up having to hack your way through large hunks of baked dried fruit when you’re cutting the bars up.
CHEWY FRUIT BARS
125 g (5 oz) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 lightly beaten egg
225 g (9 oz) assorted dried fruit cut into small pieces (I used apricots – naturally dried, cherries, prunes, dates, figs, apples, strawberries and yell0w raisins)
150 g (6 oz) self raising flour
How to do it
1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F)
2. In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Stir until melted together. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
3. Stir in the egg, making sure to beat the mixture quickly so the egg does cook, and then stir in the fruit and finally the flour.
4. Line a 28 cm x 18 cm (11×7 inch) or the equivalent size, with baking paper and spray with non-stick spray. Pour the batter in and spread it evenly into the corners. Bake for 20 minutes or until the bars have developed a caramel colored crust.
5. Remove and allow to cool and cut into squares.
Makes 20-24 bars.