Day 12: Fruit and Nut Bars

It is hard to believe the 12 Days have come and gone. I hope you had as much fun as I did. Although, I will be honest, I have never been as uninterested in sweets as I am right now. That probably explains my choice for the final cookie.

Some of you might argue that these are not cookies. I’m not very interested in arguing, so I might agree. But I think this “cake” is served best as thin slices, which are a lot like cookies. Also, David Lebovitz, officially classified them as “bars“, which we can all agree get grouped in with cookies. I consider Lebovitz an authority on everything. They are cookie enough for me.

Semantics aside, these are wonderful. Naturally sweet from all of the dried fruit and some brown sugar, they are a welcome relief from all of the rich buttery sweets being offered right now. These are all I want to eat. Also, they are beautiful—fruitcake 2.0. They are a great end to the meal with some fresh fruit and equally fantastic on a cheese plate. I have also been enjoying them as a mid-morning snack. It is a very special recipe.

They are also a pleasure to make. They don’t involve much more than a bowl and your hands. You get very involved, but it takes all of 10 minutes to prepare. The recipe is easily adaptable, but I have a few suggestions (of course I do!). I think the dates are very important, I would include at least some of them. The rest can be replaced with other dried fruits you enjoy. I included dried cherries, but cranberries, raisins, or prunes would also be nice. The apricots are important for providing tartness, do include them or another tart fruit. I would also consider adding some candied ginger to spice this up. I discourage you from adding spices, especially cinnamon. I think cinnamon is used way too often and in the wrong recipes. It is so overpowering that can ruin an otherwise perfectly good dessert. It would be distracting here. And finally, as always with recipes like this, make sure that you are using the best quality ingredients possible. Taste all of the nuts and make sure they are still fresh and taste the fruits you are using to make sure you enjoy them. You also want to make sure whatever fruits you are using are at least somewhat soft. Other than that, just have fun with this wonderful “cookie”.

Thank you to everyone who contributed recipes this week, and thanks to all of you for following along. Happy baking!

Fruit and Nut Squares (adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich)

  • 3/4 cup (3.4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • generous 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup dried apricots (preferably California), halved
  • 2 cups quartered moist dates or other favorite dried fruits
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) walnut halves
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spray pan(s)** with vegetable spray or line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt to combine. Add the brown sugar, dried fruit and nuts and mix thoroughly with your hands.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla until light. Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well with your hands until all the fruits and nuts are coated with batter. Scrape into prepared pan(s).

Bake until the top is deep golden brown and the batter clinging to the fruit seems set, this will take anywhere from 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes depending on the size and shape of your pan(s). Cool completely in the pan(s) on a wire rack.

When completely cool, remove the cake from the pan. The cake keeps, wrapped airtight, for several weeks at room temperature or at least 3 months in the fridge.

To serve, cut into thin slices with a sharp knife.

**You can bake this in a variety of pans. I used a pullman loaf pan that was 4×13 inches. You could use a 9×5 loaf pan for a taller cake. Or two 8×4-inch loaf pans. You can even use a cake pan. Or mini-loaf pans. Really, whatever you like.

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Previously, on THE 12 DAYS OF COOKIES

Day 1: Maple Pecan Cookies

Day 2: Fig and Date Swirls

Day 3: Evergreen Shortbread

Day 4: Rugelach

Day 5: Gooey Butter Cookies

Day 6: Poppy Seed-Honey Cookies

Day 7: Cherry, Pistachio, Oatmeal Cookies

Day 8: Sticky Pecan Bites

Day 9: Jam Thimbles

Day 10: Almond Cookies

Day 11: Peanut Patties

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24 comments to “Day 12: Fruit and Nut Bars”

  1. Pebbled nut and fruit bar with a stream of cake twined inside…an interesting proportion that I’m eager to try. Although some dried figs would be very upset in my cupboard if they weren’t nominated to partake in these festivities. I’m intrigued…

  2. I’m impressed that you managed to avoid chocolate for 12 days of cookies. All in all though, you’ve got some pretty good recipes up here, so I’ll let it slide :). Happy Holidays!

  3. Heather! There was almost a chocolate recipe—but I gotta be true to my myself! Although, breaking news coming in 2012: I did find a chocolate cookie that I like.

  4. Dried fruit and nuts and lots of them. How much more Christmassy and delicious can it get?
    I’m definitely going to make these bars soon.

  5. I, too, am ready to bake these bars…especially since you stated that they are a pleasure to make.
    great 12 days of recipes!

  6. Do you think these would be easily veganizable, with some flax seed + water instead of the egg?

  7. Hi Agnes- I’ve never done any vegan baking, so I honestly do not know. The little batter that there is, helps hold this together. I’m not sure if a non-egg option would work. But maybe someone else with experience has some ideas?

  8. I love the high ratio of nuts and dried fruits to batter in the actual cookie.

    Are there going to be more bread recipes in 2012? I’ve started getting into that now, and it’s fun.

  9. This recipe is also one of my all time faves from David Lebovitz. I made some to take along to a blogger’s Xmas Gift Swap because I think it is one of the most amazing tasting cakes/cookies/bars EVER!!

  10. I made these when he first posted the recipe. They are so good straight out of the oven! I didn’t like them as much later, but wow, I think I ate about 1/3 of the pan for dinner. If may: I love walnuts, but I LOVE pecans. And almonds, and well, all nuts. So I added the same mass of nuts, but, being unable to decide, the bars ended up including almonds, pecans and walnuts. It made them so good! And I shared them with friends because I think he calls them friendship bars, as we went on a trip in upstate new york to a cabin in the middle of nowhere where the heat didn’t work in the middle of winter. These kept us sustained.

  11. I made these cookie-bars today, together with my son. He made himself 2 small ones in muffin tins and there was enough left for a big loaf. They taste wonderful, not to sweet. I usually make panforte for Christmas, but these cookie-bars are a great substitute and I’ll make them again for sure. Thanks Tim, for giving us so many great cookie recipes. I wish I could do something in return.

  12. I have loved this whole series. Thank you! So inspiring and fun.

  13. A great 12 Days of Cookies, Tim. I enjoyed following along, and although I didn’t manage to make any of the recipes these past two weeks (my kitchen was already overflowing with homemade croissants and hazelnut spread, mixed spicy nuts, bundt cakes, soups, vindaloos, biryanis, carrot cakes, you name it…), they have been filed away dutifully and will be revisited soon, without a doubt. Happy holidays.

  14. Anne- so happy you made and liked these. This is a great recipe to make with kids, or friends. Your sweet comment was plenty in return. Thanks, Anne.
    Thanks everyone!

  15. Hi Tim,
    Just wanted to say I made the Rugelach and they were so good. Did use half the pastry to make an apricot jam & toasted almond version. Really good, thanks for so many brilliant ideas! X

  16. can you substitute a gluten free flour?

  17. Hey Tim,

    Made it this morning. They are perfect! I did a combo of roasted hazels, dried prunes, dates, apricots and dried cherries. Added 2 T of melted butter, infused w/vanilla bean. Delish. Thanks for posting this!

  18. Kir- Nice! Hazelnuts are a good idea.

  19. I will start this cooking experience in 2 weeks! I had collected some recipes, especially because some ingredients in Brazil are hard to find. You are an inspiration!!! LOVE IT!!!

  20. These look amazing!! That top picture with the cross section of nuts couldn’t be better- .love it

  21. thanks for the 12 days of cookies!! I loved them and hope you will do it again next year. It was so much fun waking up each day knowing a new cookie recipe would be there. I tried several and thought they were great!! Thanks for a great blog. Happy Solstice.

  22. I’ve made these almost every year from Alice Medrich’s cookbook (a must-have for bakers!) I didn’t make them this year, because I cannot stop eating them. Even if I wrap them as gifts, I end up tearing one gift open and having just “a little” under the pretense of serving them to guests. They are really good sliced ultra thin and paired with cheese on a cheese plate. I did miss them, and will have to revive the tradition next year! The twelve days of cookies were brilliant!

  23. I love all of these recipes! But alas, I am married to a nut allergy husband and family. Any chance for next year you could throw a few non-nutted recipes in the mix! You always have the best stuff!
    Thanks!

  24. Hi Tim! I just made these this afternoon and made my own tweaks as you gave us permission to do :) and they are awesome! The base of this recipe is perfect and allows for lots of variations which I love. I am not a fan of dates so I took them all out and replaced with dried figs. I also totally forgot to get dried apricots at the store so I cut up some apricot and granny smith apple fruit leather I had and it worked out so well. I also inclued dried cherries and some dried prunes. Then I replaced the walnuts with pecans and almonds as this is what I had on hand. Yum!!! These will make a great post workout snack. Thank you and Happy New Year!

What do you think?