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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 [1]“, 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 [2] by Alice Medrich)

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 [3]

Day 2: Fig and Date Swirls [4]

Day 3: Evergreen Shortbread [5]

Day 4: Rugelach [6]

Day 5: Gooey Butter Cookies [7]

Day 6: Poppy Seed-Honey Cookies [8]

Day 7: Cherry, Pistachio, Oatmeal Cookies [9]

Day 8: Sticky Pecan Bites [10]

Day 9: Jam Thimbles [11]

Day 10: Almond Cookies [12]

Day 11: Peanut Patties [13]

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