kruizing with kikukat

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Flexible Fruity Nutty Bars

I'm feeling a little melancholy today.  D1 left for Japan this morning with the Key Club, and D2 is still under the weather with a lingering virus (low fever, listless, grouchy).  I'm still stuck at an assessment workshop.  With 45 minutes for lunch, we pretty much have no choice but to eat lunch at Sky Garden.  I like the Chinese food at Sky Garden, but lunch gets a little tiresome day after day.  Sky Garden offers a buffet lunch also, but the price is steep, and 45 minutes would not allow me nearly enough time to consume my share.  With the vacation looming, I'm going to make a pan of these bars to help lift my spirits.

This is one of those recipes which began as an innocent date bar recipe but has morphed into many other things.  Lets start at the beginning.  When I was pregnant with D2, my ob-gyn visits entailed a detour to Jilly's, a snack shop on the ground floor of the medical building.  Without fail, I'd buy a 2-pack of date bars.  The bars had a buttery shortbread crust and a heavy, cakey, nutty, sweet topping.  I know I didn't taste dates, but it didn't matter because it was good, satisfied my sweet tooth, and sent me down the path towards gestational diabetes.  Imua!

Mom would often buy fresh dates from Costco and tell me to make date bars.  I was happy to oblige, but eventually the dates disappeared.  Left only with a partial tin of glaceed apricots from Williams-Sonoma, I decided to take a risk and experiment with them by replacing the dates with glaceed apricots.  The result was fabulous.  This led me to try other fruits:  dried mango, dried apricots (not the expensive glaceed type), dried peaches.  All were good.  Then I tried substituting macadamia nuts for pecans (I don't eat walnuts).  All good again.

But now I had an even bigger problem on my hands.  The 7"x11" pan I was using provided hardly enough bars to take anywhere.  It barely fed me!  I knew I had to somehow develop a recipe that could be made in a 9"x13" pan, which would definitely be enough for me to eat my fill AND take some to an event.  The crust was easy, but I had to do some tinkering with the brown sugar amount before I got the filling right.  The first few results were sickingly sweet, but I think its perfect now.

Some great fruit-nut combinations are:  apricot-pecan, mango-macadamia, dates-pecan, peach/pineapple-pecan.  The pics on this blog happen to be peach/pineapple-pecan.  Those are tried and true, but feel free to experiment with your own combos.  As a caution to anyone who makes this . . . be prepared to give out the recipe.  Everytime I've taken this somewhere (work potluck) or served it at home (Colleen & Flo), someone ALWAYS asks for the recipe.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Flexible Fruity Nutty Bars
Crust:  1 c butter
           1/2 c sugar
           2 c flour

Mix butter, sugar and flour until crumbly.  Press evenly into a 9 x 13" pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.  While crust is baking, make filling.

Filling:  2/3 c flour
            1 tsp baking powder
            1/2 tsp salt
            4 eggs
            1 1/2 c brown sugar
            1 c chopped dried fruit
            2 tsp vanilla
            1 c chopped nuts

Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  Beat eggs and add brown sugar and dried fruit.  Add flour mixture, vanilla, and nuts.  Spread evenly over hot crust.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares or bars.  When completely cool, dust generously with powdered sugar and remove cut pieces from pan.

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