Spiced fruitcake bars

These are that kind of Christmas cookie that fill your house with that lovely, spicy holiday smell. The bars are dense and chewy, so cut them into small squares.

The Ruanway Spoon
Spiced fruitcake bars are that kind of Christmas cookie that fills your house with the perfect spicy holiday smell.

During my college semester abroad in London, I was determined to visit Austria on winter break.  I am not sure where this notion came from, maybe too much "Sound of Music" as a kid, but I set out alone to discover whether the hills were truly alive.  After a trying time in Vienna, I moved on to Salzburg, a lovely place I found charming and comforting and manageable.

I think it must have been nearing Christmas, though I don’t remember exactly when. Throughout the squares of Salzburg, vendors had set up booths selling beautifully decorated spiced cookies, in every shape and size, with colored frosting and ribbons, wrapped in cellophane and paper.  I was on a tight student’s budget, having decided quite firmly against the hostel route. Not that I was staying in Salzburg’s finest establishments, mind you, but I didn’t have to share a bathroom with a bunch of anarchist pothead backpackers (this time). But those amazing cookies seemed a little dear to my wallet at the time, so I never bought one of the fancy treats.  I did find however, a sort of off-brand version at what I imagine was the Austrian version of a 7-11 and grabbed that up for a song. It was a little stale, and the frosting was rock hard, but the cookie was subtly spiced, very different from the gingerbread men I’d had in the States.

At the pension (to put it poetically) where I was staying, breakfast was included, and I must say it was quite good. Hot breads with butter and jam, tea, and rich hot chocolate served in a simple paneled room. In the bread basket, there were always some simple buns, studded with candied fruit.  I don’t know if this is an Austrian or Salzburg specialty, or just on sale at the bakery, but they were good, and somehow sitting in that room with a warm fruity roll and a creamy mug of steaming hot chocolate, looking out the windows waiting for the von Trapps to stroll by, I felt very much like I thought I might when I set off for Austria at Waterloo Station.

Now clearly I am no expert at either the spiced cookies or Austrian pastry, but years later, I tinkered with, basically, a fruitcake blondie recipe to add some depth and spice, and in the end the whole effect reminded me of Salzburg.

Spiced Fruitcake Bars
Makes 2 dozen bars

For the bars:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 egg
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup honey
1/2cup dark molasses
1 cup chopped mixed dried candied fruits

For the glaze:
1-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper sprayed with non-stick spray, leaving some overhang to lift the bars from the pan.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, soda and salt.  Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg, then add the brown sugar.  Beat at medium until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the honey and the molasses. Continue beating until thoroughly combined. Add the flour mixture about 3/4 of a cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the candied fruit and beat to mix. The batter will be very thick, so remove the bowl from the mixer and using a sturdy wooden spoon or spatula, give the batter a good stir to make sure the fruit is distributed.

4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and do your best to spread it around.  Dampen your fingers with a little water and press the batter evenly to fill the pan (you may need to wet your fingers more than once).

5. Bake the bars for 15 to 20 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes our clean.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove the whole bar, using the foil or parchment overhang,  and leave to cool completely.

For the Glaze:

While the bars are cooling, whisk together the glaze ingredients, making sure there are no lumps. Spread the glaze over the baked bars and leave to set, at least 15 minutes.  Using a wet knife, cut into bars.

Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Sweet potato fruitcake

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Spiced fruitcake bars
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Food/Stir-It-Up/2016/1216/Spiced-fruitcake-bars
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe