Monday, June 21, 2010

Plain Janes - Apricot Cashew Chewy Bar Cookies - Sugar High Friday # 67

Apricot Cashew Chewy Cookie Bars

Several years ago, I came across the most simple of crafted loaf cakes. It was imported from Holland, and its primary ingredients were honey, flour, and spices; it was akin to gingerbread but without any butter or shortening, which gave its slices a very sturdy texture and modest calorie count. The loaves were sometimes studded with a few token nuggets of dried fruit which elevated them from their extreme austerity. I purchased this cake as many times as I found it in my supermarket, but it disappeared from the shelves as mysteriously as it arrived. I haven't thought about it until yesterday, when I baked a batch of oh-so-subtly sweet bar cookies from an "All-American" cookbook originally published in 1948. The flavor and tooth is so similar to the Dutch cake that I have abandoned my wistful longings for the later. I have also abandoned cinnamon and ginger in favor of cardamom. These bars are not even remotely decadent; they cannot compare with the buttery crumble of shortbread nor the mud-rich density of brownies. They are the plain Janes of the cookie world, but like a Jane Austen heroine, they have substance, character, and a sweetness all their own.
Apricot Cashew Chewy Bar Cookies - Adapted from the Date Honeys recipe (using dates and generic nuts) in Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook, Edited by Ruth Berolzheimer

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
1 cup clear, fluid honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups soft-dried apricots, ground in food processor to a fine, uniform mince
(N.B. - If using hard-dried apricots, soak in warm water to plump and soften.)
1 cup dry-roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Method

Pre-heat oven 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, sift together cake flour and baking powder. Reserve. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs until they are thick, foamy, and twice their volume. Beat in vanilla extract and honey, then the dry ingredient mixture. Stir in apricots and cashews with a wooden spoon until fully blended. (Batter will be thick.)

Divide batter between two 7 X 11-inch shallow baking pans* that have been lined with greased parchment or waxed paper. Ensure that any exposed interior surfaces of pan are also greased, regardless of whether you are using non-stick or traditional bakeware. Position pans on middle rack of oven. Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch, (about 18-20 minutes). The underside will brown much faster than the top; watch carefully to avoid burning.

Remove from oven and pans. Arrange on racks to fully cool before cutting into 8 rectangles per pan. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar and cardamom. Transfer to large mesh strainer and shower over bars right before serving. Makes 16 bars.

* You can also use more readily available 8 X 8-inch pans, but the bars will be slightly thicker and smaller, as well as somewhat more moist.

This is my contribution to Sugar High Friday # 67, hosted right here this month. Sugar High Fridays is the long-running sweet event created by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess. Today, June 21, is the official deadline to submit your recipes, but I am welcoming late participants through Thursday, June 24. The round-up will be posted Friday, June 25. Thanks to everyone who has already submitted their lovely treats!

I am also sending this post to Champa of Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen, for her weekly Bake-Off, a recently inaugurated event featuring vegetarian recipes that spend time in your oven.

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Other People's Eats ~
Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars
Bon App├ętit Bar Cookies
Almond Bar Cookies


Been There, Done That ~
Lemon Curd Shortbread Squares
Black Walnut and Caramel Blondies
Fire-Breathing Brownies

20 comments:

  1. Susan, those are delicious looking bar cookies. Lovely !!!

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  2. wht wonderful looking cookies....with apricots/cashews and honey...divine beauties....lvoely click

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  3. My problem with most desserts is that they tend to be too sweet. So this recipe is right up my alley. And isn't any recipe that uses apricots just the best??? ;-)

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  4. What gorgeous bars! They look lovely!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  5. Fabulous! I want these right now. I cleaned out my cupboard recently and realized I had a few bags of dried apricots. I will try these for sure.

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  6. What flavourful bars! They look lovely!

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  7. I love your description of these cookies Susan. We need the Janes of this world.

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  8. These look delicious! I wonder if it'd be possible to add apricot jelly in a thin layer on top before baking, rather than incorporate them into the actual batter. I like biting into cookies/bars with different texture layers.

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  9. Delicious looking recipe and picture

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  10. Its not plain Jane. Its very attractive looking. Do they taste all chewy and nice with the apricots and cashews?

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  11. Wonderful and delicious looking bar cookies ♥

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  12. These sound delightful!

    I had hoped to participate in this SHF, but alas, time eluded me (as did somewhere to pawn the bars...). Looking forward to the roundup.

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  13. Susan, The bars look so inviting. Thanks for the entry.

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  14. Priya - Thank you!

    Thanks, Sana. : }

    Toni - True, most desserts are heavy on sugar (and I like them just fine), but this recipe satisfies the urge for a little something that doesn't provoke guilt. Apricots are, indeed, lovely.

    Thanks, Rosa!

    Lisa - Thanks, dear girl. There is always a stash of dried fruit somewhere in my pantry, too. : D

    Hi, Rachana! Thanks!

    Val - Thanks. Viva diversity!

    Welcome, Laura. Thank you. Yes, you could try that, but the cookie texture will be different. I'll leave it to you to experiment: perhaps add a layer of jam on top of the batter as its written, but after it sets in oven for about 7 minutes (exponential apricot). The sugar/cardamom dusting does add a sensual layer. You can literally taste the topping seconds before a cookie reaches your mouth. Quite heady.

    Thank you, Torview!

    PreeOccupied - Well, I did doll them up with powdered sugar and shot them in good light. ; ) They are like healthfood bars when they come out of oven.

    Hi, Ana! Thanks!

    Ruhama - Understood. The best laid plans...happens to us all.

    Thanks, Champa. I was happy to join in.

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  15. Bookmarked.

    Oh Susan, I made my bars yesterday thinking the deadline was 27th june for some reason. Don't know if i can post by today but I am going t try my best.

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  16. this slice looks delicious - you are just whetting my appetite for the round up - though you made me laugh and grimace at the same time about how products come and go in supermarkets - thank heavens for recipes that use basic ingredients we can get and make our own!

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  17. My goodness. The combination of apricot and cashew is very intriguing. Nice, very nice.

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  18. Mmm this sounds both unique and delicious. Thanks for sharing with us, Susan!

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  19. Oh my! What a sweet-sweet round up! I just can't get my eyes off from all these wonderful bar cookies! ;)

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  20. This sounds like a wonderful recipe--no Plain Jane here! Besides, you could tart them up if you wished with some creme fraiche or something similar, or just enjoy them for breakfast. ;)

    Thanks for your (long-ago) comment on my last blog post--I know what you mean about comments diminishing and social networking taking over pretty much everything. I think everyone is a bit overwhelmed these days--to wit, my comment arriving a full week-plus-a-day after you posted, as I'm just catching up on my 280+ Google Reader items now!

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