Healthy fruit bars. Photo: Tara Deshpande Tennebaum
I make these Christmas bars every year. They are an easy and more casual alternative to Christmas cakes and puddings. They bake very quickly unlike X-mas cakes and don’t need a long soak. They stay well when refrigerated for 10 to 12 days. Just arrange them on a plate and pass them around like you would cookies. Serve them as dessert after dinner, with a cup of tea when you have visitors or at an office party. These ingredients are easily available at any dry fruit store in India. You need approximately three cups of fruit so you can use more dates and raisins if cherries and cranberries are not available and if you prefer not to use dark raisins.
Recipe for Christmas bars (makes 28-30 pieces)
For the fruit
½ cup dates, pitted and finely chopped
½ cup Turkish apricots, finely chopped
1 cup dried cranberries, prunes, sultanas or cherries, finely chopped
1/3 cup golden raisin, all stems fully removed
1/3 cup dark raisins or currants all stems and pips fully removed
2 tbsp candied orange peel, finely chopped
2 tbsp glaceed red and or green cherries or candied pineapple, finely chopped
¼ tsp freshly grated ginger
¼ tsp zest of lime
4 tbsp dark rum or orange juice
For the batter
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
5 cups walnuts (rub off skins) or pecans in small pieces, skins rubbed off
1 cup maida or all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp salt
½ tsp molasses (optional)
1. Combine all the ingredients for the fruit in a large bowl, mix well and cover for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. Remove cover and stir in ½ cup flour. Toss well.
4. Combine the remaining ½ cup flour and remaining batter ingredients in a bowl until just mixed.
5. Pour batter into the fruit and mix thoroughly.
6. Line a 10 by 12 inch pan with parchment paper. Leave an overhang of 2 inches on all 4 sides.
7. Pour the batter into this and spread evenly.
8. Bake until golden and fragrant in the middle rack of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Halfway through the baking turn the pan around to ensure even baking.
9. Remove from the oven, cool completely in the pan. Then using a sharp, long non-serrated kitchen knife slice into bars. Arrange in a dry airtight box and keep refrigerated.