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
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
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.
Other People's Eats ~
Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars
Bon Appétit Bar Cookies
Almond Bar Cookies
Been There, Done That ~
Lemon Curd Shortbread Squares
Black Walnut and Caramel Blondies