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Jackie's Holiday Fruitcake Bars with Dried Cherries and Brandy
(recipe, Tom Douglas)
Years ago, my wife, Jackie, found a recipe for fruitcake bars in an issue of Martha Stewart Living, tweaked it with her own combination of brandy-soaked fruits, toasted nuts, and sweet-smelling spices, and filled enough baking pans with batter to produce 100 cookie bars for our manager Christmas party. Everyone at the party went crazy for them. Whipping up a pan of these delicate, fruity, and nutty little bars is a breeze, so mark this page for your holiday baking list.
- 1 cup (2 sticks/227 grams) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
- 2 cups (10¼ ounces/300 grams) all-purpose flour
- ¾ tsp. ground allspice
- ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup (7 ounces/198 grams) brandy
- 1½ cups (8 ounces/227 grams) dried tart cherries
- 1½ cups (7 ounces/198 grams) prunes, medium-finely chopped
- 1 cup (4 ounces/140 grams) golden raisins
- ½ cup (2½ ounces/71 grams) dark raisins
- ½ cup (2½ ounces/71 grams) dried currants
- 2 cups (14 ounces/400 grams) packed brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (4 ounces/118 grams) pecans, toasted, cooled, and medium-finely chopped
- Powdered sugar as needed, for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment, leaving a few inches of parchment overhanging the 2 long sides of the pan, then butter the paper.
- Whisk together the flour, spices, and salt in a bowl, then set the dry ingredients aside.
- Put the brandy in a saucepan over medium-high heat and heat to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the fruit. Transfer the brandy-soaked mixture to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Add 1 cup of the flour mixture and toss to combine. Set the fruit mixture and the remaining dry ingredients aside.
- In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, on medium speed, beat the butter and the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate each egg before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the reserved fruit mixture and the pecans. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, using the rubber spatula to smooth the top.
- Bake until cooked through and a skewer inserted into the fruitcake comes out with a few crumbs but no batter, 50 to 55 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through the baking time.
- Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. Then use the overhanging parchment to lift the fruitcake (in one large piece) out of the pan. Transfer the fruitcake to a wire rack and allow to cool completely, still on the parchment paper, 45 to 60 minutes longer.
- Turn the cake over to peel off the parchment paper and turn it over again to put it right side up. To transfer the fruitcake, use a couple of large spatulas, or slide the fruitcake onto a piece of cardboard to help move it around.
- Cut the fruitcake into 32 bars (8 cuts by 4 cuts), using a serrated knife. Use a small sieve to sprinkle the bars with powdered sugar before serving.