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Fruit Cake Bars

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Hear me out, I know most people see fruit cake as a holiday tradition to be endured rather than enjoyed, but these bars are different. With less sugar than a traditional cake and a dose of rum, the fruit comes out pleasantly chewy. After one, no one will turn down a second.

Recipe courtesy of Kim Hart Macneill, East Coast Living editor

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup spiced rum (I used J.D. Shore Spiced Rum from Halifax Distilling Co.)
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (no sugar added)
  • 1-1/2 cups prunes, medium-finely chopped
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup dark raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1 cup dried apricots, medium-finely chopped
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • powdered sugar for sifting over the top

Directions:

  1. Butter all sides of a 9 x 13 baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the long sides. Make sure you have enough to lift the bars out after baking. Butter paper.
  2. Heat oven to 350°F.
  3. Whisk together flour, spices, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, bring rum to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in dried fruit. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. You can help this along by placing the bowl of fruit in a sink of cold water, but make sure the water doesn't overflow the bowl.
  5. Add a cup of flour mixture to fruit and toss to combine. Set aside.
  6. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  7. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat well to incorporate each egg before adding the next. Add vanilla. With mixer on low speed and add remaining dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
  8. Using a rubber spatula, fold in reserved fruit mixture. The batter will be stiff, so take your time to incorporate without over mixing. Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth top with a rubber spatula.
  9. Bake until cooked through and a skewer inserted into the bars comes out with a few crumbs but no batter, 50 to 55 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking.
  10. Remove pan from oven and allow bars to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 1 hour. This step will make it significantly easier to cut.
  11. Cut around the 2 short sides to loosen, then use the overhanging parchment to lift from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Turn over to to peel off the parchment, then flip right-side up.
  12. Cut into 32 bars using a serrated knife. Using a small sieve, sprinkle the tops with powdered sugar before serving.

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