Friday, April 10, 2009

Date-Walnut Bars

Everybody in the Treehouse except Mama Squirrel hates dates, and Mr. Fixit can't tolerate walnuts (some squirrel he is). But Grandpa Squirrel likes dates, and Mama Squirrel had part of a package left as well as a bag of walnut pieces, and Hermits sounded good for an Easter treat. Unfortunately Mama Squirrel's cookbooks and clippings surrendered only three Hermit recipes to choose from, and the computer was undergoing the equivalent of a Cat-scan. One of those would have made way more than even Mama Squirrel and Grandpa Squirrel could eat; one used black coffee for flavouring, and while Mama Squirrel does like coffee, it just didn't sound like what she wanted. This one, from Canadian Living May 2002, was the default choice. Mama Squirrel was a bit suprised that it didn't call for molasses--don't Hermits usually need molasses?--but no matter.

When we got to the "drop on cookie sheets and THEN refrigerate" part, Mama Squirrel balked. How big do these people think a squirrel's refrigerator is, anyway? We could have chilled the dough and then dropped the cookies. We could have skipped the chilling altogether. But Mama Squirrel decided to do something else: pat the dough into a 9 x 13 inch pan, bake the whole thing at 350 degrees, and then cut the cookies into bars.

It worked. These "hermits" may have lost their ragged-hermity look, but they taste really good.

If you like dates and don't break out from eating walnuts, of course.

Here's the recipe, with my notes.

Hermits OR Date-Walnut Bars, from Canadian Living Magazine

1/2 cup brown sugar -- packed
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter -- softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup dates or dried apricots -- chopped
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans -- chopped (but not too small--"pieces" work fine)

In large bowl, beat together brown sugar, shortening, butter and granulated sugar until fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, baking soda and salt; stir into butter mixture. Stir in raisins, dates and walnuts.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 in apart, onto parchment paper-lined or greased rimless baking sheets. Refrigerate for 15 mins. [Treehouse variation: Don't bother chilling the dough. Pat the dough into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.]

Bake in top and bottom thirds of 350 F oven, rotating and switching pans halfway through, until bottoms are golden, about 15 mins. (Make-ahead: Layer between sheets of waxed paper in airtight container and store for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.) [Treehouse variation: Bake until it looks and smells done but not overdone, probably somewhere between 25 and 35 minutes. Cool slightly and cut in bars while still warm. Cut gently and use a fairly sharp knife because of the dates and nuts.]

Orange Chocolate Hermits: Add 2 tsp grated orange rind to the dough. Replace the raisins and dates with 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips.

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