With all this, I had least expected I would bake. Hubby was back from his adventure trip and demanded a fruit cake. I rebeled initially, given the amount of work I had at hand, but later couldn't resist the thought of baking for Christmas, to bake and pack something that we could carry for our trip too so that our family could enjoy.
Spices, fruits and nuts make such a quintessential part of Christmas baking, that without them the holiday's celebration does not sound complete. This is the coldest time of the year and the spices and liqour soaked fruits and nuts give all that warmth to make the winter holiday season eventful.
Baking a cake didn't figure out in my list this year, that's probably because a spiced fruit cake uses exotic ingredients like the best of fruits and nuts, soaked in liquor, tossed in homemade spice mix and baked to lend warm, heart rendering flavors to the cake. When there's so much of pre-planning and process involved, I ensure I make it with utmost care and caution. And that calls for time and attention. Instead on the lines of similar flavors, I had in mind these spiced bars that I baked the morning we left outstation, so that we could enjoy them through our journey with ease.
I apologize for these snaps. They aren't the best and do not justify the burst of flavors these bars have. I photographed them in a hurry and packed them off to be relished later.
Spiced Fruit and Nut Christmas Bars
Inspired by Panforte Di Siena from Big Book of Baking
1 1/4th cup all purpose flour
3/4th cup brown sugar
3/4th cup butter
1 tbsp mixed peels
1 tbsp honey
1 cup Kahlua/Tia Maria/Coffee liquor
1 cup mixed fruits and citrus peels (raisins, sultanas and dates)
1 cup mixed roasted nuts (almonds, pistachios, melon seeds, walnuts, etc.)
All spices homemade mix
Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C. Grease and line a square cake tin. If you prefer wedges, use a round baking tin.
Chop the dates finely. In a saucepan, add in kahlua, honey, brown sugar and butter along with raisins, sultanas and chopped dates and bring it to a rolling boil. Boil for about 6-8 mins. By this time the raisins and sultanas will swell. Add in the citrus peels and all spice mix. Turn off the stove and allow to cool a little. As the mixture cools down, add in the all purpose flour and stir well. Finally add in the chopped roasted nuts to this mixture and toss them together. The batter is bound to be stiffer than the regular cake batter. Transfer it to the prepared cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes. Once baked, remove from oven and allow to cool a little. Slice them to bars or wedges as desired.
These bars were inspired by Panforte Di Siena from Big Book of Baking, but with a difference. They are a cross between cake and cookies, sort of like fudges. These bars are rich and buttery, so you may reduce the butter to half a cup as well. I used Kahlua to flavor them. The hint of coffee liquor comes out subtly against the warm coziness from spices in an earthy backdrop from brown sugar. A touch of Christmas with a mélange of vivid flavors.
With just 3 days to go, New Year 2012 will be here. The advent of new year comes new hopes and new possibilities. I hope this year brings good luck, joy and happiness to all and brightens up every life. Here's wishing all my readers a Happy New Year 2012.