I love love.
I also love cookies.
And furthermore, I adore a good story.
Naturally, I gravitated toward this recipe, since it combines all of the above in one tasty form. Adding to its intrigue was the fact that is was an award-winner: these bars are featured in the new book Holiday Cookies: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More.
These so-called "H-Bars" have a mysterious story:
Victoria Weisenberg won first place in 2012 for this recip and her tale of using them to woo "a very special man". Weisenberg created the recipe as a Hanukkah give for her former beau and said the "H" stands for the first letter of his first name, though she opted to leave that name a mystery.
This story is what intrigued me about the bars, which I might have otherwise passed over owing to the fact that they are made with a raisin filling. This t-shirt design sums up my thoughts on raisins in cookies:
Luckily (great timing!) I just received a package from the California Dried Plum Board (no, really). It didn't take me long to decide to swap the prunes for the raisins. I'm glad I did: they add a wonderful moisture and mellow flavor to the bars.
The only other thing I did differently is I baked the bars in a loaf pan rather than the size specified in the recipe. Doing such, I had to increase the bake time by about 5 minutes. I have left the instructions intact though; if you want to make them look like mine, use a loaf pan, increase the bake time, and slice into fingers instead of bars.
- Yield: 20 bars
- Prep time: 30 minutes
- Bake time: 37 to 40 minutes per batch
- 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup flour
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 4 ounces chopped dried plums (original recipe calls for ⅔ cup golden raisins)
- ½ cup flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- ½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted
- butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Icing (I omitted this)
- ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1½–2 tablespoons milk
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
Grease or coat with cooking spray a 7½-by-11-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
For the shortbread, combine butter, flour and granulated sugar in a medium bowl until crumbly. Pack into the prepared pan; bake, 15 minutes.
For raisin layer, stir together flour with the baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. In another bowl, beat brown sugar, eggs and vanilla together until blended. Stir in dry ingredients and dried plum bits. Pour over the baked shortbread layer.
For the topping, combine ingredients in a bowl until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the middle layer. Bake, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool.
For the icing, combine confectioners’ sugar, 1½ tablespoons milk and vanilla in a small bowl. Add more milk, if needed, until you get a smooth, easy-to drizzle mixture. Drizzle over the top. Cut into 20 bars.
Food processor method: You do not have to wash the bowl of the processor between steps. Combine ingredients for the bottom layer with a few pulses until crumbly. Pack in pan. Bake as above. Prepare topping in the processor in the same way. Place in a bowl and set aside. Then, place brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in processor bowl and process until blended. Add dry ingredients and pulse a few times. Stir in raisins. Continue as above.