Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Old Fashioned Raisin Bars
It has been 10 - gasp - 10 years since I first posted this recipe. Because they are so good, I thought it was time to revisit these deliciously moist, spiced cookies. I made a batch yesterday, to satisfy a craving.
When I was a little girl in Bloemfontein, there were two big glass cookie jars near the kitchen door. Every now and then you heard ke-chink, as a lid was lifted and replaced, very quietly, triggering my mother to yell from the other end of the house, down the passage, "Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeil!!!" as our swift, light-fingered, chubby and always-hungry young neighbour from across the road made off with his haul... The door was always open. And Neil always came back. Can't blame him.
5 1/2 oz (160 g) raisins or currants
1 cup (250 ml) water
1/2 cup (125 ml) sunflower or vegetable oil
7 oz (200 g) sugar
1 lightly beaten large egg
8 oz (220 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice*
1/4 teaspoon cloves*
2 1/2 oz (70 g) chopped pecans
* Forager's alternative: skip the allspice and the cloves (keep the cinnamon) and use 2 teaspoons of ground spicebush (Lindera benzoin), instead.
Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Oil a 9 1/2 x 12 inch cookie sheet with low sides.
Combine the raisins or currants with the water in a small saucepan and heat to boiling point. Remove from the heat and stir in the oil. Cool to lukewarm. Stir in the sugar and the egg (if it is still too hot the egg will scramble).
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir. Add the nuts.
At this point my mother's handwritten recipe says, "Pour into a greased Swiss roll tin." This is sweet. I don't know if people would know them as Swiss roll tins, anymore. Except perhaps in the Midwest, or Martha-world? We knew them, because we were fed freshly-made Swiss rolls stuffed with apricot jam and sugary on the outside, then, for special dessert. Those were in the days of sit-down lunches. Father in suit, home from chambers, children in school uniforms, home from school. Doris Day singing in the kitchen. Milk to drink, from a jug on the table. MILK!!!
White South Africa.
Don't worry, it all fell apart, later. Not the country - it was already burning - the family idyll.
Back to the cookies. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Loosen the edges and flip the sheet of cookies over onto a wire rack to cool.
When cool, frost with confectioners sugar mixed with lemon juice. This is important - the tartness provides a beautiful edge. After this icing has set, slice into squares.
Try not to eat them all at once. They are good for everything. Stress, sadness, loss, or an excess of anything.
And brilliant for breakfast with a cup of strong coffee.