Monday, October 18, 2021

Old Fashioned Raisin Bars

I first posted this recipe, minus feral options, in 2008. (I know!)

Because they are so good, I have refreshed them. These deliciously moist, spiced cookies satisfy every craving, and were my favorite childhood treat. Now, I make them with dried, fermented Aronia, serviceberries and spicebush. (If you own a copy of Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine, you will know how to make those.) I have also trimmed the sugar, a little! 

Since it is peak Aronia (aka chokeberry) season here in the Northeast, here is the recipe again.

The recipe doubles, very well, if you are feeding a crowd. Just bump up the tray size to 16 x 12 inches.

Spice Bars

Makes 15 cookies 2 x 2-inch cookies

5.6 oz (155 g) raisins or currants (or mixed, dried Aronia and serviceberry)
1 cup (250 ml)  water
1/2 cup  (125 ml) vegetable oil
6 oz (170 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) toasted, chopped pecans (or walnuts, hazelnuts)

* 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). Line a 9.5 x 12-inch jelly roll with buttered parchment.

Combine the raisins or currants (or wild dried fruit) with the water in a small saucepan  and heat to boiling point. Remove from the heat and cool to lukewarm. Stir in the oil, sugar and the egg (if it is still 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 original handwritten recipe says, "Pour into a greased Swiss roll tin." This is sweet. Why did we call them Swiss rolls? But we were fed freshly-made Swiss rolls, sugary on the outside, stuffed with apricot jam, for a 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.

It was white South Africa. Where the late 70's looked a lot like the American 50's.

Don't worry, it all fell apart, later. Not just the country - the illusion of the family idyll. We were both broken.

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 dried completely, 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.


  1. Yum! Can't wait to try this. Mother used to put that lemon "icing" on gingerbread - bet it's great on these bars.

    1. Yes, very similar in terms of spice content!

  2. I made these last evening. I remember bars like these from years ago. They are so moist and flavorful. Thank you for the recipe revival and your memories, Marie

    1. Thank you so much for letting me know, Jean!

  3. This is great old fashioned raisin bars recipe! Looks yummmy will definitely try make it for my kids. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  4. Can't wait to try this recipe! thanks for sharing.


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