Crisp-Chewy Fruity Cookie Squares
There are times when I’m decidedly old-school.
I prefer a paper wall calendar — the big kind with pics of the Eiffel Tower or Berkeley Breathed characters on it — to keep track of my appointments rather than my smart phone.
I like to hold a real book in my hands, not a Kindle.
I like to plop myself on the couch on Sunday mornings with the many sections of the New York Times stacked by my side, not an iPad with various newspaper apps loaded onto it.
And there are times when I just want a simple buttery cookie with nothing more than good ol’ dried fruit in it.
Old-school, but oh-so wonderful.
That’s just what “Pebbly Beach Fruit Squares” are. The recipe is from “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy: Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Cookies” (Artisan), of which I received a review copy last year, by Berkeley’s doyenne of baking, Alice Medrich.
With turbinado sprinkled on top, these are kind of like a sugar cookie sandwich with a filling of your favorite dried fruit, such as prunes, apricots, cherries, dates, cranberries or even dried ginger. Medrich recommends a combo of ginger and cranberries for the winter holidays. I used some especially plump, dried black currants, which I toted back from Quebec last year.
You can flavor the dough with your choice of grated lemon zest or ground cinnamon or anise. I found that fragrant Meyer lemon zest was a beautiful compliment to the sweet-tart, almost blueberry-like flavor of the currants.
Roll the dough out into two rectangles, sprinkle dried fruit on each of them, and then fold the dough over to seal before cutting into squares. I found that I couldn’t roll out the dough into rectangles as large as Medrich specified in the directions without them getting too thin. As a result, I didn’t quite end up with 32 cookies as she notes in her recipe.
Which might be just as well, because these cookies have such great texture and flavor that I wanted to eat each and every one.
It doesn’t get more old-school than that.
Pebbly Beach Fruit Squares
(Makes 24 to 32 two-and-a-half-inch squares)
Alice Medrich writes that if your dried fruit is especially hard or chewy, it will only get harder after baking. To avoid this, soak pieces in a small bowl with just enough cold water (or fruit juices or wine) to cover for 20 minutes (longer will dilute and oversoften the fruit). Drain and pat pieces very dry before using.
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest or ground cinnamon or anise
1 cup moist dried fruit (one kind or a combination); dark or golden raisins; dried sour cherries; dried cranberries; coarsely chopped dates; dried apricots, or prunes; finely chopped candied ginger
1/4 cup turbinado or other coarse sugar
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork.
With a large spoon in a medium mixing bowl or with a mixer, beat butter with the granulated sugar until smooth and well blended but not fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix until completely incorporated.
Divide the dough in half and form each into a rectangle. Wrap the patties in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of oven.
Remove dough from the refrigerator and let sit for 15 minutes to soften slightly. On a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap, roll one piece of dough into a rectangle 81/2 inches by 16 1/2 inches. With a short side facing you, scatter half of the dried fruit on the bottom half of the dough. Fold top half of the dough over fruit, using the paper as a handle. Peel paper from the top of dough. (If it sticks, chill dough for a few minutes until the paper peels easily.) Dust top of dough lightly with half of the coarse sugar and pat lightly to make sure the sugar adheres. Use a heavy knife to trim the edges. Cut into 4 strips and then cut each strip into 4 pieces to make 16 squares. Place cookies 2 inches apart on lined or greased cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, fruit, and sugar.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Rotate pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. For lined pans, set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool; for unlined pans, use a metal spatula to transfer cookies to racks. Cool cookies completely before stacking or storing. May be kept in an airtight container for a week.
Adapted from “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy: Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Cookies” by Alice Medrich
More Alice Medrich Recipes: Nibby Pecan Cookies
And: Sesame Seed Cake