Crisp-Chewy Fruity Cookie Squares

Buttery, sugary and filled with plump black currants and lemon zest.

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 charactersร‚ย  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

Plus: An Abundance of Black Currants in Quebec

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  • Old-school is good! It’s one of hubby’s favorite words it seems… ๐Ÿ™‚ The cookie squares look and sound wonderful!

  • Scrumptious looking cookie squares, love the dried fruit filling, we still have a bunch of different dried fruits and would love to make these!

  • The cookie squares look gorgeous and totally delicious!

  • I’ve made these and they are delicios. Kind of “newton” like, but with whole, dried fruit. although the dough was hard to work with, i would make them again!

  • Old school or not, these look gorgeous and are making me long with summer fruit to fill them with. I’m pretty old school myself and swear by my planner, though I’ve been won over by my iPad.

  • I haven’t had fruit squares in ages but it’s time to think about making some! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Hoo boy — another “keeper” from Carolyn (Cookie Monster) Jung! Say, do you happen to have any tips on effectively rolling out a good rectangle? I don’t usually have too much trouble getting a rolled-out circle when needed, but the rectangle thing often eludes me. I remember seeing a suggestion someplace about rolling dough inside a pre-formed something or other, but the memory of that tip is now dim to non-existent. These do look good, Carolyn — am putting it into my “must try” folder ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Carolyn, the fruit squares look delicious…love it with lots of fruits in it…the are gorgeous. Hope you have a great week ahead ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Carolyn, these are also delicious filled with lemon curd. Love your photography!

  • The combo of buttery cookie and moist dried fruit sounds fantastic here…sometimes old school is best!

  • With the new york times sunday puzzle by my side (paper version!) and a stack of these, I would be seriously content!

  • I enjoyed reading this post, and these cookie squares look so good.

  • Swoon delicious. Whats not to love about these beauties!!

  • Carolyn, ok we need to check our DNA. We are so freaky similar. I have an old skool paper calender too (this years has pictures of Canadian scenery on it). Hubby keeps trying to get me to make use of the phone and iPad calender but I am resisting! ๐Ÿ˜›

  • What’s great about this recipe is it uses dried fruit, so it’s year round! Looks lovely and buttery!
    I’m sort of in the middle of old/new school. I like my calendar on paper, not smart phone. But, I love my Kindle. It’s super for traveling.

  • Oh the falling off of the bluberries are just irresistible! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m sold, I can’t wait for the next time I try this recipe! I share your old-school sentiments too ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Carroll: I once watched a Japanese soba maker use a technique to roll out noodle dough in which he first formed a circle, but through subsequent rolling on a board and with the dough wrapped around the rolling pin somehow made it emerge into a perfect square. Now, I don’t have such mad skills. But forming dough into a pretty good facsimile of a rectangle just takes a little practice. Always roll from the center on out. That helps immensely and keeps the depth of the dough more even.

  • i like these cookies, and i love paper wall calendars. my favorite theme is ‘the far side’… ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I’ve had my eye on these cookies in that book. They look so great with the turbinado sugar on top. They’re on my must-try list.

  • My mouth is watering. I’m buyin’ that book! Then again, I’m useless in the kitchen. And I’m on a diet, to boot! I hate this website! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Yum!! I bought this book pretty quickly after it became available in stores and have made some delicious things out of it! I don’t know how I missed this one! But I’m excited to try it. Alice Medrich truly is a master baker. I’ll never forget the day I met her at a chocolate festival in Napa several years ago. I think I felt how some people felt when they shook hands with Paul McCartney in the ’60s. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Made them, loved them, blogged them. They don’t look half as good {and well fed} as yours, but were certainly delicious. Thank you Carolyn!

  • I just found your through passionate about baking.

    I am totally old school. My poor husband has been trying for years to get me to join his e-calendar. I can’t, I need paper.

    Can’t wait to try these cookies, thanks!

  • I was brought up on this kind of baking a real trip down memory lane. Myself and my wife baked the currant square, it was just as I remembered, we will be baking those more often in the future.

  • Jim: I’m so glad it gave you such sweet memories. I love how the taste of these bars can be varied just by changing out the fruit, too. Happy baking!

  • I was able to get 32 cookies out of this recipe, but it required rolling the dough very thinly between two pieces of parchment paper. The dough ended up being so thin that I could see the pattern on my table through it. As handling such thin dough was extremely difficult, I lined my baking sheet with aluminum foil, sprayed it with oil, and baked the cookies as a single, full baking sheet sized cookie. It took 23 minutes. I cut it directly after taking it out of the oven then let it cool on a rack. They were very easy to cut and came out great. They taste amazing. I’m really excited to make them again, maybe with dates instead of black currants. Any suggestions on other flavor combinations besides black currants-lemon and cranberry-ginger?

  • J: Aren’t they wonderful? The dough is not the easiest to handle. But as you noted, you are well rewarded in the end. As for other combinations, I bet dried apricots would be wonderful, maybe with orange zest? And what about dried apples and cinnamon around fall? Oooh, and I wonder if dried papaya and dried pineapple might be fun with perhaps coconut shards?

  • Can’t wait to make these. I’m thinking that dried apricots with a tablespoon or so of the candied ginger would be awesome, especially with the lemon zest in the dough making it taste extra fruity. Thanks so much for these.

  • Carol: Oooh, that would be a dynamite combo in these fruity cookies! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • My English Grandmother used to make รขโ‚ฌล“Currant Squaresรขโ‚ฌย. She used pie dough to encase the Currants. Your cookies are the first recipe Iรขโ‚ฌโ„ขve seen to come anywhere ear them. Thank you.

  • Elaine: So glad this recipe hits the spot and brings back so many wonderful memories of your grandmother. Enjoy! And happy baking. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • stephanie cataliotti

    I, too, am “old school”. I love to cook but oh how I love to bake. One year my husband ate all the “most difficult to make cookies” I had put into xmas tins to give as gifts. I don’t know why, but something told me to check the tins…so I did and I literally began yelling and screaming, “WHAT did you do?”
    He laughed at me, “Oh, they weren’t for me?” I was not in a joking mood. I work 50 odd hours a week and then spent weekends and nights baking and freezing dough only to find half of the cookies gone. Needless to say, I had to quickly make chocolate chip cookies to fill up the half empty tins, all the while listening to him laughing at me. Trust me, he did not have a merry christmas that year.

  • Hi Stephanie: That is hilarious! At least you can be assured that your husband has fine taste when it comes to cookies. I’m sure he learned his lesson, though. LOL Happy holidays, and happy baking!

  • Maybe Stephanie should make her husband a batch of his own cookies everytime she made a batch to give away. I had to do that with my husband, solved the problem.

  • Hi Theresa: That is quick thinking on your part. I’m glad your husband gets his own cookies, too. And I hope he is grateful that you are such a generous baker. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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