Chewy-licious Blueberry & Apricot Bars

Chewy, sweet, and loaded with dried fruit, there's a wonderful old-fashioned quality about these tasty bars.
Chewy, sweet, and loaded with dried fruit, there’s a wonderful old-fashioned quality about these tasty bars.

There’s a lovely wholesome taste to these chewy-soft fruit bars, which is not surprising, given that the recipe hails from a baker who got his start selling farmhouse-baked treats out of an old red truck.

“Blueberry & Apricot Bars” is a recipe in the new “The Red Truck Bakery Farmhouse Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy.

It was written by Brian Noyes, founder of the Red Truck Bakery in Marshall, VA, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and at the King Arthur Baking School in Vermont.

In his previous career as the art director at the Washington Post and Smithsonian magazines, he would spend his free time baking pies and breads at his Virginia Piedmont farmhouse, which he sold from that vintage red truck that he bought from none other than designer Tommy Hilfiger.

Noyes now operates two Red Truck bakeries, both in historic buildings, and has fans in Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama.

The recipes are all about comfort, from “Orange Pecan Rolls” and “Mom’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake” in the morning to “Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches with Pimento Cheese” and “Wild Mushroom Tartines with Black Pepper Ricotta” for lunch, through “Shrimp Stew” for dinner, and finally, “Chocolate Chess Pie” anytime you need a sweet fix.

Dried blueberries and dried apricots fortify these cookie bars.
Dried blueberries and dried apricots fortify these cookie bars.

A popular staple at the bakery, these fruit bars are loaded with dried blueberries and dried apricots, along with a touch of both vanilla and almond extracts to bring out the fruity flavors even more.

The recipe instructs to bake in a 13-by-9-inch baking sheet. I used a baking pan of the same dimensions, the kind you’d use for a big batch of brownies. The recipe also says to cut the baked bars into squares. But you can do more rectangular bars like I did, if you prefer.

Drizzle on the glaze after baking.
Drizzle on the glaze after baking.

After baking, the bars get drizzled with an easy confectioners’ sugar icing that’s laced with fresh lemon zest, which adds a nice boost of citrus flavor.

The abundance of dried fruit makes these bars chewy-licious. It also makes them a little soft, so they’re far easier to eat either with a fork or off a napkin rather than being held by bare fingers as you would a sturdier blondie.

They remind me a little of those old-fashioned iced oatmeal raisin cookies, but are far more deliciously satisfying.

They’re the perfect treat for breakfast, brunch or afternoon snack. Or heck, even as a recovery food after a hard workout.

A look at all the sweet, chewy fruit inside.
A look at all the sweet, chewy fruit inside.

Blueberry & Apricot Bars

(Makes 12 large bars)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

10 ounces chopped dried apricots (about 1 1/4 cups)

2 1/2 ounces dried blueberries (about 2 cups)

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch rimmed baking sheet or pan with vegetable oil spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of the lemon zest on medium speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed until just combined after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then gradually add the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides again, then add the vanilla and almond extracts and continue to beat on medium speed until combined. Stir in the apricots and blueberries with a large spoon or rubber spatula until just combined.

Spread the mixture in the prepared baking sheet all the way to the edges, smoothing it with a spatula. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through, until the top is light golden brown and puffed.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the confectioners’ sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon lemon zest with 1 to 2 tablespoons water, as needed, until the icing is smooth, opaque, and barely pourable.

Let the bars cool completely in the pan, then use a spoon to drizzle the icing on top in zigzags. Cut 12 bars of equal size (roughly square). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Adapted from “The Red Truck Bakery Farmhouse Cookbook” by Brian Noyes

More Recipes with Dried Apricots: Ricotta Biscuits with Dried Cherries, Apricots & Raspberries

And: Lemon and Apricot Cinnamon Chicken

And: Big Chewy Apricot and Ginger Cookies

And: Roasted Lamb with Apricots, Pistachios, Mint & Pearled Barley

And: Flo Braker’s Apricot Flaky Scones

And: Apricot, Almond, Brown Butter Tart

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