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With their chewy-crunchy crust, and butter-and-cream enhanced topping, these fruit bars are very rich, but not overly sweet... especially if you add the tart and sour flavor, which gives the filling incredibly bright and sassy flavor.
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (2 ounces) confectioners' or glazing sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) half and half
1 1/2 cups (7 to 9 ounces) of your favorite dried fruit, cut into 1/4" pieces if large; cranberries, apricots, golden or regular raisins, cherries, pineapple, mango, and apple are all good choices
1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) diced pecans
1/2 teaspoon tart and sour flavor, optional
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 9" pan.
To prepare the crust: In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Add the flour, scraping the bowl and mixing until everything is well combined. Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan, and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until lightly browned.
To prepare the topping: Melt the butter with the salt, sugar, and half and half. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Stir in the fruit, nuts, and tart and sour flavor. Spread the topping over the baked crust.
To bake the bars: Bake the bars for 14 to 16 minutes, until the crust is starting to brown (you should be able to see just the edge of it), and the fruit mixture is bubbly. Remove from the oven. After 45 minutes, use a bench knife or table knife to loosen the edges of the bars from the pan. Don't wait too long, or they will have cemented themselves to the sides of the pan. Cut the bars when they're completely cool. Yield: 16 rich, sticky bars.