Fruit n' Nut Bars

Makes 24 bars
Adapted from Baked 

For the Tart Dough:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Fruit n' Nut Filling:
3/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/3 cup diced candied orange peel (homemade or store-bought)
2 tablespoons cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Shot of bourbon or whiskey
1/2 teaspoon almond extract 
2 1/2 cups sliced almonds, toasted

To make the sweet tart dough, in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until whipped. (PS- we made two so we doubled the above amounts which only make one tart dough.)

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream, egg yolk and vanilla. Add this to the butter and sugar mix and blend until just incorporated. Scrape down the bowl and then add the flour and salt until just combined. Do not over mix. 

On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and roll/form into a rough oval shape. Wrap tightly and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. We made the dough the day before and kept it in the fridge overnight. We just let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before rolling it out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.

Roll out the dough into a large rectangle shape to fit into the pan. The dough will break apart but do not fret, you are just going to press it into the brownie pan like any tart crust. Do not press the dough up the sides, but press the rectangle just into the bottom of the pan. Cover the dough with parchment paper and using pie weights or uncooked, dry beans, place them in the middle of the pan to keep the dough from bubbling while cooking. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment and pie weights and continue cooking the crust for another 5-7 minutes or until the top is barely golden brown. Remove from oven and allow the crust to cool while you make the filling. Ooo, and keep the oven on.

For the fruit and nut filling, in a medium bowl toss together the almonds, cherries and candied orange peel (see the recipe below for a homemade version), cake flour and salt. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the sugar, cream, honey and butter. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the mixture to the soft ball stage, about 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't stir the gooey blend during this stage.

When the mixture has reached the soft ball stage, remove from the heat and stir in the shot of bourbon or brandy. We used brandy. Add the almond extract.

Then, fold the dry fruit and nut mixture into the sugar-honey mix. Spread it out into the cooled crust and smooth the top. 

Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the bars are golden and evenly bubbling on top, all over the bars.. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting. We placed the pan into the fridge once cooled and before cutting to ensure that we kept the bars as neat as possible...which only sort of worked. 

These bars can be stored at room temperature for 4 days, covered and sealed tightly.

Candied Orange Peel

4 oranges
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup

Wash the oranges really well. Then, peel each orange with a vegetable peeler into large strips. Make sure you are only getting the outer layer of peel, not the white pith. Using a paring knife you can scrape off any pith on the rinds that you might have peeled.

Place the peel a medium, heavy-bottomed pot and cover with 1 cup of cold water. Bring the peels to a boil, then strain and repeat. Do this 3 times.

Finally, place the peel back in the pot with 4 cups of water, sugar and corn syrup. Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes or until the mixture forms a thick syrup. Allow the mixture to cool and then transfer the peel to an airtight container and cover with syrup. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.