Merry Sweet-Tooth Friday! It’s Christine here with another holiday dessert. This week I made vegan jubilee bars, which are like miniature versions of the classic Christmas fruitcake. But don’t freak out— fruitcake doesn’t have to live up to it’s rock-hard reputation— these are a soft and delightfully chewy combination of fruit, nuts, and chocolate. They’re good for you too!
Happiness is a Warm Cookie
“Woe is me! I made White Bean Blondies for this week’s post and they totally sucked! Now what do I do?” This was my cry on Wednesday evening while at my dad’s house. My stepmom Margaret said she had an idea and pulled out an old yellowed newspaper clipping. Her mom had originally cut out this article entitled Happiness is a Warm Cookie, and Margaret’s family has been baking with the recipes for years.
And even though the author Mrs. Roeder has a hairdo that is a bit old-fashioned, her advice is still pretty sound. She writes “Don’t worry about cookies spoiling appetites and not being good for children. Select recipes that use liberal amounts of cereals and fruits for ‘anytime’ snacking.” It’s true— your desserts don’t have to be unhealthy!
In the spirit of her advice, I made some updates to the recipe that I’m sure Mrs. Roeder wouldn’t mind. In the past, shortening made sense because of butter rations, but now that we know the harmful effects of trans fat, I figured canola oil would make a better choice. And I updated to whole wheat pastry flour (in the recipe it calls for ‘flower’) and organic sugar. For the eggs, I made flax eggs by mixing ground flax seed with water.
This recipe calls for finely chopped mixed candied fruit. Those are the neon green cherries that may come to mind when you think of fruitcakes, but traditionally it also includes pineapple, citron, and orange peel. At the natural market I found some maraschino cherries that are colored with fruit and vegetable juice instead of red dye. They are made by The Silver Palate and they are delicious! A lot of times I can’t tell too much of a difference when eating natural products besides the peace of mind, but I really recommend these cherries- no bitter aftertaste at all! To stay true to the traditional taste of the mixed candied fruit, I added a tablespoon each of dried orange and lemon peel.
Vegan Jubilee Bars
- 2 tbsp flax seed, ground
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 cup organic powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp canola oil
- 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt (or 1/2 tsp if using salted nuts)
- 1 cup chopped dates
- 3/4 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips (half a 12 oz bag)
- 1 cup chopped mixed nuts
- 1/2 cup chopped mixed candied fruit
Optional garnish: extra powdered sugar and melted chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Grind the flax seeds and mix with the water, set aside to become gummy. In the meantime, if using dried orange and lemon peel, soak in maraschino cherry juice for a couple minutes. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. Combine the dates, chocolate chips, nuts, and candied fruit, set aside.
Beat the flax mixture with a whisk until about the consistency of eggs, then whisk in powdered sugar and oil. Stir in dry ingredients. Fold in fruit and nut mixture. The batter here is very very thick, but work hard to fold the ingredients in evenly.
Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and spread batter into pan. I had to wash my hands and actually press the batter in because it is so thick. Bake for about 35 minutes, rotating around in the oven halfway through. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.
Quick, before anyone realizes these are healthy: dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with melted chocolate.
I have to confess that since making these bars yesterday I’ve singlehandedly polished off about half of them! They have an amazing old-fashioned Christmas taste from the combination of citrus, nuts, and chocolate. I imagine them fitting right into a Victorian Christmas like in The Nutcracker Ballet.
I hope you give these healthy bars a try and help let fruitcake enjoy the spotlight that at one time it deserved! Thanks to Margaret for the vintage recipe. See you next Friday!
Until then, stay sweet!