Friends! Here’s one late addition to our holiday cookie table!
Last week I told you about my holiday cookie swap. It’s this coming Saturday which means I’ve had my nose firmly planted in Dorie Greenspan’s cookie book for the last week straight. Dorie has a recipe for a mulled wine jam cookie topped with a cornmeal crumble that stopped me mid page turn. The math is this: red wine + warming spices + buttery cookie + cornmeal topping + loads of dried fruit. It’s mulled wine meets fruit cake, in a sweet little square with crumble topping.
The joy of a bar is that it lives in this glorious space between pie and cookie. Easier than pie because we press in the crust and easier than a cookie because the only portioning is in slicing after baking. It’s perfect for this time of year when we also have to juggle gift wrapping and every other thing in the world.
Taking inspiration from Dorie, I took the flavors of mulled wine and plump fruit into a very easy cornmeal crust and crumble.
Here’s what you need for these bars. This is one of those wonder recipe where the crust is also the crumble topping so it’s actually pretty simple!
• a plenty 2 sticks of butter creamed with granulated and brown sugar.
• vanilla for pastry flavor
• flour, cornmeal, and salt to bring a little bit of sweetness and texture to the crust.
• a big fruity red wine. I used a bold California red.
• cinnamon sticks, star anise, whole cloves, and orange slices to mull the wine into holiday splendor.
• a generous amount of dried red fruit: cherries, cranberries, and prunes.
• cherry jam to spread the whole mixture across the crust.
See also: Apple Pie Bars.
It all works. It really does.
We’ll start by making the crust and the crumble so the crust can bake a bit while we mull our fine wine.
Start by creaming together softened butter along with granulated and brown sugar. Just like we’re making cookies.
This crust and crumble doesn’t have any eggs, making it more of a shortbread than anything.
Add vanilla to the creamed butter and sugar, then add the dry ingredients, starting with the cornmeal.
Add the flour, along with the cinnamon and salt.
You could absolutely make this recipe by hand. Creaming butter and sugar is just easy with a mixer.
Once adding the dry ingredients, I begin to bring it all together with a spatula because taking the mixer to – just so it doesn’t all puff out of the bowl.
Beat until well combined. There’s not much moisture in this recipe so the crust will be rather crumbly. That’s right! Just make sure there are no big flour patches present.
Set aside one heaping cup of the crust – that will be the crumble topping.
Place the majority of the crust mixture in an 8×8-inch square pan lined with parchment paper and lightly greased.
Use your fingers to press the crust into an even layer.
Refrigerate the crust for 15 minuets or so, then bake for 15-20 minutes – just to crisp the bottom layer of our bars. We’re building support for all the fruit soaked wine.
Let’s mull this wine!
In a little piece of cheesecloth, wrap a few cinnamon sticks, a few star anise pods, and a few cloves. Tie it together into a little baggie and place in a small saucepan with wine.
Add a few orange slices, rind and all. A big spoonful of honey, too!
Lemons would be nice in the absence of oranges. Heck, apple slices would be fine too! Mulled wine can go in any direction. Add whatever you’d like.
Bring the wine to a simmer over medium heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. The wine will reduce down by about 1/4.
Add the lot of dried fruit to the warm mulled wine and return to the stovetop. Simmer the fruit and wine, over a low flame, until the fruit plumps by absorbing wine and the wine evaporates a bit.
After about 8 minutes, the fruit will be juicy and there should only be a few tablespoons of wine left at the bottom of the pan.
Place the wine fruit in a bowl and stir in the cherry jam.
Add a real good splash of vanilla extract.
Spoon the warm fruit mixture into the prepared crust. It’ll be a thin layer of fruit filling but the flavor is intense. Spread it all as evenly as possible.
Sprinkle the reserved crust crumbled over the fruit mixture.
Bake until deliciously golden brown and bubbling.
Before slicing – listen, it’s going to be hard to wait – it’s best if these bars are chilled.
The refrigerator speeds the process though placing them in the freezer for 20-30 minutes really helps.
Warm bars will be fussy to cut. Chill the bars and the filling will keep its shape.
Look at these spice wine and fruit bars.
It’s an ode to the holiday season and a nod to fruit cake all in one little bar! We’re doing a lot of good holiday work here.