Handmade fruit bars, created with a selection of dried fruit and an assortment of other elements, are a flavorful item to add to your no-bake repertoire.
The key to a tasty result is to use a variety of sticky dried fruit, nuts and seeds; integrating a little coconut oil helps to bind the mixture, while a good splosh of vanilla extract rounds out and deepens the flavor.
After pasty (honestly, that condition is the ideal) and pressed into a loaf pan, the confection is refrigerated until firm and easy to slice. If you like, a generous sprinkle of additional coconut flakes, nuts and/or seeds can be pressed right on the top of the loaf just before chilling.
Here’s an intensely flavorful no-bake snack packed with a variety of dried fruits, nuts and coconut.
You’ll need a 7-by-4-inch loaf pan. A heavy-duty food processor is essential for this recipe. Do not substitute a blender or low-powered food processor, and do not leave the processor unattended as it runs.
Make ahead: The fruit-mixture loaf needs to be refrigerated for at least 5 hours and up to overnight. The uncut loaf or sliced bars can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks, individually wrapped for long-term storage.
12/3 cups moist dried apricot halves (about 61/3 ounces), snipped into small pieces
1/2 cup moist pitted dates (about 23/4 ounces), snipped into small pieces
1/4 cup moist dried apples (about 13/5 ounces), snipped into small pieces
2 tablespoons coconut oil, at room temperature (may substitute coconut "butter")
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (about 1 ounce), plus more for optional garnish
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup or honey (optional)
1/2 cup raw cashew pieces, plus more for optional garnish
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds, plus more for optional garnish
1/8 teaspoon salt, preferably flaked sea salt
Line the bottom and sides of the loaf pan with a double layer of plastic wrap wide enough to allow the long sides to eventually overlap and seal the fruit bar loaf.
Combine the apricots, dates and apples in a food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds, or until chopped. Add the coconut oil, vanilla extract, coconut flakes and the brown rice syrup or honey, if using; pulse for 45 seconds to 1 minute. Add the cashew pieces, pumpkin seeds and salt; pulse for 45 seconds to 1 minute.
Continue to pulse for about 1 more minute, until the mixture is dense, comes together in big, clinging clumps and becomes pasty. If the mixture balls up during this time, stop and carefully break it up. (If the mixture is not thoroughly processed until pasty, it will not adhere to itself well enough, and will not cut cleanly once thoroughly chilled.) You should be able to see small bits and flecks of the nuts and seeds rather than one solid color.
Carefully remove the blade from the food processor, and use a sturdy offset knife to dislodge any fruit bar paste that might cling to the blade, then use the knife to scrape and transfer globs of the fruit mixture to the loaf pan. Use a flexible spatula to firmly press the mixture into an even layer. If desired, coarsely chop extra coconut flakes, cashews and/or pumpkin seeds (about 4 teaspoons total) and distribute evenly over the surface, gently pressing them in place while the mixture is still sticky. Fold over the flaps of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Refrigerate for 5 hours, or up to overnight, until quite firm.
Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the loaf into 16 equal slices (bars), or store the fruit-bar block whole in the loaf pan and slice to order. Keep refrigerated, either way. Makes 16 servings.
– Washington cookbook author Lisa Yockelson