These cookies have Austrian tradition and many good things going for them, including a shortbread base, caramelized sugar, chocolate, nuts and sweet-tart fruit.
A metal bench scraper is a good tool for cutting these bars.
Make Ahead: Refrigerate the cookies for up to 1 week, stored between layers of parchment paper.
Servings: 40 squares
- For the crust
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the filling
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup blanched, slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
- 1/2 cup finely diced candied orange peel
- 1/4 cup flour
- For the topping
- 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted, such as Scharffen Berger (62%) or Bissinger's (60%)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick cooking oil spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper. Spray the paper as well.
For the crust: Whisk together the flour and salt in a small bowl to aerate and combine.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until creamy, then add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes, until very light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, then gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until blended to form a soft dough, stopping to scrape down the bowl once or twice.
Transfer the dough to the pan and pat it into a flat, even layer on the bottom. Bake for 20 minutes, until just beginning to turn very light golden brown along the edges; it should be dry to the touch and not baked through.
While the crust bakes, make the filling: Combine the butter, sugar, cream and honey in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the saucepan; once the butter has melted, stir to incorporate, then increase the heat to medium-high and cook to a temperature of 235 degrees. This will take no more than 10 minutes. The mixture will have thickened and the surface will be covered with large bubbles. Remove from the heat and add the nuts, fruits and flour, stirring until well combined.
Pour the filling over the partially baked crust; return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and has turned light golden all over. The color might be darker around the edges. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the topping: Drizzle the melted chocolate across the filling. Refrigerate to set the chocolate; cut into 40 bars, then layer the bars between sheets of parchment paper and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Adapted from "Unforgettable Desserts," by Dede Wilson (Wiley, 2009).
Tested by Randy Richter.
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