Here is a nostalgic blast-from-the-past recipe based on Publix bakery’s “fruit bar cookie.” You might remember these lovely deep brown cookies stacked in the case with coarse sugar on top and a spicy sweet aroma.
Publix no longer makes this cookie, and I wasn’t even able to find a recipe on the internet. So here’s my recipe save for you to enjoy and keep in your archives. Here’s the story: One day while browsing the goodies in the Publix cookie case, I asked the store baker for the recipe for this cookie. The man clad in bakery whites rolled his eyes and then said, “Okay, I’ll be right back."
He was nice enough to show me a typed recipe for a very large quantity from their baker’s recipe book. I asked for a piece of paper to write down the recipe and ingredients. I wrote the ingredients on the back of a Publix pink order sheet. But the recipe was for 100 cookies — almost 21 pounds of cookie dough.
I got to work, using my kitchen math wisdom, and created a recipe that was scaled down and updated with just enough dough to fit in a quarter sheet pan and make 16 perfect bar cookies. I substituted most of the shortening for butter, because butter has more flavor. I used only all-purpose flour and added vanilla extract. Pecan meal is just pecans that are finely ground, so I toasted pecans halves and pulsed them in the food processor. I also aptly renamed the recipe: Raisin and Pecan Spice Bar Cookies.
As with any recipe, there is freedom within the ingredients and technique. This recipe is so similar to New England Hermit cookie bars, but alas, no molasses in the ingredients. This cookie bar is nicely spiced and chewy with lots of raisins and pecans. I would say this is a Southern version of a Hermit cookie bar because of the pecans and honey.
This cookie travels well and is perfect for sending to family and friends for the holidays. Substitute white whole wheat flour if you like for great results. Here’s my recipe for Raisin and Pecan Spice Bar Cookies, or their more nostalgic name: “Remember When Fruit Bar Cookies."
Raisin and Pecan Spice Bar Cookies
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and cooled
1 cup raisins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup honey
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1 ¼ cups light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons turbinado or demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed quarter sheet pan (9 by 13 inches) with parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray.
Add the pecans to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times until coarsely ground. Add the raisins and pulse a few more times until the mixture holds together when pinched, then set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, then set aside. Lightly spray a ½-cup measuring cup with cooking spray and add the honey. This will help the honey release without any waste.
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With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter, shortening and light brown sugar in a separate bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl. On medium speed, add the eggs, honey and vanilla. Beat just until smooth, then scrape the bowl.
On low speed, add the flour mixture and then the raisin-nut mixture, beating just until blended and a soft dough forms. Spread evenly into the pan with a rubber spatula. Smooth the top and then sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until slightly puffed, nicely browned and a tester comes out clean. These cookies will flatten as they cool. Cool completely, run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan and then invert on a cutting board, remove the parchment and cut into bars.
Makes 16 bars.
Source: Loosely adapted from a Publix recipe
Lorraine Fina Stevenski is a self-taught baker and award-winning recipe contest addict. This column features recipes that have been entered in contests across America and updated for readers who love to bake. Contact her at email@example.com.