These fruit and nut filled chocolatey snack bars, with an optional cashew butter frosting, are perfect recipe for marking Tu biShevat, the Jewish New Year of the trees.
Tu biShevat, new year of the trees
Some people stick their new year celebrations smack in the middle of winter, never minding the seasonal randomness. Other people chart their new year to the path of the moon. But some of us, we're only happy when it's complicated (and yeah, depending on the time of year, we're only happy when it rains). Naturally the Jewish calendar has four new years, and lots of opinions about them.
There's the familiar Rosh haShanah on the first of Tishrei, actually the new civic year, measured from creation. Then we've got the first of Nisan, the month of the Exodus and Passover, known in the Torah as the first month of the year. We've also got two important year markers for tithing (yes, tithing): one with regards to tithing animals to kohanim (priests) on the 1st of Elul, which we don't do anymore, because there's sadly no Temple around. Then--finally, here it is--we've got the new year of the trees on the 15th of Shevat (15 is written using the acronym "Tu" in Hebrew).
Officially, Tu biShevat marks the day from which we count when we're allowed to start picking the fruit of new trees. (Lest all this tithing business sound remote, allow me to annoyingly point out that we totally have this concept kicking around in postmodern America, namely the beginning of the tax year, April 15th, and the beginning of the fiscal year, October 1st.) Unofficially, Tu biShevat is about how nice it is to have trees around to detox the air and give us fruits. We should definitely celebrate that with treats.
Making the fruit and nut chocolate bars
This quick, one-bowl recipe comes from an old family friend whose home is filled with art, kids, and wafts of beguiling flavors ever emanating from the kitchen. (You know, basically everything I aspire to.) It's a bit of a throwback type of recipe, in a good way. I tweaked it a little for American kitchens and added an optional frosting that picks up on the key flavors: nuts, fruit, and chocolate. The bars are more of a nibble without the topping, or a dessert with.
You can swap in whichever nuts and dried fruits you like or have on hand, although I think the particular combination of pistachios, golden raisins, and cherries works well. I also like the creamy cashew butter in the frosting, though you could use another mellow nut butter. I think peanut butter would be too strong a flavor here.
With thanks to Tziyona for gifting me her family cookbook for my wedding!
Fruit and Nut Chocolate Bars (parve)
- Rectangular tart pan or long loaf pan (see note for other options)
- 3 eggs
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 bar semi-sweet chocolate - 100 g / 3.5 oz
- 1 cup golden raisins - 180 g
- 1 cup dried cherries - 180 g
- 1 cup salted, shelled pistachios - 180 g
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips - 80 g / 2.5 oz
- 1 Tbsp cashew butter - or another smooth, milk nut butter
- 1 Tbsp apricot jam
- In a double boiler or the microwave, melt the chocolate. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined.
- Add the melted chocolate to the mixing bowl and whisk with the egg/sugar mixture.
- Add the flour and baking powder to the bowl and fold in using a rubber spatula.
- Place the dried fruit and pistachios in the bowl and fold in.
- Pour the batter, which will be thick, into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely, then remove the bottom of the tart pan or lift out the bars. Cut into rectangles about 1" / 3 cm wide.
- If frosting your bars, make the frosting while the bars cool. In a double boiler or using the microwave, melt the chocolate. Add in the nut butter and jam and whisk to combine. Set aside to cool slightly.
- When the bars are cooled, but before cutting them apart, spread the frosting on top of the bars. Top with a sprinkle of nuts and dried fruit, if desired.