Dried Fruit and Nut Cookies

I saw Ina Garten make these dried fruit cookies the other day and was immediately mentally jotting down my ideas to make these a bit healthier. I’m a huge fan of the Barefoot Contessa but not so much a fan of butter and sugar. I like to take dessert recipes that I find of interest and tweak them to reduce the sugar, butter/oil and swap out the white flour.

I do this with many recipes, except my family’s Italian cookies. I just cannot tweak them as I view Italian cookies normally having less butters and sugars though using white flour. It just would not be an Italian Cookie Tray at Christmas without those tried and true family recipes!

When I do remake any desserts, it’s my coworkers that are tasked with the taste testing. No one seems to ever mind and most of them are happy that my treats are not breaking their healthy eating plans. Where I work we are “encouraged” to stay fit with free gym memberships, fitness programs that have us all walking around with pedometers and tracking our progress and daily nutritional and wellness emails to keep us informed. Cookies are banned from lunch meetings and healthy foods have filled our cafeteria and vending machines.

Daily smart choices are my “diet” and being able to splurge and treat myself without feeling guilty is important to me. So these little cookies did just that! The sweetness of the dried fruit made up for reducing the sugar and for the 2 sticks of butter, I replaced 1 stick with ½ cup of applesauce and the other stick with ½ cup of plain yogurt. Sharyn at the Kale Chronicles left me that tip to use yogurt in her comment on my Medjool Date and Walnut Bread recipe.

The original recipe called for soaking the dried fruit and nuts in Sherry; I used rum. I also did not use candied cherries as typically found in fruit cake, used turbinado sugar in place of the white and brown sugar and switched to whole wheat white flour instead of white. The cookies looked exactly like the original recipe as the dough maintained its shape when baked just as it was cut from the shaped rolled log.  While I can’t compare the exast taste of her recipe to this one, those who tasted them were very pleased with the results and I’m definitely adding them to my favorite cookie recipes!

Dried Fruit and Nut Cookies

slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s Dried Fruit Cookies

1 cup dried figs, stems removed and coarsely chopped

1 cup mix of dark raisins, golden raisins and cranraisins

½ cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped

¾ cup chopped pecans

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons dark rum

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

½ cup plain Greek yogurt

½ cup turbinado sugar

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 extra large egg

2 2/3 cup whole wheat white flour or wheat pastry flour

¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

2 12×18 inch pieces of parchment or wax paper

In a medium size bowl, combine the figs, raisins, apricots, pecan, honey, rum lemon juice and salt. Cover and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the applesauce, yogurt and sugar until smooth.  Add in the egg and mix until combined.  Slowly add in the flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt until combined, but don’t overmix.  Add in the fruits and nuts along with any liquid.  Divide the dough in half and place each on a piece of waxed paper.  Roll each half into a log, 1 ½ inch thick by 18 inch long.  Refrigerate dough for several hours or until firm.  (I froze one of the logs to bake at another time – this log will be sliced and baked from its frozen state.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  With a sharp knife, cut the logs into ½ inch thick slices.  Place the slices ½ inch apart on ungreased sheet plans and bake until golden about 15-20 minutes   Makes about 5 dozen small cookies.

I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.


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