August 20th, 2018

The Kosher Gourmet

Seriously simple yet tastes like rugelach: Buttery fruit-and-nut dessert bars perfectly suited for the not-so-frequent baker

Diane Rossen Worthington

By Diane Rossen Worthington

Published Sept. 23, 2016

Seriously simple yet tastes like rugelach: Buttery fruit-and-nut dessert bars perfectly suited for the not-so-frequent baker
I've never been big on baking cookies. That's not to say I don't like cookies. Actually I love cookies. My chocolate chip Heath bar almond crispy cookies are legendary. Other than that, I don't have a big cookie repertoire. But I do like making cookie bars such as shortbread, lemon squares and these delightful apricot walnut cookie bars. For me, bar cookies are my Seriously Simple answer to cookie making. No need to spoon or pipe the dough onto cookie sheets.

What makes these so easy to bake and serve is that after they are cooked in one pan, they are cut with a serrated knife and then arranged on a platter. Easy and attractive.

I tested this recipe a number of times. Depending upon the humidity, the dough was either very soft, almost sticky or more like a ball of dough. Make sure to divide the dough in half evenly. Either smooth the dough half in the pan with a spatula, if very soft and sticky, or pat the ball of dough half into the bottom of the pan. The jam is carefully smoothed over the bottom layer of dough with a knife and then the remaining dough half is dropped on top of the jam and spread across the top. Each time that I made these I noticed that the top dough layer was uneven with jam peeking out around the dough holes. Don't worry. That's what makes them so pretty.

I like to make these to serve with coffee or tea, or on a dessert buffet. These freeze beautifully, and I can't decide how I like them best: slightly warm, room temperature or frozen (when they taste like a cold candy bar). Enjoy!


Makes about 35 small, 1.5-inch bars

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/8 cups chopped walnuts (1/2 in dough, 1/2 topping)

  • 1 12- to 14-ounce jar apricot jam or preserves

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. In a medium bowl combine the butter and sugar. With an electric mixer on low speed, cream the ingredients together until well blended. Add the yolk and vanilla. Stir in the flour, mixing on low with the electric mixer until blended. Add the walnuts and mix until just blended together.

3. Divide the dough in half. Spread half of the dough in an even, thin layer on the bottom of the prepared dish. With a spoon spread the preserves evenly over the dough. With the remaining dough half, drop spoonfuls over the preserves, spreading across the top with a knife to the edges. You will have holes on the top; don't worry. Scatter the remaining walnuts on top.

4. Bake for 40 to 48 minutes, or until the bottom crust is light brown and the top is golden brown. Cool and slice into even bars with a serrated knife. Arrange on a platter and serve.

Recipe note: You can substitute strawberry, raspberry, pineapple or orange marmalade for the apricot preserves.

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Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Holidays," and also a James Beard award-winning radio show host.