Cranberry Bars, a Trial Run

Holy moly, Thanksgiving is coming up fast. I can’t wait to eat turkey, stuffing, casseroles, and some of these awesome little bars.

But Thanksgiving isn’t just about food.  It’s about giving thanks for all the good in the your life and in the world.
I’m thankful for good health and a resilient body.
I’m thankful I still have a job (and health insurance) after some crazy months at work.
I’m thankful to have a loving family and an awesome mom.
I’m thankful to have an awesome boyfriend who loves me more than I ever imagined someone loving me.
And I’m thankful for my cat. Really. She’s a little snugglebug who makes my day just a bit brighter.

On to the food: I offered to bring these cranberry bars as a dessert. They’re like lemon bars, only they scream “HOLIDAYS!”
My mom made them a few years ago, then I started making them.  They’re pretty easy to do.  This was my first time making them in my own kitchen with a little 3-cup food processor instead of my mom’s giant one. I decided to make them this weekend as a trial…and I may have wanted some for home. I’ll leave my notes at the end.

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Cranberry Bar recipe from Epicurious:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1c plus 2 tbs granulated sugar, divided
  • 3c fresh or frozen cranberries (not thawed if frozen, 3/4lb)
  • 1/4c water
  • confectioners sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle
2. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with 2 crisscrossed sheets of foil, leaving an overhang on 2 opposite sides, then butter foil.
3. Blend butter, flour, salt, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a food processor until mixture begins to clump together. Press into bottom of pan.
4. Bake until pale golden and sides begin to pull away from pan, 25 to 30 minutes.
5. While crust is baking, cook cranberries, remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar, and water in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until berries burst, 6 to 8 minutes.
6. Pour cranberries over crust and bake until edge is golden, about 25 minutes.
7. Sift confectioners sugar over top and cool completely in pan on a rack. Lift out of pan using foil overhang and cut into 12 squares, then sift more confectioners sugar over top.

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DON’T put everything into the processor at once!

My little food processor was very unhappy with blending the shortbread.  I wound up tossing everything into the mixer and mixing on low for about a minute.  Then I popped it into the processor in small amounts to blend until it clumped.
I also reserve about 1/4c of the crust mixture to sprinkle over the cranberries before the whole thing bakes.  Sometimes I’ll add a dash of cinnamon in.
Once the cranberries burst, I add a cap of vanilla extract.  It smells amazing! Other ideas are to add orange or lemon zest (the cranberries remind of cranberry relish and I’ve always had it with orange added in), cloves, cinnamon, walnuts or pecans — play with different flavor combos!

What’s your favorite holiday dessert? What are you favorite flavor combos with cranberry?

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