I tried keeping things fairly low key this year, in terms of Christmas baking. After spending too much time decorating sugar cookies and standing at my stove dipping melomakarona, I opted for two really easy treats – peppermint bark, and these cranberry bars.
I hadn’t really planned on making anything new this year, but I happened to run across this recipe while I was on the Joy of Baking site looking at an old favorite, raspberry bars. I’ve made the raspberry bars in the past, for both holiday and any time treats, but I wanted to give these a try since cranberries are a bit more festive, and anything encased in shortbread is a surefire hit.
These bars come together very quickly. You just dump all the ingredients for the filling in a saucepan, and then mix a few ingredients together to make the bottom crust/topping.
I loved the buttery shortbread in these bars (I had to taste test one before giving them away, of course), and the slight tartness of the cranberries.
I am posting the original recipe/amount below, but I actually ended up tripling the filling (since I had two 12 oz. bags of cranberries) and making one 9×13 pan (with 1.5x the crust amount of the original recipe) and one 8×8 pan (with the original amount in the recipe, but it was too much crust/topping, since the recipe calls for a 9″ pan). Besides that, the only change I made was to add orange zest to the filling, which I think is a perfect complement to cranberries.
These are a great low-maintenance but well-liked dessert recipe, and I will definitely make them again.
Cranberry Shortbread Bars
Adapted from Joy of Baking
8 oz. fresh cranberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar*
3 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. orange zest
2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a 9×9 baking pan.
To make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, and water. Cook over medium-high heat until boiling, and continue to boil the filling until it’s thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. (*You may need to add a little more sugar depending on the tartness of the cranberries.) Stir in the orange zest and remove from the heat to cool while you make the shortbread.
To make the shortbread: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and salt.
In another bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter until smooth (1 minute) and add the sugar, beating until smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently fold in the flour mixture until just incorporated.
Evenly press two-thirds of the shortbread dough into the prepared pan. Spoon over the cranberry filling evenly, leaving a 1/4″ border. With the remaining shortbread dough, crumble it over the top of the filling, using your fingers. Then, gently press the dough into the filling.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven, place on a wire rack and while still hot, cut into 16 squares. Allow to cool completely in pan.