When I spotted the first stack of fresh cranberries in my supermarket the other day I lunged at them. Even though cranberry production still exceeds demand in this country, you never know when people are going to wake up and figure out that fresh cranberries have so much more to offer than just being boiled up into a sauce. I like to hedge my bets and stock up the minute I see them. Remember the great pumpkin shortages of ’06, ’08, ’09, and ’11? I don’t take any chances with my fall staples.
I use them like any other berry, there’s no need to cook them first or add a lot of sugar. They burst open in the oven and form a ruby red layer in these bars that has a wonderful lemony tartness.
These are perfect for pot-lucks, bake sales, book groups, office parties, all that stuff. They pack and travel well, and can be eaten with fingers or forks. I think these are the easiest of all the crumble bars that I’ve made (and I’ve made a lot) because the cranberries just get scattered in between the layers of shortbread dough. There’s only one bowl to worry about, no nuts to chop, no spices to measure. This is definitely one of those recipes that could become habit forming, in a good way.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
- 2 cups cake flour (you can use regular flour)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and patted dry
- Set the oven to 350F
- Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the salt and vanilla.
- Mix in the flour, just until combined.
- Line an 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper or foil with overhanging edges, this will make it easy to lift the bars out of the pan for cutting. Alternatively you can just lightly spray the pan with non-stick spray.
- Using your fingers, pat 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the pan. The dough will be soft and sticky, do your best to cover the entire surface of the bottom, but you don't need to compact the dough, just lightly pat it down.
- Spread the cranberries out across the dough, and then, using your fingers again, crumble the remaining dough on top. Try to get the dough in smallish crumbles, but don't worry about covering all the cranberries, they will show through.
- Bake for about 45-50 minutes until just beginning to get golden around the edges.
- Cool on a rack.
I really like the extra tenderness that cake flour gives to these bars, but you can also use regular flour.
The cranberries get even more brilliant red when they bake, so these bars are especially pretty.
Hot Pepper Cranberry Jam, TVFGI
Cranberry Christmas Cake, Barefeet in the Kitchen
Cranberry Curd Bars, TheKitchn