Minimal Monday: Fresh Cranberry Bars

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fresh Cranberry Bars

Yield: 9 or 12 bars, depending on how you slice them

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Set the oven to 350F
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the salt and vanilla.
  3. Mix in the flour, just until combined.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Bake for about 45-50 minutes until just beginning to get golden around the edges.
  8. Cool on a rack.

Notes

I really like the extra tenderness that cake flour gives to these bars, but you can also use regular flour.

https://theviewfromgreatisland.com/minimal-monday-fresh-cranberry-bars/

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The cranberries get even more brilliant red when they bake, so these bars are especially pretty.

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A few other scrumptious fresh cranberry recipes —

Hot Pepper Cranberry Jam, TVFGI

Cranberry Christmas Cake, Barefeet in the Kitchen

Cranberry Curd Bars, TheKitchn

42 Comments

  • Reply
    Megan
    March 16, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    THESE were AWESOME! I managed to find fresh cranberries in March here in Florida. I shared with friends and received many compliments–great recipe!

    • Reply
      Sue
      March 16, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Oh wow, how did you ever find fresh cranberries in March, and in Florida of all places? I’m thrilled you liked them Megan, thanks for letting me know :)

  • Reply
    Rebecca McCloud
    January 11, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Oh my, these are the absolute best!! I love using fresh cranberries and this was just too easy. I’m not a great baker/cook so generally follow recipes to the letter. Will be making these often.

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 11, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      I’m always so happy to hear about recipe successes, Rebecca, thanks! I love fresh cranberries, too, I stocked my freezer this year!

  • Reply
    Saleena Shamin
    November 23, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Did the bars come out wet from the oven? Mine did and its a bit concerning. But I’m letting it dry now. Hopefully it will harden.

  • Reply
    Pamela
    January 6, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    If I was going to use some cranberries I had frozen…would I defrost first or put in frozen? Thanks :)

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 6, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      I think I’d put them in frozen, Pamela. Whenever I defrost cranberries they seem to get all mushy.

  • Reply
    Julie
    November 24, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    So good! I added pine nuts and powdered sugar to my topping. I also tossed cranberries with sugar. Although I love the tartness, I wanted to cater to a wider audience. So good! Will be reposting my experience soon!

    • Reply
      Sue
      November 25, 2015 at 6:39 am

      So glad they were a hit for you Julie, I look forward to your post!

  • Reply
    Recipe – Vegan Cranberry Bars | Mommy on the Money
    December 5, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    […] is one tough critic when it comes to food, so this is a great honor. Recipe adapted from The View From Great Island – I just took out the regular butter, and scratched out ingredients that would have made […]

  • Reply
    Brittany
    November 27, 2014 at 6:41 am

    These were so easy to make and turned out so delicious! I sprinkled sugar on top for a little bit of sweetness. Other than that, they were great! Taking them to Thanksgiving dinner today! Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sue
      November 27, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      Have a wonderful day, Brittany!

  • Reply
    Melissa
    October 20, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    So this may be a year late, but wow! I have to admit, I threw in about 1/4 cup of good quality almond paste to the dough. It made these absolutely unbelievable! I also King Arthur Glazing Sugar (sugar and maltodextrin) with milk and almond extract (I like my almond). You could use powdered sugar as well.These are on the top of the holiday baking list for sure.

    • Reply
      Sue
      October 21, 2014 at 7:08 am

      Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever mixed cranberry and almond, and I LOVE almond. I’ll have to try this, thanks Melissa!

  • Reply
    Erin
    December 24, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Oh my GOD these are incredible!!!! Made them yesterday and brought them to work, they were gone in minutes. I even got the comment that they were “life-changing” they were so good!! Making more tonight!

  • Reply
    Katherine
    November 24, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    OMG! Just made this! They are soooo good! Was looking for a easy cranberry recipe but yours is the easiest and the tastiest ! Not a expert of baking and normally my husband doesn’t like my cookies( well he says he likes then but he nicer really eat them!) but they turn out so good! Not to mention I did add a little bit more cranberry in it because I like it a little bit tart.

    • Reply
      Sue
      November 25, 2013 at 6:54 am

      So glad they worked out for you, Katherine — better stock up on the fresh cranberries while they’re around!

  • Reply
    Heidi
    November 15, 2013 at 12:41 am

    I have made these bars!! They are so buttery and the cranberries give them a tart, sweet bite!! I could hardly stop eating them!!

  • Reply
    Vicki
    November 14, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Do these freeze/keep
    well. I thought of doing in a Xmas cookie exchange

    • Reply
      Sue
      November 15, 2013 at 7:18 am

      I think they would freeze perfectly, Vicki.

  • Reply
    Lorraine
    October 27, 2013 at 3:09 am

    I found you’re recipe via Facebook and adapted the recipe as I only had blueberries and rhubarb and it’s superb with any fruit!

    • Reply
      Sue
      October 27, 2013 at 7:48 am

      It really is, I have several more recipes like this one, Lorraine, and I’m slowly working my way through all the fruits I can think of :)

  • Reply
    Paula B.
    October 11, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    First time visit here and I think these bars are going to have to get made very soon. I love all things “cranberry” so it’s great to have a new dessert to make. I’ve been on the Cape for several weekends recently and have seen (very) fresh cranberries being sold from the backs of people’s cars, I wonder what everybody’s making? Heading now to look through all your lovely recipes.

    • Reply
      Sue
      October 11, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      I envy you being on the Cape at this time of year! I made a cranberry butter last week that I’ll be sharing on the blog soon, that’s a good way to use up an overabundance of berries.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    October 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Oh my goodness these looks heavenly. I have to make these and those flourless chocolate chip cookies RIGHT NOW.

    THANK YOU.

    Elizabeth

  • Reply
    Dina
    October 10, 2013 at 8:52 am

    I saw some fresh cranberries at the farmers’ market and I was thinking, what could I do with those? these bars look great!

  • Reply
    grace
    October 9, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    i love seeing fresh cranberries finally on store shelves. this is a pretty and tasty use for them!

  • Reply
    Abbe@This is How I Cook
    October 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    I love the true red color in these. And how simple they are. I think I may fall in love!

  • Reply
    shannon
    October 8, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    i LOVE that this is a minimal monday post: cranberry bars with few ingredients? sold. i can’t wait to make these. i haven’t seen cranberries yet in the markets, but i haven’t really set about looking for them either. that changes today, thanks to these. gorgeous, Sue.

  • Reply
    Eileen
    October 8, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Hooray, cranberries! We still have some in our freezer from last fall, and now I think I know just what to do with them. :)

    • Reply
      Sue
      October 8, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Wow, mine never last that long!

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    October 8, 2013 at 9:29 am

    These are so pretty. Love the vibrant red color. I guess a trip to the store is needed asap!

  • Reply
    Karen Harris
    October 8, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Is it that time already?! These look delicious and so simple to make. These will definitely make an appearance in my kitchen soon.

    • Reply
      Sue
      October 8, 2013 at 8:34 am

      I know…right about now the days start whizzing by at warp speed…

  • Reply
    Julie
    October 8, 2013 at 7:07 am

    I have been getting email notifications for your blog posts for only a short time but so look forward to them. This is another wonderful recipe I am going to try. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Reply
      Sue
      October 8, 2013 at 8:40 am

      Thanks Julie, glad to have you with us!

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    October 7, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    I love cranberry bars, these are so pretty!

  • Reply
    Denise @ magnoliaverandah
    October 7, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Oh YES the perfect Christmas nibble! How beautiful do they look and no sugar – this is a bonus!

  • Reply
    Mary
    October 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    These look awesome, Sue! Thanks for the link to my cake as well. I just took some cranberries out of the freezer this afternoon to play with a gluten free version.:)

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    October 7, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I almost never (ever?) see anyone bake with fresh cranberries and not doctor them up in a sugary sauce first or feel the need to first cook them down. I love this idea, Sue, of just adding them and treating them like any other berry!

  • Reply
    Dom
    October 7, 2013 at 9:52 am

    dare I say these are almost christmassy!… they look so special and I bet they’re just the right (or wrong) side of tart!.. I love ’em!

    • Reply
      Sue
      October 7, 2013 at 10:57 am

      Very Christmassy, I was going to say they would look very holiday-ish on a tray garnished with something green.

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