Sunday, December 11, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Baking: Cranberry Crumb Bars

Since Peyton Manning has been missing from my life for the past few months, Michael Bublé has become my new homeboy. I love his new Christmas CD and have really enjoyed listening to it while baking. Paul is mildly jealous and refuses to pronounce his name correctly, referring to him as "Michael Bubbles." His misguided jealously instantly disappears as soon as he gets the chance to taste a new batch of cookies.

It's amazing we ever manage to get anything baked with how Matthew likes to entangle himself around my KitchenAid as soon as we bring it out from the cupboard...

These perfectly festive bars are a pinch to make and one of my favorite new additions to the Christmas cookie list. I first made these last year as a treat for my family and I instantly fell in love with their sweet-tart flavor. They are not cloyingly sweet which allows the tartness of the cranberries to really shine. You could definitely increase the amount of sugar you toss the cranberries in if you want to mellow their flavor a bit more. You could also try switching out the orange zest for lemon zest for an additional level of citrus flavor. Either way, give these a try!

Cranberry Crumb Bars
adapted from Good Life Eats
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks chilled butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons orange juice
1-2 tablespoons orange zest
4 cups fresh cranberries
2/3 cup sugar (or more if you want to cut the tartness)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Butter a 13x9 baking pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the 1 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in the chilled butter until coarse crumbs form. The mixture will still be fairly floury. Add the egg and continue cutting in with the pastry blender. Press half the mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan. Mix the cinnamon into the remaining flour mixture.

Blend the orange juice, zest, cornstarch, and vanilla with the 2/3 cup sugar in a bowl. Stir in the cranberries. Evenly spread the cranberries over the crust. Sprinkle evenly with the reserved flour mixture.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the top is a light golden color. Let cool completely on a wire rack before transferring to the refrigerator to completely chill before cutting into squares.

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