In rifling around in the refrigerator last week, taking stock of what we needed for the weekly stock-up, I realized I had a bag of fresh cranberries lurking in the veggie bin. I knew I was done with cranberry sauce for the year. And, I wasn’t in the mood for fruity drinks. I had seen several versions of these delightful cranberry bars on several blogs, so I decided to make those with my turned up treasures. Tracey’s version was the one that finally sold me. Shortbread made with brown butter? Be still my heart.
They were so delicious! A nice tartness from the cranberry, with the juice from the orange rounding out the sweetness. They held together really nicely too, which is something that I’ve had trouble with fruit/shortbread bars in the past. I sent the leftovers into work with Jon today, and everyone really enjoyed them. He said they went quickly! If you have a bag of cranberries leftover from the holidays hanging around, make these. If you don’t, pick up a bag before they’re gone for the season. I plan to do just that this weekend, and freeze a couple of bags. It’s nice to have a stash to make cranberry lemonade in July! Enjoy.
Cranberry Brown Butter Shortbread Bars
1 cup plus 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
3 cups plus 3 tablespoons (14 1/4 oz) all-purpose flour
12 oz (about 2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
To make the crust: Line a 13×9-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on opposing sides so you can lift the bars out after baking. Spray the pan and foil with nonstick cooking spray.
Add the butter to a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. Melt the butter, swirling the pan frequently. Once the butter has melted, it will start to bubble and foam. Continue to cook (continuing to swirl the pan) until the butter turns brown and smells nutty – be patient and watch carefully, it can go from brown to burned quickly. Turn off the heat under the pan, and let the butter cool until lukewarm.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt. Beat in the egg yolks. Use a rubber spatula to stir in the flour until completely incorporated. The dough will be thick and stiff. Transfer about 2 cups to the prepared pan and press into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or until firm.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 F.
Bake the crust for about 20 minutes, or until it begins to set, but has not yet started to brown around the edges.
While the crust bakes, make the streusel by combining the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with the reserved dough. Use your fingers to mix until crumbly. Also use this time to make the cranberry filling. Combine the cranberries, sugar, orange zest and orange juice in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high, and continue boiling until the mixture is thick and syrupy (most of the cranberries will have popped), about 5-8 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let cool for 5-10 minutes.
Spread the cranberry mixture in an even layer over the hot crust. Sprinkle the streusel over the top. Increase the oven temperature to 350 F, and bake on a rack placed in the top of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the streusel is golden.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for at least 1 hour (you can also cool in the fridge if you want to speed up the process). Once cool, use the foil handles to lift the bars out. Place on a cutting board, and cut into squares before serving. Store for up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature.