Whenever I see those first bags of fresh cranberries popping up in stores I can’t help but get excited. I instinctively buy a bag, never knowing what I’ll do with them..and over the years it’s forced me to try something new. There’s been the obvious culprit – homemade cranberry sauce. But also a refreshing cranberry sorbet, these killer cranberry brown butter shortbread bars, and these delicious cranberry-orange muffins. So in keeping with tradition, here is another cranberry favorite…
My old friend from high school, Becky, had tagged me in a post from TheKitchn about these cranberry curd bars. They had a walnut shortbread crust, which I found most intriguing – so I was pretty sure that I was going to make them. Then my good friend Shawnda mentioned something about it, and posted these, giving me the swift-kick-in-the-butt I needed to get into the kitchen and make my own.
I think these are probably my favorite cranberry confection that I’ve made to date. The walnuts in the shortbread crust add such an unexpected richness and complexity of flavor. And the cranberry curd is tart and fresh, but has plenty of sweetness to balance it all out. Will probably be making these again before the cranberries are all gone, maybe trying a little orange juice instead of lemon. A new family favorite for sure!
Cranberry Curd Bars
1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cupunsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon pieces
For the curd:
12 ounces (about 3 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1/2 of a lemon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon pieces
Powdered sugar for dusting
Line a 9×13 baking pan with a sheet of aluminum foil. Spray lightly with baking spray. Set aside.
To make the crust, place the nuts in the bowl of a food processor and coarsely grind, about 15 one-second pulses. Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and pulse until finely ground, about 10 additional one-second pulses. Sprinkle the chunks of butter over the top of the flour-nut mix and pulse until the mixture holds together when compressed in your palm, another 20-25 one-second pulses. Press the crust mix into the baking dish, making it as even as possible. Freeze for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Remove the crust from the freezer and bake for 20-25 minutes, until beginning to color around the edges.
While the crust is baking, prepare the cranberry curd:
Place the cranberries and water in a medium-sized sauce pot over medium-high heat and stir. Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until all the cranberries have popped and become mushy, about 5 minutes. Pour them into a fine-meshed strainer set over a medium-sized mixing bowl and press the cranberry puree through using a spatula. Allow the puree to cool to room temperature. Discard the cranberry skins and clean the strainer for use in the next step.
To the bowl with the cranberry puree, add the sugar, eggs and yolks, lemon juice and salt (reserving the butter for now). Stir thoroughly until the mixture is even.
Return the cranberry mixture to the saucepan and set the burner to medium. Stir the curd continuously, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan. Cook until the curd starts to thicken, coats the back of a spoon, and registers about 150° on an instant-read thermometer (there’s some wiggle-room, so don’t fret about being exact). This should take 10-12 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter all at once. Stir until the butter has completely melted, then pour the curd through the strainer into a clean bowl.
Pour the warm cranberry curd onto the walnut crust. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes, until the curd has set but still jiggles slightly in the center. Cool completely and refrigerate before cutting.
To cut the squares, lift them from the pan using the aluminum foil as handles. Trim off the sides to make even edges if desired. Dust the tops of the bars with powdered sugar just before serving and use a sharp knife to cut them into squares.
Source: barely adapted from TheKitchn