Well, I have been a slacker food blogger lately. Here we are, more than a week in to February, and I haven’t shared anything yet. Believe me, it’s not for a lack of cooking! In the last week, I’ve hosted dinner for 10, baked a cake and a cheesecake for a baby shower, tried a homemade version of monkey bread, and spent some quality time reading the library’s copy of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Unfortunately, I spent too much time reading the book and not quite enough time cooking out of it. (I only made one recipe before the library insisted I return it – they gave me some story about other people wanting it or something. Whatever.) I did make a copy of another recipe that I want to try before my turn at the library comes up again…
Anyway. Let’s talk about the one recipe that I DID make before I returned the book: Cranberry Crumb Bars. I needed a dessert for dinner with friends, and with the way my schedule had been, I needed something easy. These caught my eye because they’re different from what I normally make (chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate), and, as Deb said in the book, “bar cookies are your friend.” (I may be paraphrasing there. Like I said, I had to give the book back.)
These came together in a snap, with cranberries that I’d picked up over the holidays and tossed in the freezer. They smelled cozy and comforting, and we barely let them cool before sampling them. Sadly, our plans changed (boo on all those cold/flu bugs that are going around!), which left us at home with an entire 9″ x 13″ pan of these bars. I wish I could tell you that we shared them with our coworkers or other friends, but that would be a lie. Andy and I did an embarrassingly good job of devouring these; I baked on Wednesday night, and they were gone before Sunday.
Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices
For the crust and topping:
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (two sticks), chilled, plus extra for the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
For the filling:
3 cups of fresh/frozen cranberries
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ pan with parchment paper, and butter both the paper and the sides of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the egg with a fork. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of the pan, and reserve the other half of the mixture for the crumb topping.
In a blender or food processor, pulse the cranberries, zest, juice, sugar and cornstarch. (Here’s where I deviated from the recipe: Deb says to do this until the cranberries are coarsely chopped. Because I was using my immersion blender, I ended up with a smoother mixture (and cranberry flecks all over the kitchen). I liked the way it turned out, and I think I’ll continue to make it with the smoother filling.)
Spread the filling in an even layer over the crust, and top with the reserved crumb topping. Bake until cookies are set and golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting. (Do as I say, not as we did here.)
From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Click here for a printable version!
*In case you’re wondering, I loved the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. There were a few things in it that I’ll probably never make (like a mushroom tart), but there were lots of recipes that caught my eye. Maple bacon biscuits? Cheesy breakfast rolls? (That’s not the recipe’s name, but it’s what it looked like.) I think I’ll eventually break down and buy a copy… if it’s not gifted to me first. (Andy, are you reading this?? Hint, hint!)