Sometimes I think I should change the name of this blog from Cookie Baker Lynn to Rescue Baker Lynn. It seems like three quarters of my posts are about how I manage to pull a flaming disaster out of the fire, never mind that I'm the one that set it on fire in the first place.
Yet another instance of this took place this week. When cranberries first hit the stores I snagged a bag, knowing that I'd find a perfect use for them. I put them in my fridge and was rewarded when my husband brought home the Cookies edition of Fine Cooking. There is a gorgeous looking recipe for cranberry bars in there. Yesssss!
But, as so often happens, life got in the way of my best laid baking plans. First Thanksgiving took over my kitchen, then the fridge was so stuffed with leftovers that I wasn't allowed to bake anything new, then the cookie exchange...... So, when a snow flurry brought on a baking day, I was more than ready to make the cranberry bars. But, the cranberries had gotten tired of waiting for me. As I picked through them I realized that only about half of them were useable, the rest were sad, withered, blackened and mushy. Rats! And the crust was already in the oven. What to do, what to do?
What flavor goes well with cranberries? One of my standards for Thanksgiving is a cran-cherry salad, so I grabbed my bag of dried cherries and threw in a couple of handfuls with the cranberries that were still useable. Did it work? Oh, yeah. The cherry flavored mellowed the tartness of the cranberries and gave it an interesting complexity and the streusel topping and shortbread crust rounded out the combination to make them irresistible. Really. After the third (or was it fourth?) bar, my husband begged me to take them away. "I can't stop eating them!" he moaned.
If you have a bag of cranberries lurking in the fridge, haul it out now and make these. You'll be so glad you did. It's better they go to waist than to waste.
Crancherry Streusel Bars
- adapted from Cookies by Fine Cooking
Crust & Streusel:
10-1/2 oz. (1 cup plus 5 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp kosher salt
2 large egg yolks*
14-1/2 oz. (3 cups plus 3 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 bag (6 oz) fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over, rinsed, and drained
about 1-1/4 cups dried cherries
1 cup granulated sugar
1- Line a straight-sided metal 9x13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhanging edge.
2- In a medium bowl, stir the butter, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt. Whisk in the egg yolks. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough. Transfer about 2 cups of the dough to the prepared pan, and press the mixture evenly into the bottom. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes) until the dough is firm.
3- Position a rack in the center of the oven and another near the top. Heat the oven to 325 deg. F.
4- Bake the dough on the center rack until the crust begins to set but does not brown at all on the edges (the center will not be firm yet), about 20 minutes.
5- While the crust bakes prepare the filling and topping. With your fingers, combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with the reserved dough until crumbly. The mixture should hold together when pressed, but readily break into smaller pieces.
6- In a medium saucepan, bring the cranberries, cherries, sugar and 1/4 cup water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium high and continue to boil until the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes - the syrup will continue to thicken as the mixture cools.
7 - Spread the crancherry mixture evenly over the hot crust. Scatter the streusel over the cranberries. Increase the oven temperature to 350 deg. F and bake the bars near the top of the oven until the streusel is golden and set, about 25-30 minutes.
8- Set the pan on a cooling rack. Cool at least 1 hour, until the crust is completely firm. (If it's chilly outside, you can set the bars outside to speed cooling.)
9- When the bottom of the pan is cool, carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board. Slide a spatula between the foil and the bars to separate them and slide the bars off the foil. Cut the bars into 1-3/4-inch squares. They will keep at room temperature for one week. (As if they'd last that long!)
* This leaves you with two egg whites, perfect for making divinity, if your humidity is below 60%.