My Recipe Box

Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars

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Yields about thirty-five 1-3/4-inch-square bars.

  • To learn more, read:
    Raising the Bar Cookie
  • by Nicole Rees from Fine Cooking
    Issue 82

One of our favorite holiday cookies, these bars have a tangy cranberry filling that keeps the ultra-rich crust and streusel topping in check.  

For the crust and streusel:
  • 10-1/2 oz. (1 cup plus 5 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 14-1/4 oz. (3 cups plus 3 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour
Tip:
For the best results, measure your flour by weight instead of volume. (1 cup of all-purpose flour equals 4-1/2 oz.) If you don’t have a scale, be sure to use the proper technique when filling your measuring cups.
For the cranberry topping:
  • 12-oz. bag fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over, rinsed, and drained
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
Make the crust:

Line a straight-sided 13x9-inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal. In a medium bowl, stir together 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.

Meanwhile, position a rack near the center of the oven and another near the top. Heat the oven to 325°F.

Bake the dough 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. While the crust bakes, prepare the streusel and the topping.

Make the streusel:

With your fingers, combine the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar with the reserved dough until crumbly. The mixture should hold together when pressed, but readily break into smaller pieces.

Make the cranberry topping:

In a medium saucepan, bring the cranberries, 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, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool 5 to 10 minutes—the syrup will continue to thicken as the mixture cools.

Spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the hot crust. Scatter the streusel over the cranberries (don’t crumble the streusel too much or the texture will be sandy). Increase the oven temperature to 350°F and bake the bars near the top of the oven until the streusel is golden and set, about 25 minutes. (Baking these bars at the top of the oven helps the streusel brown faster without overbrowning the crust.)

Place the pan on a metal rack to cool until the crust is completely firm, at least 1 hour. (For faster cooling, put the bars in the fridge once the pan is no longer piping hot, or even outside in winter.)

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. Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Cut the bars into 1-3/4-inch squares.

Make Ahead Tips

The bars will keep at room temperature for one week.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : per bar; Calories (kcal): 150; Fat (g): 7; Fat Calories (kcal): 60; Saturated Fat (g): 4.5; Protein (g): 1; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2; Carbohydrates (g): 21; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): 50; Cholesterol (mg): 30; Fiber (g): 1;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I know, it is always annoying when someone reviews a recipe, but they changed it. But alas, here I am doing just that. Mainly because it turned out so well, I thought I'd share. What I did: Made the crust recipe as directed using less sugar as others indicated they did. But I halved the recipe to make it in a square dish rather than a large rectangle. I used my own homemade cranberry sauce (a pear ginger variation from Cook's Illustrated if you want to google it). But what I really wanted was a cranberry cheese cake bar. So I added a layer of cheesecake using the following ingredients: 1 brick [8 oz] cream cheese, softened 1/3 cup granulated sugar 1 large egg 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon orange zest Mix all together. (Mix cream cheese first. Then add sugar and mix. Then add egg and mix. Then add remaining.) I topped the partially cooled crust with a layer of this cheesecake mixture and then I covered the whole lot with the cranberry sauce and crumbled on the reserved crust ingredients. Baked in a 350 oven for about 45 minutes, but I started checking after half an hour. It was a hit at the party I brought it to.

delicious! These were a huge hit at our family Thanksgiving gathering. I only had 8 oz of cranberries, so I made the topping according to instructions (with same ingredient amounts), cooled the topping and then stirred in approximately 5 or 6 oz of fresh raspberries. The raspberries looked pretty peeking through the top streusel.

This has been a staple ever since I tried it when it first came out! Whenever I make it, I ALWAYS get asked for the recipe!

This has been a staple ever since I tried it when it first came out! Whenever I make it, I ALWAYS get asked for the recipe!

This has been a staple ever since I tried it when it first came out! Whenever I make it, I ALWAYS get asked for the recipe!

Filling was far too sugary - shame to do that to cranberries, which should be celebrated in their tartness. And talk about crumb bars - these were far too crumbly and messy to eat. Impossible to cut. I'd be embarrassed to serve them to anyone.

Just made these out of my new FC Cookies recipe book -- they are a huge hit with the family and at the office! I made the recipe exactly, except reduced sugar by about 1/8 cup in both the dough and the cranberry jam. Used frozen cranberries which worked out just fine. This is the fourth recipe I've made out of this book and every single one has been a hit ... thanks FC!

Very tasty bars! I followed the recipe with the following changes: for the crust, I reduced the sugar amount to 3/4 cup, for the cranberry topping, I also reduced the sugar to 3/4 cup. While making the topping, I used about 1/3 cup orange juice and added 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. This gave the bars a bit of a tangy taste which I love. The bars came out just perfect. I don't like to use so much sugar and do not like my deserts to be too sweet that is why I reduced the sugar amounts. Overall my family loved the bars and I will definitely make them again. They are easy to make and perfect for the colder winter season when fresh cranberry is available.

I love this receipe...I have even subsituted frozen mixed berries with a touch of lemon juice instead of the cranberries...delicious.

Following the advice of some earlier reviewers, I reduced the sugar amount in both, dough and cranberry topping, to 3/4 cup each. The cranberry mixture not only got an orange zest flavoring, but also a shot of Grand Marnier. I substituted part of the all-purpose with whole wheat pastry flour and some almond meal, and, also, added almond slices to the streusel. The result was very tasty, and my family loved it!

How does one even get a 'bland' cranberry? I can't even imagine that happening. Anyway, we all thought these bars were great and will be a frequent visitor to our dessert table! Thanks!

I screwed up and halved the amount of sugar, but I actually liked the tartness of the filling. I might use 3/4 cup next time. I also added a little orange zest and replaced some of the water with OJ. Good stuff.

So easy to make and everyone at work loved them! I did add a little bit of orange zest to the cranberries while they were cooking. So easy to make look alot more difficult!

The recipe has potential but needs work. I liked the buttery shortbread crust and topping, and I especially liked the fact that it pulls away very cleanly and easily from the tin foil lining--no sticking to the pan if you've followed the instructions and used a foil liner. BUT the cranberry filling is bland and too sweet. I plan to experiment with the filling by cutting back on the sugar, adding a spice, and perhaps adding some other fruit.

Totally agree with the first reviewer- easy to make and delicious - They would be great for holiday time as well..great mix of sweet, buttery and tart. a keeper!

These are phenomenal and so simple to make!

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