Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars

Why is it that every time I double a recipe, I screw it up?

When I was young, I was good at math. Seriously good. When I was a Marquette University undergrad, I took calculus and got a good grade without too much trouble (can't remember any of it, though). But somehow my math escapes my brain when I get in the kitchen.

Take this recipe, for Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars, from Fine Cooking. I had two packages of cranberries in the freezer that I wanted to use up, and since this recipe called for one bag, I doubled it to make two 13" by 9" pans. The crusts and streusel topping went fine, but when it came to making the cranberry filling, I used one cup of sugar when I should have done two. Luckily, it wasn't a disaster. The filling was tart, but not unpleasantly so. In fact, some people may prefer this filling with less sugar.

I (deliberately) made a couple of other changes to the recipe. I adding a bit of orange to the cranberry filling, because orange always tastes good with cranberries. And I used my hand-held stick blender to make the filling smooth.

A recipe that tastes good, even when you screw it up. I call that a keeper.

Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars
(Adapted from this recipe in Fine Cooking If you don't have an orange handy, use the original recipe.)

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, divided
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, always measure your flour by weighing it.)

For the cranberry filling:
12-oz. bag fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over, rinsed, and drained
1 cup granulated sugar (if you like tart fillings, you can reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup)
Zest of 1/2 of an orange
2 Tablespoons orange juice
2 Tablespoons water

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 filling:

In a medium saucepan, bring the cranberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice and 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. (I used a stick blender to puree this mixture.)

Spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the hot crust. Scatter the streusel over the cranberries (don’t crumble the streusel too much). 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. (I don't think the streusel needs to be very golden -- just set.)

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. I froze them.

From Fine Cooking 82, pp. 75
December 1, 2006


Mary Bergfeld said...

I love the color of your bars. They sound delicious. I hope all is well and that you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

Lori said...

They sound delicious. You know with cookies I almost always double the recipe. I don't usually double with bars. Though these sound like they are worth doubling!

Angela said...

Definitely would add the orange--I love this flavor combo, and they look great (I have never been good at math, so kudos on that calc!)