Cranberry Squares

Today, I, Hannah, am going to see my lifelong hairstylist, JoAn, for the first time in…a loooooong time.

This is going to be awkward.

Allow me to make all of my excuses to you.  First, I lived in Wichita Falls, where JoAn does not live.  And sometimes you need a haircut when you can’t drive down to Dallas.  So there’s that.

Then, nearly coincident with my entry into debt (i.e. student loans), and thus, with a raging desire to never spend any money, at all, anywhere, except on coffee and bagels…my mom and I discovered the Aveda Institute in Dallas.  A place where people learning how to cut hair will cut yours for $15.  $15!!  (Let’s face it, what I was really paying for was the fact that they used Aveda products.)  I went there twice.  One of the times, the lady said she was cutting my bangs to “eyebrow grazing length,” and when I opened my eyes I had basically no bangs.  The last time I went there, the lady said, “You know, your hair is uneven in the back,” and I said, “Well.  I got it cut here last so…powers of deduction say that’s not my fault.”

I’m a little nervous.  My bangs needs some attention because they’re starting to curl at the ends.  My hair is probs horrendously dry, due to having to wash it every day, sometimes twice a day, while in anatomy.

Anyways.  I hate awkward situations, so to make myself feel better, I made some cranberry squares.  Not those cranberry bars like they have at Starbies (trying out a new abbrev for Starbucks, what do you think?), although those are delish.  These are cranberry bars like lemon bars using, for the first time (!!!) a recipe discovered on Pinterest.  While I use Pinterest mainly to be sad that I’m a) not planning a wedding, and b) don’t own a house, my “Tastes” board is now partly functional for my life.  I found a picture of this gorgeous cranberry curd, by Kitchen Confidante, and decided it needed to be put into bar form.

I just used my favorite shortbread crust recipe, that I’ve used for lemon bars and chocolate chip pie bars.  Then I doubled the cranberry curd recipe and baked the bars according to instructions from Baking Illustrated.  The resulting bars are a fabulous pink-red color that’s perfect for the holidays.  They’re not quite as tangy as lemon bars, but they’re smooth and creamy and cool.  A good option if you need a lighter addition to a dessert spread.

And did I mention how pretty they are?!?!

Cranberry Squares

Makes one 9×9 inch pan (16 squares)

 For crust
1/2 cup (= 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For filling
1 lb fresh cranberries, about 4 cups
1 cup water
6 egg yolks (then go make yourself an egg white omelet)
2 whole eggs
1 to 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar (depending on how tart your cranberries are)
juice of 1/2 orange
4 TBS unsalted butter, cut into pieces

powdered sugar for sprinkling, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in the middle position.  Lightly grease a 9×9 inch pan and set aside.
2. For crust – In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup powdered sugar on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes.  Add the flour and salt, and mix until just combined.  Mix in the orange zest and vanilla.
3. Press the dough/batter into the prepared pan, making sure it’s evenly spread.  Poke the batter with a fork a few times.  Bake about 10 to 15 minutes, until dry and lightly golden on top.  While the crust is baking, prepare the filling…
4. For filling – In a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries and water.  Cover and cook over medium heat until the liquid is bubbling and most of the cranberries have popped.  Working in batches, press the cranberries through a sieve over a medium bowl.  Get as much of the cranberry “pulp” and juice as you can without getting the skins; scrape down the outside of the sieve to catch those bits.  Discard the remaining cranberry skins.  Pour the pulp back into the saucepan.  Stir in the orange juice.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and whole eggs.  Gradually add the sugar, whisking as you do.  Pour the egg-sugar mixture into the saucepan, whisking to combine.  Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the curd thickens and can coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat and stir in the 4 TBS butter until combined.
6. Pour the cranberry curd over the still-warm crust.  Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes, until the filling jiggles a little when you move the pan.  Let the bars cool completed on a wire rack, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Slice the bars when you’re ready to serve them (serve chilled).  Bars will keep tightly covered (or they’ll absorb other fridge flavors) for 2 days in the fridge.

Recipe for cranberry curd adapted from Kitchen Confidante; recipe for crust adapted from Baked Explorations

Thanks for reading, happy holiday baking!


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