Recipe by Hanna Geller of Building Feasts
Makes 24 bars
Born a number of years ago as a way to use up a mass of leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce, these are found on repeat from the first glimpse of cranberries on the shelves until strawberries appear. I actually make cranberry sauce specifically for these bars, using the leftovers (which keeps for weeks in the fridge) not only on turkey, but on chicken, salmon, with roast pumpkin, on a cheese sandwich and with my granola and yoghurt in the morning.
The crumble base and top has a new 2023 look, with brown butter and ground almonds for extra depth of flavour, extra crunch and extra texture. They are the haute couture version, created for Mud Australia, because we have a joint love of brown butter and baking in beautiful pieces.
Cranberry Bars will keep happy for 4-5 days in a sealed container and make a wonderful home made festive gift.
The cranberry filling here is my standard cranberry sauce that is constantly on hand during the season. I usually double the recipe below and use half for the bars and keep the rest in the fridge, where it will live happily for a few weeks, ready to adorn just about everything or for another batch of bars in a few days. It can be made days (or weeks) ahead, ready for any emergency baking needs.
Also, feel free to play around with flours here. Spelt flour adds a nutty deliciousness and rye and buckwheat are flavours that work brilliantly with the tartness of the cranberries. You can substitute partial or all of the plain flour for spelt (or a combination of white and wholemeal spelt) but I would only substitute 1/4 of the plain flour for rye or buckwheat as they may overpower and change the texture.
250g (2 1/2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
Juice of 1 orange plus a few strips of zest
80g (1/3 cup) soft brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
Pinch of salt
Crumb base and top
250g (1 cup + 2tbsp) unsalted butter (reduced to 200g of brown butter)
180g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
65g (1/3 cup) ground almonds
200g (1 cup) soft brown sugar
200g (2 cups) jumbo porridge oats (not instant cook oats)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
30g (1/4 cup) sliced almonds
Rinse the cranberries and put in a saucepan with the remaining the ingredients.
Simmer gently until cranberries “pop” and break up, around 5-10 minutes. (If using frozen cranberries do not thaw first, and they may take longer to cook)
Stir well and remove from the heat.
Allow to cool.
You can make this in advance, as the sauce will keep for a few weeks covered in the fridge. Or simply allow to cool while making the base.
Crumb base and top
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
Line base and sides of a Mud Slice Tray with parchment paper.
Start by browning the butter. This process allows all the water to evaporate and results in a nutty, dark, golden delicacy. It only takes about 5 minutes, but if you decide to skip this step (which I don’t recommend) you will only need 200g melted butter for the recipe (the difference in weight is lost in the evaporation/browning process).
In a medium size saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat, giving it a gentle infrequent stir or swirl to check it’s not burning. It will go through a couple of stages in the browning process - from melting, to foaming and trembling in height, but once the foam subsides its done and you should take it off the heat.
Immediately transfer into a large bowl to stop the browning and prevent burning. It should now weigh 200g.
Allow the butter to cool slightly, then add the flour, ground almonds, sugar, oats cinnamon and salt and stir it all together with a spatula to combine until it’s the texture of crumble topping (it might be easier to use your hands here).
Tip 2/3 of the mixture into the prepared tray and press down to make the base.
Spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the base and crumble the remaining mixture over the top to make the crumb.
Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and pop into the oven.
Cook for 45 minutes until golden.
Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.