I love pumpkin spice as much as the next person, but ladies, I think it has jumped the shark. When I walk into Trader Joes there is a HUGE display of all things pumpkin spice: cereal, granola bars, bread, croutons, cookies, butter, lotion, the list goes on and on! You know how you hear a cool new song on the radio and you love it so every time it plays you turn the music up and sing at the top of your lungs. But then the radio stations start playing it twice an hour and after a few weeks of hearing the same song over and over you are totally sick of it and can’t remember why you liked that song in the first place? That is how I feel about pumpkin spice.
It totally bums me out how fun traditions are often marketed into oblivion. So to get away from pumpkin spice and yet still celebrate the season, I have decided cranberry is the new pumpkin. Think about it: this berry only comes out for a short amount of time during the autumn and early winter, the flavor is bright and tart, and the color! Who doesn’t adore that vibrant shade of deep scarlet?
To start my cranberry commemoration, I thought I would make these amazing cranberry bars in individual portions. I have a difficult time cutting bars into squares or rectangles, so I thought it might work to put them into cupcake tins with cupcake liners. It turns out by using this method the bars don’t have to cook for as long, which is nice, and they automatically come out of the oven in perfect portions and look festive with their ruffled “collars”. They look beautiful displayed on a footed plate, and I ended up taking the final batch (it took me a few tries to get the proportions correct) to my son’s elementary school as a treat for the office staff.
Crust and Topping:
1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup ground slivered almonds or cashews
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter cut into small pieces
1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (I used frozen)
1 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 orange (4 teaspoons)
zest of 1/2 orange
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a food processor, chop the nuts into small pieces, about the size of small breadcrumbs. Next add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse 3-4 times to combine.
Next add the butter to the mixer. Pulse 10 times and then check to see how small the pieces are. They should be quite small, similar to the aforementioned breadcrumb sizing. If they are the size of peas they are still too big and pulse again until you get the right texture. I had to pulse 13-15 times.
Pour mixture into a bowl and add the egg. Mix with fork until combined. This will be very dry and crumbly- not like a cake batter or even raw cookie dough.
Now it is time to make the filling. Rinse out the food processor and then add all the filling ingredients. Pulse until the cranberries are the size of relish. You want them to have a bit of texture so don’t puree them.
Lay out the cupcake liners in the cupcake pan. On the bottom place a HEAPING tablespoon of the flour/butter mixture and then use your fingers to press into the pan. This is the base of your bar. When finished, add the cinnamon to the mixture and stir. This will now be your final topping. Set aside.
Now we add the cranberry filling using the same tablespoon. I believe it was about 2-3 tablespoons per bar, but you can eyeball it. You might not use all of the cranberry mixture.
Now top with the rest of the flour/butter mixture.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. They are done when the tops are a light golden brown. Do not over bake! I made this mistake and they ended up like hockey pucks and had to be thrown away.
Let cool and enjoy!