It is a shame you can’t buy fresh cranberries year-round. My BFF Grace likes to buy extra bags around Thanksgiving and freeze them to make coffee cake. Me, I like to stash them to make a fantastic bar cookie I discovered in last year’s CI Best Ever Christmas Cookies. They’re definitely not just for Christmas, as my family will heartily attest.
A ruby-red sweet and tangy cranberry filling, spread atop a buttery, chewy crust, and topped with a crunch pecan-studded streusel, is hard to resist– even for my teen son Ken who prefers chocolate desserts. For me, it’s the meld of crunchy nuggets of topping and cranberry filling that’s so satisfying. These bars were the sleeper hit of last year’s holidays!
This is a straightforward recipe, just make sure you line the pan with foil or parchment paper; you’ll need the extra assist to get these jeweled delights out of the pan! I made only minor adjustments (more pecans, dark vs light brown sugar, orange zest, vanilla).
Cranberry Oat Bars with Pecan-Studded Streusel (from 2014 CI Best Ever Christmas Cookies magazine, which I sadly left in Sanibel and was therefore forced to Google to find the recipe)
for the filling:
- 2 cups of cranberries (I used my fresh frozen ones)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp orange zest
for the crust and topping:
- 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (Do not use quick oats)
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (16 Tb or 1/2 lb), at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups light or dark brown sugar (I like the extra molasses flavor from dark)
- 1 egg, room temperature (I only use extra large eggs)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
Here’s the lineup:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with foil, making sure to have several inches of overhang along all sides. Spray the foil.
Combine the oats, flour, salt and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to blend.
Place the cranberries, water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for a few minutes until berries burst and mixture thickens (FYI, this is how you make REAL cranberry sauce). When mixture has thickened, remove from heat and stir in orange zest. Let mixture cool in the pan.
Cream the brown sugar and butter using a stand or hand mixer. If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment. Beat until mixture is pale yellow and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat briefly until well incorporated.
Remove the mixture if using a stand mixer and add the oat mixture. Gently fold and stir to make sure all ingredients are blended.
Remove 2/3 of the dough to the baking pan. Press the dough in the baking pan evenly across the pan to create the bottom crust. It helps to use plastic wrap or a rubber spatula to spread the dough.
Chop the pecans, then mix with the 1/3 left in the mixing bowl.
Spread the cranberry filling over the bottom crust. Break off nuggets of the remaining pecan dough, slightly flattening each bit, and place on top of the cranberry layer.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking. If the topping begins to overbrown or burn, loosely lay a sheet of foil over the pan. Do not attempt to seal the pan with the foil; you are just preventing the top from burning while the rest of the bar bakes.
Remove the pan from the oven; the topping should be golden brown. Let the pan completely cool on a wire rack. Once cool, lift the entire contents out of the pan, using the foil overhangs. Cut into 2 dozen bars.