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Cranberry bars add a bright taste to fall dinners

By Emma Christensen
TheKitchn.com
GUIUTGUK.5
Emma Christensen -
Here's one last recipe to squeeze into your Thanksgiving line-up! Tangy-sweet cranberry curd meets buttery walnut shortbread for a twist on the classic lemon bar. A dash of cinnamon ties it all together. And don't worry - this whole recipe comes together in about an hour, making it an excellent last-minute treat for Thanksgiving or any other special dinner this fall. Emma Christensen/thektichn.com

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  • Cranberry Curd Bars With Walnut Shortbread Crust

    Crust:

    Nonstick cooking spray

    1 cup (4.5 ounces) walnut pieces

    1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour

    1/2 cup (3 ounces) confectioner’s sugar

    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon pieces

    Cranberry Curd:

    12 ounces (about 3 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries (see note)

    1/2 cup water

    1 cup sugar

    4 large eggs

    4 large egg yolks

    2 tablespoons lemon juice (from half a lemon)

    1/4 teaspoon salt

    1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon pieces

    Powdered sugar for dusting

    Candied citrus zest (optional; see recipe)

    SPRAY a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray, then line with parchment paper.

    PLACE the nuts in the bowl of a food processor and coarsely grind, about 15 one-second pulses. Add the flour, confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon and salt, and pulse until finely ground, about 10 one-second pulses. Sprinkle the chunks of butter over the top and pulse until the mixture holds together when pressed in your palm, 20-25 one-second pulses. (See below for preparing the crust without a food processor.)

    PRESS the crust mix into the baking dish, making it as even as possible. Freeze for 30-60 minutes.

    PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees. Remove crust from the freezer and bake for 20-25 minutes, until beginning to color around the edges.

    PLACE the cranberries and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the cranberries have popped and become mushy, about 5 minutes. Pour them into a fine-meshed strainer over a bowl and press the puree through using a spatula. Cool to room temperature. Discard the cranberry skins and clean the strainer for use in the next step.

    ADD the sugar, eggs and yolks, lemon juice and salt to the puree. Stir thoroughly until the mixture is even.

    RETURN the cranberry mixture to the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir continuously, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan. Cook until the curd starts to thicken, coats the back of a spoon, and registers about 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (there’s some wiggle room, so don’t fret about being exact). This should take 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and add the butter all at once. Stir until the butter has completely melted, then pour the curd through the strainer into a clean bowl.

    POUR the warm cranberry curd onto the walnut crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until the curd has set but still jiggles slightly in the center. Cool completely and refrigerate before cutting.

    LIFT from the pan using the parchment paper as handles. Trim off the sides to make even edges if desired. Dust the tops of the bars with powdered sugar just before serving and use a sharp knife to cut them into squares. The powdered sugar will melt into the cranberry curd, making sweet glaze. Garnish each square with candied citrus peel if desired. Keep refrigerated.

    NOTES: If you can’t find fresh cranberries, you can use 3/4 cup cranberry juice and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Watch the bars carefully while baking, and extend the baking time as needed until the bars are set around the edges but still jiggly in the center. To prepare crust without a food processor, chop the nuts finely with a chef’s knife. Combine with the dry ingredients and cut or rub in the butter as you would for a pie crust, until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal.

    Yield: 2 dozen.


  • Candied Citrus Peel

    5-6 organic lemons or other citrus fruit, about 1 1/2 pounds

    1 teaspoon salt, divided

    1 1/2 cups cold water

    2 cups sugar

    Superfine sugar (optional)

    PEEL lemons with vegetable peeler, taking off long, thin strips. Fill a medium saucepan 3/4 full with water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the lemon peels and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then drain. Repeat, using the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. This softens the lemon peels and takes away the residual bitterness of the white pith.

    DRAIN the peels and set aside. Add the cold water and 2 cups sugar to the saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. When the sugar dissolves, add the lemon peels and simmer on low for 45-60 minutes. Watch near the end to make sure the sugar doesn’t caramelize.

    LIFT the peels out immediately with a fork and cool on a piece of wax paper sprayed with cooking spray. To eat them as candy, roll them in superfine sugar while they are wet. To make garnishes, roll each one around a toothpick. When they have cooled and dried, put in a sealed container in the refrigerator, where they will last a long time. The syrup can also be refrigerated and used for flavoring and sweetening.

    Yield: About 1 1/2 cups.



Here’s a bright and unexpected way to work cranberries into your Thanksgiving lineup. Tangy-sweet cranberry curd meets buttery walnut shortbread for a twist on the classic lemon bar. A dash of cinnamon ties it all together. And don’t worry – the whole recipe comes together in about an hour, making it an excellent treat for Thanksgiving or any special dinner this fall.

I started out wanting to make this recipe with straight cranberry juice. I thought it would be easier, and I hoped it would make it possible to make the recipe at times of the year when fresh cranberries aren’t available.

But do you know how hard it is to find 100 percent cranberry juice? Most cranberry juices are actually a blend of cranberry, apple and grape, which is then diluted with water. In the end, it came down to buying a jug of organic “real” cranberry juice for $8 or making it from scratch from fresh cranberries for $1.50. The fresh cranberries won hands down.

The good news is that cooking fresh cranberries is easier than you might think – or, at least, it was easier than I had thought. You just combine about 3 cups of fresh berries with 1/2 cup of water and simmer for about 5 minutes. The cranberries pop open and soften into a puree. (They do literally pop, so don’t be startled!) Once strained of skins and seeds, this puree becomes the base for the curd.

It’s hard to keep from spooning the curd straight from the bowl. In fact, if you’d like to use it as a spread on your morning toast, just cook it a little longer until it becomes jammy and wonderful.

Emma Christensen is recipe editor for TheKitchn.com, a website for food and home cooking.

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