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Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Serves 12-16     adjust servings

Fresh cranberries sparkle between two layers of the butteriest shortbread you've ever had! These bars are so easy to put together; the recipe is foolproof. They are sturdy enough to be eaten with your hands, but are also amazing warmed up and topped with a scoop of ice cream!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (4 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries* (1 12-ounce bag)

Instructions

  1. Prepare a 9x13 inch baking pan with nonstick spray or grease with butter. It's even easier if you line the pan with parchment paper, that way you can lift the bars straight out of the pan. No greasing necessary. You can line with aluminum foil too, but make sure to grease it. 
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, add 2 cups of softened butter. Yes, an entire pound. I didn't call these a health bar people, it's shortbread. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. 
  3. Add 1 and 1/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. The sugar should be well incorporated into the butter, be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. 
  4. Add 1 tablespoon vanilla and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and combine well.  
  5. Add the spooned and leveled flour 1 cup at a time, beating after each mixture until the flour is mostly incorporated but not all the way. You will probably have to switch to hand-stirring toward the end. It will feel like too much flour. It's not! Once you get the 4th cup in, beat until all the white streaks are gone, and then stop. Do not over mix. 
  6. Add 2/3 of the dough to the prepared 9x13 inch pan. (Just eyeball it.) Press the mixture evenly into the pan and about 1 inch up the sides. I usually wet my hands with a smidge of water so that they don't stick to the dough too much. 
  7. Wash your cranberries and pick out any stems or shriveled berries. Pat dry with paper towels, or let them sit in the colander a while. 
  8. Top the dough in the pan with all the cranberries, spreading them out to the edges.
  9. Add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to the remaining 1/3 of the dough that's still in the bowl. Beat the nuts in so they are mixed well. 
  10. Use your hands to take medium size chunks of dough and drop them on top of the cranberries. I like dough chunks that are about the size of a quarter, with some a bit bigger or smaller. See photos. 
  11. Once all the dough is in the pan, refrigerate the pan for about 20 minutes. Cold shortbread going into a hot oven makes for the best texture! 
  12. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. 
  13. When the bars have chilled, bake in the preheated oven at 350 for about 42-45 minutes. (it will take a shorter amount of time in a metal pan). You will know they are done when the edges are golden brown and the top of the shortbread crumbles are also golden brown. Don't over bake!
  14. Let cool for at least 10-20 minutes before cutting into bars and serving. I like these served warm or room temperature. And a scoop of ice cream or a drizzle of caramel doesn't hurt either! You could also serve it with the Warm Vanilla Butter sauce that goes with this Cranberry Cake with Warm Vanilla Butter Sauce. (You would probably only need to make a half recipe.) 

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