While Americans consume nearly 400 million pounds of cranberries every year, 20 percent of those are during Thanksgiving week alone. And the rest — nearly 2.3 pounds per person — are consumed almost entirely in the form of juice. Only five percent of the cranberry harvest is sold fresh.
Someday, Americans will wake up and realize this nutritious, flavorful little fruit has so much more to offer than just sauce. Cranberries rise to the top of many healthy food lists. Besides being a great source of vitamin C, manganese, and fiber, cranberries contain phytonutrients, which are essential for overall health. This means that among other things, cranberries are great for reducing inflammation, reducing incidences of UTIs and ulcers, and protecting against cancer.
Not to say that a dessert recipe with cranberries is somehow a health food. But if you’re going to eat dessert anyway, you might as well add a little of this indigenous North American super fruit.
Cranberry bars make for a non-fussy, beautiful wintertime dessert. They’re sort of like a dense coffee cake, and somehow, they taste even better the second day. Top with powdered sugar or even an icing glaze for an extra special holiday touch.
Makes about 16 bars
- 1 stick salted butter (1/2 cup), room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp quality vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped*
- 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
- Orange zest from 1 large orange (optional)
*Substitute pecans or almonds for walnuts.
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Grease a 9×13 inch pan or line the pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper (see photo) to make bars easy to remove. This is a great option if gifting bars.
- In a large bowl, beat together sugar and butter (and orange zest if using) until mixed. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until mixture is fluffy.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Beat until blended. Dough will be thick and sticky.
- Add cranberries and walnuts and fold until fruit and nuts are distributed evenly.
- Transfer dough into 9×13 inch pan. Using spatula or your hands, press to evenly cover the pan. Dough will be sticky to the tough and won’t spread evenly. Try your best, but it will spread some while it bakes and you probably won’t even notice.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes. Mine were ready at about 37 minutes. The top will have a light brown crust. Let cool.
- Sprinkle with confectioners sugar and cut.