Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. I love this holiday because it’s the only one where food is truly the star of the show. I’m not yet at the point where I can cook the entire Thanksgiving meal on my own (nor am I anywhere close), but I managed to contribute this year by way of these cranberry turtle bars.
No disrespect to anyone who bakes homemade pies for the holiday, but I find them a bit boring. I wanted to throw a little variety into our dessert spread, and something cranberry that wasn’t a gross, gelatinous consistency seemed like a good idea. (Yeah, I’m as much of a fan of cranberry sauce as I am of pumpkin pie.) These cranberry bars have a perfect tartness, balanced by the shortbread crust and sweet chocolate drizzle.
The ingredients were a bit expensive relative to other things I’ve made, but it was for the sake of the holiday and it yielded a ton of treats (about 20 giant bars, or 40+ smaller ones). Apparently, pecans are pretty elusive nuts compared to commonplace peanuts and walnuts; I struggled to find them in the store, and — not surprisingly — a small bag was pretty pricey.
Cubing the butter was a disaster, and cutting the butter into the shortbread crust mix didn’t go very well, either. When I pressed the batter into the baking dish, it didn’t seem as evenly dispersed as it should have been. To remedy the situation (and moisten the crust?), I gave a few spritzes of baking spray to the less buttery side.
The “caramel” involved here is a loose interpretation, and I’m sure this might have come together a little better if I had a candy thermometer; instead, I flew by the seat of my pants and prayed it’d all turn out okay. You can either follow my directions below, or see the above link for the legit recipe.
♦2 sticks butter
♦1 2/3 c. sugar
♦1/4 c. light corn syrup
♦1/2 tsp. salt
♦1 1/2 c. cranberries, coarsely chopped
♦1 tsp. vanilla
♦3 c. pecans, toasted and cooled, coarsely chopped
♦2 oz. chocolate, finely chopped
Line a 15-by-10-inch baking dish with tinfoil, and butter all four sides (but not the bottom). Blend flour, brown sugar and salt in food processor, then add butter and pulse until it forms into small lumps. Sprinkle into pan and press down evenly with spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until firm.
In the meantime, melt butter for topping in saucepan over medium heat and stir in sugar, corn syrup and salt. Boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes. Stir in cranberries, then boil. Remove from heat, add vanilla and stir in pecans until coated. Quickly spread mixture over shortbread, distributing evenly. Garnish with melted chocolate. IMPORTANT: Let the bars cool completely before cutting; I waited two hours for this to be manageable.
Total time? About 35 minutes to prep, bake and prepare. Let stand two hours.
Cost? $4.99 for about 2 cups chopped pecans, $2.49 for light corn syrup, $3.99 for way too many cranberries.
Overall success relative to expectations? 7 out of 10. My expectations wavered on this. Initially, I had high expectations, but once I got my hands into this (and realized I didn’t have a candy thermometer), they started to come back down to Earth. After I cut into the uncooled bars and the topping spilled over, I thought, “So…this was a disaster,” but the end product turned out to be pretty successful. Aesthetically, they could have been a lot better (they were nowhere near as beautiful as Curvy Carrot’s), but there’s always next time.