brown butter cranberry shortbread bars

December 5, 2011

brown butter cranberry shortbread bars | une gamine dans la cuisine

The good; this recipe.
The bad; a cake, lost.
The ugly; overflowing batter. Everywhere.

This weekend I attempted to make a basic carrot cake. Apparently my cake pans are not "deep" enough to accommodate carrot cake's lofty standards. (I blame the shallow pie pans they've been spooning with for the past few months.)

Luckily my oven was already a hot mess and the cake batter spillage merely added to its edgy, artistic appearance.

brown butter cranberry shortbread bars | une gamine dans la cuisine

When a recipe fails, miserably, I can rely on the always-successful *knock on wood* simplicity of bars, cookies + shortbread. And even though I made this cranberry shortbread pre-Cakeageddon, just writing about them makes me feel better about the whole incident.

Cranberries are my winterling lemons. I know lemons are readily available year round, but there are only so many lemon bar recipes one can make before people start shaking their heads and things start to get awkward. Cranberries are special because of their limited appearance (fresh, not canned!). And I love the tart, slightly-bittersweet ambiance they lend so generously to recipes. Plus they're gorgeous.

These bars are blithely luscious. Nutty brown butter, perky cranberries and sugar - I think that's all you need to know. If it's not enough incentive, you can always have a chocolate fix in the form of hot cocoa.

If your pie crust melted, or your custard curdled or your cake batter oozed over sub-par cake pans, whip up a batch of this shortbread and not only will they make you happy, you will feel productive, too. (Browning butter makes one feel chefy.)

brown butter cranberry shortbread bars | une gamine dans la cuisine

Brown Butter Cranberry Shortbread (adapted from Fine Cooking)

crust and topping ingredients
1 cup + 5 Tablespoons (10 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into chunks [Note: 1 cup of butter= 2 sticks]
1 cup granulated sugar [divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup]
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups + 3 Tablespoons (14 1/4 oz.) all-purpose flour

filling ingredients
12 oz bag of cranberries (that's about 2 cups)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup of orange juice

Line a 9x13-inch pan with foil, leaving a slight overhang along the edges. Lightly butter the entire foil-lined pan.
Prepare the crust: Have a medium heat-proof bowl on hand for the brown butter.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Increase the heat to medium and, stirring occasionally, cook the butter until it turns golden brown and develops a nutty aroma. Depending on the stove's heat, it can take 5-8 minutes for the butter to brown properly. During this process the butter will first become foamy before changing color, making it difficult to see what's going on. Just be sure to give it a good stir now and then so that the butter doesn't burn. Once it's gorgeous and fragrant, remove the pan from the heat and transfer the butter to a heat-proof bowl. Cool till lukewarm. [Note: While the butter is cooling, give it a stir now and then, just to prevent it from solidifying. You just want to butter to be cool enough so that it won't scramble the eggs when they're added.]
In a large bowl, combine the cooled brown butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, and salt. Stir till well blended. Add the yolks and the almond extract, whisk until smooth. Using a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the flour until you have a stiff dough. [It will have a very odd, dense texture for shortbread, but it will bake up beautifully, so don't worry.]
Transfer about 2 cups of the dough to the foil-lined pan and press it evenly onto the bottom. I found that it was easier to just press large chunks of the dough into flat 'shingles' and arrange them evenly in the pan, then use your fingers to squish them together until it's one happy, united crust. Refrigerate the pan for about 40 minutes.

Topping: Add the 1/4 cup of sugar to the remaining dough, and using your fingertips, work the sugar into the dough until becomes crumbly and sandy. Cover and set aside.

Divide the oven, placing one rack second from the bottom, and the other second from the top. Heat the oven to 325 F.
Remove the pan from the refrigerator and prick the crust several times with a fork. [Chilling and pricking the dough will keep it from puffing up too much in the oven.]
Place the pan on the lowest oven rack and bake the dough for about 15 minutes, just until the crust begins to set. Don't worry if the center still looks doughy, it's better to under-bake it at this stage.
While the crust is baking, begin preparing the filling.

In a medium size saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, and orange juice. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid turns into a thick syrup and the cranberries take on a chunky jam-like consistency (about 8-10 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat and allow the filling to cool for about 5 minutes.
Spread the filling over the warm partially-baked crust. Scatter the topping evenly over the cranberries.
Place the pan on the highest of the 2 racks and increase the temperature to 350F. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crumb topping is golden.
Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool for at least an hour before removing the bars from the pan (use the foil overhang to lift them out of the pan).
Cut into square or triangles.


  1. Gorgeous! These shortbread squares look SO delicious! Love the color. :)

  2. Fabulous and so irresistible!



  3. Gah, these look amazing!! I love how buttery (duh) the crumb looks, that always makes things better :) And the popping red is so pretty. Can't wait to test these out, pinned!

  4. I would never shake my head at you for making too many lemon bars. That's a promise.

    But anything with brown butter helps me get over the "no lemon" disappointment!

  5. These is no way this could be anything but fabulous. Great vibrant color too.

  6. une délicieuse gourmandise
    Je te souhaite une excellente journée

  7. Brown butter is one of my favorite ingredients. I definitely have to try these at home. Delicious.

  8. Those are gorgeous! Imagine if they had lemon instead. Mmm.

  9. These look amazing! Brown butter AND shortbread?? I'm sold :)

  10. That gorgeous recipe ... I love it, I invite you to fondant cupcakes .. bsssMARIMI

  11. i would lick off the overflowing batter anytime! This looks absolutely delicious!

  12. I LOVE cranberries and these cranberry shortbread bars look absolutely delightful. Wow, these must have been delicious. As always, you create the most beautiful food. Extremely well done!

  13. These are so pretty and sound absolutely delicious!

  14. Oh my, those look good, and they're so pretty too. Nice work!

  15. Oh, I cringed about your cake debacle. I'm so sorry. But, it looks like you picked yourself up, dusted yourself off and made a winner. I love that cranberries are you winter lemon. I agree! The color on these are so beautiful, and I would enjoy these with a cup of hot tea. Nice!

  16. Sorry about the cake episode- i think it happens to all of us at some point, mine was a pear frangipane tart that the oven ended up wearing!

    I made these bars this afternoon after seeing your lovely pictures. I couldn't see where to add the almond extract so just did the usual and put it in with the eggs. Also i hope you don't mind but i decided to make the filling more festive so along with the cranberries i added sultanas, raisins, mixed peel, almonds and my go to Christmas spices, sort of a mincemeat filling.

    It was such a lovely recipe to work with, i'm vegan so get my pleasure from making it but i have family here who cannot wait to get stuck in and to try it, i'm sure they will love it.

    Thanks again.

  17. Hi ellie!
    Sorry I forgot to say when to add the extract. (good call!) :D
    I love the fact that you made this recipe even more festive! Mixed peel, raisins and sultanas sound delicious.
    Even though you can't enjoy it yourself, I'm sure your family will be happy to take it off your hands. :)

  18. Very interesting recipe! Will definitely bookmark this one. How do you find all these amazing desserts??? And who eats them all? Can you send me some, please? LOL~

  19. Do you happen to know if these freeze well? Thanks!

  20. Hi Anon,
    Without having done it myself on this particular recipe, I can't say for certain that they will freeze well, but most bars do. Just be sure to place them in a freezer-safer, air-tight container (it wouldn't hurt to wrap them individually in saran wrap either). Well wrapped, they should last for at least a month in the freezer. I would move them to the refrigerator the night before serving, and then let them sit at room temperature for about an hour. (If they're too cold, you won't be able to taste the brown butter.)

    I hope that helps. Thanks for visiting! :)

  21. Yum, I love brown butter fruit bars of all varieties. That nutty flavor is irresistible!

  22. I feel for you. I have had this same problem with cake overflow. Are recipes simply making more batter than they did way back when? I've solved the problem by making three layers. It seems all my cakes are three layer (impressive) cakes now.

  23. These look beautiful, I adore the sour component of cranberries. Putting this on the list to make :)

  24. I found the ingredient requirements a bit finnicky with this recipe, eg: 1 cup + 5 tablespoons of butter. Knowing that a cup = 8oz then 5 tbsp must = 2 1/2 oz. I didn't have a kitchen scale and had to guess. Have you ever tried to scoop fairly solid butter into a tablespoon?
    I am still in the process of chilling the crust but I am anxious to tast this recipe. I lost my favourite Cranberry bar recipe and I am looking for a replacemet.
    TNote: the flour was easier to measure !
    I printed this recipe but the font size on the page was very difficult for me to read.
    Thank you.

  25. My family and I fell in love with this recipe in 2015! It’s been a Christmas staple ever since. I’m back here now making sure I have everything we need to make them this afternoon!


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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