Brown Butter Cranberry Streusel Bars (recipe revisit)

November 30, 2013

brown butter cranberry streusel bars | une gamine dans la cuisine

"Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life."

~ Wu Men, translated by Stephen Mitchell

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and Hanukkah! Did you partake in the black Friday madness? I never venture out on that day. Large crowds of snarling people make the introvert in me want to run away...far, far away to cosy cabin (at twilight) somewhere in the Rockies, where I'll be greeted by the braying of sheep, one grey donkey and, depending on the season, a roaring fire.

For one of my Thanksgiving desserts I dusted off the recipe archive and paid a visit to a beloved, nearly-forgotten recipe. Thanksgiving feels like it was a week ago already - fortunately I still have a few cranberry bars leftover to ground my spaced out, mountain-bound mind.

brown butter cranberry streusel bars | une gamine dans la cuisine

Being a food blogger, I sometimes forget about past recipes - which is tragic. When I made this recipe a few years ago I had every intention of making it a winter staple, instead it kind of just slipped through the sieve of my memory. I'm glad we were awkwardly reintroduced!

I try to avoid making anything that requires more than two sticks of butter and two cups of flour, for these bars I'm willing to squelch a lot of self-imposed rules. Besides, streusel is not streusel without a lush amount of butter. Speaking of butter, this particular incarnation of the classic crumbly fruit bar uses brown butter. Sheer, blissful decadence. Browning the butter gives the crust and crumb a deep, rich nutty flavour - a perfect companion to its perky-tart cranberry filling.

Since fresh cranberries are only with us for a short time, I highly recommend adding this alluring recipe to your holiday repertoire or stockpiling bags of berries in the freezer. They're such glamorous little red things - cranberries remind me of ruby red ballet flats.

brown butter cranberry streusel bars | une gamine dans la cuisine

brown butter cranberry bars
makes about 24-28 bars

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 remaining 1/4 cup of sugar to leftover 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 8 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.

adapted from fine cooking 


  1. Such beautiful little bars! I'd stay in and bake these rather than go shopping any day of the year, and make that double for Black Friday.

    I love the poetry you publish, and a special shout-out to Stephen Mitchell. What beautiful poetry he has brought into the English language!

  2. I would never go out for shopping.
    I mean we have now.
    And why don't places like King Arthur Flour, Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table have deals? Us foodies need a place to shop--you know?

  3. I'm with you on running away from the crowds of shoppers ...I have to make these seasonal bars-they are so bright and pretty-a perfect bar cookie ;)

  4. I adore that you revisited this recipe! Yummy!

  5. The introvert in me needs a few of these bars as I cozy up to the fire with a good book! I'm all for lush amounts of butter, especially when it's brown butter!

  6. I think it's sort of occupational hazard to keep forgetting the recipes of the past and keep on moving to new ones, I'm just as guilty of that. :)
    I love these bars of yours, so perfect for the season and we are just getting cranberries over here.

  7. Divine! Revisiting classics is fun.



  8. Oh, these are SO pretty!! So, 2 sticks of buttah and then some?! Heavenly!!

    I'm no introvert, but the hell with crazy Black Friday shopping... I can't imagine doing that. Cyber Monday is my thang! :-)

  9. I wouldn't mind joining you in the Rockies next to that warm fire. Black Friday is not for me. I prefer staying at home, sipping wine, and watching Christmas movies. These bars look scrumptious.

  10. Beautiful bars! Good old recipes...can keep surprising us too :)) Thanks for sharing. ela

  11. your bars are beautiful - now I totally know what I'm doing with my cranberries!

  12. One word - STUNNING! These are a must make - love! Hubby and I went out for Black Friday and had so much fun. Hope your holiday was great!

  13. Gorgeous photography - love the lighting, and your bars look decadently delicious!

  14. I made these today and they are delicious! I added a thin cheesecake layer over the cranberry layer. I will definitely make these again, and in other flavors such as pineapple-coconut or blueberry. Thanks for the recipe!


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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