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Cranberry Shortbread Bars

A simple bar with a tart burst of fresh cranberry.

These Cranberry Shortbread Bars combine the signature tart burst of fresh cranberries with a soft buttery shortbread base (and topping!) for a sweet and simple bar that’s very hard to walk away from. And while they may look complicated, the truth is that they only require a handful of ingredients and are very, very simple to make – there’s one dough shared between the topping and the base and the filling is essentially effortless.

Unlike a shortbread cookie that usually requires chilling and slicing, this dough is just a matter of mixing together the usual baking suspects – butter, flour, sugar, vanilla – and pressing half of it into a pan to form the base of the bars. Fresh cranberries get sprinkled over the top, there’s no need to cook them down or mix them with anything…

… and then the remaining shortbread dough gets mixed with pecans and dropped in chunks over the cranberries.

Since this is a softer dough with a high butter content, it helps to chill the bars while you preheat the oven, that way the topping keeps its crumbly shape as it bakes.

Since the cranberries are left alone, they remain rather tart and so every bite of these bars comes with a surprising burst of tangy fruit but it’s tempered by the buttery and sweet shortbread. These are a soft and delightful bar, and the good news is that they’re easy enough to make that having them as often as you want isn’t out of the question.

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Serves 12 Prep 15m  Cook 45m

4.3
4.3 rating
Rated by 28 reviewers
Ingredients
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 12 oz fresh cranberries (3 cups)
Preparation
  1. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with butter or nonstick spray.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add sugars and beat again until light and fluffy.
  4. Add vanilla and salt and mix until combined.
  5. Add flour 1 cup at a time, beating after each addition until just incorporated. You may have to switch to hand stirring as dough will become rather thick. Do not overmix.
  6. Press 2/3 of the dough into bottom of prepared pan and about 1 inch up the sides. Top evenly with cranberries.
  7. Add pecans to remaining dough in bowl and stir to combine. Drop dough in chunks over cranberries so that the berries are mostly covered.
  8. Chill bars for about 20 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350°F. Bake until edges are golden brown, 42-45 minutes.
  9. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from The Food Charlatan.