My friend, Sarah, hosts an annual holiday party for her girlfriends. I always look forward to hanging out with her and catching up with some fun people that I don’t often see. Everyone attending the party is asked to bring an ornament to exchange and an appetizer or dessert to share. I’m terribly indecisive when choosing an ornament. Is this the year I go bold and sparkly? Or muted and natural? The variety of the ornaments people bring is fun to see, but the creativity of the food upstages even the most beautifully wrapped ornaments. This is seriously delicious eating! Trying to come up with something new and different to contribute to this world-class spread is challenging, but I’m confident that I’ve chosen a slam-dunk winner this year: Cranberry Walnut Bars.
Imagine a pie filled with candied walnuts, tangy cranberries and a shortbread crust, and you have the essence of these bars. They are both rich-looking and rich-tasting, and they look so appetizing when cut into diamond shapes for a buffet. Another reason to love them? These bars can be made ahead of time and keep well for several days on the counter. No more last minute rushing to finish a dish for the party before walking out the door. Now if only selecting an ornament was this easy…
P.S. Fresh cranberries are all over the grocery store right now, so buy a few extra bags and pop them in the freezer. They freeze beautifully and are the perfect pick me up for baked goods during the winter doldrums.
Author: Originally published in Minneapolis Star Tribune
1½ sticks unsalted butter, diced
2 cups flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
⅓ cup pure maple syrup
2 cups walnuts (whole, if possible)
1½ - 2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add butter, flour, brown sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Cut together using pastry blender (or two knives) until mixture looks like small peas.
Pour shortbread into 9 x 13 pan and pat down. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Combine butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in a saucepan over medium low heat. Stir until butter is melted and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Stir in walnuts and cranberries. Pour over shortbread base. Return to oven and bake until bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.