Crapload of Cranberries

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

-Cranberries, ginger, orange, and shortbread. It's normal for you to be a little aroused by that.-

"I'm sorry, how many cranberries do you have?" I asked having been caught off guard and needing to make sure.

"A crapload," Kristy, my classmate, responded flatly.

"You have a crapload of cranberries?" I was amused at the meter and alliteration of her statement, and yet disgusted by the mental image in my head. "That's... lovely."

"So what can I do with them?"

"Uhh..." she had caught me in the middle of an argument between my various inner voices as we/I debated our/my schedule and how all final papers and assignments would be time budgeted. I silenced them all down as quickly as I could and began to stumble out what seemed to be a cohesive response. "Uh, well... let's see. Um, what kind of recipe are you looking for? I guess, I have a great one for cranberry sorbet."

She gave a frustrated sigh. "I don't have an ice cream maker. Not all of us cook like you do. I need something quick and easy - preferably dessert - that I can slap together a few times over the next few months. My dad brought me like three bags of the things and I dunno what to do with them." As she said all this her hands gesticulated so erratically I wondered if she might accidentally slap some poor passerby unconscious.

"Hmm, well it is a bit early for cranberry sauce I assume?"

"Yeah, and honestly I'm not a huge fan as the canned stuff turned me off as a child," she said, her face contorting into a sneer as her tongue slithered out in an show of disgust.

"Let me get back to you on that, I'll see I can figure out something easy." She thanked me and as she went to her desk and I went back all the different aspects of brain voiced their opinions in heated debate once more.

You could have given her the cranberry cake recipe! Who uses the word crapload? Why would someone not have an ice cream maker? That's a stupid question! I want to do something new! Who has the time? I wonder what would happen if she actually had slapped someone?

And so on. Eventually we/I came to the decision to make some cranberry shortbread bars.

I had tried one or two recipes in the past and found them to be somewhat disappointing as most tasted like soggy pie dough with overly sweetened cranberry sauce sloped over it. Joy of Baking's recipe, whose shortbread base I found inspiring due to the dumplette-like use of it on top of the cranberries adorable and for it's tender texture and old-fashioned flavor, was where I decided to start in developing a new cranberry bar. I took the basic cranberry filling recipe, the same for most any cranberry bar, and then decided to perk it up a bunch.

This filling is a small dose of brown sugar to make the flavor a little darker. An insane amount of grated ginger and the zest of an orange are added to add personality. The result is a cranberry bar that's enticing; one that wears a slinky red dress and beguiles your senses in spicy, citrusy smells.

The next day I brought over the cranberry bars to her desk.

"OMG!" because she doesn't say "Oh, my God," "These are so good! Is there ginger in this?"

"Yeps. I also threw in some orange a pinch of cinnamon and some vanilla too because, you know, why the hell not, right?" I shrugged and smiled. "So these work? Supe easy to throw together and it'll use up your cranberries. Though you will need to pick up some fresh ginger and oranges."

"I'll just throw in some ground ginger and toss in spoonful or orange juice. I have the rest I think."

My brain sighed just a little and I almost said something about her suggested substitutions but decided to leave it alone. More than likely I would choose to do the same if it came to it.

"So when can I get the recipe?"

"Just check my blog in a few days."

And so, here it is.

-All the voices in your head will agree that this cranberry bar is awesome. However, the cranberry bar is unable to make them shut up about it.-

Ginger Cranberry Bars
Makes one 8X8 pan - adapted from Joy of Baking

Cranberry Filling
2 1/2 cups of cranberries
1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon of orange zest
3 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Shortbread Mixture
2 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 cup of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/3 cup of brown sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease an 8X8 (or 9x9) inch pan with butter or cooking spray.

2. Place cranberries, sugar, brown sugar, ginger, orange zest, water, and vanilla extract in a 2 quart saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes until it becomes reduced and syrupy. Be sure to give the mixture a stir once in a while to ensure the mixture does not burn; be gentle though as you don't want to break the berries but keep them whole. Take off heat and allow to cool.

3. Sift together in a separate bowl the flour, cornstarch, salt, and ginger.

4. In an electric mixer cream the butter with the brown sugar and vanilla. Slowly add in the flour mixture until just incorporated.

5. Press two-thirds of the dough into the prepared pan. Then evenly spread the cranberry filling, leaving 1/4 inch of space on the sides. Crumble the remaining dough over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until top begins to brown around the edges. Cool on a wire rack, then cut and serve.

-This is what a crapload of cranberries looks like in bar cookie form.-


  1. Well yum. And I just happen to have a crapload of cranberries in my freezer...

  2. Gorgeous. *swoons* Now for the real test: What do I need to do to the recipe to make it in a 9x13 pan instead of an 8x8 pan? Doubling would be too much, right?

    Please help as the siren call is seducing me!


  3. Julie - So do I. Next up: cranberry jam.

    Gail - I say go for it. The outside will, of course, be a little more baked that the center at that size but I wouldn't be too concerned. =)

  4. OMG yum! I could eat a crapload of that.

  5. I'm a virgin to using cranberries. This looks like a great recipe to take care of that.

  6. OMG is right - these look amazing! Can't wait to try them out. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Look fabulous and just what I need for my own stockpile. Last year couldn't find any so now may have overdone!

    Regarding the inquiry about making it in 9X13 (117 sq in) vs 8X8 (64 sq in)pans, I would double before I would spread this out so thin in a larger pan.

  8. Garrett,

    I added you to my Twitter list of "foodies I trust", because it's true, clearly. If you have any other suggestions for people/blogs I should add to this list, let me know!

    Making these tonight, yessss. You are awesome. That is all.

    ~ Jenny

  9. As a side note, do you have a good recipe for cranberry sauce?

  10. Garrett, I think this post shows why I love reading your blog. Not only does the recipe sound delicious, but your sigh regarding her substitutions made me laugh. Because I cringed when I read that! I also find your ice cream maker comment cute, because I'd love to have one but sure don't.

  11. O-M-G! These look fabulous! I have been stocking up on cranberries and also have a crapload of them. I am very picky what I make with them though because I have nightmares of cranberry season ending and forgetting to replenish my stash. I will definitely be making these, they look delicious. I somewhow stumbled upon your blog one day & am now addicted. Thank you for the wonderful recipes and witty words.

  12. Now I think I'll have to get myself MORE cranberries! I've mostly been using them in oatmeal, but man, this sounds good.

  13. Uhm.
    A) You are adorable, as usual.
    B) I happen to love Ocean Spray's cranberry-like concoction. It's best if it keeps it's can-like shape, IMHO.
    C) This looks delish. I need more time for baking and people to eat the fruits of my labor.

  14. these look fantastic! also, its never too early for cranberry sauce. i made my first batch this weekend and its half gone already, because we eat it on everything (i.e., last night it was on fake chicken patties for me and on pasta for my grrrl).

  15. I made a version today to see how it would translate to a larger pan, sort of a 'put your pan where your mouth is' kind of thing.

    Garrett graciously suggested that I post a link to this version baked in a larger 9 X 13 pan; it did require a bit of a revision in the sugars (only to make the quantities listed work better) but, I'm cringing, I also used dried ginger. REALLY good dried ginger but still, it was the dry variety.

    Results were as expected; outstanding presentation and a great adult taste (love that it's not too sweet).

    By his permission,if you would like the recipe for the larger pan size, please visit

  16. I made this earlier today, and it was easy to make and simply heavenly. The shortbread had a nice snap and the ginger and orange enhanced the cranberries very nicely. Stop reading the comments and go make this right now!

  17. Amanda - I just toss cranberries in a pot with some red wine, cloves, a cinnamon stick, all spice berries, and some brown sugar over medium-hight heat. Cook and reduce and you're good to go.

  18. What if you are Canadian and thanksgiving was the middle of last month and there are no fresh cranberries to be found....

    I wonder if I can smuggle some back when we go to Disneyland?

  19. I added a splash of ruby port to the cranberries after taking them off the heat. Mellows them out a bit. They are cooling as we speak...


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