Cranberry Lemon Bars
Updated: Nov 26, 2020
These summery lemon bars become a bit more fall appropriate thanks to the addition of a thin layer of homemade cranberry sauce. Do I think other (drier) fruit jellies could work? Why yes, yes I do. That means springy blueberry and all around delicious sounding raspberry lemon bars are definitely on my horizon. This recipe is easily doubled and made in a 9" x 13" pan, just increase the final baking time to 25-30 minutes, or until the lemon layer is set.
Cranberry Lemon Bars
Makes one 8x8” square pan or about 16 2” bars
1 stick (4oz) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup (130g) flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
6oz fresh or frozen cranberries (a little more than 1.5 cups)
¼ cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp of water
1 tbsp lemon or orange zest
2 large eggs (room temp)
¾ cup + 1tbsp granulated sugar
½ tbsp lemon zest
⅓ cup lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
⅓ cup all purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350F, line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper, foil, or grease it well with soft butter.
Combine softened butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a bowl. Stir until smooth and creamy and smooth then add flour. Mix until a dough forms, dump onto the table and knead a few times until smooth.
Press dough in a single layer into the prepared baking pan. Lightly flour your hands if the dough begins to stick. Use a fork to poke holes all over the crust, so it doesn’t bubble up while baking. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are a light brown. Remove from the oven, but leave it on at 350F.
In a small sauce pot combine cranberries, sugar, citrus zest and water over medium/high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, the water will quickly boil and the cranberries will start to pop. Cook until the cranberries begin to break down, using a spoon or spatula to mash them as needed. When water has evaporated and cranberries resemble a cranberry sauce consistency turn off heat and set the mixture aside to cool.
In a non reactive bowl (think glass, ceramic or stainless steel) whisk together eggs, sugar, lemon zest and flour. The lemon juice can be added at this point, but I like to wait to add it until I’m ready to pour it into the filling, so the acid from the lemons doesn’t upset the eggs.
Spread the cranberry sauce mixture in a thin layer over the shortbread crust. Then add the lemon juice to the remaining lemon layer ingredients, stir carefully with a spatula or spoon trying not to create additional bubbles or foam. Pour over the still warm crust and cranberry layer, then bake until set, 20-25 minutes. Test to see if the lemon layer has set by jiggling the pan.
Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan, running a knife along the edges if needed. Cut and dust with powdered sugar before serving if desired. I prefer to cut the edges off of my bars before dividing into squares for a cleaner presentation, and as a snack for me! Bars keep best without powdered sugar, but can be dusted before serving again.