These simple, buttery, sweet-tart cranberry almond shortbread bars are the perfect holiday dessert!
I know this is the second cranberry recipe I have posted in a week, but forgive me–I’m from Massachusetts. It’s in my blood. My childhood home was literally across the street from a cranberry bog!
I get so excited when cranberries first appear at the supermarket that I inevitably over-buy…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I ALWAYS find ways to use them up. Two years ago I made these amazing Cranberry Lime Rickeys, and last year I made a Healthy Cranberry Orange Kefir Cake that is absolutely perfect for holiday brunches.
This year, I went with these classic, buttery, sweet-tart cranberry almond shortbread bars. If you are a cranberry lover like me, these are seriously dangerous to have in your house!
I feel like cranberry desserts are the unsung hero of Thanksgiving. After a huge meal, a slice of sticky-sweet pecan pie or super-dense pumpkin cheesecake can push you over the edge from “full stomach” to “sick to your stomach” (trust me, I’ve been there). But a zippy, fresh cranberry dessert? That’s absolutely perfect. Just like cranberry sauce cuts through all the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy at dinner, these cranberry shortbread bars cut through all the heavy, ultra-sugary pies when it’s time for dessert.
The recipe (which is just barely adapted from Fine Cooking) couldn’t be easier. Would you believe these are made with just seven simple ingredients?!
First up is a basic shortbread made with lots of melted butter, sugar, salt, flour, and egg yolks for richness. Most of it gets pressed in the bottom of the pan to form a crust, but a few handfuls are set aside and mixed with chopped slivered almonds to make a deliciously crumbly almond-streusel topping.
The filling for the bars is just cranberries, sugar, and a splash of water, simmered until thick and syrupy. I added a cinnamon stick and a few drops of almond extract. They are totally optional, but if you happen to have them on hand, by all means, throw them in!
This recipe makes A LOT of bars, so it’s a great choice for large Thanksgivings, or Friendsgiving parties 🙂 Shortbread also freezes relatively well, so I stashed away half my batch for later.
These cranberry shortbread bars are delicious on their own, but you could also fancy them up a bit with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce, and more toasted almonds sprinkled on top.
Cranberry Almond Shortbread Bars
For the crust and topping
- 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter 2 1/4 sticks, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 cup granulated sugar divided
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or 2 1/2 cups flour and 1 cup almond meal
- 1/2 cup chopped slivered almonds
For the filling
- 1 package fresh or frozen cranberries 12-ounce
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick optional
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract optional
Line a 13-x-9-inch baking pan with foil, letting the edges extend up all the sides (I used two sheets of foil to do this). In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, salt, egg yolks, and flour. Transfer 2 heaping cups of dough to the prepared pan and pat into an even layer to make a bottom crust. Prick all over with a fork. Transfer to the freezer and freeze for 15 minutes.
Position one rack in the center of the oven and another in the top third. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Bake the dough in the center of the oven until it is set but not yet brown, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping and filling. To make the topping, Add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the chopped slivered almonds to the reserved dough. Work the mixture together with clean fingers until it forms moist clumps. Set aside.
To prepare the filling, combine the cranberries, sugar, 1/4 cup water, cinnamon stick, and almond extract (if using) in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil until the liquid is thick an syrupy, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.
Spread the cranberry mixture over the hot crust. Scatter the topping over the cranberries. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake the bars in the top third of the oven until the topping is lightly golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, then lift out using the foil as handles. Cut into bars. Store the bars in an airtight container for up to one week, or freeze them for up to three months.