Fruits and nuts, nuts and fruits—they pair well, especially on a brown sugar maple crust. For this recipe I chose cranberries bursting with tart flavor along with chopped walnuts to grace the top of the sweet buttery crust.
Part of baking is experimenting with different flavors, combining them to create a surprise for the tastebuds. While I’m usually a sucker for the salty sweet combo, I also enjoy the occasional tart dessert. Fresh cranberries are the perfect stand-in for that flavor.
Raw cranberries are, well, bleh. Their texture isn’t enjoyable to eat and the flavor is like sour cardboard if you ask me. BUT when cranberries are baked in the oven, they begin to shrivel and the inside softens allowing tart juice to bubble out. That tartness adds a punch of flavor to any dish.
For these cranberry walnut bars, the butter brown sugar crust (which came from my maple pecan square recipe) needs something to counterbalance its sweetness. Enter those cranberries bursting with flavor. For an oomph of texture, the chopped walnuts adapt well to both the buttery crust and the tart cranberries. There’s no doubt in my mind that these cranberry walnut bars will bring plenty of flavor to the table!
Cranberry Walnut Bars
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter cold and cubed
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cups brown sugar
- 1/3 cup walnuts
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Cranberry Walnut Topping
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 1/2 cups whole walnuts
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 9×9 square baking pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
Prepare the crust in a food processor. Combine the flour, brown sugar, walnuts and salt and pulse 2 or 3 times to blend. Add the butter and pulse 10 more times until the mixture forms small, coarse crumbs. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake 14-17 minutes or until the top feels firm when lightly touched. Set aside.
To make the filling, place a saucepan over medium heat and add the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup. Stir until the butter melts and the brown sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil and let boil for 1 minute. Remove the maple mixture from the heat, let it cool slightly, 5 minutes. Then stir in the chopped walnuts. Pour the hot mixture over the partially baked crust. Using an offset spatula, spread evenly and then sprinkle the cranberries on top.
Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the center is set when the pan is gently shaken.* Let cool for 1 1/2 hours.
Using the ends of the parchment liner, lift the cranberry walnut square and the liner out of the pan. Remove parchment paper. Using a large, sharp knife, cut into 25 bars. Store in an airtight container.
*While baking, the filling will bubble–don’t worry! It is supposed to do this. The bubbles will become smaller and peter off toward the end of baking.