Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cranberry Lemon Bars

I love many days like Christmas, Thanksgiving, my birthday, her birthday, New Year's Eve, St. Patty's Day, opening day of baseball, and the day I get my automatically deposited tax return.  But my day is one of my favorite.  A majority of the 365 days of the year are pretty good.  But this one day is special- adult hookey, an escape from the usual, a stunt pulled on an ordinary middle of the week day.  My day is exactly that- whatever the   I want to do.  Last year it was fishing.  I hopped on the bike and grabbed my portable gear and headed to the lake, a morning spent not logging in but getting my line wet.  A couple of little guys, but at least I didn't get skunked.  A poor day fishing is better than any day at work.  I recall a fantastic day-of-me a few years ago when we both called in to the man, grabbed some delicious picnic provisions from here, a book and a couple magazines, the battery-powered radio (at that time, may his Cubbie soul finally rest at peace when the curse is broken) to listen to Pat and Ron on the WGN720 AM mothership, maybe a Miller High Life or two for refreshment, and took advantage of one of the best places on earth- Chicago's lakefront.  Thanks Daniel.  Brilliant!

The duck out of the office on a random Tuesday this year was similar, although now it's later in the year and in the NLCS, so the Cubs have been far removed from competition at this point.  By about 4 months.  The radio was therefore left at home.  We still brought the magazines and what is now called a 'Nook'.  The food this time was homemade and a nod to the quintessential picnic food- cold fried chicken, with cheese and crackers, grapes, strawberries, and half the bottle of Pinot Gris from the night before.  You would have thunk that would induce a short nap, but instead it yielded to some free time in the kitchen after my add kicked in from being too still.  I've had this recipe bookmarked for some time now, waiting until fall to bake these cranberry bars with a shot of lemony tartness and a hint of orange.  Maybe on your day-of-you there will be some time leftover to make these.  Or maybe you'll be too busy cleaning bigger fish.  

I don't bake much.  I rarely make sweets, and this is no exception.  The sugar tones down the sour some in this recipe, but the lemon and the orange certainly pucker it up, which for me is the goal of this dish.  We're celebrating fall with some cranberries, tart and refreshing with a generous buttery shortbread base and crumb, a licious combination.  It's quick to throw together and very economical.  So your cheap ass without much time can easily make this.  Get after it. 

Cranberry Lemon Bars
20-22  bars

For the dough-
3 C AP flour
1 ts baking powder
1 C white sugar
1/2 ts kosher salt
zest of 1 large lemon
zest of 1/2 medium orange
8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cubed (stash in the freeze for 10 min)
1 large egg
1 ts vanilla
2-5 TB of cold water
For the filling-
2 1/2 c frozen cranberries
1/2 c + 2 TB white sugar
juice from 1 large lemon
2 T corn starch

Fire up the heater to 375F. In a large bowl or in your food pro, add the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and lemon and orange zest. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry blender or pulse to crumble the dough into small pieces. Move crumbles to a stand mixer and add in the egg and vanilla. Stir on low to combine, then add in the water 1 tablespoon at a time- just until the dough comes together- you may need just a couple or all 5 TB.  Turn out on your board or the counter and divide into halves.  Spread one half into a buttered 9×13″ pan and set aside the remaining dough for the topping.

In a medium bowl, mix the filling ingredients until combined.  Pour evenly over the dough, then crumble the remaining dough over top. Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and your kitchen smells all lovely.  Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting into squares.

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