Friday, March 12, 2021

Cranberry Curd Bars


I made cranberry curd bars not long ago. Even though it’s a dish that feels more wintery, we have frozen cranberries year-round, so there’s really no good reason not to make this anytime! I’ll admit it wasn’t quite as good as the cranberry lime pie, but since my kids rarely like pies or tarts, I thought that bars would be a better bet. (Sadly, I was wrong.) The cranberry curd was fine, but the crust was too hard for us, even though I actually baked it less than called for – I’d make a regular shortbread crust next time, but I can’t think of a good sample recipe off the top of my head. At least it helped me use up the walnuts in my pantry! 

I simplified the recipe a bit by puréeing the cooked cranberries with an immersion blender, using the sieve only once (to strain the cooked curd, not the cranberry purée, which is useless, so I’ve updated the recipe below), and cooking the curd enough that I didn’t need to bake it too. 

For the crust (see note above) 
1 cup walnut pieces 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
½ cup powdered sugar 
½ tsp. cinnamon 
½ tsp. salt 
½ cup (1 stick) lactose-free butter or margarine, cut into 8 pieces and at room temperature 

For the cranberry curd 
12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries (about 3 cups) 
½ cup water 
1 cup granulated sugar (you could reduce this to perhaps ¾ cup if you want a tarter curd) 
4 large eggs 
4 large egg yolks 
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I suggest zesting it first and using the zest as decoration) 
¼ tsp. salt 
½ cup (1 stick) lactose-free butter or margarine, cut into 8 pieces and at room temperature 
powdered sugar, for dusting 

For the crust 
Line a 9”x13” baking pan with parchment paper so that there is extra paper hanging off the two long sides like a sling. Coat the paper and exposed sides of the pan with cooking spray; set aside. 

Place the nuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse until coarsely ground, about 15 (1-second) pulses. Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and pulse until finely ground, about 10 (1-second) pulses. Scatter the butter over the top of the flour-nut mix and pulse until the mixture forms moist clumps, 20 to 25 (1-second) pulses. 

Transfer the mixture into the baking dish and press into the dish with your hands or the bottom of a floured measuring cup, making it as even as possible. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Twenty minutes before the crust is ready, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350 °F. 

Bake the crust until beginning to brown around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes (I baked it 25 minutes, since I did not return it to the oven in the next part of the recipe). Meanwhile, prepare the cranberry curd. 

For the cranberry curd 
Place the cranberries and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until all the cranberries have burst open and are mushy, about 5 minutes. 

Set the purée aside to cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes. (I puréed the mixture with my immersion blender.) Meanwhile, fit a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and set aside. 

Add the sugar, eggs, egg yolks, lemon juice, and salt to the cranberry purée and whisk until smooth. Return the saucepan to medium heat. Stir the curd continuously, making sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pan, until it comes to a simmer and thickens slightly, coats the back of a spoon, and registers about 150 °F on an instant-read thermometer (there's some wiggle-room), 5 to 11 minutes. (I aimed more for 170 °F, for a slightly thicker curd, and skipped the baking that follows.) 

Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter all at once, and stir until completely melted. Pour the curd through the strainer to remove any small chunks of cooked egg or cranberry skin. Pour the warm cranberry curd onto the crust and spread into an even layer. 

Bake until the curd is set but still jiggles slightly in the center, 10 to 15 minutes (see note above). Place the pan on a wire rack and cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate until chilled through, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. 

When ready to serve, run a thin knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cranberry bar slab. Use the parchment paper as handles to lift the slab from the pan onto a cutting board. Trim off the sides to make even edges if desired. Cut into 24 pieces. Dust the tops of the bars with powdered sugar, which will melt into the cranberry curd and make a sweet glaze. Garnish each square with the lemon zest if desired.

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