cranberry bliss bars

I think my parents thought I was crazy when I was looking at colleges.  My “fall-back” was a small state school in upstate NY.  And by upstate, I mean way-the-hell-upstate, not just a little north of NYC, as many downstaters see the upper Hudson Valley.  Potsdam is north enough in New York that you could almost throw a stone over the Canadian border.  It was an 8 1/2 drive to see the school.  In March.  Where it still snowed like a mutha.  My first choice, however, was an even smaller lush private school in PA where snow was “meh”.  I had butterflies when I visited.  I’m sure my parents were terrified of the cost.

cranberry bliss bars

You’ve heard this story before.  You know what happens.  That following August, this south-shore-downstater packed her Bean Boots, silk long underwear (a much better baselayer than traditional long-johns, FTR), heaviest winter clothes (who knew what November would bring even before Thanksgiving was in sight?) and half of her childhood bedroom (my mom would say three quarters) and headed north to her new home away from home.

Included in the massive amount of winter clothing that filled my tiny dorm closet to the brim that August were a few pair of flannel lined jeans.  On the mornings where the average low temperature in January was nearly 0 degrees F, these jeans came in handy.  And sometimes, the long underwear went underneath the flannel lined jeans.  It was freaking cold.  But those jeans saved me that year – they were like a warm hug on a cold morning.

cranberry bliss bars

These cranberry bliss bars are similar.  They’ll wrap you up and warm your soul.  If you’ve been to Starbucks this time of year, you know the treats I’m talking about…and surprise, surprise – they’re super easy to make at home!  With a white chocolate, cranberry, and brown sugar blondie base, a lightly-flavored orange cream cheese frosting, and more cranberries and white chocolate drizzled on top, how could you possibly go wrong?  There is a little bit of ground cloves in the blondies which pulls the orange and cranberries together beautifully and adds to the general addictiveness.  Those mushy-base “bars” Starbucks sells that you have to eat with a fork are no comparison to these homemade treats.  Perhaps paired with a mug of warm spiced wine or cider, these bars are perfect for a cold winter night.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: 2-4 dozen bars (depending on the size you cut them)

In place of the chopped white chocolate, you could use white chocolate chips but I really love biting into a substantial piece of white chocolate in these bars. The chips will get a little lost so if you go that route, you’ll want want to increase the amount of chips to 8 oz.

Ingredients

    For the blondies:
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Scant 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) salted butter, cubed
  • 1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 6 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ tsp grated orange zest
  • 4 oz white chocolate, melted
  • ½ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9×11-inch baking pan with cooking spray or butter. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. To make the blondies: Melt the butter and stir in all of the sugar until the butter has completely incorporated; let the mixture cool to room temperature. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed until the eggs have incorporated. With the mixer on low, gradually stir in the dry ingredients until no evidence of flour remains. The batter will be very thick. Stir in the cranberries and white chocolate until they are dispersed.
  3. Dump the batter to the prepared baking pan and with your hands, flatten it out (without mashing it) into the pan. Baked for 18 to 20 minutes until the edges are just barely golden brown (mine took exactly 18 minutes). Let the pan cool on a wire rack until the blondies are completely cool.
  4. To make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until combined, about 30 seconds. Quickly mix in the orange zest.
  5. To assemble the bars: Remove the uncut blondies from the pan and place the whole piece on a large cutting board. Spread the frosting evenly over the blondies (an offset spatula works great here) right out to the edges. Sprinkle the cranberries over the frosting. Drizzle the white chocolate over the cranberries and frosting – don’t worry about being too neat in your drizzling here. Before cutting, transfer the blondies on the board to the refrigerator to allow the frosting to set up for 30 minutes. Cut the blondies lengthwise into thirds then cut each third into four squares. Cut each square diagonally in half into triangles. You can cut the triangles in half again if you want/need more bars. These bars can be kept at room temperature for a couple of days but they last better in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. Serve right from the refrigerator or slightly warmed to room temperature.

Source

http://www.smells-like-home.com/2012/12/cranberry-bliss-bars/

Cranberry Bliss Bars

  • Prep Time: 30min (active) + 30min to chill
  • Cook Time: 18-20min
  • Yield: 2-4 dozen bars

Ingredients

For the blondies:
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Scant 1/8 tsp ground cloves
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) salted butter, cubed
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
¾ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup dried cranberries
6 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped (or 8 oz chips)

For the frosting:
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
½ tsp grated orange zest
4 oz white chocolate, melted
½ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  • 01

    Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease a 9×11-inch baking pan with cooking spray or butter.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and cloves together in a medium bowl; set aside.

  • 02

    To make the blondies:  Melt the butter and stir in all of the sugar until the butter has completely incorporated; let the mixture cool to room temperature.  Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed until the eggs have incorporated.  With the mixer on low, gradually stir in the dry ingredients until no evidence of flour remains.  The batter will be very thick.  Stir in the cranberries and white chocolate until they are dispersed. Dump the batter to the prepared baking pan and with your hands, flatten it out (without mashing it) into the pan.

  • 03

    Baked for 18 to 20 minutes until the edges are just barely golden brown (mine took exactly 18 minutes).  Let the pan cool on a wire rack until the blondies are completely cool.

  • 04

    To make the frosting:  Beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar together on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until combined, about 30 seconds.  Quickly mix in the orange zest.

  • 05

    To assemble the bars:  Remove the uncut blondies from the pan and place the whole piece on a large cutting board.  Spread the frosting evenly over the blondies (an offset spatula works great here) right out to the edges.  Sprinkle the cranberries over the frosting.  Drizzle the white chocolate over the cranberries and frosting – don’t worry about being too neat in your drizzling here.

  • 06

    Transfer the blondies on the board to the refrigerator to allow the frosting to set up for 30 minutes.  Cut the blondies lengthwise into thirds then cut each third into four squares.  Cut each square diagonally in half into triangles.  You can cut the triangles in half again if you want/need more bars. These bars can be kept at room temperature for a couple of days but they last better in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.  Serve right from the refrigerator or slightly warmed to room temperature.

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  • December 14, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    You bring back all my memories of growing up on the coast of Maine, and those flannel-lined jeans from Beans. And the snowshoes. And long underwear. And cross-skiing. I’ll stop now. The memory brings on such a nice ache.

    • December 15, 2012 at 4:16 PM

      Your mention of “a nice ache” is the perfect way to describe those types of memories. My cousin (who lived in Yarmouth at the time and lives in Portland now) prepped my mom and I before we shopped at LL Bean on everything I would need. It was the best shopping trip ever! 🙂

  • sue wagner
    December 15, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Your recipe is on my to- be-baked-soon list. I loved your cold weather tale. I also went north for college, from Long Island to SUNY Plattsburgh and almost panicked when my nose froze shut the first time. Who knew!

    • December 15, 2012 at 4:12 PM

      Haha! I could have gone on and on about more cold-weather experiences up there but I try to be pithy. 🙂

  • Christine
    December 16, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    I live 30 miles from Potsdam and we have freezing rain/sleet today. It’s the perfect excuse to stay inside and make these amazing bars!

  • MARIE FRAZIER
    December 21, 2012 at 3:15 PM

    I finely made it to your Blog.( 2) recipes and more to go. Love you
    Aunt Marie

    • December 22, 2012 at 6:52 AM

      Aww love you too Aunt Marie!!

  • Maude
    December 22, 2012 at 12:13 AM

    Done the recipe. Amazing!!!

    • December 23, 2012 at 7:29 AM

      Great to hear!

  • Kristen
    December 5, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    I’m thinking about making these for Christmas. Do you think they’d freeze well?

    • taraliptak
      December 6, 2013 at 5:48 AM

      In my experience, cream cheese doesn’t freeze well but the blondies on their own will freeze great. I would suggest baking them and then wrapping up the entire slab of uncut blondies to freeze. When you’re ready to use them, thaw the slab in the fridge overnight and make the frosting fresh to spread over before cutting them. Enjoy!

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