baked oats green chile chicken enchiladas chow mein bakery-style butter cookies

copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2023 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

it keeps on giving

Recipe: cranberry bar cookies

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving weekend whether you celebrate it or not. The nicest surprise of the day for me was seeing my “Christmas” cactus bloom. They always call them Christmas cacti, but all of mine bloom at Halloween (yay!) or Thanksgiving. My Halloween blooms are red, but my Thanksgiving blooms are white and they came from cuttings that my mom had brought me a while ago. I let her know on Thanksgiving that there were pretty flowers opening. Hers was blooming too and she told me that Grandma had originally given her the cuttings for her plant. That tugged at my heart. Everything my grandma touched was special.

thanksgiving cactus

We kept our Thanksgiving low key and enjoyed a gorgeous day out in the snow working up an appetite. It’s early season. There’s decent snow in the backcountry, but a lot of the approaches are still sketch with bare spots, wind drifts, and plenty of ice – so we hoofed it in until we reached solid snow and could skin in. I happened to pack turkey sandwiches for lunch (why not?) which we scarfed down in the trees on our way out. Turkey never tasted soooo good.

enough snow to switch to the skis

lunch break

I refused to shop Black Friday.

But the day after… Have you heard about Shop Local Saturday? It’s a push to support small local businesses. I had been researching waxless touring skis for over a year and we decided it was time for an upgrade. Neptune Mountaineering is my favorite mountaineering store in Boulder. They have a great selection of technical gear (it really puts REI to shame) and their staff is wicked knowledgeable because they DO IT ALL. We did our part and supported this beloved local business. We supported them A LOT because we each got boots, bindings, and skis.

we’ll call this a health and fitness investment

See, we needed something to counteract the weight we were gaining from eating treats out of this book:

it’s cakespy!

CakeSpy is Jessie Oleson, a delightfully quirky, talented, funny, and creative woman in Seattle. And she is so SWEET! I had the pleasure of meeting Jessie this past Spring at her shop/gallery and instantly fell in love with her illustrations of cupcakes, cakes, pies, doughnuts, and any other sweet you can imagine. So her publisher sent me her book a few months back. It has ridiculously cute recipes like cupcake-stuffed cupcakes, s’moreos, blondie topped brownies, toaster pastry ice cream sandwiches, and red velvet cake shake to name a few. What caught my eye was the section on seasonal sweets – in particular the leftover cranberry sauce bar cookies. A way to use up leftover cranberry sauce after Thanksgiving. Clever.

flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, butter, eggs, cranberry sauce, almonds, light corn syrup, vanilla

to make the crust: flour, butter, salt, sugar

mixing the dough

pressing into the pan

Jessie’s recipe said to press the dough up the sides of the pan by about 1/2 inch. I sort of followed that advice, but didn’t really. I’m here to tell you your life will be a lot happier if you do it. Otherwise you will have 1) a heck of a time getting the bars out of the pan and 2) a lot of burnt gooey sugar on the edge of your pan. The bars are layers of a delicate cookie base, cranberry sauce, nuts, and the almost butterscotchy syrup that binds it all together (kind of like the One Ring, but much happier).

the syrup: butter, brown sugar, eggs, light corn syrup, vanilla

pour it into a saucepan and bring to a simmer

when slightly cooled, whisk the eggs in

This one is quick to assemble, especially if you have leftover cranberry sauce hanging around the house, which you very well might have! And even if you don’t, it’s easy enough to make your own or go out and buy some because these bars are a gooey, sticky, sweet treat.

spread cranberry sauce over the cooled crust

sprinkle nuts over the cranberry sauce

pour the syrup over the nuts

cut when completely cooled

The bar cookies are a combination of tender shortbread-like crust, tart cranberry flavor, crunchy toasted nuts, and a sticky sweetness. A little bit of everything in a single cheery bite. This is a fun way to use up any leftover cranberry sauce after the Thanksgiving feast. In addition to the other ingenious recipes, Jessie has a whole chapter dedicated to sweet treat suggestions after various holidays. And of course, every recipe is accompanied by Jessie’s adorable and witty illustrations. You’ll just have to check it out for yourself.

thanksgiving keeps on giving

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life from Sasquatch Books with no obligations. All opinions expressed are my own.

Leftover Cranberry Sauce Bar Cookies
[print recipe]
from CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life by Jessie Oleson

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (I assumed light brown sugar)
2 tbsps unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups cranberry sauce or 1 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups toasted nuts of your choice (I used almonds)

Oven: 375°F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. Beat the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer (paddle attachment) on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Scrape the sides down periodically. It should take about two minutes. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until a soft dough forms. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the baking pan and be sure to press the edges 1/2 inch up the sides of the pan (this prevents crazy sticky messes in the end… as me how I know this). Bake on the center rack of the oven for 12-15 minutes until the crust is golden. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Reduce oven to 325°F. In a medium saucepan, combine corn syrup, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla over medium heat until mixture has melted and formed a thick syrup. Continue stirring over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges, but not boiling. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the beaten eggs, stirring vigorously. Set aside. Spread the cranberry sauce evenly over the top of the baked and cooled crust (or sprinkle the dried cranberries evenly over the crust). Scatter the nuts over the cranberries. Pour the liquid sugar mixture over everything. If it’s thick (mine wasn’t thick) the try to get even coverage over the entire pan. Use a spatula to spread it, but take care not to disrupt the fragile crust layer. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the filling is lightly bubbling on the sides and looks firm in the middle. Cool completely before cutting as the filling will firm up as the bars cool. Makes 18 bars.

20 nibbles at “it keeps on giving”

  1. Heidi @ Food Doodles says:

    Those look incredible! I’ve been on a huge cranberry kick lately – I can’t get enough of them, especially in desserts. And with nuts and that syrup on top these look amazing :)

  2. Patricia Scarpin says:

    These look amazing, Jen! I love bar cookies and would love to try this recipe, maybe with rhubarb? Yum!

  3. Sook says:

    What gorgeous bars! I love cranberries in desserts.

  4. Elizabeth H. says:

    I just made these & they are very tasty! Thanks for the recipe.

  5. Andrew says:

    Any dessert with almonds = a winner in my book

  6. Sally - My Custard Pie says:

    How lovely to work up an appetite in that beautiful snow. The local shop initiative is a great one.

  7. Verena says:

    what a mouthwatering recipe. even I don’t have any cranberry sauce leftovers, because in Switzerland we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving (well, not yet :-)) I’m going to add this recipe to my bakings schedule for next week. thanks for sharing!

  8. Margie says:

    this so goes on my list of things to bake this holiday season….thanks!

    (in this house there is no such thing as leftover cranberries, in any shape or form. My youngest nibbles on fresh cranberries like candy, and we enjoy eating prepared sauce with just about everything.)

  9. Rumpy Drummond says:

    Oh Dog! Those sound yummy!

  10. Mary Cooper says:

    I need a new treat for a game night and these look PERFECT! Thanks :)

  11. Mollie says:

    such a good idea – i made your cranberry sauce the other day (OMG so good) and will now make these!

  12. Allegra says:

    Those are so beautiful, Jen! Sometimes bars don’t look as attractive as cookies, but not these ones.

    And a skiing question. It looks like those are the unisex Madshus Epoch skis – are they yours, or Jeremy’s? Did you get women-specific skis? I’m thinking of some touring skis as well, so thanks for any insight.

  13. jenyu says:

    Heidi – they’re a nice balance of sweet and tart (actually, a little on the sweet side for me)

    Patricia – I love bar cookies too! Maybe cause I’m lazy ;)

    Sook – thanks!

    Elizabeth – yay!!!

    Andrew – yeah, I am a huge sucker for almonds.

    Sally – I agree :) It’s really about the small businesses!

    Verena – you’re welcome.

    Margie – yeah, I would just as soon eat it straight from the bowl.

    Rumpy Drummond – yup!

    Mary – hope you like them :)

    Mollie – go girl!

    Allegra – these are two pairs (stacked). the 175s are mine, the 185s are Jeremy’s. I haven’t seen many waxless touring skis designed specifically for women, you just usually pick the length according to your weight/skill. The bigger issue will be selecting the right ski for the kind of conditions you expect to be touring.

  14. Jessy says:

    I made these last night and they’re delish! Very clever way to use up leftover cranberry sauce. My question is, do they need to be refrigerated and about how long will they stay fresh?

  15. jenyu says:

    Jessy – I didn’t need to refrigerate mine and they were fine for about 4 days. But, our house is 1) really dry and 2) quite cold. So if you live in a place that is warm and humid, you might consider sealing these in a tupperware or something? But I don’t think you need to refrigerate them. Glad you liked them!

  16. Joy says:

    I have been searching for a recipe like this. I could finally get rid of all of my cranberry sauce.

  17. Cranberry White Chocolate Pecan Cookies - Pinch My Salt says:

    […] Cranberry Bar Cookies from Use Real Butter […]

  18. rose says:

    can you use can whole berry cranberry sauce instead?
    i am time pressed. thanks.

  19. jenyu says:

    rose – sure! It may not be as easy to spread, but I imagine it will work just fine.

  20. Teresa Mode says:

    I tried these at Thanksgiving and loved them. I hate cranberry sauce but had 8 cans someone gave me and found this recipe. I fell in love with them. I have shared with everyone I know and they love them too. I made them for Christmas and will make them tonight for a get together. These are really good. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

leave a reply