I’m on the cranberry train this holiday season. Here’s another recipe that does a great job of contrasting tart cranberries with spicy, sweet gingerbread. The addition of molasses and maple syrup make this cake a little sticky and give the cake a shiny top. Because this cake is a bit sweet, a little goes a long way, and if you need to cut the sweetness a bit, it’s delicious served with whipped cream.
Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread
Makes one 9 inch cake
(from New York Times Cooking)
My notes are in [ ] below.
2 cups (8 ounces; 266 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 stick (4 ounces; 113 grams) unsalted butter
⅔ cup (133 grams) dark brown sugar
½ cup (120 milliliters) whole milk
½ cup (120 milliliters) maple syrup
¼ cup (60 milliliters) molasses
1 ½ cups (185 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (5 grams) ground ginger
½ teaspoon (1 gram) ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon (3 grams) baking powder
½ teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) baking soda
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (14 grams) grated fresh ginger (from 1-inch piece) [I didn’t have fresh ginger so I left it out]
- Heat oven to 350° degrees.
- Line a 9-inch square or round baking pan with parchment. [Don’t skip this step as the cake is really sticky and will stick to the bottom of the pan after it’s baked.]
- In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together cranberries, granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Stir the cranberries over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and cranberries form a sauce that is syrupy and bubbling thickly, about 10 minutes. Aim to have about half the cranberries broken down, with the remainder more or less whole.
- In a separate saucepan, stir together the butter, brown sugar, milk, maple syrup and molasses over medium heat. Bring it to just barely a simmer and then remove it from the heat. Do not let it come to a boil, or the mixture may curdle.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, baking soda and black pepper. Beat in the butter-maple syrup mixture and then beat in the eggs. Stir in the ginger.
- Scrape the batter into the pan. Drop fat dollops of cranberry sauce onto the surface of the cake batter. Drag a long, slender knife through the batter in a swirly design, as if you are marbling a cake.
- Transfer the cake to the oven and bake it until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. [I baked mine for 45 minutes and it was almost overbaked, so keep an eye on it while it’s in the oven.]
- Transfer the pan to a wire baking rack, and let the cake cool completely before eating it.
Overlooked, underappreciated, and not very appetizing looking, cranberries seem to linger on produce shelves, biding their time until the winter holiday season passes and they can be mercifully banished back to the land of long forgotten fruits. Yet, when you cook cranberries with some sugar, spread the tart cranberry mixture over rich, buttery shortbread, and top everything off with a crunchy streusel, you will think about these Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars all year long. Not only are these bars easy to make using basic ingredients, they also look bake shop worthy. So, no excuses; get to baking!
Cranberry Streusel Shortbread Bars
Makes approximately thirty-five 1 3/4-inch-square bars
(from Fine Cooking)
Crust and Streusel
10 1/2 ounces (1 cup plus 5 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just warm
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large egg yolks
14 1/4 ounces (3 cups plus 3 tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour
12 ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over, rinsed, and drained (I prefer fresh)
1 cup granulated sugar
- Line a straight-sided 13×9-inch metal baking pan with foil, letting the ends create an overhanging edge for easy removal from the pan.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, and salt.
- Whisk in the egg yolks.
- Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough.
- Transfer about 2 cups of the dough to the prepared pan, and press the mixture evenly into the bottom. Prick the dough all over with a fork (this keeps the crust from bubbling up too much when it bakes).
- Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes (or freeze for 5 to 7 minutes), until the dough is firm.
- Position a rack near the center of the oven and another near the top. Heat the oven to 325°F.
- Bake the dough until the crust begins to set but does not brown at all on the edges (the center will not be firm yet), about 20 minutes. While the crust bakes, prepare the streusel and the topping.
- With your fingers, combine the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar with the reserved dough until crumbly. The mixture should hold together when pressed, but readily break into smaller pieces. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the cranberries, sugar, and 1/4 cup water to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce the heat to medium high, and continue to boil until the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture cool 5 to 10 minutes—the syrup will continue to thicken as the mixture cools.
Assembling the Bars
- Spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the hot crust.
- Scatter the streusel over the cranberries (don’t crumble the streusel too much or the texture will be too sandy).
- Increase the oven temperature to 350°F and bake the bars near the top of the oven until the streusel is golden and set, about 25 minutes. (Baking these bars at the top of the oven helps the streusel brown faster without overbrowning the crust.)
- Place the pan on a metal rack to cool until the crust is completely firm, at least 1 hour. (For faster cooling, put the bars in the fridge once the pan is no longer piping hot.)
- When the bottom of the pan is cool, carefully lift the bars from the pan using the foil sides and transfer them to a cutting board.
- Separate the foil from the bars by sliding a spatula between them. Cut the bars into 1-3/4-inch squares.
Note: Store the bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week (but the shortbread will soften quite a bit after the first three days).