Brown Butter Cranberry Crumble Bars

6 December 2023 Vegetarian Friendly
These bars are a staple of the season. Festive and wonderfully tangy, not terribly sweet, with a crispy base that is simple and quick to make without the faff of pastry making,  these are the perfect all day snack solution.

Born a number of years ago as a way to use up a mass of leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce, these are found on repeat from the first glimpse of cranberries on the shelves until strawberries appear. I actually make cranberry sauce specifically for these bars, using the leftovers (which keeps for weeks in the fridge) not only on turkey, but on chicken, salmon, with roast pumpkin, on a cheese sandwich and with my granola and yoghurt in the morning.  

The crumble base and top has a new 2023 look, with brown butter and ground almonds for extra depth of flavour, extra crunch and extra texture.  They are the haute couture version, created for Mud Australia, because we have a joint love of brown butter and baking in beautiful pieces. 

Cranberry Bars will keep happy for 4-5 days in a sealed container and make a wonderful home made festive gift.

Notes:  The cranberry filling here is my standard cranberry sauce that is constantly on hand during the season (and for ease I have shared it again below). Because I love it with everything, I usually double the recipe and use half for the bars and keep the rest in the fridge, where it will live happily for a few weeks, ready to adorn just about everything or for another batch of bars in a few days. It can be made days (or weeks) ahead, ready for any emergency baking needs. If, however you have some of the apple-cranberry version leftover from your latkes, this is an excellent use for the leftovers…..

Also, feel free to play around with flours here.  Spelt flour adds a nutty deliciousness and rye and buckwheat are flavours that work brilliantly with the tartness of the cranberries.  You can substitute partial or all of the plain flour for spelt (or a combination of white and wholemeal spelt) but I would only substitute 1/4 of the plain flour for rye or buckwheat as they may overpower and change the texture. 

I baked these in my beloved slice tray which I basically use for everything and ensures a fabulous crispy base on these bars…..

Spiced Cranberry Sauce Filling

  • 250g (2 1/2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • juice of 1 orange plus a few strips of zest
  • 80g (1/3 cup) soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • pinch of salt

Brown Butter Crumble Base & Top

  • 250g (1 cup + 2tbsp) unsalted butter (reduced to 200g of brown butter)
  • 180g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
  • 65g (1/3 cup) ground almonds
  • 200g (1 cup) soft brown sugar
  • 200g (2 cups) jumbo porridge oats (not instant cook oats)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 30g (1/4 cup) sliced almonds

To make the sauce (which you can do days or weeks in advance):

Rinse the cranberries and put in a saucepan with the remaining the ingredients.

Simmer gently until cranberries “pop” and break up, around 5-10 minutes

(If using frozen cranberries do not thaw first, and they may take longer to cook)

Stir well and remove from the heat.

Allow to cool

You can make this in advance, as the sauce will keep for a few weeks covered in the fridge.  Or simply allow to cool while making the crumb base and top.

To make the brown butter crumble and assemble the bars:

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F)

Line base and sides of a slice tray (or 20cm x 30cm sheet pan) with parchment paper

Start by browning the butter.  This process allows all the water to evaporate and results in a nutty, dark, golden delicacy. It only takes about 5 minutes, but if you decide to skip this step (which I don’t recommend) you will only  need 200g melted butter for the recipe (the difference in weight is lost in the evaporation/browning process).

In a medium size saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat, giving it a gentle infrequent stir or swirl to check it’s not burning.  It will go through a couple of stages in the browning process – from melting, to foaming and trembling in height, but once the foam subsides its done and you should take it off the heat.

Immediately transfer into a large bowl to stop the browning and prevent burning.  It should now weigh 200g.

Allow the butter to cool slightly, then add the flour, ground almonds, sugar, oats cinnamon and salt and stir it all together with a spatula to combine until it’s the texture of crumble topping (it might be easier to use your hands here). 

Tip 2/3 of the mixture into the prepared tray and press down to make the base

Spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the base and crumble the remaining mixture over the top to make the crumb

Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and pop into the oven

Cook for 45 minutes until golden

Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars

Note: This was created as part of a series of festive recipes for a collaboration with Mud Australia, one of my all time favourite brands whose pieces I have collected for years.

Have you made this dish?

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