Would it surprise you to know that I test holiday recipes as early as October? Trick-or-Treaters have yet to even put on their costumes and the BAH kitchen is already churning out possible holiday treats. We take our holiday treats seriously. One year we made marshmallows. Another year was macaroons and jam thumbprints. The chocolate covered pretzels I tried last year were a complete flop. Which only meant that since I couldn’t properly temper the chocolate, they lived in my refrigerator until The Mistah and I finished them off. They just were not destined to be part of our out of town packages…sorry y’all down in Florida. I try not to have any repeats. Lord knows there are enough recipes out there in the Interwebs to pick from. In fact, the first one I tested this year came from the web. I saw it on washingtonpost.com and even though we are months away from the holidays themselves, and mere weeks days before the stores started putting up their displays (Target, I’m looking at you), I knew this was going to be at the top of my audition call sheet.
The audition went well, despite my lack of time management skills. It’s really important that the talent (ingredients) has adequate time to prepare for the audition. Otherwise, like putting hot jammy filling into an unbaked, butter based crust, it’s a recipe for disaster. So let the talent hang out for a while, maybe even get them ready the night before and park them in the fridge. A strong personality, like cranberry jam, needs time to chill before giving its best performance. There are no divas here.
And what a performance it was. The bars are buttery with the a slight caramel accent. Don’t ask me why caramel wanted an accent, but it brought one. The cranberry jam balances sweet and tart perfectly. I would have liked a little more orange in the character, but that’s just me. One bite told me that I had discovered my lead. I hope the rest of the cast is as easy to find.
I wonder how many auditions are conducted with a glass of cold milk?
Cranberry Oat Bars
Washington Post Adaptation from “Christmas 101: 100 Festive Recipes With Menus and Timetables for Stress Free Holiday Entertaining” by Rick Rodgers
BAH Note: The recipe tells you to use your fingertips to combine the cold butter into the dry ingredients. I found it just as easy, and far less messy, to do this in my stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Work on low speed and in about five minutes or so, you’ll have a nicely incorporated, crumbly dough. Also, the recipe has you heating your oven while you make the filling. But that filling is going to have to cool completely, which is going to take a while. So you may want to wait until the filling has cooled before you preheat your oven.
- 2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 3/4 cup sugar
- zest of 1 medium orange (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (do not use quick cooking or instant)
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1 /2 sticks) chilled butter, cut into small cubes
Heat to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Lightly grease an 8 inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line with a double thickness of aluminum foil so that the foil extends beyond 2 opposite ends of the pan. Fold the overhang down to form handles. Lightly grease the foil with the spray.
Combine the cranberries, sugar, and orange zest in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, or until the filling has thickened and reduced to about 1 cup. Transfer to a bowl to cool completely.
Meanwhile, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the butter and use your fingertips to work it into the dry ingredients until well combined and crumbly. Press half of the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan and spread the cooled cranberry filling on top. Sprinkle the remaining crumbly mixture over the filling and gently press into an even layer.
Bake for about 40 minutes, until the top is evenly browned. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, run a knife around the inside edges of the pan to release the bars from the sides. Lift up on the foil handles to remove the bars from the pan. Carefully cut into 16 bars.