Saturday, December 7, 2013

Chewy Cinnamon Cranberry Cookie Bars

One really important thing was lost for me when I decided to come to Australia.


The connection is gone. The slippers and housecoat, the warm wood fire, roasted vegetables and cookies galore, the frosted windows, the cozy cuddles on the couch, the SNOW…

Instead it’s the beach, the sun, the BBQ, short shorts and flip flops.

I just can’t relate. I’m already programmed.

Hearing Christmas jingles in the supermarket doesn’t really help much either. I hear “…walking in a winter wonderland…” and then I look down at my painted toenails and realize the sunglasses on my head and it just doesn’t make sense. Plus, most Aussies have never seen snow before so that must be weird…

In an attempt to convince myself that it really is Christmas and most of you are in full swing, I’m doing what I do best – baking!

 These spicy, chewy bars are practically made of Christmas. You’ll know what I mean when you smell the aroma that fills your kitchen.

Cinnamon and cranberries couldn’t be more appropriate at this time of year and these make a great change to the usual cookie. I mean it when I say cinnamon too – 2 ½ teaspoons is serious business.

A fair bit of dark muscovado sugar helps to keep them chewy and lends a subtle gingerbread note (minus the ginger). A crunchy cinnamon sugar crust gives them interest and studs of gorgeous cranberries makes them merry.

Don’t be shy with the salt either. Although the amount of sugar in this recipe isn’t unusually high, the combination of sugar and a generous amount of cinnamon spice makes these come off very sweet and the salt is necessary to balance it out.

Chewy Cinnamon Cranberry Cookie Bars                       
Makes about 24 bars

½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter
2/3 cup (150 g) dark muscovado sugar
1/3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar 
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ¼ cups (180 g) flour
heaped ¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder 
½ cup dried cranberries

For the topping:
2 tbsp granulated sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
a few drops of vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9x9-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine butter and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-low speed for 2 minutes, until smooth but still dense, grainy and paste-like. We’re not after “light and fluffy” here.

Beat in vanilla extract and egg until smooth, then mix in ground cinnamon. Combine flour, salt and baking powder/soda in a separate bowl and add it gradually to the butter mixture with the mixer running on low speed. Once combined, remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in cranberries by hand.

Spread the mixture into prepared pan, using your hands to press it in evenly. It helps to wrap your hand in plastic wrap to prevent sticking. To make the topping, combine sugar, cinnamon and oil in a small bowl and mix it together using the back of a spoon to incorporate the oil. The oil will help the cinnamon bind to the sugar. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the dough in the pan and pat it in gently. Bake about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan before slicing into thin bars using a sharp knife.

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