Thursday, January 19, 2012
Snow Showers and Cranberry Bliss
The Setting: I can just make out the spindly, black, two-dimensional backdrop of the tree line across the parking lot from my window. Everything else is WHITE.
The Soundtrack: Oia's babbles, grunts, and sighs--she's trying to learn to crawl.
Steaming up the (microwave) Oven: Leftover sweet potato curry with barley.
The Scenario: When your favorite boots, sweaters, and lovely knitted scarves have been stowed away for years because until recently you lived in the land of perpetual sunbathing, winter sounds like a winning concept for fashion purposes alone.
Cozy Currier and Ives images sled through your dreams, filling your fantasies with sleigh rides, snowmen and white Christmases...which is great...till the clock strikes twelve on New Year's Day.
Once the ball drops, sweaters go on clearance, bikinis take the floor, and images of Gidget or Frankie and Annette are the new ideal.
Too bad, since for most of us (latitude 35 and above) that's when Jack Frost is just coming out to play.
The worst part is, just to make sure you know that the fun times are over and serious winter has set in, the coffee shops take away the festive spiced lattes and the cheery holiday desserts you've been downing all December.
You can no longer linger over a comforting cranberry bar while your frostbitten fingers are counting the days till May....
Or can you?
Coffee Shop Christmas Cranberry Bars
Yes, I am a major Starbucks addict. Though I've tamed the raging latte-a-day habit I held for years, when the red cups come out, I have to have a Cranberry Bliss Bar. I admit I get a little depressed when they hibernate after the holidays, but now I can have one whenever I'd like, and so can you! Slightly chewier and richer in flavor than the real deals, these might just be my new favorite.
2 sticks butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 T very finely minced crystalized ginger
1 T freshly grated orange zest
1 large egg
1 tsp spiced rum (optional)
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp fine-grain salt)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chunks or chips, divided
2 cups sweetened dried cranberries, coarsely chopped, divided
For the Icing:
8 oz Neufchatel or reduced fat cream cheese
2/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp orange juice
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Butter a 9"x13" cake pan and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cream the butter, brown sugar, crystalized ginger, and orange zest together with an electric mixer till light and fluffy. Add egg and rum (if using), beating till well mixed.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, soda and powder. Add to butter mixture, beating on low speed to incorporate. Gently blend in 1 3/4 cups chopped cranberries and 1 1/4 cups white chocolate chips or chunks (reserving the remainders for garnish).
Spread dough into prepared pan and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top and just set in the center--do not overbake. Allow to cool completely in pan before frosting.
While the sheet is cooling, beat all icing ingredients together in a clean bowl with the electric mixer till smooth.
When the pan is cool to the touch, spread the icing evenly over the top and sprinkle with reserved cranberries.
Place reserved white chocolate in a microwave-safe cup or mug and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir vigorously with a fork. If necessary, continue microwaving for 15-second intervals, stirring vigorously after each until the white chocolate can be stirred completely smooth. Drizzle the white chocolate over the top of the sheet using the fork. Allow white chocolate to harden (at least 15 minutes) before cutting into bars.