Friday, November 26, 2010

Cranberry Snowdrift Bars . . .

Along with producing way too many rolls and whipping up about three times the amount of mashed potatoes actually needed for Thanksgiving dinner, did you also happen to make a hefty surplus of cranberry sauce? You did? Me too. We have a mountain of mashed spuds left. What could I possibly have been thinking as I peeled my millionth potato on Thursday morning? That the Waltons might turn up uninvited on our front porch, with John Boy in the lead?

It's All Gravy . . .

The only thing we never seem to make too much of is gravy, a vital substance. Not unlike human plasma in its importance, it ties the whole feast together. Most folks can't live without it on their turkey, though I've heard that a few can. My two sons, along with a couple of their friends, descended on our kitchen this afternoon after they'd all been out  power-shopping (teenage-boy style power shopping, that is). Clearly ravenous, they attacked the leftover provisions with a vengeance, each plate piled higher than the next. I was grateful that the absence of gravy, which I assume they found startling, didn't dampen their enthusiasm.

About this recipe . . .

In light of the cranberry sauce surplus, I was happy to have an opportunity to try out this surprisingly different recipe that hails from Dede Wilson's book, A Baker's Field Guide to Christmas Cookies. I don't know which appeals to me more, the bars themselves or their cute name. Both are delightful.

These bars start out with a tender-crunchy base, kind of like a shortbread crust. That's baked, and then topped with cranberry sauce, then a meringue is spread over the top of that and it all goes back into the oven. The end result is delicately crisp, sweet, and just tart enough.

I stuck pretty closely to the original formula, just reworded it.

Cranberry Snowdrift Bars
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8" x 8" square pan with vegetable spray. 

Ingredients for Crust:
1 and 1/4 cups All Purpose flour
1 pinch of salt
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients for filling and topping:
1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce (homemade or canned; needs to be thick and not watery)
whites from 2 large eggs (about 2 oz. of egg whites, total; whites at room temperature whip up best)
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the crust:
Whisk together the flour and salt in a bowl. In the large bowl of your mixer, on medium-high speed, beat the butter for a few minutes, until it's creamy. Gradually add in the sugar, beating now on high speed, until the mixture is light and fluffy; this may take several minutes. Add in the vanilla. In thirds, pour in the dry ingredients gradually, beating just until blended.

Pat the crust firmly and evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes, or in the freezer for about 15 minutes, before baking.

Bake until dry to the touch and light golden brown, with darker golden areas around the edges--about 30 to 40 minutes. Don't turn off the oven when you take the pan out.

Cool the pan on a rack for five minutes, then spread the cranberry sauce over it.

Make the meringue topping:
In a smaller mixer bowl, using the whip attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Then, gradually add in the sugar, beating on high until stiff--but not dry--peaks form. Add in the vanilla.

Spread the meringue evenly over the cranberry filling, using the back of a spoon to push it out to the edges. Make some cute swirls in the top of the meringue.

Put the pan back into the oven, and bake for about 25 minutes, until the meringue is just very lightly browned.

Cool the bars, in their pan, on a cooling rack.
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