Jennifer's Recipe: Cranberry Bliss Bars

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I saw an old magazine the other day and the cover stopped me in my tracks.   There was an article about a celebrity and how she balances her crazy life. The caption was "finding bliss in the chaos." It had nothing to do with Christmas, but I thought how perfect for this time of year.  Are you having a chaotic December? I think it is supposed to be a calm time, but more often than not, it is chaotic.  While we are so busy trying to have a Holly Jolly Christmas, we neglect to realize it has become Christmas Chaos instead.  Maybe it is just me that feels that way, but I suspect some of you do as well.  I think what we all really want is perfect happiness or joy which is the meaning of bliss.  

Baking brings me happiness and joy!  Especially if I am making or rather eating Cranberry Bliss Bars.  This is a  copycat recipe of a bar that Starbucks sells.  I have never had theirs, but my guess is they aren't are delicious as this recipe.  These are basically a blondie with cranberries, white chocolate, and cream cheese frosting. Doesn't that sound blissful?  Don't be overwhelmed by the longer ingredient list.  Most are things that you will have on hand.  Also, some of the same ingredients appear a couple of times. There are a few extra steps that really do help to make these fabulous.  But if you want to simplify a little, read the tips in the notes. Also just to acknowledge that the cost to bake this year has really increased.  But if you stop to think what one slice would cost you at Starbucks, this is a much better deal. 

Christmas is here now, and I hope that we can all find some bliss in our chaos. So look for ways to slow down and eliminate at least some of the chaos and enjoy some calm.  Happiness or joy can come in many ways.  I want to suggest that you slow down, sit down, and relax with a  Cranberry Bliss Bar.  Finally to find true joy, focus on the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus!

Merry Christmas!

Jennifer


Cranberry Bliss Bars

Ingredients for Bar Layer

  • 1 cup unsalted butter - room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs - room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract or 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Ingredients for Frosting:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese - room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon butter - room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • dash salt
  • 1 Tablespoon milk 

Ingredients for Topping:

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries - chopped
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or a few drops of canola oil
  • optional orange zest

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 with the rack in the center of the oven. Grease a 9x13 pan. 

Put the butter and sugars in a mixing bowl. Cream until nice and smooth. Add the eggs and beat for about one minute. Add the extracts (or zest if using). Set this aside. Melt the 1 cup white chips in the microwave (30-second increments) or over low heat in a small saucepan on the stove. Stir as it is melting. Pour the melted white chips into the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Mix in until incorporated.

Add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cornstarch, and salt all at once. Gently mix just until the flour disappears and the ingredients are incorporated.  Fold in the 1/2 cup of dried cranberries. Spread batter into the greased pan.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center is set and a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs still attached. Cool completely.

Make the frosting by placing all but the milk in a mixing bowl.  Beat until it is smooth.  Add milk 1 teaspoon at a time to get a creamy spreadable frosting. You may or may not need all the milk.  Spread evenly over the cooled crust.  Sprinkle the chopped cranberries all over the frosting.

For the topping, melt the chips and oil either in the microwave or stovetop. Stir until completely melted. Put into a small ziplock baggie and snip off a small corner of the bag. Squeeze the bag and gently drizzle it all over the frosted bars. Top with optional orange zest if desired. Let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes. Cut into squares and then half the squares on the diagonal to form triangles.

Yield: about 30 bars depending on the size you cut

Notes:

Neufchatel cream cheese is fine.

*I like to use Nestle white chips but use whatever you have.

*Set oven to 325 if using a glass pan.

*Original recipe said the baking time was anywhere from 20-30. They definitely take longer than 20, so I have changed the baking time. You can start checking at 20 minutes if you want. Mine usually take closer to 30.

*If you want to simplify some, don't melt the chips that are mixed into the batter, just add them whole to the batter. You can also skip the drizzle and just spread the chips on top of the frosting. You may want to add a few more chips if you do this. I have not tried this simpler version. Also, I do not put the optional orange zest on top. Zest is a fancy word for the skin of an orange. 

*Recipe Source: adapted from A Bountiful Kitchen

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