And now for my favorite part of our Friendsgiving meal: dessert! This year I decided to make cranberry and vanilla bean pie bars topped with vanilla ice cream. These were the perfect combination of tart and sweetness coupled with plenty of pie crumb goodness. Great way to end a good meal with friends. 🙂
We were stoked to partner with the Cranberry Marketing Committee again for this post (and our cranberry wreaths) as part of the #FriendsgivingCranberryContest (the winner gets $2,000!). Such a fun, tart flavor and the bright pop of red that they add to everything is just the best. Cranberries are naturally festive. 🙂 And they make great pie bars, let's discuss.
Cranberry and Vanilla Bean Pie Bars, makes one 9×11 inch pan which is roughly 14 bars depending how you slice it.
*You could easily cut this recipe in half and bake in an 8×8 square pan if you are serving less at your event.
18 oz. fresh cranberries
1 cup brown sugar
seeds from one vanilla bean
juice from 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
1 1/2 cups cold butter (3 sticks)
1 cup powdered sugar
3 cups flour, all purpose
3-4 tablespoons cream or cold water
To make the filling, combine the cranberries, brown sugar, vanilla bean seeds and lemon juice in a large pot with a lid. Cook on medium heat with the lid on for 5-6 minutes until the berries begin to soften and release their juices. Continue to cook for an additional 3-4 minutes so that some of the juice begins to evaporate. Then stir in the corn starch to thicken the filling. I like to dust the corn starch in through a fine mesh sieve when I add it to avoid getting any big clumps.
After another minute or two on the heat your filling should be done. You should be able to drag a spoon through it and it will leave a trail and then quickly seep back in. So it's not quite as thick or gelatinous as jelly, more like a chunky sauce.
Then make the pie crust by mixing together the cold butter, powdered sugar and flour. You can use a pastry blender or your clean hands for this step. (I usually use my hands. Remember to take any rings off you don't want covered in dough.) Blend until your mix resembles very small pebbles. Then add a few tablespoons of cream or cold water and stir until a loose dough ball forms. If the mix seems too dry to hold together, add a little more water or cream.
Divide the dough in half. In a rectangle baking pan lined with parchment paper plop half the dough in and press into place. It doesn't have to look like a perfect rectangle, but do try to keep the thickness fairly uniform throughout. Bake this for 12 minutes at 350°F.
Then spoon the filling onto the crust and spread. Top with the remaining dough. Just crumble it all over the top. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes until the top crust begins to brown.
You can make the filling and dough ahead and just bake when you're ready, or you can go ahead and bake the bars a day before and rewarm them in the oven briefly before serving. I chose to do the latter so that my event went super smooth—I'm a make-everything-you-can-ahead kind of hostess. 🙂 Top warm bars with ice cream and watch them disappear. Enjoy! xo. Emma
P.S. If you haven't gotten a chance to post your favorite cranberry photo and enter the $2,000 #FriendsgivingCranberryContest yet, read the full details here! Contest is open until 12/14/15.
Credits // Author: Emma Chapman. Photography: Collin Dupree and Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.