Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stuffing Gallons Into Quarts

I don't know how we do it. I don't know how we can keep squeezing gallons of activity into pint jars of Time when the holiday season rolls around. Okay, maybe they're quart jars. But we still have more "stuff" than jar. There is probably an obscure scientific law that explains how that can be but it's so obscure, nobody knows what it is.

One of the things that has been taking a lot of my time has been the yearly -- obsessive -- search for new and different recipes for holiday occasions and gift giving. I might compare a dozen or two recipes for a single dish, trying to decide which one sounds like The One. And that's just for one item. You would not believe the number of various and assorted cranberry recipes I've been scanning, drooling and slobbering as I go.

Like, for instance, the one I found at the Joy of Baking web site. It turns out to be easy to put together and utterly delicious when done. This one's a keeper, Coffee Mates.

You can copy the recipe from the above link if you want, or grab it from here, whichever is easiest. It goes pretty much like this:

9" X 9" baking pan, buttered -- preheat oven to 375 degrees fairy height

For the filling: In medium-sized sauce pan, put:
2 1/4 cups (8 ounces or 225 grams) fresh or frozen cranberries
2/3 cup (130 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons water
On medium-high heat, bring to a boil and continue boiling until mixture is thick and syrupy. This will take about 5 or 6 minutes. She didn't say, but I stirred the mixture the whole time, just in case. It's amazing to watch all the resulting liquid cook down and thicken. Once it's thick, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

For the crust: In a mixing bowl, whisk together:
2 cups (270 grams) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used a teaspoon of salt.)
In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream 1 cup (2 sticks) butter until smooth.
Add 1/3 cup (70 grams) sugar, beat 2 minutes, add 1 teaspoon vanilla, blend in.
Gently stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated.

The dough will still look very crumbly. That's okay. With all that butter, it'll come together just fine in the pan. Dump two thirds of the dough into the buttered pan and pat it into a reasonably level layer with your fingers. See? It holds together just like it knew what it was doing.

Now you take the cooled filling and spread it over the layer of crust, leaving a quarter-inch margin all around the edges. Then take the remaining third of the dough and crumble it over the filling. It's okay if there are little gaps that show bits of the filling. Gently press the crumbs into the filling, put it in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

When you take it out of the oven, set the pan on a cooling rack and cut the squares/bars while it's still hot. Then let it cool completely in the pan. Cutting it while hot enables you to wiggle out each gorgeous little bar without excessive crumbling and unseemly deterioration of your culinary artistry.

Just in case you didn't get a good enough look up top, here's a closer view of these tasty morsels.

Mmmmm! Look at that tender crumb. Gaze with delight on that lush, tart-sweet filling. Wipe the drool off your chin and head right into the kitchen to whip up a batch for yourself.

Listen, I would love to share this batch with you, really. Oh, WHEN will they invent email that allows you to send real live food attachments? Geez, if the hackers would just consider the benefits to themselves, I'll bet they could come up with such a program -- I'd be happy to keep sending attached Cheetos to such genius persons.Wouldn't you?




Wolfie said...

Oh, lordy. Yet another cranberry delight I have to try. Thanks!

May I whine just a little? I miss the old CBG design. I like the orange better than the designer sage green. But that's just me. :)

WendyNC said...

Nope. Not gonna grab what's left of those cranberries and make this up tonight. It's late here on the east coast and I gotta go to bed!

The Old Guy said...

You know, Dee, you don't hardly need to hope for taste-a-vision. I think you've invented it with the pictures you post. You're noted for your good taste.

John Bailey said...

Oh, darn it! There I was, sat down at 05:30, thinking I was satisfied with a big mug of coffee and now I haveta go cook myself a little something... well done, Dee! :)

Dee said...

Aww, Wolfie, I liked the other design better, too, but it didn't play nice, ya know? Not to worry. Some time in the coming year (grin) I'll try something else.

I hear you, Wendy. I find myself making really weird mistakes when I try to cook while sleepy. At least, that's the excuse I've been using.

Bill, you always make me feel good. Now see? If I had one of those food e-mail attachments, I could send you a cranberry bar -- and I would.

I'm giggling, John. What did you decide to fix yourself?

Stephanie said...


kate et jim said...

I love that closeup photo on the bottom! Now - it's time for my breakfast and surely I don't have the time to fix this...but! Jimbo has nothing to do today, hahaha! (Of course he's staring at me with a "I don't bake" look on his face!)

Bonnie said...

Let's see my stand mixer is buried at the back of a bottom cupboard. I may as well give it away as much as I use it.

Take a look at my recipe on xanga and you can have a chuckle at my efforts.

Anonymous said...

Just the word "shortbread" makes me yearn for Scotland...

Dee said...

Stephanie, you said it all. (smile)

Kate, tell Jimbo this is something HE can bake, it's that simple. Wait. Maybe we should rephrase that. It's that easy?

Bonnie, I'm not laughing AT you, I'm laughing WITH you. That sounds like exactly the cooking adventures I have. Sticky fingers and all.

Anonymous, are you from Scotland or is it simply a place you'd like to visit? My great-grandparents came from there but I've never been. If the word "shortbread" has that effect, what happens when you hear the words "single malt scotch"? (smile) Sorry. I had to ask that. Overwhelming compulsion.

coffee online said...

What a delight! I love sweets and this is a good mix. I don't bake much though. But my mom sure can! lol I love eating sweets, especially cakes with a cup of cappuccino and cinnamon on top. yummm and relaxation is on its way.

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