The Holiday Taste of Cranberries in Florentine Bars

Get your cranberry fix with these sweet florentine bar cookies.
Get your cranberry fix with these sweet florentine bar cookies.

Two treats in one.

Like cookie meets candy.

Like buttery, chewy, sweet, and nutty all at once.

That’s what “Florentine Bars” are like. Plus they have the festive sweet-tart taste of dried cranberries that we call can’t get enough of at this time of year.

This recipe is from “Baking School” (W.W. Norton, 2022), of which I received a review copy, by the King Arthur Baking School.

The book is filled with the time-honored recipes that the Vermont cooking school has been teaching students for more than 20 years. They include the likes of “Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls,” “Raisin Pecan Bread,” “Kouign Amann,” “Dark Chocolate Cake,” and all manner of pie crusts and fillings to mix and match.

The base of these bars is a shortbread cookie dough. The bar cookies can be made in either one large pan or two smaller ones. No matter which you choose, you may be anxious that the amount of dough doesn’t look adequate enough to cover the bottom of the pan(s). But just keep pressing it thinner and thinner to fit, and it will all be fine.

I baked mine in one 9-by-13-inch pan.
I baked mine in one 9-by-13-inch pan.

Partially pre-bake this layer before adding the sticky caramel-like topping made by heating butter, sugar, cream and honey on the stovetop before stirring in sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and a pinch of flour.

You’ll want to spread the topping evenly over the crust as quickly as you can before it starts to solidify. But don’t fret if you can’t cover every little spot, as the heat of the oven will rewarm the caramel and send it pooling into any bare crevices.

Serve with coffee or tea. Or alongside a scoop of ice cream.
Serve with coffee or tea. Or alongside a scoop of ice cream.

These are very slender bar cookies that offer up a lot of texture and flavor. The shortbread crust is buttery, crisp, and tender, forming the foundation for a chewy, sweet filling that gets balanced by the tartness of cranberries and gains extra depth from the floral notes of the honey.

Go to town with all that cranberry sauce with your turkey. But be sure to save room for this other sublime cranberry treat afterward.

They’re quite thin, but really pack a lot of sweet goodness.

Florentine Bars

(Yields one 9-by-13-inch pan or two 8-inch square pans)

For crust:

113 grams (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk

150 grams (1 1/4 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour

For topping:

42 grams (2 tablespoons) honey

42 grams (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter

132 grams (2/3 cup) granulated sugar

119 grams (1/2 cup) heavy cream

108 grams (1 1/4 cups) sliced almonds

57 grams (1/2 cup) dried cranberries

8 grams (1 tablespoon) unbleached, all-purpose flour

To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a 9-by-13-inch pan or two 8-inch square pans.

Combine the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth.

Beat in the egg yolk

Add the flour and stir until a soft, cohesive dough forms.

Press the dough in an even layer in the prepared pan(s).

Prick (dock) the bottom of the crust with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking.

Bake the crust about 10 to 12 minutes, until it’s set and starting to take on color.

Remove the crust from the oven and set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

To make the topping: Bring the honey, butter, sugar, and cream to a boil in a small (1- to 2-quart) heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, until lightly golden brown (it should read about 240 degrees on a digital thermometer).

Remove the topping from the heat, then quickly stir in the almonds, cranberries, and flour.

Using a silicone spatula, evenly spread the topping over the partially baked crust.

Bake the bars until the nuts are toasted and the topping is bubbling, about 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting into squares or rectangles.

Adapted from “Baking School” by the King Arthur Baking Company

More King Arthur Baking Recipes to Enjoy: Triple Play Peanut Butter Cookies

And: Espresso Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies (the Chewy Version)

And: The Essential Crunchy Oatmeal Cookie (With or Without Dried Mulberries)

And: Scandinavian Gold Cake

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