Cranberry Turtle Bars

And the Oscar goes to…

Cranberry Turtle Bars!

If the Oscars had a “Cult Favorite” category, these Cranberry Turtle Bars would definitely take the award!  Since Gourmet Magazine originally published this recipe back in 2001, these beautiful little bars have gained a cult-like following.  They were voted “THE” favorite cookie from 2001! (see The Gourmet Cookie Book-The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009)  Fresh cranberries mixed into a freshly made caramel along with chopped pecans and layered on top of a delicious buttery shortbread crust.  If that isn’t enough, the whole thing is drizzled with chocolate to make it a decadent,  unexpectedly delicious combination of flavors.  They are beautiful and pretty freaking AMAZING!

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Drizzle with chocolate, cool, then cut into bars

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Cranberry Turtle Bar

Cranberry Turtle Bars

Makes 3 dozen bars (more for me, because I cut into smaller bars)

Slightly adapted from “The Gourmet Cookie Book-The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009

Ingredients For Base:

  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ Cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks (¾ Cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

For Topping:

  • 2 sticks (1 Cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 ⅔ Cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ Cup light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ Cup fresh or frozen cranberries (I used fresh and chopped in food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Cups pecans (12 oz), coarsely chopped

For Decoration:

  • 2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), very finely chopped

Special Equipment:

  • A candy thermometer

 Make Base:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the 2 short sides.  Butter all 4 sides, but not the bottom.

Blend flour, brown sugar and salt in a food processor, then add butter and pulse until mixture begins to form small (roughly pea-size) lumps.  Sprinkle into baking pan, then press down firmly all over with a metal spatula to form an even layer.  Bake in middle of oven until golden and firm to the touch, 15 to 17 minutes, then cool in pan on a rack.

Make Topping:

Melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in sugar, corn syrup and salt.  Boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel registers 245°F on thermometer, about 8 minutes.  Carefully stir in cranberries, then boil until caramel returns to 245°F.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, then stir in pecans until well coated.  Working quickly, spread caramel topping over base, using a fork to distribute nuts and berries evenly.  Cool completely.

Cut and Decorate Bars:

Lift bars in foil from pan and transfer to a cutting board.  Cut into 6 crosswise strips, then 6 lengthwise strips (to form 36 bars).  Melt half of chocolate in top of double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth.  Remove bowl from heat and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth.  Transfer chocolate to a small heavy-duty sealable plastic bag. Seal bag and snip off a tiny piece of 1 corner to form a small hole, then pipe chocolate decoratively over bars. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate sets, about 1 hour.

Liz’s Tidbits:

  • The original recipe notes that if you use frozen cranberries, do not thaw.
  • Once you add the cranberries to the caramel, the temperature will drop substantially.  Make sure you bring the temp back up to 245° before taking off the heat.
  • Use a small offset metal spatula to spread the cranberry mixture.
  • Rather than cutting them first, decorate the bars and let the chocolate set before cutting.
  • The bars keep in an airtight container (use wax paper between the layers) for up to 1 week.
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