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!
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
- 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
- 2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), very finely chopped
- A candy thermometer
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.
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.
- 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.