Even though it is September and the weather has gotten a teensy-tiny bit cooler, I am not quite ready to fully embrace fall just yet. After all, I live in Houston and it will be at least another month before the weather will really start to feel like fall. However, I am willing to ease into the new season, in part, thanks to my totally awesome husband. He had heard that the Pumpkin Spice Latte was back at Starbuck’s and knowing that I wait all year for the PSL to return, he surprised me with one earlier this week. You know a guy really loves you when he is not only willing to order the most frou-frou drink (a grande non-fat pumpkin spice latte with no whip) and nothing else but also willingly walks up to claim said drink when the barista at the bar calls “I have a non-fat pumpkin spice latte with no whip for R-” Now, that’s love.
So, the pumpkin spice latte got me thinking of fall and reminded me that I have been waiting a long time to share this recipe for cranberry orange crumb bars with you.
You see last November, my husband and I had a small communication error. We each saw fresh cranberries at the grocery store and we each bought enough to make our traditional cranberry jelly and cranberry bread. We also each bought a couple of extra bags. Correction – SEVERAL extra bags. So even after making a double batch of cranberry jelly for Thanksgiving and a couple dozen loaves of cranberry bread, we still ended up with over 6 pounds of extra cranberries. Fortunately, cranberries freeze really well.
I found a great recipe for cranberry orange hand pies which were quite good (and that I will share later) but required a fair amount of time to assemble. I wanted to find a way to enjoy the sweet-tart cranberry orange filling without having to go through all the work. The solution came in the form of these crumb bars. The crust and the crumb topping come from the same dough. And the dough can be made in the food processor.
Really, the only problem was that I discovered these cranberry orange crumb bars back in February when I was trying to use up the extra cranberries in my freezer. I realized that not everyone has a few extra pounds of cranberries stashed away so I have been waiting patiently until the appropriate time to share these. It is probably still a little bit early to get cranberries in the stores. However, they will be showing up soon and now you will be ready.
- 1 pound fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries (about 4 cups)
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 2 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- ½ teaspoon instant tapioca (not starch)
- ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Zest of one small orange
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch cubes
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Stir the cranberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and tapioca together in a medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Cook cranberry mixture over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer and begins to thicken and about half the cranberries have burst, 6-8 minutes. Remove and discard the vanilla bean pods. Let filling cool completely before proceeding.
- Cranberry filling can be made up to 5 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled until ready to use.
- In a food processor, pulse together sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and orange zest until combined. Add the butter and egg and pulse until the dough resembles coarse crumbs.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. Pat half of the crumb mixture into the prepared pan to make the crust.
- Spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough evenly over the cranberry layer.
- Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.
In place of the half vanilla bean, you can use ½ tablespoon vanilla bean paste. Once we discovered vanilla bean paste, we found it a much more economical way to enjoy the benefits of vanilla beans. It is available at restaurant supply stores and on Amazon.com.
Recipe for cranberry filling from Bon Appétit, November 2012.
Recipe for crust and crumb topping from Smitten Kitchen.