Dried cranberries are a go-to ingredient when we want to add tartness or chew to a cookie, but we don’t use fresh cranberries often enough. That might be because fresh cranberries require a bit of work, and on their own they’re a bit too sour. And like other fresh fruit, they’re full of moisture. But when treated properly, they give desserts a vibrant pop of flavor. We decided to pair bright cranberries with sweet, nutty oats in a rustic, chewy bar cookie. Precooking the cranberries with a bit of sugar easily solved our fresh cranberry woes: The sugar tempered the sourness, and the cooking process thickened the cranberries’ juices so they didn’t leave wet pockets throughout the bars. Rich, buttery pecans contributed a crunchy element to the topping. We like using fresh cranberries, but you can use frozen. We prefer the flavor and chewiness of old-fashioned rolled oats, but quick oats can be substituted to yield softer, cakier bars. Do not use instant oats.
- Yield: 24 bars
- 8 ounces (2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
- ½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 cups (6 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1½ cups (7½ ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1½ cups packed (10½ ounces) light brown sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- ¾ cup pecans, chopped
- Bring cranberries, granulated sugar, and water to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until cranberries have burst and juice has started to thicken, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Make foil sling for 13 by 9-inch baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil; first sheet should be 13 inches wide and second sheet should be 9 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan. Grease foil.
- Whisk oats, flour, cinnamon, and salt together in bowl. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and beat until combined, scraping down bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low, add oat mixture, and mix until just combined. Transfer two-thirds of dough to prepared pan and press firmly into even layer. Spread evenly with cranberry mixture. Mix pecans into remaining dough and sprinkle walnut-size pieces over cranberry layer.
- Bake until top is golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let bars cool in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours. Using foil overhang, lift bars from pan. Cut into 24 pieces before serving.