Cranberry Bliss Bars

Peppermint is my go-to holiday flavor, but the combination of cranberries and white chocolate is a very, very close second. I adore white chocolate, and something about the way its sweetness pairs with the tart cranberries is completely irresistible. With its festive red and white color scheme, this pair was pretty much made for the holiday baking season! I’ve loaded up on both, and can guarantee you they will be prominently featured in my kitchen over the next few weeks.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

As for these cranberry bliss bars – they were part of a last-minute baking spree last holiday season, and they ended up being one of my favorite things I made. Another recipe I’ve been holding in the archives for a year hoping I wouldn’t forget to tell you about!

I hear Starbucks sells a similar version of this treat, but have never tried it. I don’t drink coffee so up until about a month ago I’d never even had a drink at Starbucks, nevermind one of the baked goods. However, on the first really cold day we had here, I randomly decided I needed a hot beverage, stopped into Starbucks, and ordered a white hot chocolate. And now it’s a full-blown obsession! It doesn’t help that there’s a Starbucks in every single Target around here and I can’t seem to stay out of that store. I know I’m not the only one who goes in there to buy one or two things and somehow comes out with 3 bags every time…

Cranberry Bliss Bars

But anyway, I digress. It’s Friday, can you tell I’m having trouble focusing? 🙂

Let’s talk cranberry bliss bars. The base is a chewy brown sugar blondie studded with dried cranberries and chunks of white chocolate. Spread over the top is a white chocolate cream cheese frosting, and for good measure more cranberries are sprinkled over the bars before a drizzle of white chocolate adds the finishing touch. They’re so pretty I almost didn’t want to eat them! These cranberry bliss bars are the perfect addition to any holiday spread. I really like to switch up the treats I make from one holiday season to the next, but I’m pretty sure these will be a fixture at my house every year!

Cranberry Bliss Bars
adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything (originally from Taste of Home)

{Note: this recipe can be halved and baked in an 8×8-inch baking pan. A little bit of orange zest would be nice in the frosting, but I didn’t have any on hand when I made these.}

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries
6 oz white chocolate, coarsely chopped

6 oz white chocolate
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the butter to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted. Whisk in the brown sugar until completely incorporated. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

When cool, whisk in the eggs until well combined then add the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing just until combined (the batter will be thick). Mix in the cranberries and white chocolate.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and press into an even layer. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the bars cool completely.

To make the frosting: Add the white chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 30-second bursts at 50% power, stirring in between each, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Add the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed until well combined. Beat in half of the cooled white chocolate (don’t worry about being precise, just approximate half) until incorporated.

Spread the frosting in an even layer over the bars using an offset spatula. Sprinkle the chopped cranberries over the frosting and then drizzle the bars with the remaining white chocolate (if it’s too cool/thick you can microwave briefly). Allow the frosting to set (you can put the bars in the fridge to speed this up if you want). Cut into squares or triangles for serving.

Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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