Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices

Remember food blogs? The early days? When things weren’t so highly produced and full of weathered wood, mismatched antique flatware, and book deals? It was way back then that someone sent me a link to a site called Smitten Kitchen. Like many of you, I was immediately charmed by the writing and wit of Deb Perelman. She managed to express the same obsessiveness about cooking that I felt, but always kept it good humored. Without Deb (and Luisa, Heidi and Molly!), there would be no Lottie + Doof. She showed us all how it was done.

Last month the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook was published, and it is every bit as charming as Deb’s blog. It is full of recipes you want to make, and stories you want to hear. It reads like Smitten Kitchen. I always start in the back of a cookbook and work forward. I can tell a lot about a book by the desserts. If these cranberry bars are any indication, the book is a huge success. They are easy to prepare and totally delicious, the things we’ve come to expect from Deb. They are best in the first 24 hours, they really soften up as they sit and I liked the initial crunch—but they’ll keep for a few days. If you don’t think you’ll eat this many bars quickly, try cutting the recipe in half and baking them in an 8 x 8-inch pan.

You guys! It is almost Thanksgiving. How can it be Thanksgiving? I hope your menu planning is going well.

Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices (from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)


  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, plus more at room temperature for the pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 large egg


  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, and butter the sides and the parchment. In a large, widish bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and spices. With a pastry blender or fork, work the chilled butter  and the egg into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Pat half the crumb base into the bottom of your prepared pan; it will be thin.

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, briefly pulse the filling ingredients until the berries are coarsely chopped but not pureed. Spread the filling over the crumb base. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs evenly over the cranberry mixture.

Bake cookies for 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

36 comments to “Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices”

  1. These sound positively lovely!

  2. Oh my, I love the combo! I want to try this out later this week. Any other flavours?

  3. I have tabbed so many things in this book and I’ve already made quite a few delicious recipes from it! I actually watched her make these bars at her Los Angeles book signing – totally delicious!

  4. These look delicious! I started with the first recipe in her book, which I guess will take you a little time to get to. But I’ll just tell you that you’re in for a treat with those peach and sour cream pancakes.

  5. Oh, I think I could eat a lot of those pretty quickly.

  6. yep. that looks insanely good. and definitely happening in my kitchen.

  7. she’s having a book signing in chicago on sunday! at the book cellar in lincoln square, right? but you probably already knew that…

  8. You’re right, Maddie! As part of her nation-wide tour, Deb will be in the Chicago area next week. Go meet her, Chicagoans!

  9. Deb’s book is on my Christmas list. Hope I was good. The crumb bars look outstanding.

  10. Leslie Duffy says:

    November 14th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Hi Tim! I love your blog and have been following since we saw you in Cape Breton. Cranberries are one of my all time favourites and I can’t wait to make these! Hope all is well & keep the recipes (& your fabulous photos) coming!

  11. Tim! If you ever get a chance, try out my Austrian shortbread bars, with port-cranberry jam. Also, it’s amazing for Thanksgiving cranberry sauce.

  12. I do love the Smitten Kitchen blog and this recipe couldn’t be more perfect for this time of year. Love the use of spices in particular. So festive!

  13. Aw, Leslie, it is so nice to hear from you! Thanks for following along! xoxo

  14. Ah Deb, Luisa, Heidi and Molly… the greats! Haha, and I liked the comment about referring to the days before blogs were defined by weathered wood and antique flatware. Le sigh. Anyway, Deb’s book looks great, and the quality of her recipes are always spot on. Can’t wait to finally get my own copy of this book, but thanks for sharing part of it in the meantime!

  15. Can’t go wrong with fresh cranberries and mulling spices; sounds delightful. Can’t get enough of them…here and gone in no time it seems. I think I’ll be making these for company arriving on turkey eve. Happy Thanksgiving!

  16. Yay! Just bought extra cranberries today and was contemplating what to do with them. (They were local-ish from Maine and looked so pretty in the wood crate that I had to buy more than I needed for Thanksgiving). Thank you, useful blog man! PS: weathered wood, mismatched antique flatware = hilarious. (Even though I do love both of those things. See: Pinterest boards).

  17. omgeeee! I think this is the perfect thing to make and bring with me on the plane to my in-laws’ house for Thanksgiving!

    In other news, speaking of highly produced food blogs, is that Tupperware I see in that first photo? I didn’t know plastic existed in food-blogger land! Shouldn’t your bars be wrapped in kraft paper, tied with twine, resting in a handmade earthenware vessel?

  18. LOLZ, Mary Anne. xo

  19. I’ve been eyeing this recipe in the book! Can’t wait to try it!

  20. OMG, it IS only a week until Thanksgiving! Must get it together. :) These bars look so amazing–I think I must officially put it on my holiday wishlist!

  21. My two fave cooking blogs converge! I can’t wait to see her at the Book Cellar.

  22. I cooked these up last night to mixed review. My daughter and I loved them–they are perfect with a cup of hot tea, but my husband thought they were not sweet enough. I would definitely make these again but maybe drizzle a confectioner’s icing on top to satisfy the sweet tooth in the group.

  23. Dear Tim,
    What kind of pies are you making for Thanksgiving(I’m assuming you are baking) I’m so curious.

  24. Hi Laura! Thanks for asking. I am a non-traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. I’m not sure if I’ve ever baked a pie for Thanksgiving. I’m cooking the whole meal, it is going to be Spanish-themed (no turkey!) and I still have not figured out dessert. I was considering ice cream, but haven’t decided yet. I’ll let you know! One of these years my non-traditional self is probably going to want to make a traditional thanksgiving dinner to be different. Ha.

  25. That sounds great even if I’m kind of a traditionalist. Have you ever made Indian Pudding(popular in New England)-so warming and comforting with a scoop of ice cream. I’m definitely making a brown butter pear tart from Suzanne Goin(so good), considering a cranberry eggnog tart from Gourmet(but I was eyeballing your cran pie recipes…) etc. Do keep me in the loop.

  26. Made a 1/2 batch tonight. Nice level of spice – distinct yet subtle enough to taste the butter. Kudos for leaving the cranberries tart.

    I usually try a small piece of something I bake and move on to the next recipe, leaving family and friends to finish it off. Not so with these. I found myself cutting off little cubes all night for just one more bite. Finally had to put them in a container.

  27. These sound delightful. I am a huge fan of crumb bars but sometimes find the ones made with raspberry jam too sweet. Can’t wait to try them :)

  28. So, what did you guys eat? And for dessert? I have to say, I am thankful for Lottie and Doof, I am an avid recipe blog reader and I honestly think you are now my favorite. I always follow Smitten Kitchen/101Cookbooks which I love but your recipes and your writing is my number one as of late. Happy holidays to you nd yours.

  29. I don’t really have a sweet tooth but the fact that these bars have mulling spices in them really appeals. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice….that won me over. They look delicious.

  30. I am a huge fan of both Lottie and Doof and Smitten Kitchen. As a fellow blogger, I love well written and delicious advice! Keep up the great work and cooking.

  31. Made these today and they’re delicious! Very fresh and delicious, and nicely tart. My husband thought they were a little TOO tart, but I loved them. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  32. This looks awesome… One question, though: For the filling, any suggestions for something I could use in lieu of the orange zest and orange juice, or could I just skip it altogether without sacrificing too much flavor or making them too tart?

    I’m sure I’d love it as is, but my husband has a sensitivity to citrus, particularly oranges.

  33. Hey Matt- Hmmm. I’m not sure. The brightness of the citrus seems pretty important to me. What do you normally sub for citrus? I am guessing you might have better ideas than I do. You can certainly try without (and sub water for juice). Good luck!

  34. Heh… I’m not much of a cook (but I’m trying), so normally I either a) skip recipes that seem like they NEED orange zest/juice/anything, or b) just leave it out altogether and hope for the best… Lemon doesn’t seem to affect him as badly, so maybe lemon zest and water (in lieu of lemon juice)?

  35. Hey Matt- give it a try! Maybe do a half-sized pan of these to see how it goes? I bet you could also make them with port, or another kind of booze. (and skip zest). Good luck!

  36. Okay, I’m late to this post. First time blog viewer. But wow, these look like the former Cranberry Oat Bars that Starbucks once sold. They only have the Cranberry Bliss bars now, which are just too sweet. I’m trying these this weekend.

What do you think?