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.