Cranberry Bliss Bars
As soon as the temperature drops and winter sets in, I go on peppermint mocha and cranberry bliss bar binges at Starbucks. They're both my guilty pleasures. A few years ago, I thought it would be fun to make cranberry bliss bars at home, but the recipe I tried yielded results that were nothing like the soft, chewy bars I was used to. The bars I got were cake-like and overpowered by ground ginger.
Recently, I noticed some new recipes for cranberry bliss bars, and people who had made them compared them with the Starbucks ones, so I thought maybe it was time to try out a new recipe and keep my fingers crossed for better results.
I found this recipe on Sweetly Serendipity where it was adapted from Recipe Girl. I reviewed both recipes and then put a teensy spin of my own on the bars.
I was pretty pleased with the way these came out. The blondie base is dense and chewy, has a nice buttery flavor deepened by brown sugar, and is studded with white chocolate and dried cranberries. The mild cream cheese frosting adds a hint of sweetness and the dried cranberries on top add a touch of color. Because I had a ton of ginger mini chips (little bits of candied ginger) in the pantry, I thought it would be fun to throw some of those on top as well, for a small hit of ginger (unlike those first bars I made) and a little more decor. A drizzle of white chocolate is the perfect finish for these bars.
It's amazing that I even like cranberry bliss bars as much as I do because I don't love white chocolate. Somehow, though, the white chocolate is balanced by the tart cranberries and buttery blondies and just works here. I toyed with the idea of using bittersweet chocolate instead, but I truly think the white chocolate is just right -- just make sure you use good-quality white chocolate.
Cranberry Bliss Bars (adapted from Sweetly Serendipity and Recipe Girl)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces white chocolate chips (preferably Ghirardelli)
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
6 ounces white chocolate (chips or bars), melted
1 tablespoon ginger mini chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with foil and spray with nonstick baking spray.
To make the blondies: In a medium bowl, melt butter in microwave for 1 minute. Stir in brown sugar. Scrape the butter and sugar mixture into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, and let cool to room temperature.
While the butter and sugar mixture cools, in a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
Once butter and sugar mixture is cool, beat in eggs and vanilla on medium speed.
Gradually add in the flour mixture on low speed, scraping bowl as necessary.
Add in cranberries and white chocolate chips on low speed, just until distributed.
Spread batter in prepared pan.
Bake for 18 to 21 minutes, or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting: In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until well blended. Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate, and beat until blended.
Using an offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly over the blondies.
Sprinkle with ginger mini chips and cranberries.
Drizzle remaining white chocolate over the bars.
Store in refrigerator, covered. About an hour before serving, lift bars out of pan using foil and place them on a cutting board. Cut the bars into small squares or triangles, whichever you prefer, and serve. The bars are best at room temperature.
What treats have you re-created at home?