During the holidays, cranberries do their dinner duty alongside turkey as a tart, wobbly sauce, but these cranberry shortbread bars will take center stage at the dessert table. First, bake a buttery shortbread crust, then top it with a sweet-tart mixture of orange zest and cranberries. Sprinkle almond streusel over the cranberry mixture and bake until bubbly and golden brown.
- 1Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Cut an 8-by-16-inch piece of parchment paper. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with the piece of parchment so that the 2 long ends hang over the edges. Be sure to fit the parchment as smoothly as possible into the dish, snugly pressing it into the corners; set the pan aside.
- 2Place the measured flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse briefly to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse to break up the butter, about 10 (1-second) pulses. Process until large clumps of dough form, about 30 to 45 seconds.
- 3Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and, using the base of a measuring cup or a glass, press it evenly into the pan (dip the cup or glass in flour if it starts to stick to the dough). Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake until the crust is fully set and just starting to brown on the edges, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, make the streusel and filling.
For the streusel:
- 1Whisk the flour, sugars, and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Add the butter and, using your fingers, squeeze the flour mixture and butter together until they form large clumps and all of the flour is totally incorporated into the butter, about 5 minutes. (Make sure there are no dusty bits at the bottom of the bowl.) Add the almonds and use your fingers to evenly incorporate.
- 2Break the large clumps into irregularly shaped pieces about the size of kidney beans. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
For the filling:
- 1Place the cranberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the cranberries are starting to fall apart and the liquid has become thick and syrupy, about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the zest.
- 1When the shortbread is done, remove the pan to a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
- 2Pour the filling over the hot shortbread and spread it into an even layer. Evenly sprinkle the streusel over the top and gently press it into the filling. Bake until the filling is bubbling and the streusel is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool for 30 minutes.
- 3To remove the slab and cut it into bars, run a paring knife along the 2 exposed edges of the pan. Grip the parchment hanging over the edges, pull the slab out of the pan, and transfer it to a cutting board. Let it cool completely, about 30 minutes more. Remove and discard the parchment. Cut the slab into 32 (2-by-1-inch) rectangles.