I use a lot of cranberry and orange throughout the holiday season, starting in November and going all the way into the new year. Part of the reason is that fresh cranberries are readily available this time of year, and while you can always rely on frozen, I feel a lot more motivated to use the fresh ones when they’re in my kitchen. The other reason is that oranges and cranberries are a fantastic combination no matter how you use them – and I’ll use them in all kinds of baked goods. My Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Bars are a particular favorite this time of year, combining cranberries and orange with buttery oatmeal cookie dough for a bar cookie that everyone will love.
The same oatmeal cookie dough makes up the crust and topping for these bars. The dough is flavored with vanilla extract, orange zest and ground ginger, and you can clearly taste all three elements in the finished bars, along with a deliciously nutty flavor from the oatmeal. A portion of the dough is packed down in a baking dish to form the crust, then it is spread with cranberry sauce and the remaining cookie dough is sprinkled on top, forming an almost streusel-like layer. The finished bars have a lovely combination of textures and flavors – all in a package that is very easy to slice up and share.
I tend to cut these bars into relatively small squares that are about the size of an average cookie. They’re not crumbly, so they can easily be picked up an eaten as finger food. As an alternative, you can also cut them into larger squares and serve them warm alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which transforms the bars into a dinner party dessert that is reminiscent of a fruit cobbler.
Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Bars
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp orange zest
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 cups quick cooking oatmeal (not instant)
12 oz chunky/whole berry cranberry sauce (approx 1 jar)
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch pan with aluminum foil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg, vanilla extract, orange zest and ginger. Stir in flour mixture, followed by oatmeal. Dough will be somewhat crumbly.
Take two cups (about 2/3) of the dough and crumble it over the bottom of your prepared pan. Press it into a thin, even layer at the bottom of the pan. Use a little extra, as needed, to patch any holes.
Spread cranberry sauce into an even layer on top of the base. Crumble remaining dough with your fingertips and sprinkle evenly over the cranberry layer.
Bake for 34-38 minutes, until bars are lightly browned and filling is bubbling.
Allow to cool completely in the pan, then cut into bars.
Makes 36 bars.