Sunday, January 09, 2011


I am not a baker. If you have read much of this blog, you have seem me lament several times about how I really don't have the patience for the precision that baking usually requires. I don't like to measure...and quite honestly, seldom do when I am making any non-baking recipe. Eyeballing ingredient amounts with shakes, pinches, splashes, and palm fulls works perfectly well for making soups, side dishes, and sauces. Who wants to dirty a measuring cup or spoon if you don't have to? Certainly not me. I don't like to wash dishes any more than...well, I guess any more than I like to bake. Therefore, I was quite shocked to read in my father-in-law's Christmas letter about how I have been spoiling the guys at the farm with desserts. Spoiling? Really? Me? I. Don't. Bake....Unless I have to.

Maybe I have recently chained myself to the oven baked more, but it still holds no charm for me. I bake because dessert is expected after a meal at the farm. I guess it is one of my small contributions to our livelihood (which is what the farm is: our business; our livelihood). After my mother-in-law's passing, I was preparing casseroles and other food each night to be served at the farm the following day for lunch. But casseroles just aren't one of my Hubs favorite things. He likes to cook, and it was determined that he would prepare fresh lunches at the farm each day (with a few casseroles supplementing the busy times). I mean, really, who could blame him? Who wants warmed up tater-tot crap hotdish when you could have fresh smoked chicken with fried potatoes and gravy? And, as Hubs brandishes his cooking skills for lunch, I make dessert. I bake. *sigh*

So...there was a bowl of apples on my kitchen counter begging to be used before they withered and rotted into messy little nothings. And...I baked. Cranberry-Apple Bars will go to the farm, and I held off sampling them until I dug in for a photo, but it was difficult. I may not like to bake, but I *do* like to eat...especially desserts. The Granny Smith apples were crisp and delicious. Combined with the tartness of homemade cranberry sauce, the filling balances well with the subtly sweet pastry. Knowing the sweet-tooth of the guys at the farm, I added a drizzle of powdered sugar icing over the bars. I guess maybe baking isn't so bad if I can have a sample of Cranberry-Apple Bars On My Plate.

Cranberry Sauce
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 - 3/4 cup white wine (I used Pinot Grigio, but Reisling or White Zin might be good, too.)
1½ cups cranberries
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Apple Filling
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
5 cups sliced, peeled Granny Smith apples

Sweet Pastry
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg, beaten

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk (or cream)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare cranberry sauce, dissolve sugar in wine in a small saucepan. 
Add fresh cranberries and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and let simmer together until sauce starts to thicken.
Add dried cranberries and continue cooking until jam-like in consistency. 
Set aside. (Can do this a day in advance, if you like...I that case don't preheat oven right away...LOL.)
To prepare apple-cranberry filling, peel apples and slice thinly. 
Combine with the flour, sugar, cinnamon. 
Stir until well-coated.
Add the cooled cranberry sauce. 
Set aside while preparing crust.
To prepare crust, mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. 
Cut in butter to form pea-sized crumbles. (Use a pastry blender, or be lazy like me and use the stand mixer.)
Gently mix in beaten egg.
Butter a 9x13 baking dish.
Gently pat about 2/3 of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the dish. 
Spread cranberry-apple mixture out on prepared crust. 
Crumble pieces of reserved crust mixture over the top (as for a cobbler).
Bake for 50-55 minutes at 350 degrees or until crust is slightly golden on top.
Allow to cool.
While bars are cooling, prepared the icing by combining powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of the milk or cream. 
Whisk in extra milk as needed to achieve the proper drizzling consistency. 
Drizzle icing over the bars.
(Best served slightly warmed.)

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