Last week I wanted to bake something for my friend’s 40th birthday. I didn’t want to go the chocolate route since I knew she’d probably get a ton of chocolates as gifts. She, like me, loves the sour so I knew that these cranberry lemon squares were the way to go. Plus, they looked quite pretty packaged into the mint green vintage tin I had picked up from the thrift store!
I rarely make squares because I always think they’ve got too many steps – base + a filling and then put it together? I know, I’m a total wuss. The thing is, these squares are a cinch to prepare. The shortbread base is quite simple and made even more so using the food processor that my dad bought me for Christmas (yes, it’s my very first food processor – not counting the one Cornelius bought me for my birthday years ago and I made him return because I didn’t want the hassle). But don’t worry if your processor-less – it’s pretty easy to do without.
These are versatile squares too. If you don’t have cranberries, I think these would as good with frozen blueberries, raspberries or cherries. Chopped nectarines and peaches would also be wonderful come summertime. Orange zest would provide a different zing.
The sweetness in the filling can most certainly be upped – but I really liked the tart filling as it was. Even my husband who has more of a sweet tooth couldn’t get enough. In fact, once I had my friend’s tin packaged up, my husband happily ate the leftovers, saving me just one small square. Oh well, I can’t bemoan a loved square.
elsewhere: Looking for a wholesome pancake brunch? Check out my 10 grain pancakes over at Poppytalk. And remember those awesome biscuits I made a while back – I learn more about the mystery ingredient cream of tartar. Find out more at ReadyMade!
cranberry lemon squares
(adapted from Kitchen Culinaire)
3 c flour
1 t baking powder
1 c white sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
zest of 1 large lemon
8 ounces cold butter, cubed
1 large egg
1 t vanilla
2 T – 1/4 c of cold water
2 1/2 c frozen cranberries
1/2 c + 2 T white sugar
juice from 1 large lemon
2 T corn starch
Preheat oven to 375F. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest. Add the butter and use your hands or a food processor to crumble the dough into small pieces. Move crumbles to a mixer and add in the egg and vanilla. Stir to combine, adding in water 1 tablespoon at a time – I only used 2 spoonfuls, but use up to 1/4 cup to help your dough come together. Press half of the dough into a buttered 9×13″ pan and set aside the remaining dough for the topping.
In a medium bowl, mix the filling ingredients until combined. Top with the cranberry filling and crumble the remaining dough over top . Bake for 35 minutes or until the top and sides are golden. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting into bars. Makes 20-24 bars.
can we please make these magically appear for my brekkie tomorrow? how can we make this happen? 😉
This look mighty delicious!!! I love your recipes.
Absolutely amazing recipe this is!!Wish I could grab a bite!;)
I’ve been getting more into sour lately and, thankfully, I still have some cranberries in my freezer that desperately want to be made into these bars! Fate? I think yes.
Oh what a beautiful sight! Something to remind me of Spring! We got a big dump of snow last night, boo! I love lemon curd squares and have been making them as house warming gifts for friends but I’ve never tried them with cranberries and lemon. I’m looking forward to making these one day and keeping them for myself 🙂
These squares look so pretty! And I love the vintage tin. There’s something about goodies wrapped in wax paper that warms my heart.
What a beautiful dessert. I’d never think to pair two such tart foods, but it sounds like they worked wonderfully together. Thanks for sharing!
These look amazing! I really want to make them, but can’t find frozen cranberries :(. I spent an hour checking some local stores. I may have to try a substitute until then…
Ha, vanillasugar! They are good for breakfast, for sure.
Thanks so much, Janis!
Wit, they are tasty!
Bijoux, I’ve never made lemon squares so this is the next best thing! Enjoy.
Renee, I love these squares and yes, they were perfectly pretty to package up in a tin.
Rivki, it worked out really well together.
Heather, I always buy up cranberries after Christmas and thanksgiving when a pack is on sale for 50 cents! This was my last package – boo! But you can easily sub in blueberries if you like!
Thanks for the tips! I love your blog by the way. Those cranberry/meyer lemon muffins are my go-to recipe in using up my Meyer Lemons from my tree. I also love that chocolate beer cake recipe. Mmmmm!
That’s funny that you think squares are fussier than cookies. I do bar cookies when I’m too lazy to scoop out the dough. These look beautiful! Perfect choice for a birthday gift!
Congratulations on your new food processor! Sometimes I think I couldn’t be an inventive cook without one, because of how annoying it’d be to grate anything, make a pie crust or purée sauces. Glad it helped you get over your worries about bars, though—they’re certainly a lot less fussy when you’ve got kitchen technology to help out!
lemon + cranberry + buttery crumbles = my kind of treats! can’t wait to try these 🙂
That tin is darling. And I am such a fan of sour paired with sweet. Lucky friend!
What a lovely gift! I am a cranberry freak…can’t wait to try these..
I can’t even tell you how excited I am right now…jumping up and down at my desk!!! Love love love these! The bakery down the street makes something similar but I’ve never tried to replicate them and then bam! Here you are with this great recipe 🙂 Woooh! Thanks, I’m off to go bake NOW!
Your recipe is fantastic and love the photos. Very nice post. Our family will definitely try your recipe. Thank you for sharing.
wooooooo…. yummy. must try. I have you on my blogroll….please check me out to see if you like it and let me know. Thanks
I love these!! I’ve made a similar version for years – great with blueberries, blackberries – and chopped rhubarb is very similar to cranberries in colour and tang. Love your to-go container!
Heather, glad to help out!
Haha, Lynn – I totally think squares are fussier! Funny. I guess I have had more cookie practice in my life – I’m new to bars so maybe I just have to bake more 🙂
Thanks Maddie. I’m certainly warming up to the lil’ guy! I need to find new things to process. Pie dough for one!
Sosser, I hope you do! They are really delicious.
Thanks Kimberley – I love the tin too. It made for a perfect gift!
Rocky MW, thank you! I hope you give them a go.
Eva, I’m so glad I could get you hopping and jumping! Try them, I’m sure you’ll love them too. Let me know how they turn out.
Thanks so much GCG!
Julie, yes, I think they’d be fab with other fruits.
Oh, yum. I love tart desserts.
Thanks Rachel, me too!
I wish that larabar made cranberry lemon flavored products (sorry if it’s blasphemy to bring up packaged goods after you just baked these!). These squares look so delicious!
Wonderful dessert! I made them with frozen raspberries instead of cranberries (rolled the raspberries around a bit while frozen to break them up a little), and they turned out fantastic. Need to try it with blueberries next. I’ll get to cranberries eventually 🙂 Thanks!!
made these this morning. delish!
These were excellent–absolutely delicious, and pretty too! Thanks for another great recipe!
You leave the cranberries whole, rather than chopping them up?
Katherine, you could always make your own larabar-like bar 🙂
Ryan, glad you enjoyed these with raspberries!
Yum, so glad Mary Beth.
Hilary, yay, I’m so happy you made these and they turned out well.
NBM, yes, they are left whole – no need to chop since they deflate and become jam-like on their own.
Oh, these look delicious!
Funnily enough, I made cranberry-cherry lemon squares last weekend! Perhaps it was something in the air, or maybe we needed something perky and sunshiny to contrast with the cloudy skies?
those look delicious!! Bring on spring
I was so excited when this recipe popped up on my google reader! I make a version of this called scrumptious layer bars where the crumble is the same (minus lemon zest) but then I do a chocolate cream cheese mixture for the center! They are a favorite but these are super delicious! The taste is a mixture of lemon squares and berry pie, which is wonderful in my book! These are a keeper for sure!! Thanks so much for sharing!
I made these with frozen peaches which I chopped smaller and frozen dark cherries that I cut into quarters becaus I could not find any frozen cranberries. I baked them for a birthday treat. They were a hit! Thanks! I do need to find cranberries to try that as I love cranberries! I also added a 1/4 teaspoon of lemon extract into the dough.
hey there! these look delicious~
i have a half a jar of lemon curd in the fridge – how do you think i could use it in this recipe?
I too am a fan of the sour, and this looks amazing. I love, I mean love, lemon squares; yes, the simple and over-done lemon square. Bars or squares are actually less work in my mind, since there’s no scooping and placing on sheets and then repeat, repeat. Squares: the perfect little dessert.
Kate, I’m sure it has to do with the weather! Brightness in all areas is a welcome change 🙂
Hillary, that sounds really great! I love the idea of a cream cheese center. Yum.
Denise, glad this recipe worked with peaches! I thought it would be good, so glad you confirmed it.
Thanks Melanie – yes, you could add lemon curd – just spread it before baking and it should be fine.
Thanks Sherry, I dunno, cookies still seem easier to me, but I’m coming over to the bar side!
I just made these with frozen raspberries and marion blackberries this afternoon. So tasty and perfect for this rainy day! Thanks for sharing!
Marion blackberries? YUM!! They sound delicious – glad it worked out!
Oh, yum! If I weren’t out of eggs, I’d be in the kitchen whipping up these delicious little nuggets!
Sunny, you can whip up a batch when you’ve got some eggs! Enjoy.
I made these bars a few nights ago and they are so good! A perfect combo of tart and sweet! And they made me think of my mom, who mails me boxes of lemons from her backyard tree in California. 🙂
This crust would be a great base for any fruit. I’m particularly excited about trying it with blueberries this summer.
Do you think rhubarb and orange juice/zest would make good substitutions, especially if I let the rhubarb macerate?
Natalie, blueberries would be a wonderful addition. Glad you enjoyed them.
Sophia, definitely! Rhubarb would be fantastic in this – again, the perfect sweet/tart dichotomy! Let me know how it turns out.
Delicious. I made these today with last years frozen local cranberries. The recipe is perfect. Instead of transferring the dough crumbs to the mixer I left them in the food processor for the rest of the prep. (It’s a 9 cupper)And I lined the pan with parchment instead of buttering it. Can’t wait for the wild blackberries to ripen. Thanks for the recipe!
Made these for Easter brunch, sure to be a favourite!
How would I adapt the recipe to use FRESH cranberries instead of frozen?
Thanks! Looks great! Will try rhubarb cranberry squares recipe as well.
Hi Elizabeth, no need to adapt, just proceed as usual!
I love this recipe. My family is vegan, so I had to make some substitutions. The results were awesome and it’s favorite. I’m asked to make this a lot for gatherings.