Cranberry Turtle Bars

I’d love to be able to claim some kind of stroke of genius with this recipe.  The truth is, though, I set out to make cranberry bars.  But when I typed in “cranberry bars” in the search box over atEpicurious, these came up.  And that. was. it.  I knew I’d be making these instead of plain ol’ cranberry bars.  I’m so glad I did.  These were outstanding!

Even better, I got to make caramel from scratch, which is always fun.  If you’ve never made your own caramel, don’t be scared.  It’s pretty cool to be able to watch butter and sugar turn from pale yellow to a beautiful, rich caramel color.  Plus, it smells so delicious!  I will warn you, though, the caramel will seize up when you add the cranberries.  Don’t worry, remember the cranberries are frozen, so they’ll drop the temperature enough to make the caramel seize.  Just be patient and give the caramel some time to melt back down.  It will happen.  And it will be delicious.

Cranberry Turtle Bars

adapted from

printer-friendly recipe


For the base:

2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 c.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 

For the topping:

2 sticks (1 c.) unsalted butter

1 1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/4 c. light corn syrup

1/2 tsp. salt

1 (12 oz.) bag frozen cranberries (not thawed)

1 tsp. vanilla

3 c. pecans, toasted and chopped

2 oz. bittersweet chocolate


1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving a two-inch overhang on all sides. Butter or spray the sides (but not the bottom) of the foil with baking spray.

2.  To make the base, blend flour, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor, then add butter and pulse until mixture forms pea-sized lumps.  Pour into prepared pan, then press down firmly all over with a metal spatula to form an even layer. 

3.  Bake in middle of oven until golden and firm to the touch, 15 to 17 minutes, then cool in pan on a rack.

4.  While base is cooling, melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel registers 245 degrees Farenheit on a candy thermometer, about eight minutes. 

5.  Carefully stir in cranberries.  At this point the caramel will seize.  Allow the caramel to melt back down, stirring, as necessary, to prevent burning.  Boil until caramel returns to 245 degrees Farenheit. 

6.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, then stir in pecans until well coated.

7.  Working quickly, spread caramel topping over base, using a fork to distribute nuts and berries evenly. Cool completely.

8.  Lift bars in foil from pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into six vertical strips, then five horizontal strips to form 30 bars.

9.  Melt chocolate in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Alternately, melt in the microwave, stopping to stir every 20 seconds.

10.  Transfer chocolate to piping bag or small heavy-duty sealable plastic bag. If using a sealable plastic bag, seal top and snip off a tiny piece of one corner to form a hole.  Pipe chocolate decoratively over bars. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate sets, about one hour. 

one year ago: ginger-pear-walnut bread

two years ago:  My two all-time favorite Thanksgiving desserts, pear pie with maple and ginger and pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust and bourbon-sour cream topping.

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  1. Krystal
    November 23, 2010 / 3:17 pm

    Wow looks absolutely beautiful and tasty!!

  2. Amy (Sing For Your Supper)
    November 23, 2010 / 8:59 pm

    These are just gorgeous- what a perfect Thanksgiving treat!!!

  3. Jen
    November 24, 2010 / 2:38 am

    These look amazing and so festive with the bright red! I love all things cranberry so I'm definitely going to have to make them.

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