Crisp. Windy. Cold. You walk around the city, in the chilly breeze. Teeth chattering. Nose running. Anxiously looking for any sign of relief from the blizzard that is outside. You start to speed up your pace, with no destination in mind, hoping that this sudden spurge of fast movement will get you warmer, you walk and walk. Your mind is traveling at a hundred miles a minute and you can’t seem to concentrate on the rest of your day or the tasks that lie ahead. You need a break from the freezing temperatures. Perhaps a hot cocoa, and a tasty treat from a cozy and warm coffee shop is just what the doctor ordered. You look around for any friendly coffee shop, cafe or bistro. Suddenly you spot it, the coziest of coziest coffee shops. A small ma’ and pa’ shop, typically found in movies. Your heart jumps and your feet seem to travel faster than the rest of your body, which can’t catch up. You reach for the freezing handle and give it a pull. It wont budge. You keep pulling with all your might, but nothing. You desperately curse the air and the cold. Then out of the corner of your eye, you notice the tiny sign on the door, “Push.” You laugh to yourself and quickly look around to see if anyone has noticed your silly mistake. You give it a gentle push, as if you knew all along, and are instantly taken aback by the warmth and aroma of all things heavenly inside. You walk in.
You look at the board and scan it rather intently, although you are already fully aware of what you’re going to order. You wait in line as a little old lady gives the cashier the “exact” change in pennies, nickels and dimes. The next customer is asking what’s in everything, and you can’t seem to get there fast enough. Finally your turn arrives and you ask for their large, boat-sized, hot cocoa. “Whip cream?” the barista asks you with the friendliest of smiles. “Sure, why not?” you respond. Looking at the case full of home-made goodies, you ask what is good. “You have to try our cranberry pecan date bars! They’re the customer favorite.” You contemplate this choice to yourself. Now you’re the one holding up the line. But who cares? You think, “Hmmm, cranberry pecan date bars. Huh? Interesting.” You make up your mind on the spot, and yell out, “Okay, I’ll give it a try!” Just then you realize that you’re screaming for no reason in particular. He hands you your bar and you grab your hot cocoa, douse it with cinnamon and find a comfy couch by the fire. You take a sip of your cocoa, and it hits the spot. Warming up the rest of your body, instantly. You take a moment and stare at the bar, inspecting it. You take your first bite. Suddenly, your whole world is spinning, you wonder just what’s in this bar of yours. Of course, nothing other than dates, pecans and cranberries. You finish the whole thing, and don’t even realize you have. You get up and order another, he already had one waiting for you. “Happens all the time.” You smile, and sit back down. This time enjoying and savoring every bite, not wanting it to finish.
You bundle up and brave the cold air once again, only this time you don’t realize just how cold it is. You walk and walk, yourself back home, not fully conscious. You get to your house, although you have no idea how you just got there, what streets you turned on or if you’ve followed any of the pedestrian signals. For the rest of the day, and week for that matter, you can’t seem to get those delicious bars out of your mind. You crave them in your sleep, dreaming about their deliciousness. Finally, you come to the realization that the only way you can continue to live your life, is to make them yourself. Hope fills your body with the sense of excitement. But you think aloud, “Where do I begin? I don’t even know how to make them!” Well look no further, my worried friend, because I’m here to help you. Put your faith in uncle Jon, because he’s got your back.
Let’s start with an empty bowl.
An empty bowl.
Can I get an empty bowl please?!
We need one stick of butter, softened.
Now I know what you’re all thinking, “What? Only one little ol’ stick? You must be crazy Jonathan!”
I’m just mad! Simple mad! What can I say? I wanted to make something healthy (er) than normal. So all I did was start with one stick instead of two…..there, we’re healthier. I can feel the healthiness taking over already. Can you feel it?
Stand back and let the Sugar Falls sweep you away. Take in the sight.
Such breath taking beauty.
Add the brown sugar.
Yes, we need both.
Cream together until light and fluffy.
As the butter and sugars cream, mix the dry ingredients.
Start off with some flour in a bowl.
To that, add some baking powder.
Throw in the salt.
Yea, throw it in!!
Give it a good mix.
You could of course just sift it all together.
I’m too lazy to take out a sift and run it through, so a whisk will do just fine, thank you.
Let’s get back to our creaming butter and sugar.
Time for the eggs to join the party.
Add them one at a time. Mixing well after each addition.
Stop the mixer. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Mr. Piggy Wiggy has entered the building, here to scrape the sides and bottom of bowls.
Add the vanilla extract.
Mix together and scrape the sides and bottom once again.
Time to add the dry ingredients from earlier.
Add it in batches and carefully combine.
Mix the flour, just until combined. Do not over mix the batter.
Once everything is incorporated, the next step is to add the flavorings. The jewels. The treasure. The precious.
How are we going to tackle all these delicious ingredients?
We have to give them a chop.
Start with the dates. You must start with the date, or else your bars will be ruined.
Trust me. In this order.
Give them a rough chop with a knife. You can make the process easier for yourself and pulse them a couple times in the food processor.
Tiny pieces, please.
And now its the cranberries’ time to shine.
Run your knife through them as well.
And lastly but certainly not least……
Rough chop as well.
Throw all three into the mixing bowl, into the batter.
Look how great that looks, and its not even cooked yet!!
Let’s prepare the baking pan. You’ll need an 8-inch squared baking dish.
Line with a sheet of parchment paper, that you cut to fit the pan. So essentially, a squared sheet of parchment, that fits perfectly into the dish.
Spray the paper and the edges of the pan with cooking spray or spread with softened butter…..but why not make it easy on yourself and just spray it.
No fuss, no muss.
Pour the batter/dough into the prepared baking dish. Make sure you get every last morsel out of the bowl.
Don’t waste anything!!
Spread out the batter evenly.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 min-1 hour, rotating every 2o minutes to ensure even cooking.
After 45 minutes, test the bars with a toothpick, if it comes out clean, guess what? It’s done. If not, leave them in for a while longer.
Once finished, remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Or, if you’re Snow White or Susie Homemaker, lay it out by the window sill to cool.
Allow to cool completely in the pan, on the rack.
When cooled, invert the bars onto a cutting board. Remove the paper.
Time to cut these bad boys….
To ensure even cuts and portions (so no one gets cheated with smaller pieces than others) make the first cut down the middle.
Now, cut each half, in half, so you end up with four equal strips.
Then cut each strip into six even pieces.
I like smaller bars, but you can cut them into bigger pieces if you’d like.
Arrange the finished bars on a nice platter or plate.
Make it l00k nice.
You can also put them in pretty cellophane bags and hand them out as holiday gifts……or party favors
….I would love to receive these as a gift. Wouldn’t you?
Of course you can just serve yourself a couple on a plate.
They’re the perfect holiday treat. Bars are just better around the holidays, plain and simple.
Leave these out for Santa instead of cookies.
Yea, go ahead.
Cranberry Date Pecan Bars
Taken and adapted from Martha Stewart Living.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup chopped pitted dates
- 3/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
- 3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pan; place it in the pan, then butter the paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until combined. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in dates, cranberries and nuts.
Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely on a wire rack. Run a knife around edges to loosen, then cut it into bars using a serrated knife. To cut the baked dough into 18 bars, make 3 cuts horizontally and 6 cuts vertically.