multiple choice – brown butter walnut-cranberry bars

by hungryrabbit on November 30, 2012

Brown Butter Walnut-Cranberry Bars

There are many ways to approach an interior design project. Some clients go to  a designer with a reputation for a particular style. Others seeks designers for pragmatic reasons; a bathroom renovation or an alteration to their existing living space to welcome a new family member, for example.

It is my job as a designer to understand the needs of a client. I listen to their requests then I add a dose of my aesthetics to work up a design that both meets the client’s practical criteria as well as to provide them with right emotional connection to their new home.

Design concepts come easily to me, but it’s the execution that often posses the challenge. Then there’s the budget. It all seems easy to a client–please add an outlet here, change a fixture there. It takes a lot of coordination of small details, though, to administrate a project smoothly.

I do the same with baking. I treat each recipe and its ingredients as a project. How many ways can I recombine them into something new?

As you can tell with my last two posts, I’m absolutely intrigued by walnuts, cranberries–and my latest obsession–brown butter. I’ve bounced from Maple-Walnut Cranberry Tart to Chewy Maple-Walnut Cranberry Cookies to today’s Brown Butter Walnut-Cranberry Bars. These latest cookie bars emphasize the nuttiness of walnuts and the tartness of both fresh and dried cranberries.

All three recipes are similar, but they give you very different results. Each has its own unique texture and presentation. Each one can satisfy a craving or work as a nice potluck dessert to serve at your up coming holiday parties.

Brown Butter Walnut-Cranberry Bars

yield: 16 2-inch squares


1 cups dried cranberries
1/4 cup brandy or rum
12 tablespoons (6 ounces/1-1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cups ( 5 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 cups (6 ounces) old-fashioned oatmeal
1/4 cup (2 ounces) packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 cup (1-3/4 ounces) walnut pieces, toasted chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tablespoons grade B maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon zest, freshly grated
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Combine dried cranberries and brandy, stir to combine and let soak for 30 minutes.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, cook butter until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes; remove from heat.

3. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350℉. Spray an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with cooking spray, set aside.

4. In a large bowl, add oatmeal, flour, sugar, walnuts, baking soda, and salt; stir to combine. Add brown butter and vanilla and stir to incorporate; set aside.

5. In a small saucepan, combine dried cranberries and it’s soaking liquid, fresh cranberries, maple syrup, lemon zest, and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, press down on fresh cranberries with rubber spatula until they have broken down. Cook until mixture has thickened, remove from heat. Let cool slightly.

6. Spread half the batter to the prepared baking pan and press down firmly to form an even layer. Spread cranberry mixture on top evenly. Top with remaining batter, pressing down to form an even layer.

7. Bake in oven until golden brown on top, 40 – 45 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into 2-inch squares. Store in airtight container for up to 4 days.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenni November 30, 2012 at 7:42 am

Boozy berries between brown buttery oatmeal dough? Yes please. I shall require 7 pans, thankyouverymuch! :) For me, exploring how the same ingredients can be put together in different ways to achieve different results is part of the joy of the science of baking. I am really loving your experimenting, Ken! Please design my kitchen. I need 47 outlets. That’s not a problem, is it? 😉

Happy weekend!

Brian @ A Thought For Food November 30, 2012 at 8:16 am

Ken… You are so right. This is totally up my alley. I’m going to have to make these ASAP!

Lauren A. November 30, 2012 at 8:31 am

These look so scrumptious! But how much butter does it call for? I didn’t see it listed in the ingredients.

hungryrabbit November 30, 2012 at 9:19 am

Hi Lauren, thank you so much for pointing out the missing ingredient. I’ve revised the recipe and it calls for 12 tablespoons/1-1/2 stick unsalted butter. – Ken

Barb | Creative Culinary November 30, 2012 at 10:18 am

I love this trifecta and I could easily get caught up with conjuring myriad ways to use it too. Walnuts? Yes. Cranberries? Them too. Brown butter? Is there any other way…I’ve yet to find a recipe that doesn’t taste better with the butter browned!

Tweat some over would you please? They look perfect.

kelly November 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm

For some reason, I had no idea you were an interior design project, but it makes total sense. Your ability to see ingredients and understand what goes well together, both in terms of taste and texture speaks to your design background. (Not to mention the gorgeous and perfectly composed pictures!) Loved seeing how you interpreted the different ingredients for these 3 posts!

Vespa Woolf December 1, 2012 at 6:24 am

I’ve marked these to try later–hopefully today. I have all the ingredients in my kitchen and we love cranberries. Thanks!

Nicole December 1, 2012 at 11:49 am

This recipe looks delicious, but step 4 mentions flour and I don’t see it in the ingredients list.

hungryrabbit December 1, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Hi Nicole, thanks for pointing that out; some how that line of ingredient got deleted while I did my final edit. The recipe is revised and calls for 1 cup of AP flour. Thanks for visiting my blog and happy baking -Ken

Colette @ JFF! December 3, 2012 at 8:31 pm

These look healthy.
Does that mean I can eat TWO?

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