Halloween has come and gone, and fall weather is in full swing where I live. That means it’s sometimes freezing cold, sometimes a bit balmy and always unpredictable—and that there are so many leaves 🍂 in my yard that my littlest dog 🐶 can almost camouflage himself in them completely. Plus, of course, there’s the food, glorious food. Whenever fresh cranberries start to appear in the grocery store, I buy them by the cartload and stick most of them in the freezer. Then I can bake and cook with them for months to come, most often by making a quick cranberry jam. Today, we’re layering that quick jam in between two layers of oatmeal shortbread in these gorgeous gluten free cranberry jam bars. Perfect for a lightly sweet breakfast or snack.
The heartiness of the gluten free rolled oats and chewiness of the oat flour make these bars something really special. They come together very quickly, and the raw bars can even be made up to 2 days ahead of time, covered and stored in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake them. Then just uncover and pop them right in the oven.
The bars have that lovely mix of sweet and tart, and not too much of either. Instead of cooking the jam with water, for an extra intense flavor, try apple or cranberry juice. And feel free to adjust the spices up or down, or even add a pinch of allspice to the dough.
The keys to success in this recipe, though, are to press the bottom crust very firmly into the pan before topping with the cranberry jam and remaining dough, then to cool the bars completely in the pan (at least an hour!) before lifting them out. Slice the bars smaller, and they would also be the envy of any plate of Christmas cookies. ‘Tis the season for holiday baking. Let’s get started!
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Prep time:Cook time:Yield:9 bars
For the cranberry jam
12 ounces fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1/2 cup (50 g) certified gluten free old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup (164 g) packed light brown sugar
1 cup (85 g) sliced raw almonds (can substitute chopped walnuts or pecans)
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) milk (any kind), chilled
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan, then line with crisscrossed sheets of parchment paper, greasing in between the paper and leaving parchment paper overhanging all four edges of the pan. Set the pan aside.
Make the cranberry jam. In a medium-sized, heavy-bottom saucepan, place the cranberries, sugar, water and salt, and mix to combine. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries have all softened and the jam is thick (about 10 minutes). Set the jam aside to cool.
Make the bar dough. In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, and whisk to combine well. Add the butter, and toss to combine in the dry ingredients. Add the brown sugar and almonds, and mix to combine. Add the milk, and mix to combine. The dough should hold together when squeezed with a clean, dry hand. Transfer half of the bar dough to the prepared baking pan and press firmly into an even layer in the bottom of the pan. Scrape the cranberry jam on top, and smooth into an even layer. Top with the remaining bar dough in an even layer, and press firmly to adhere.
Bake the bars. Place the baking pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until golden brown all over (about 40 minutes). A toothpick test won’t work with this recipe, as the jam in the center will always be moist, so it’s best to go by the color of the bars. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the baking pan (at least 1 hour). Once cool, remove the bars from the pan by holding onto the overhung parchment. Slice into 9 large bars with a sharp knife and serve.
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