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These Fresh Cranberry Shortbread Bars make a great Thanksgiving dessert or a beautiful addition to a Christmas cookie platter! Simple, buttery, and full of sweet-tart cranberry flavor, these wonderful bars have white chocolate and macadamia nuts to make them even more special!
Cranberries are one of my favorite seasonal ingredients! Some of our other favorite recipes using them are White Chocolate Cranberry Pecan Fudge, The BEST Cranberry Orange Bread, and White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies.
I can't think of a better time to spread this message of sharing love through baking and giving than during the holiday season. For me, baking is a way I show my love, and these fresh cranberry shortbread bars are a wonderful way to do that while cranberries are readily available!
Bars are a fantastic idea during the busy baking season because you get so much reward for relatively little work! Plus, if you are baking with children, tiny hands get a kick out of helping pat the shortbread into the pan and pouring the beautiful, dark red cranberries over the dough!
The shortbread base is made with only five simple ingredients, so it's a great recipe to make with little helpers!
Traditional shortbread is historically made from a 1:2:3 ratio of one part granulated sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour.
I'm playing a little fast and loose with that ratio here by adding slightly more sugar, along with a little salt and vanilla, and using volume (cups) instead of weight (ounces), but it's all good, and really, pretty close to true, original shortbread.
But we go next level with the shortbread and make it even more fun and festive with fresh cranberries, white chocolate chips, and chopped macadamia nuts.
It literally only takes a few minutes to whip together the shortbread, press part of it into a pan, then top it with the fresh (or frozen!) cranberries and sprinkle the remaining shortbread dough on top.
No chilling dough, no scooping or rolling and cutting individual cookies or waiting while multiple batches bake in the oven. Just slice these into a whole bunch of servings after baking and you are good to go!
Because shortbread is so rich and cranberries pack such powerful flavor, I keep these on the small side and get 24 bars out of a 9x13" pan of these fresh cranberry shortbread bars!
This shortbread base is such a great, basic recipe to have in your arsenal, and you could easily swap out the fresh cranberries for blueberries, raspberries, etc. Whatever fruit is in season, really!
I just particularly love when fresh cranberries start showing up at the grocery stores this time of year because they impart such fantastic flavor and they look gorgeous! And I think their tartness goes beautifully with the extra sweetness of white chocolate and rich, butteriness of macadamia nuts.
But you could also switch out those white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts for chocolate chips and pecans or coconut and almonds or just leave them out altogether and go with just shortbread and fruit. This is a great, versatile recipe to play with and make your own!
Shortbread is a traditional Scottish recipe, which gives me all the feels as that is the land of my ancestors. Or at least some of them. And one of these days I'm going to go visit and see those beautiful isles and lochs and crags of that country!
When I was researching shortbread, I learned that it has its origins as early as the 12th century, although the first printed recipe appeared in 1736 from a Scottish woman by the name of Mrs. McLintock, apparently.
Mary, Queen of Scots, is said to have had a special fondness for shortbread during her reign in the 16th century, serving it for special occasions since butter was such an expensive commodity.
Shortbread is still a part of many Christmas and Hogmanay (Scottish New Year's Eve) celebrations today!
There are no eggs or leavening, like baking powder, so these bars are firm when baked and are perfect for delivering to a friend or loved one without breaking. And shortbread is baked at a low temperature to avoid browning.
When cooked, these fresh cranberry shortbread bars are nearly white with barely a light golden brown around the edges.
I always stock up and freeze a couple of bags of cranberries for baking throughout the year because I love to make cranberry orange muffins or use them in cranberry apple pie and other desserts.
If you have frozen cranberries on hand, you can absolutely use them in this recipe. Just throw the frozen cranberries over the bottom shortbread crust and finish the bars like normal. No need to defrost.
More Christmas Recipes You'll Love
- Toffee Pecan Shortbread Cookies
- Gingerbread Cupcakes with Eggnog Buttercream
- Oatmeal Rolled Sugar Cookies
- Peppermint Macarons
- Toffee Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
- White Chocolate Cranberry Blondies
- Chocolate-Dipped Almond Biscotti
- Greek Baklava Recipe
Fresh Cranberry Shortbread Bars
- 2 cups butter softened
- 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white chocolate chips or coarsely chopped white chocolate
- ½ cup chopped macadamia nuts optional
- 3 cups fresh or frozen* cranberries rinsed and patted dry
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13" baking dish with a parchment paper sling for easier removal after baking.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and salt.
- Add flour and stir, just until combined, then fold in the white chocolate chips and chopped macadamia nuts.
- Lightly press ⅔ of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan using your fingers. Pour the cranberries over top, then crumble the remaining dough over the cranberries. It's okay if cranberries can be seen beneath the top layer of shortbread.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, just until the edges are starting to turn golden.
- Cool completely before slicing into small bars.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Bob’s Red Mill.