Recipe: Caramel Nut Bars with Cranberries and Chocolate

Recipe: Caramel Nut Bars with Cranberries and Chocolate

Jenny Osburn is the author of The Union Street Café Cookbook, available at retailers throughout the Annapolis Valley. She’s currently hard at work testing recipes for “Holiday Cooking in Jenny’s Nova Scotia Kitchen”, due out next November. Find lots more recipes at
This year my friends and I will be resurrecting a holiday tradition we’ve set aside for a few years: a Cookie Exchange. It’s pretty lovely to have an excuse to get together in the busy weeks of December and share family favourites with one another. There’s a lot of love in those cookies, and it’s much simpler than making a huge variety yourself!

I remember my grandmother, Margaret “Peg” Osburn, mailing carefully packed handmade cookies from Pennsylvania at Christmas. The fragrant box contained at least a dozen varieties, one of which was the time-consuming but much-appreciated springerle – an anise-scented cookie that was imprinted with a special mold.

The message was clear; she loved and missed us and was demonstrating it with cookies. I find myself doing exactly the same thing, showing my love to family and friends with my efforts in the kitchen. Unfortunately the sheer enormity of all those cookies to roll, cut, and bake (and the pile of dishes and the mess that results) can turn you into a complete Grinch.

Therefore, let’s get real. Find a few friends with good family recipes, make a simple cookie (bar cookies are the easiest) and get swapping! These scrumptious bars are a variation of the Salted Caramel Nut Bars in my cookbook, The Union Street Café Cookbook.

Shortbread Ingredients
¾ cup Butter
2 cups Flour
½ cup Brown Sugar
½ teaspoon Salt

Nut Mixture Ingredients
½ cup Butter
1 cup Brown Sugar
⅓ cup Honey
2 tablespoons Whipping Cream
2 cups Mixed Salted Nuts
1 cup Dried Cranberries
1 oz. Dark Chocolate
1 oz. White Chocolate

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut ¾ cup butter into half-inch pieces. In a food processor process all the shortbread ingredients until mixture begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle mixture into a 9×13 pan and press evenly onto bottom. Bake shortbread until golden, about 20 minutes.

In a heavy saucepan melt ½ cup butter and stir in brown sugar, honey, and cream. Simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, for one minute then stir in nuts and cranberries. Pour nut mixture over hot shortbread and spread evenly. Bake in middle of oven until bubbling, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Melt the chocolates separately and use a spoon to drizzle each over the bars. Cool completely in pan and cut into 32 bars.