Amber sent me a message this week and asked if I could duplicate the Cranberry Bliss bars that are popular at that big chain drive-thru coffee place….so I asked about them at work and everyone seemed to like them. In fact, everyone RAVED about them, so I absolutely had to figure out how to make them!
Amber Comments: This request actually came from one of the NFV staff. I am not naming names (Audrey) but she told me April needed to save her from going bankrupt as she’s buying these bars every day at *insert popular drive-thru coffee name with the green mermaid on its cup*. Honestly, I had a bite of this treat years ago and always thought they were missing something to be truly yummy. Thank goodness for April and her bag of magic baking tips and tricks!
Doing the Research
I purchased one to study and sample, decided the only thing I would really do differently is the thickness of the “bar” underneath the icing. So before you send me any hate mail, if you like the bar thinner like the one at the drive-thru coffee place, then use a 10×15 jelly roll pan. If you want it thicker, use a 9×13 baking pan.
I searched the internet to find a basic copycat recipe but wasn’t very happy with the results. So…. FOUR batches later I am not sure I ever want to see a cranberry again, and I am nearly in a sugar coma…but they are delicious!
Amber Comments: Just another reason I hate living so far away from April. I would have been happy to be a taste tester for all of the rejects!
Why use Vanilla Bean Paste?
I can’t sing the praises of vanilla paste enough. You can find it at World Market or here on Amazon and is a wonderful alternative to vanilla extract. It does add little dark specks to your finished product, so if that bothers you, stick with the extract. I do think the flavor is richer than liquid extract, and it’s certainly something to search out and keep in your baking cupboard. I encourage you to give it a try.
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2 sticks of unsalted butter
1-2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp of vanilla paste (substitute vanilla extract if needed, but NOT vanilla flavoring!)
1-1/2 tsp orange extract
2 cups of white flour
1 cup of white chocolate chips
1 cup of coarsely chopped dried cranberries
For the Icing:
8 ounces of cream cheese (1 box), softened to room temperature
1-3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (substitute vanilla extract if needed)
1/2 tsp orange extract
1 cup of white chocolate chips or white candy melts
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries
Directions for the Base
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray the pan you have chosen to use with non-stick spray or line it with baking parchment. For thick bars, use a 9×13 pan, for thinner bars, use a 10×15 jelly roll pan.
2. Melt the butter in a bowl and add the brown sugar. With an electric mixer on medium speed, mix well until the sugar has dissolved into the butter and the mixture is smooth and creamy.
3. Add the egg, vanilla paste, and orange extract and mix well with the electric mixer.
4. Add the salt, baking powder and flour. On low speed, mix until everything is moistened.
5. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the white chocolate chips and the dried cranberries.
6. Spread into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the surface is dry and slightly cracked. Do not overcook!
7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Directions for the Icing
While it is cooling, make the icing.
1. Using the electric mixer, mix the softened cream cheese until it is smooth and creamy and without lumps.
2. Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, and continue mixing until all the powdered sugar is incorporated.
3. Add the vanilla and orange extract and beat thoroughly.
Make sure you cool the base completely before frosting
4. After the base has cooled completely (I put it in the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process), spread the icing over the entire surface. Sprinkle evenly with the 1/2 cup of chopped dried cranberries.
Decorating the bars with white chocolate
5. Melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave on medium power, 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time until almost melted. Once the chips are warmed enough, simply stirring them will melt the remainder of the chips. Do not overheat in the microwave, or you will ruin them. Place the melted chips in a piping bag, or just use a fork to drizzle the melted white chocolate over the top of the icing/cranberries.
6. Chill before cutting into bars. With a sharp knife, cut into squares, and then diagonally to make triangles, or cut into rectangles. If it is not chilled well before cutting, the crust will crumble on you.
The Finished Product
When I share these, I place the triangles or rectangle pieces in pretty cupcake liners and they look so beautiful! These would be so pretty for the holiday season!
The feedback from these is that people seem to like the thicker crust version, 9 x 13 pan. And, EVERYONE raved about them! I would love to hear your comments!
Have a wonderful Holiday!