Cranberry Shortbread Square Recipe

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Piece of Cranberry Shortbread Square with a Christmas teacup in background
Cranberry Shortbread Square

This lovely Cranberry Shortbread Square with a tender, buttery shortbread crust features cranberry sauce as an ingredient in the topping. The sauce adds lovely flavor and texture making the square rich and delectable.

The cranberry sauce for this recipe needs to be whole cranberry sauce (not the jellied style) and it needs to be thick and not runny or watery. If using canned cranberry sauce or a homemade sauce that is particularly runny or watery, it will need to first be well drained in a colander before incorporating it into the square.  This is because it would make the filling too runny and would likely cause it to seep down into the tender and slightly crisp shortbread base.

Cranberry Square topped with grated orange rind
Cranberry Shortbread Square

I use my own homemade cranberry sauce in this recipe and recommend either my Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce (used in the squares in the photographs in this post) or my Zesty Cranberry Orange Sauce.  My homemade sauces are lovely and thick and are made by first making a simple syrup of water and sugar and then adding the cranberries and stirring lots while the sauce cooks and stirring lots more as it cools.  The stirring helps to thicken the sauce. Refrigerating the sauce before measuring it out for the recipe also helps to achieve a good and thick sauce.

Add a lovely buttery icing and this is a divine square any time of the year and is particularly appealing on Christmas holiday sweet trays.

To allow the icing to set before cutting, I recommend placing the square in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes. I also find the square cuts better if it is brought back to room temperature for about 15 minutes after refrigeration and if the knife is warm. Simply run the knife blade under hot water for a few seconds and dry it well on a tea towel before cutting the square.  Repeat for the cutting of each row of squares.

Slice of Christmas square in front of Christmas teacups
Cranberry Shortbread Square

Cranberry Shortbread Square

Ingredients:

Shortbread Crust Base:
1½ cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free one-to-one baking flour, if required)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ cup + 1 tbsp butter (cubed into about 1” pieces), at room temperature for about 15 minutes

Topping:
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
½ tsp pure almond extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free one-to-one baking flour, if required)
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3/4 cup whole cranberry sauce (well drained, if using canned sauce or homemade sauce that is runny/watery)
½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup sultana raisins
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Icing:
6 tbsp butter, softened at room temperature
¼ tsp pure almond extract
1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract
1¾ cups + 2 tbsp (6.5 oz) sifted icing sugar (aka confectioner’s sugar or powdered sugar)
1½ tbsp water or milk

Method:

Line 9”x9” baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough paper overhang on sides to grip and lift baked square from pan for icing and cutting. Position oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.

For Shortbread Crust Base:
In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour and sugar together. With mixer set at medium speed, mix in the butter just until crumbly. A food processor may, alternatively, be used to make the base, pulsing the mixture for just a very few short bursts. Mixture will appear dry using either method.

Press mixture evenly into prepared pan. Prick base all over with tines of fork to allow steam to release as the base bakes and to eliminate air pockets from forming. As the base mixture will be dry, this is easiest done if the ends of the fork tines are held snugly between the index and middle fingers placed on the crust base as the fork is inserted and removed from the base. This will help keep the base intact while it is being docked with the fork tines.

Bake base 10-13 minutes, or just until edges of crust start to turn very pale golden in color and slightly pull away from pan sides. Do not overbake or crust will be hard. Cool for about 35-40 minutes in pan on wire cooling rack before adding topping.

For Topping:
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl. Set aside.

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the eggs lightly at medium-low speed. Increase speed slightly and beat in the sugar and then add the almond extract. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing just until ingredients are combined. Remove bowl from mixer stand and manually stir in the cranberry sauce, coconut, raisins, and nuts. Pour mixture over par-baked and cooled shortbread base. Bake in 350°F oven for about 25-28 minutes, or just until top is set and firm to the touch. Cool completely in pan before icing.

For icing:
Place butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until creamy. Blend in the almond and vanilla extracts. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the sifted icing sugar, about one-half cup at a time. Add the water (or milk), a couple of teaspoons at a time as the icing sugar is being blended in. Increase speed to medium-low to blend ingredients then increase speed to high and beat an additional minute to ensure ingredients are well combined and icing is smooth. Additional milk or water may be required to make icing of desired spreading consistency. If adding additional milk or water, add by ½ teaspoon at a time. Icing should be of spreading consistency but not “soupy”.

Using the parchment paper overhang, lift square from pan and transfer to cutting board. Peel away the parchment paper. Spread icing evenly over cooled square. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes to set icing then bring square back to room temperature for about 15 minutes before cutting squares into desired size. Squares freeze well.

Yield: One 9”x9” pan of squares

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Cranberry Shortbread Square

Tender buttery shortbread base topped with a rich and slightly chewy topping featuring cranberry sauce and finished with a buttery icing.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword cranberry shortbread square, iced squares, squares
My Island Bistro Kitchen Barbara99

Ingredients

Shortbread Crust Base:

  • cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free one-to-one baking flour, if required)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup + 1 tbsp butter (cubed into about 1” pieces), at room temperature for about 15 minutes

Topping:

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp pure almond extract
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free one-to-one baking flour, if required)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup whole cranberry sauce (well drained, if using canned sauce or homemade sauce that is runny/watery)
  • ½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup sultana raisins
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Icing:

  • 6 tbsp butter, softened at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp pure almond extract
  • 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • cups + 2 tbsp (6.5 oz) sifted icing sugar (aka confectioner’s sugar or powdered sugar)
  • tbsp water or milk

Instructions

  1. Line 9”x9” baking pan with parchment paper, leaving enough paper overhang on sides to grip and lift baked square from pan for icing and cutting. Position oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.

For Shortbread Crust Base:

  1. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour and sugar together. With mixer set at medium speed, mix in the butter just until crumbly. A food processor may, alternatively, be used to make the base, pulsing the mixture for just a very few short bursts. Mixture will appear dry using either method.
  2. Press mixture evenly into prepared pan. Prick base all over with tines of fork to allow steam to release as the base bakes and to eliminate air pockets from forming. As the base mixture will be dry, this is easiest done if the ends of the fork tines are held snugly between the index and middle fingers placed on the crust base as the fork is inserted and removed from the base. This will help keep the base intact while it is being docked with the fork tines.
  3. Bake base 10-13 minutes, or just until edges of crust start to turn very pale golden in color and slightly pull away from pan sides. Do not overbake or crust will be hard. Cool for about 35-40 minutes in pan on wire cooling rack before adding topping.

For Topping:

  1. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl. Set aside.
  2. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the eggs lightly at medium-low speed. Increase speed slightly and beat in the sugar and then add the almond extract. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing just until ingredients are combined. Remove bowl from mixer stand and manually stir in the cranberry sauce, coconut, raisins, and nuts. Pour mixture over par-baked and cooled shortbread base. Bake in 350°F oven for about 25-28 minutes, or just until top is set and firm to the touch. Cool completely in pan before icing.

For icing:

  1. Place butter in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until creamy. Blend in the almond and vanilla extracts. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the sifted icing sugar, about one-half cup at a time. Add the water (or milk), a couple of teaspoons at a time as the icing sugar is being blended in. Increase speed to medium-low to blend ingredients then increase speed to high and beat an additional minute to ensure ingredients are well combined and icing is smooth. Additional milk or water may be required to make icing of desired spreading consistency. If adding additional milk or water, add by ½ teaspoon at a time. Icing should be of spreading consistency but not “soupy”.
  2. Using the parchment paper overhang, lift square from pan and transfer to cutting board. Peel away the parchment paper. Spread icing evenly over cooled square. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes to set icing then bring square back to room temperature for about 15 minutes before cutting squares into desired size. Squares freeze well.

Recipe Notes

Yield: One 9”x9” pan of squares

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Piece of Cranberry Shortbread Square garnished with cranberries

 

You may also enjoy these other square and bar recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen:

Classic Nanaimo Bars
Pecan Shortbread Square
Sweet Marie Bars
Date Squares
Coconut Date and Cherry Square
Unbaked Chocolate Coconut Square
Old-fashioned Jam Squares
Decadent Chocolate Chip Squares
Vintage Rainbow Square
Marshmallow Squares
Gluten-free Brown Sugar Fudge Square

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