Monday, December 23, 2013

Cranberry Bliss Bars and the Cookie Bake-Off

I want to say I am not very competitive...really, I'm not.  I don't have to have the cleanest house (but I might have the messiest!), I don't have to be the thinnest, tallest, shortest, smartest, or funnest.  My friend, Suzanne is always entering cooking and baking competitions, and winning.  Me - not so much.  I have enough pressure with my work, I don't need anymore pressure, at least that is what I tell myself

So, when I found out our office does an annual cookie contest and cookie exchange, I thought it was an informal, laid back kind of thing.  Oh no,  these people are serious about this cookie contest.  Craig was the reigning king, and everyone was planning and plotting to knock him from his throne.
Craig waiting to see if he is crowed King again.

I made cranberry bliss bars.  My friend Donna makes them every year at Christmas time, and they are so delicious.  Suzanne posted about them a couple of weeks ago on her blog, Front Range Fork and Cork so they were on my mind, and I was craving them.  We also needed 5 dozen and these make 2 dozen per pan so I could make three pans and be done!
Three pans of cookies for the cookie exchange.

The day of the cookie exchange and contest came.  We all had to put 4 cookies on a plate, label with the name of the cookie and nothing else.  The judges had judging sheets they filled out, the scores were tallied on an Excel sheet, and the winner's crown and ribbon were waiting.  We milled around waiting anxiously...would Craig go home with the coveted title again?
Cookies in line ready to be judged.

Judges tallying their scores.

And the winner is...
No, Suze won with her delicious nut roll-ups.  I did come in a close second, but if you aren't the winner you are a loser.  So my cranberry bliss bars did not save the day for me.  I did not win the coveted cookie baker throne or the privilege of wearing the beautiful cookie crown.  And Suze didn't rub it in by wearing the crown ALL day...
Suze accepts her crown...

and ribbon..

And takes a bow.

So, even though these are not winners in my office, they will be winners at your house.  They are rich, delicious, and easy, my favorite combination.
Cookies wrapped for the cookie exchange.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup diced dried cranberries
6 ounces white chocolate, cut into chunks

4-ounces cream cheese, softened 3 cups powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup diced dried cranberries Drizzled Icing
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vegetable shortening

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Make cake by beating butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, ginger, and salt and beat well. Gradually mix in flour until smooth. Mix 3/4 cup diced dried cranberries and white chocolate into the batter by hand. Pour batter into a well-greased 9x13" baking pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly across the pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until cake is light brown on the edges. Allow cake to cool.

3. Make frosting by combining softened cream cheese, 3 cups powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. When the cake has cooled, use a spatula to spread frosting over the top of the cake.

4. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of diced cranberries over the frosting on the cake.

5. Whisk together 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and shortening. Drizzle icing over the cranberries in a sweeping motion or use a pastry bag with a fine tip to drizzle frosting across the top of the cake.

Office Gifts: Layered Cheese Tort

1 year ago:   Greek Yogurt Labneh
2 years ago: Espresso Martini

December 23, 2013   Daylight 3 hrs. 42 min. 18 sec.  Temp.  H -3/ L -15°F

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