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Triple layer cranberry lemon bars with citrusy lemon base, homemade cranberry jam filling and pillowy soft meringue. Topped with almond flakes for extra crunch and flavour!
It’s no secret that cranberries and lemon are a match made in Heaven. The tangy lemon flavour combined with the sweet and sour cranberries work so well in desserts. These bars, although small, pack so much flavour in a single bite!
Made on a soft lemon base and topped with homemade cranberry jam, this recipe takes only minutes to prepare. To finish off in style, the bars are topped with a soft meringue layer mixed with almond flour. Then we add crunch for days with almond flakes.
These cranberry lemon bars are the perfect Christmas dessert and winter treat. Or just because you feel like having something tangy, sweet and unique tasting!
The Best Cranberry Lemon Bars
Although I love eating cakes, they can take a long time to make. And let’s be honest, we don’t always feel like spending hours baking intricate cakes. This is where these lemon cranberry bars come in to save the day.
I love these cranberry lemon bars because they:
- Taste like a cake, without the hassle of having to make a full cake
- Take minutes to prepare
- Can be made even quicker if you use store bought cranberry jam
- Have triple layers of deliciousness
- Are made entirely from scratch
- Taste tangy, sweet, and very fragrant
- Have different textures: chewy base, jelly filling, soft meringue and crunch flakes
- Can be creative, by changing the filling to other fruit
- Taste unique and will charm everyone who tries them
Triple Layer Bars
These cranberry lemon bars are a triple threat and bring on so much flavour and texture. Each layer adds a unique taste and contributes to making a truly delicious dessert.
1. The lemon base – made with lemon juice, lemon zest and lemon extract. This holy trinity of lemon makes the base taste ultra citrussy and smell divine (pun intended).
Unlike most recipes, the cake-like base is made using yeast as opposed to baking powder. Using yeast makes the base extra soft, with a hint of chewy. The base is much more similar to a dough than cake batter.
2. Cranberry filling – made with fresh cranberries. You can play around with different flavours and add some orange, nutmeg, or ginger. I like to use homemade jam that I’ve made in advance and when I’m in a hurry store-bought. You can also change the cranberry jam with cherry, strawberry, or any other type of jam.
3. Meringue layer – made with egg whites and almond flour. On its own, the meringue is pillowy soft. In combination with almond flour, the top layer becomes like the inside of a macaron shell – soft but chewy. The top layer is then sprinkled with almond flakes for extra crunchiness.
Apart from a few small exceptions, all ingredients for this cranberry lemon bars recipe can be found in most kitchens. I will also list relevant substitutions below, so you can switch ingredients with what you may have on hand.
- All-purpose flour – cannot be replaced with self-rising flour.
- Unsalted butter – softened to room temperature. Leave butter out for at least 2-3 hours before.
- Egg yolks – large, at room temperature. Save the egg whites for the meringue.
- Sugar – plain granulated sugar. The sweetness level can be adjusted if needed, but keep in mind that the filling and meringue are already quite sweet.
- Lemon zest and juice – from fresh lemons. Ensure you wash the lemons properly before grating the zest.
- Instant yeast – the rising agent in this recipe. I recommend using fast action instant yeast for best and fast results.
- Cranberries – use fresh fruit for best results. Frozen cranberries can also be used, but I recommend thawing them and draining out excess liquid before use.
- Lemon zest and juice – give the cranberry filling a tangy flavour.
- Sugar – plain granulated sugar works best.
Note: If you’re in a hurry, you can also use store-bought cranberry jam.
- Egg whites – at room temperature.
- Salt – helps the egg whites become frothy and keeps the meringue stable before adding sugar.
- Sugar – plain granulated sugar, can also be replaced with powdered sugar.
- Almond flour – ensure you are using good quality almond flour, not almond meal. The pieces need to be very fine, without large chunks. If needed, use a food processor to make it finer.
- Almond flakes – used for crunchiness.
How to Make Cranberry Lemon Bars
The first thing we need to do it prepare the cranberry filling. If you’re using store-bought cranberry jam, skip directly to the lemon base.
- Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens.
- Stir to prevent from sticking and to burst the cranberries.
Making the lemon base dough is super simple and it’s similar to making cookie dough.
- Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the egg yolks, lemon juice and zest.
- Combine the flour and yeast, then add into the wet ingredients.
- Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until it’s no longer sticky. Do not knead longer than this.
- Cover and let rise. Roll out the dough to ½ inch thickness.
The last step is making the meringue topping. Let’s begin!
- Whip the eggs and salt until frothy. Slowly pour in the sugar while mixing continuously.
- Keep mixing until the meringue reaches medium peaks.
- Slowly fold in the almond flour.
Assembling the lemon cranberry bars is really easy. Line the baking tray with parchment paper and leave the sides longer so you can take the bars out easily once baked.
- Place the lemon dough at the bottom and use your fingers to mould it into shape (especially the corners).
- Pour the cranberry jam on top, levelling it with a spatula.
- Spread the meringue on top of the jam, levelling it well.
- Sprinkle with almond flakes then bake.
Once baked, let the lemon cranberry bars cool down completely in the tray before removing. When cool, cut into small rectangles, and serve fresh.
How to Store
I recommend serving the cranberry lemon bars fresh for the best texture. If served on the day, the meringue topping will have a slight crunch.
Since the bars contain meringue, they cannot be left at room temperature for too long.
For best results, place the bars in a single layer in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Storing in the fridge will soften the meringue top, making it fudgy in texture.
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Cranberry Lemon Bars
- 9 x 12 inch rectangular baking tray
Lemon Base Dough
- 3 ¼ cups all purpose flour (400 grams)
- ⅔ cup unsalted butter, softened (160 grams)
- 3 egg yolks, large
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar (80 grams)
- 1 zest of one lemon
- ⅓ cup lemon juice, fresh (80 grams)
- 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast (5 grams)
- 4 cups fresh cranberries (450 grams)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 1 zest of one lemon
- 1 juice of one lemon
- 3 egg white, room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup sugar (150 grams)
- 1 cup almond flour (100 grams)
- ½ cup almond flakes
- Place the cranberries, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to burst the cranberries a little.
- Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
Lemon base dough
- Pre-heat the oven to 325°F (170°C).
- Cream the softened butter with the sugar until fluffy, for about 2-3 minutes.
- Mix in the egg yolks, lemon juice and lemon zest until fully combined.
- Separately, add the instant yeast and flour to a bowl and whisk well to combine.
- Pour the flour into the wet batter and mix to form a dough. Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until it becomes smooth.
- Cover with plastic wrap, then set aside to rise for 15 minutes.
- Whip the egg whites and salt until soft peaks.
- Add half of the sugar, then mix to incorporate.Pour in the remaining sugar, then continue mixing until the sugar is fully dissolved (3-4 minutes).
- Fold in the almond flour into the egg whites by using a spatula. Be gentle to not deflate the air whipped into the meringue.
Assembling all layers
- Place the dough on a large piece of baking paper, then roll it to ½ inch thickness with a rolling pin. The dough should be the same size as the baking tray.
- Together with the baking paper, fit the dough into the tray, pressing it with your fingers into shape.
- Spread the cranberry filling evenly over the dough and level with a spatula.
- Pour the almond meringue topping over the cranberries, levelling it as well.
- Sprinkle almond flakes over the top, then bake for 30-35 minutes. If the almond flakes start browning too quickly, cover the tray with aluminium foil.
- Once baked, let it cool down completely before slicing. Enjoy!
- I recommend using a kitchen scale in grams for more accuracy. The cups used for the conversion are standard US customary cups (1 cup flour = 136g). There are many different types of cups across the globe, which is why I strongly recommend using grams instead.
- Nutritional value is estimative and it is calculated per serving (this recipe yields 16 servings).