So, it’s prime baking season, the time of year when everyone wants to bake. And for good reason– with all the flavors at this time of year, it’s hard not to be like a kid in a candy store. Chocolate and peppermint and marshmallows and toffee and winter spices and caramel and gingerbread and winter fruits, cranberries and pears and citrus (lemon and orange and grapefruit and kumquats). I love this time of year.
The fresh cranberry is all too often neglected after its shining moment in sauce form at Thanksgiving. But I love tangy-sweet fruit, and cranberries are the perfect festive little red orbs for Christmas time. They pair excellently with citrus, the tart flavors bouncing off each other yet complimenting the other’s sweetness. Here, I used the lovely Meyer lemon–a mild, fragrant, floral lemon– with cranberries in a blondie.
It’s more than just a blondie, though. Just baked, these bars are quite pudding-y and soft, but after a chill in the fridge, they are chewy, dense, rich, and very much like fudge. They have a bright lemon flavor accented by tart, soft bits of cranberries, with a warmth from the dark brown sugar, and mascarpone keeps them moist and tender. Let the Christmas baking begin.
Cranberry Lemon Mascarpone Blondies
adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes an 8 x 8 inch pan
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces mascarpone
2 tablespoons lemon juice, preferably from a Meyer lemon
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, preferably from a Meyer lemon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed and chopped roughly
powdered sugar, for decorating (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8 x 8 pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar until it’s completely mixed. Add the egg and vanilla and whisk well. Add the lemon juice, zest, and mascarpone and mix thoroughly. Evenly sprinkle the dry ingredients–flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt–over the batter and gently fold them in with a rubber spatula.
Pour batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack. Cut into squares, dust with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve.