It likely won’t win me any friends here in the Boston area to admit this, but I am not a fan of Dunkin’ Donuts. Around these parts, people take pride in the fact that there is a DD on every corner, and that you can give directions based on the nearest one, but I just can’t warm to either the coffee or the donuts. If pressed, I suppose I can always fall back on the handy excuse that I am a transplant from the Great White North…you know, all that snow and ice north of the border tends to addle our brains. But the truth is that I am a Starbucks girl through and through. I love the coffee, I love the ambience, I love the big wingback chairs where you can hang out a la the cast of Friends. And before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I loved the baked goods too.
I’ve tried the Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars a few times and although I liked them well enough, I think I like the idea of them even more. They seem so Christmas-y, with all the cranberries, white chocolate and ginger. Obviously, eating the real thing is no longer an option for me. But the thought struck me earlier in the fall to attempt a low carb version for this Christmas season. Surely it couldn’t be too hard to recreate, could it? I figured I would have to forego the white chocolate, since I haven’t found a decent sugar-free version of it to use in baking. But perhaps I could make the rest of the bar flavourful enough that the white chocolate wouldn’t be missed.
It wasn’t hard to come up with a good base for these bars. I simply took the recipe for my Walnut Blondies with Chocolate Chunks and made it with all almond flour, since it has a more neutral taste than walnut meal. I put fresh chopped cranberries into the bars themselves, along with chopped crystallized ginger and some chopped walnuts. For the topping, I made a cream cheese icing similar to the one from my Pumpkin Spice Bars, but with a touch of orange zest to round out the cranberry and ginger flavours. And I topped the whole thing with unsweetened dried cranberries.
The Results Merry Christmas to me! These turned out just as I had hoped and they make a wonderful low carb holiday treat. The bar itself has a nice gingery kick to it and the icing has a lovely sweetness with just a hint of orange. The fresh cranberries in the bar and the unsweetened dried ones provide a nice tartness that compliments the other flavours.
The only thing I would change here would be to bake them in a bigger pan, so that they were thinner like the original ones from Starbucks. That way, I could have a greater icing to bar ratio. But that’s just personal preference. I will write the recipe up as I made it, and if you want to bake in a bigger pan and make a little more icing, have at it. Just adjust the baking time accordingly.
Cranberry Bliss Bars
1 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
1 tsp vanilla extract
20 drops stevia extract
2 cups almond flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp butter, softened
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp powdered erythritol
10 drops stevia extract
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 cup unsweetened dried cranberries (I made my own from this recipe, but you may be able to find them at a local health food store)
Preheat oven to 325F and grease an 8×8 inch baking pan. Line pan bottom and sides with parchment paper and grease parchment.
In a large bowl, mix melted butter with erythritol, vanilla and stevia extract. Add almond flour and ground ginger, stirring to incorporate. Add in eggs and stir until all ingredients are well combined. Stir in chopped cranberries, and walnuts and ginger if using.
Pour batter into prepared pan and spread the top. Bake for 40 minutes or until top is golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool completely in pan.
For the icing, beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add cream and beat thoroughly, scraping down beaters and sides of bowl as needed. Beat in erythritol, stevia and orange zest until smooth.
Spread icing over cooled bars and sprinkle with dried cranberries. Chill in refrigerator until icing is firm, about 1 hour. Cut into bars or triangles.
Makes 16 large bars or 25 smaller ones. Total carbs for larger bars is 9.8g, and for smaller bars is 6.3g. If you subtract erythritol, large bars have 5.3g of carbs and smaller bars have 3.4g