Cranberry Crumb Bars

Quick post today, since finals week doom is looming over my head at this moment.  Currently I'm working on a paper for my genes and behavior class (an elective for my psychology major) that I'm actually really excited to write.  Each week throughout the quarter we discussed a different behavior, usually a human behavior but sometimes we looked at an animal behavior that was relevant to studying humans, and the genetic basis for that behavior, which could be one or the product of a number of factors: inheritance of a specific allele, altered expression of a certain gene (or multiple genes), epigenetic modifications (basically modifications that effect gene expression indirectly rather than directly), programming effects (when conditioned changes to the genes of parents are passed on to their offspring, usually differences in gene expression or epigenetic factors), and so on.  We learned about the mechanisms behind these factors, the ways scientists construct experiments to study them, and the specific animal systems used to model different human behaviors.  We read two or three scientific papers on each week's topic and wrote a one- to two-page response; but for the final paper, we get to choose our own topics, and we're writing longer essays involving several more scientific papers each.

I've chosen to write my paper on the genetic basis for sexual orientation.  It's really important to me to establish a biological explanation for sexual orientation, since it's often misunderstood as a lifestyle choice, sexual preference, or even psychopathology.  There's been a lot of literature that's tried to identify a gene for homosexuality to explain its prevalence among humans when it's not an evolutionarily beneficial trait (since you're not a reproducing member of the community).  In the past couple of years, scientists have moved away from trying to find a specific gene for sexual orientation, and instead have been looking more at epigenetic factors (so those factors that indirectly affect the expression of genes rather than altering genes directly), especially epigenetic changes to the parents' genetic makeup that get passed on to their children.  I apologize if this is getting too technical, but I'm nerding out pretty hard over it.  I'm integrating a few studies into a comprehensive view of sexual orientation as a multi-faceted epigenetic phenomenon influenced by both maternal and paternal programming effects and accounting for anatomical, neurological, and behavioral features that have been correlated with sexual orientation.  

So much for a quick post.  Happy first snow in Chicago everyone, curl up with your laptops, hunker down for finals, and have a snack.  

Cranberry Crumb Bars
from Deb Perelman via Lottie + Doof

2 sticks cold butter, cut into cubes
3 c all-purpose flour
1 c evaporated cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
3 c fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan (or you could use a standard sheet pan like I did, but you'll get much thinner bars) with parchment paper, and butter the sides and paper to prevent sticking.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and spices.  Work the butter into the flour mixture until the pieces are the size of peas, then mix in the egg.  When the mixture becomes a coarse meal, press half of it into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a food processor, combine the orange juice, zest, cranberries, honey, and corn starch.  Pulse until the berries are chopped but not pureed.  Spread the cranberry filling over the crumb base, then crumble on the remaining dough.

Bake 30-35 minutes until lightly browned.  They're best on the day they're made while they're still crunchy, but are still mighty tasty the second and third day.

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