Christmas Morning Cranberry

A very Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all!

Christmas for me is really an excuse to cook and eat things I normally wouldn’t. Preparing food for my family and friends is my love language; if I enjoy your company, chances are I will find a reason to feed you something I’ve made. Our Christmas tradition is to have the big turkey dinner on Christmas Eve night, with good friends as our guests.

On Christmas Day I don’t cook. My husband cooks a big breakfast for everyone after the presents are opened; we have a vegetable tray, lots of savoury treats, cheese, crackers… we graze all day long and generally have turkey sandwiches for supper.

This year, we’ll also have these delicious muffins! I hope they become a part of your family’s celebrations, too.

The recipe

Coarsely chop

1 cup cranberries (not dried – I used fresh, although frozen would probably work too, as long as you thawed & drained them first)

Sprinkle the chopped cranberries with 1/4 cup white sugar and set aside.

Sift together in a large bowl:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup white sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. allspice

In a small bowl, combine

1 beaten egg

1/4 tsp. grated orange peel

3/4 cup orange juice

1/3 cup melted butter or margarine

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet all at once. Stir gently to moisten.

Once your batter is blended, fold in the cranberries and 1/4 cup of chopped nuts (I used walnuts).

375F for 15 – 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

The process

Probably the most painstaking part of this recipe is chopping the cranberries. They have a terrible tendency to leap out from under the knife blade and roll all over the kitchen floor. I found myself wishing for a Slap-Chop or something. Make sure that you chop them as fine as you’d like them to be in the finished product, because they do not break down during the baking process.

Otherwise it’s very straightforward, and it makes the COOLEST batter ever. It is a yellowish-creamy colour, studded with the bright red cranberries. It’s foamy and puffy, and when you scoop it into the muffin tin it holds its shape. You do need to stir with a light hand, though. You can see the air bubbles which I assume are formed by a reaction between the baking powder and the citric acid in the orange juice, and if you stir too vigorously you’ll pop the air bubbles, resulting in flat muffins. So go a little gently with this one.

At fifteen minutes these were not done, so I popped them in for another five and they were perfectly baked with golden brown edges on the tops.

The result

My two older kids wouldn’t even try them, after tasting the batter and finding the fresh cranberries too tart. The baby, on the other hand, has eaten two already today and loved them, so it will really depend on your kids’ palates.

Michael and I really like them. The muffin itself is faintly sweet, and the cinnamon / allspice combo comes through well. The bits of cranberry are tart kick but very fresh.

It’s hard to describe the taste, but it is certainly very Christmassy, and a plate of these on your festive table would look fantastic.

From my family to yours, all of our best wishes for a safe and happy holiday with the ones you love.

 

 

Christmas Cake

This is the first of two Christmas recipes in Dorothy’s book. Christmas morning is always pretty loosey-goosey around here when it comes to actual food – it’s the one day of the year when you can have candy or cookies for breakfast and I don’t say a word. The idea of having some festive muffins around appeals to me, so I was really hoping that this recipe would be both easy and tasty. Dorothy did not disappoint! (for me at least; more on that later).

The main ‘special’ ingredients in this recipe harken back to a different time. I don’t know too many modern bakers who use candied fruit unless they are making a fruitcake, and then they get laughed at because somewhere along the line fruitcake became a shared cultural joke. For the record, good, scratch-made fruitcake is delicious, if you ever get the opportunity to have some; I think pre-made store-bought fruitcakes are horrible, and probably are responsible for the traditional Christmas treat’s total fall from favour.

Wow. I had a fruitcake rant in me. Guess maybe next Christmas I need to learn to make fruitcake.

Anyway, I found the candied fruit at my local Sobey’s grocery store, in a special display set up for the holidays. I don’t know about Loblaw’s since I only buy dog food and diapers there (oddly specific, I know). Bulk Barn would have the candied fruit for sure. Given the cost – I spent $8 on candied fruit and I have much,  much more than I needed – Bulk Barn would be the more economical choice.

The recipe

Combine in large bowl and soak until liquid is absorbed

1 cup All-Bran cereal (I used plain wheat bran from the baking aisle and it worked well)

1 cup milk

Beat in to bran mixture

1 egg

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)

Stir in

1/3 cup mixed peel

1/3 cup chopped candied cherries (I used a mix of red & green for extra festiveness)

1/3 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts, but Dorothy doesn’t specify)

1 tsp. vanilla

Sift into the wet ingredients and stir to blend

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

pinch of ginger, cloves, mace (I didn’t have ground cloves on hand, nor mace. I used just ginger – about 1/8 tsp.)

400F, 20 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins.

The process

I had my boys helping me with this recipe, and it went smoothly – this is not a hard recipe. Trickiest part was chopping the cherries; try spraying the blade of your knife with a little cooking spray to keep the bits from sticking. The batter is quite pretty, with bits of red, green, and yellow throughout.

My assistants eagerly sampled the batter and after a quick taste I could see why – it is delicious, sweet and spicy. They don’t often hang around to lick the bowl… and the spatula… and the measuring cup… but they did this time.

I filled the muffin cups a generous two-thirds full, thinking that they wouldn’t rise much given the heaviness of the batter and relatively small amount of leavening. They rose more than I expected. You could easily get more than a dozen by only filling the cups half-full, and the finished product would be a more manageable size.

There is a special note from Dorothy; you can use any dry or candied fruit and/or nuts in this recipe, as long as the amount equals one cup.

The result

My assistants and I eagerly sampled these muffins while they were still warm from the oven. I loved them right away; they are sweet yet spicy, with bitter notes from the candied peel to help balance the flavour. Michael also pronounced them delicious as well. The kids were another story. They tried. They both liked them right up until the hit a piece of candied peel and then it was no way, nothing doing. The texture and strong taste turned them off, and neither could finish their muffin, much to their disappointment (and my secret glee, because more for me, ha!) My almost-one-year-old, on the other hand, pilfered half of mine and screamed for more. All I can suggest is that if you’re hoping to share these with kids you may want to replace the candied peel with cherries or even a completely different dried fruit, like cranberries.

Next week

I’ll be making Christmas Morning Cranberry. In case anyone else wants to have these ready for the big day, you will need to have on hand:

1 cup fresh cranberries

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. grated orange peel

3/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup chopped nuts

 

 

Applesauce Raisin

I have been dreading this recipe because ugh, raisins. I hate raisins. Always have. Even as kid, I spurned what my mom insisted on calling “nature’s candy”. No, mom. Sugar cane is nature’s candy. Or maple syrup. Raisins are merely disappointed grapes. Baked, they are even worse.

However, I can’t start making changes to recipes before I’ve tried them at least once, so I bought a bag of raisins. Sultanas. And I mixed them into the biggest freakin’ vat of batter that any recipe in the book has made so far, because of course the recipe with the one ingredient I truly cannot stand would make an enormous batch.

The recipe

Beat slightly

4 eggs

Add to eggs and beat thoroughly

2 cups white sugar

1 1/2 cups oil (I used canola)

1 3/4 cups applesance (I used unsweetened & unflavoured applesauce)

Sift together

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

Add dry to wet and blend until smooth.

Stir in

2 cups raisins

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and sprinkle brown sugar on batter. (The 2/3 is underlined in the original version.)

375F, 15-20 minutes. Makes 32 large muffins.

The process

The only thing about this recipe was the sheer size – I needed to use my largest mixing bowl. So be warned – this really does make a LOT of batter, especially as compared to every other recipe we’ve tried so far.

Take my advice and do not try to fill the cups beyond that 2/3. These muffins rise quite a bit.

They smell really good while baking – a tablespoon of cinnamon! Also, the batter itself tastes sweet and as a result I was quite sad as I mixed in the damnable raisins. I will likely take NotMaryP’s suggestion and make another batch with dried cranberries.

The result

The muffins browned quite a bit; they weren’t done at 15 minutes but 20 minutes seemed to give them a bit more colour than I would have expected from a white-flour recipe. I don’t know that the brown sugar on top adds much, but maybe I used too light a hand.

The muffin itself tasted GOOD – there is finally enough cinnamon to make me a happy girl. And actually the raisins weren’t horrible, although the raisin taste went all through it and as I was chewing I kept thinking “man, these would be really excellent without raisins”. So Dorothy hasn’t converted me to baked raisins, but I did eat a whole muffin and didn’t feel the need to pick the raisins out like a toddler.

For a family needing lunchbox snacks, this is an ideal recipe, because it’s quick & easy to make and yields plenty. I’d recommend it for that reason alone.

Next week

I’m skipping ahead in the book a little for the next couple of weeks, because there are two Christmas recipes and I want to get to them at the appropriate time. So next week will be “Christmas Cake”. Ingredients that you likely will need to purchase specially – I know I do – are:

1/3 cup mixed peel

1/3 cup chopped candied cherries

1/3 cup chopped nuts

1 cup all-bran cereal (I’ll be using plain bran)

 

Applesauce Oatmeal

Late again. I know. But Christmas preparations were happening all day yesterday, and then my sister came over for dinner and to decorate the tree, and wine may have been involved. Today was a rainy miserable day anyway, so I decided to bake the muffins with the dayhome kids as a project to pass some time and distract them from their collective case of the Monday-morning  we-don’t-nap-on-the-weekends blues.

It worked, kind of. I never before was hoping for more complicated recipe, just to keep things going a while longer.

The recipe

Mix lightly with a fork

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup brown sugar

Stir until blended

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup oil (Ed. Note: I used canola)

1/3 cup milk

2/3 cup applesauce (Note: I used unsweetened commercially-prepared applesauce)

Add wet ingredients to dry, stir until blended.

375F, 20  minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

The process

Nothing much to say – this was dead easy. Even the preschoolers seemed disappointed that it was finished so quickly. The batter is easy to work with, not too sticky, not too runny. As a project to share with kids, or even a recipe to let older kids tackle on their own, this is ideal.

The result

Unanimous approval from the kids – that’s six children aged 11 months to 7 years. I liked them, too – nice texture and sweet, slightly spicy flavour. They didn’t rise as much as I would have thought, given the amount of baking powder, but they were a nice size and didn’t seem heavy, so maybe they performed as they should have.

A basic muffin recipe, using ingredients you probably have on hand. You can whip up a batch very quickly, when needed.

Next week: Applesauce Raisin. I fully anticipate that I will hate that recipe, because cooked raisins are from the devil. Given the quantities of flour and – ugh – raisins, it looks like it will make at least a couple of dozen muffins. Naturally.