Everyone has their own favorite holiday season recipe. Mine happens to be one that I enjoy year round for breakfast: cranberry and orange muffins. Because cranberries appear in the stores only during late fall to early winter, I am reminded to make muffins during the Christmas season.
Oranges, cranberries and walnuts are traditional winter produce in my family. Cranberries have been a Thanksgiving favorite of mine since I was a little girl. The sweet and sour flavor of fresh cooked cranberries pairs well with salty turkey or buttery potatoes. My
mother Santa continues to this day her family tradition of putting an orange at the bottom of each stuffed Christmas stocking. Oranges, especially mandarin oranges, symbolize Christmas to me more than any other fruit. Walnuts are also popular in the autumn and winter. When I was young I never ate them myself instead I would feed the fancy seasonal nuts to the squirrels living in our back yard. But recently I have acquired a taste for them and come to enjoy eating them while adding walnuts to my own cooking.
The original recipe I used was for cranberry nut bread from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook. Due to the nature of the batter I had difficulty getting the batter not to stick to the bottom of the loaf pan. This was very frustrating for me because I love my quick breads (Banana Bread and Pumpkin Bread) and I hate to see them not turn out perfect. I switched the recipe over to muffins and they are great! Although you can only get cranberries in the fall and winter they preserve wonderfully in the freezer. I buy a few bags, one to use now and one for later. I just put the whole bag bought from the store in a plastic freezer bag and they stay well in the freezer up to a year. I will admit the ones I used recently were over a year old (perhaps 2 years old) and besides a few duds that I tossed out they turned out perfect in my muffins. Normally I opt out of adding nuts but I included them for my most recent batch and the muffins turned out delicious and full of flavors: tangy sour cranberry, sweet orange and crunchy nuts.
Cranberry Orange Muffins
1 cup cranberries, individually halved
1 medium orange
2 tbsp butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup chopped walnuts (or any other preferred nut) Optional
First, cut or chop up the cranberries. If they are put in whole you risk a mini explosion when the pockets inside the berries burst. Grate the orange rind using a zester or a cheese grater. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice out into a measuring cup. Next, add boiling water to the orange juice up to the ¾ cup mark. Add the butter and orange rind to the measuring cup while it is still hot to melt the butter. In a bowl beat an egg and slowly add the sugar while stirring in each addition. Next add the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and walnuts. Finally mix the orange juice mixture in until the batter is fully blended. Line the muffin tin with baking cups and fill each cup with batter until it is ½ to 2/3 full. Finally place the muffins inside a pre-heated oven at 375 °F for 20 to 25 minutes. The muffins should be done when the muffin tops appear golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.