Have I ever mentioned that I love to bake? I don’t have to have an excuse—any reason to step into the kitchen and bake is reason enough. This time of year, the approaching holidays are certainly reason enough. It seems that many people are planning meetings or festive gatherings and a little treat just helps to make it more joyful. Out of town guests, large family meals and time to meet up with old friends means baking—and baking ahead makes it so much easier. I also know that when I bake, it brings me peace—and I don’t know about you, but some weeks I just need a good dose of sweet peace.
I love fruits and nuts and often, honestly, would rather choose fruit flavors over chocolate. Now that cranberries are finally available at the grocery store, I love to cook with them. (One important tip—buy an extra bag or two or three to freeze. This is one time when you don’t have to do anything special—just keep the bag tightly sealed and freeze it. You will have cranberries to use year round!) I also love nuts—just about any kind of nut adds a great flavor—at least in my book.
Lately I have been baking a lot of goodies using the Babycakes Cupcake Maker. This time I made muffins –little two-bite wonders that I can serve for any breakfast or brunch. These are different than most cranberry muffins I know of, as they are chocked full of toasted pecans, but only have the slightest hint of orange. I serve these warm with a little spread of an orange butter. To me, it is just a heavenly treat. (I have a funny, yet important tip on that orange flavor–I use the grated zest of an orange and I cannot help but think of my mom when I do. You see, she was a great cook–except when it came to orange zest. She would always get too much of the white and it tasted bitter. That is just the way it was–always. When I learned that you only zest the colored portion–oh my–the flavor was entirely different and so much better.)
I know not everyone has a Babycakes Cupcake Maker, so I went ahead and made them in the oven –as regular size muffins and again as mini-muffins. I learned a few important things. First, I like Toasted Pecan and Cranberry muffins anyway they are baked. I do like the size of the Babycakes Cupcake Maker –because they just seem right. Here is a picture of the muffins all lined up—just so you can see how they compare in size.
They are also moist, since the closed appliance really keeps the moisture in—which in my life means I can make them earlier in the week and freeze them to serve on a busy morning.
Yes, all homemade baked goods are wonderful—anyway you want to bake them. So, I have included the baking directions for the oven, so you really can bake these muffins anyway you want. Give them a try—and let me know how you baked them.
Toasted Pecan and Cranberry Muffins
1 cup cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon plus 1 cup sugar, divided
1 tablespoon plus 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
Place cranberries, pecan pieces, orange zest, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon flour in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel cutting blade. Pulse until chopped. (Do not over process or puree.) Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat together butter and the remaining 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Beat in vanilla. Beat in sour cream and buttermilk. Using low speed, beat in flour mixture, beating just until moistened. Stir in chopped cranberry mixture.
Line the wells of Babycakes Cupcake Maker with papers, if desired. Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons batter into each well. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack to cool slightly. Repeat with remaining batter.
Makes 32 bite-sized muffins
Regular Muffins: Spoon batter into paper lined or greased regular size muffin cups. Bake at 375° F for 21 to 23 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes about 15 muffins.
Mini-Muffins: Spoon batter into paper-lined or greased mini-muffin cups. Bake at 375° F. for 15 to 17 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Makes about 40 to 45 mini-muffins.
Toasting Pecans: Spread pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° F. for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden and toasted.
Honey Orange Butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 teaspoons honey
Beat together all ingredients.
Makes about 1/2 cup