In what is clearly evidence of a strong tendency to eat with my eyes, I have a weakness for fresh cranberries. I never have a plan when I impulsively add them to my cart, but their vibrant ruby hues and glistening skin make them hard to resist.
Once home, my superficial love affair begins to get a little rocky. Yes, they are beautiful, but their sharp tartness and bracingly bitter bite make them high-maintenance in the kitchen. Over the years, cranberries in my cart have meant cranberry orange bread, cranberry chutney, and pork chops with a cranberry-orange pan sauce on my table. Last year, I toasted my purchase with cranberry margaritas.
I noticed that I had fallen into a pattern of always pairing cranberries with oranges and this year I challenged myself to leave the citrus behind. Recently I made a version of Ina Garten’s Raspberry Corn Muffins from her popular cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, for a party. It was a yummy reminder of just how good a sweet cornbread muffin is. Faced with figuring out what to do with the 12-ounces of fresh cranberries in my refrigerator, I decided to mix them into the recipe for a treat that I had hoped would be the perfect combination of sweet and tart.
The resulting corn and cranberry muffins were that and more. We ate them fresh as an accompaniment to dinner on Sunday night and I’ve enjoyed them, reheated for 30 seconds in a microwave, for breakfast this week. With the holidays approaching, these muffins would be a festive addition to a Thanksgiving buffet and equally welcomed at breakfast by hungry house guests.
While this time of year I can’t imagine using anything but fresh cranberries, I plan to make these again in the summer with the freshest blueberries I can find. Happy cooking!
Corn & Cranberry Muffins – Printer-Friendly Recipe
Makes about 18 muffins
Adapted from the recipe for Raspberry Corn Muffins in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
In the South, it’s dense and crumbly with the only sweetness found in the honey you might drizzle over it. In versions from the North, it can be almost cake-like and is sweetened with sugar. For something as seemingly simple as cornbread, there are certainly many variations. Cheddar, chopped jalapenos, bacon, and honey are just some of the ingredients I’ve added to my cornbread over the years and I’ve baked it off in everything from cast-iron skillets to mini-muffin pans.
This version of cornbread has a wonderfully tender texture with a hint of sweetness that makes it a lovely way to start the day and an equally good accompaniment for a lunch or dinner. The use of fresh cranberries gives it a seasonal touch. This summer I plan on trying it with fresh blueberries.
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup yellow plain cornmeal (not self-rising)
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups milk (whole or 2%)
2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups fresh cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the center of the oven. Generously grease 18 muffin cups or line the cups with paper muffin liners.
Combine the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, melted and cooled butter, and eggs. Stir to combine.
With the mixer on medium-low, slowly add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (be careful not to over mix). Stir in the cranberries.
Scoop the batter (it will be thick) into the muffin tins; filling them to the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick stuck in the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool briefly in the muffin tins and then move them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Serve the corn and cranberry muffins warm or at room temperature. Leftover muffins can be frozen with good results.