Sparkling Sugared Cranberries

Sugared Cranberries

Sugared Cranberries

Sparkling Sugared Cranberries

I remember seeing this recipe last year and having no desire whatsoever to make it. I had zero affinity for cranberries other than in juice form.

Then this year, I loved the look of this Lemon Cranberry Cake and made it for Christmas, which left me with extra cranberries. I needed to do something with them and thought I might as well give this sugared cranberries recipe a whirl.

I bit into a raw cranberry and promptly spat it out. Not tasty in the least! But I had all these extra cranberries, so what did I have to lose?

Biting into a sugar-coated cranberry is a totally different story than biting into a raw one. Like, WOW! That sugar crust offsets the tartness, creating a pleasant balance of tart and sweet. It tastes kind of like a natural version of Sour Patch candies.

I made everyone try it at Christmas dinner, and to everyone’s surprise, they liked it.

I added them around the Lemon Cranberry Cake, which gave it a sparkly decorative touch.

I’m going to make them again this week for the Book Club meeting, and this time I’m going to try them atop crackers and brie, as seen on Annie’s Eats.

Sugared Cranberries

Sugared Cranberries

Sparkling Sugared Cranberries

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • optional: 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • optional: 1/2 tsp. orange extract
  • granulated sugar
  • optional: chunkier sugar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Make a simple syrup by combining the 1/2 cup water and the 1/2 cup sugar in a small pan; heat over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. If desired, add vanilla and orange extracts.
  2. When simple syrup cools, add cranberries and stir to coat.
  3. Use a slotted spoon to remove cranberries and allow excess syrup to drain.
  4. Transfer berries to a rack placed over a piece of foil to capture excess drainage of syrup. Allow berries to dry for an hour or two. They should have a sticky coating.
  5. Place several berries into a bowl of sugar and use a spoon to gently toss them until thoroughly coated. I like to coat first using a thicker-grained sugar (I used a sugar sprinkle I had in my sugar cookie decorating container), then I place the cranberries into a bowl with granulated sugar to fill in the gaps. The thicker sugar creates more crunch, but using only granulated sugar works well, too.
  6. Place coated cranberries on parchment-lined paper and allow to dry for another hour or so. At that point, you can store them in a covered container in the refrigerator for about a week. I actually left mine on the counter for a couple days and they fared well.

SOURCE: adapted from Annie’s Eats via Bakingdom

Lemon Cranberry Cake

Lemon Cranberry Cake

Lemon Cranberry Cake

Lemon Cranberry Cake

Until this cake, I thought I wasn’t a fan of cranberries. However, its festive look captured my eye, and I figured it would be fun to try something other than chocolate cake or cheesecake for the Christmas dessert.

The recipe begins with brown sugar on the bottom of the bundt pan and fresh cranberries piled on top of that. When it cooks, that brown sugar caramelizes with the cranberries as they burst and soften, creating a compote-like topping. The sugar tempers the tartness of the cranberries, too, which then complements the slight tartness of the lemon cake. Top it all off with a lemon sugar glaze and you have one heck of a festive cake, perfect for the holiday season … or any gathering.

LemonCranberryCake

By the way, the sugared cranberries placed around the cake add a decorative touch, and I’ll post that recipe as soon as I finish this one.

Lemon Cranberry Cake 2

Lemon Cranberry Cake

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INGREDIENTS

Cake

  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease a bundt pan with butter or shortening.
  3. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the bottom of the bundt pan, then layer the cranberries over the sugar.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. In a large bowl, use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar until it is infused with the lemon fragrance.
  6. Add the butter to the sugar; beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  7. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
  8. In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine buttermilk and 2 tbsp. lemon juice.
  9. With mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Add 1/2 the buttermilk mixture; mix until just incorporated. Repeat. You should end with the final 1/3 of the dry ingredients.
  10. Spoon batter into the bundt pan over the cranberries, smoothing out as needed.
  11. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until golden brown on top and knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean. Transfer cake to wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack to cool completely.
  12. When cool, carefully transfer cake to serving platter (scooting it onto a cookie sheet works well for the transfer).
  13. For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice; whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cake; let set before slicing.

SOURCE: Annie’s Eats via Williams Sonoma

Festive Fudge (White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios)

White Fudge

Festive white fudge studded with cranberries and pistachio nuts

A baking frenzy took place in my kitchen yesterday. All day–from early morning until evening–I whisked, stirred, melted, rolled, filled, dipped, and baked an assortment of cookies and candies. I made ol’ favs: Walnut Pillows, Pecan Balls, Pecan Tarts, and Macadamia Nut Butter Cookies.

And I tried a few new recipes, such as this Festive Fudge: luscious white chocolate studded with green pistachios and red cranberries. Nutty and fruity. Tart and chewy. Perfect holiday fare.

Ever made fudge? It’s a hit or miss situation with me, kind of like my caramel experiences. But this one worked easily enough: dump a bunch of stuff into a pan, boil for 4 minutes, add to chips, mix in nuts and fruit, and voila–lovely, festive fudge!

Now on to today’s project: packing all these goodies to give away as well as freezing some for Christmas day.

Festive Fudge (White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios)

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups white chocolate chips
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios (roasting optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. If you want to roast the pistachios, heat oven to 350 degrees F, spread nuts onto a pan, and roast for 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool.
  2. Prepare pan by lining with parchment paper. Tip: spraying the pan with a bit of oil helps the parchment paper to stay in place. If you want 2-inch high fudge, use an 8 inch x 8 inch pan. If you want 1-inch high fudge, use a 9 inch x 13 inch pan (I like this option because the pieces feel more bite sized and you get a lot more fudge pieces).
  3. Place white chocolate chips in a large bowl and have electric mixer  or whisk ready. If using a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment.
  4. This next step involves boiling, so use a large saucepan (I used my 6 quart Dutch oven): over medium heat, bring the sugar, butter, cream, and salt to a full, rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Once it begins to fully boil, set a timer for 4 minutes, continuously stirring at this point. If you use a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 230 degrees F.
  5. Pour the hot mixture over the white chocolate chips and whisk on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until chocolate is completely melted.
  6. Add cranberries, pistachios, and vanilla; stir until combined.
  7. Pour the fudge into your parchment-lined pan; use a spatula to evenly spread it. Allow to cool, which will take a couple of hours, then cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator to cool for a couple more hours before cutting. When ready to cut, use a pizza cutter to make smooth, even, and straight cuts.
  8. The fudge can be stored in an airtight container, on the counter or in the refrigerator, for about a week or two. Or you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then place in resealable bag, and freeze for a couple months.

SOURCE: adapted from Chocolate, Chocolate and More

Baked Oatmeal with Apples & Cranberries

BakedOatmealAppleCran2Last weekend I had one Granny Smith apple languishing in the fruit bowl, and all week long I had envisioned using it in a variation of a baked oatmeal dish I love to eat on leisurely weekends.

Along came the weekend and I began to scour the cupboards for additions to the concoction brewing in my mind. First, though, I wanted more apples but didn’t want a trip to the market. Oddly, our June-bearing apple tree has ever-so-slowly been ripening several apples which had germinated during the late fall heatwave (thank you bumble bees), so I picked a couple even though they hadn’t come to complete fruition yet (meaning they were miniscule in size and thwarted by the recent cold weather).

What pairs well with apples? Cranberries! And I happened to have some dried cranberries leftover from the holiday Macadamia Butter Cookies. Perfect.

Digging around in the freezer, I spotted a bag of forgotten flaxseed. Why not toss some into the oat mix?

Looking for nuts, I found a handful of sliced almonds that I had intended to use in a cookie recipe but never got around to making. And then I spotted a bag of turbinado sugar hiding in the pantry. Well, I decided to toss them all into the mix.

BakedOatmealAppleCran3

And what a yummy mix this dish turned out to be. First of all, it makes the house smell heavenly with the aroma of apples and cinnamon. Second, baked apples with tart cranberries and crunchy nuts just feels so deliciously luscious on a weekend morning when I get to hang out in my pajamas and not rush off to work. Perfect weekend breakfast fare. And the leftovers? Heated up, they make a hearty and warm breakfast for those very early work mornings when I’m out of the house before dawn to get to work and attack a stack of student essays, made all the more bearable with a belly full and warm.

Mind you, this can be made with simply apples and whatever other fruit you want to pair with apples. Use nuts (or not)–whatever kind you have on hand. The dish is very adaptable to suit your tastes and what you have on hand. Whatever you combine, I’m sure it will taste absolutely scrumptious.

BakedOatmealAppleCran

Baked Oatmeal with Apples & Cranberries

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 small apples or 1 large, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces (I used a combo of the tart Granny Smith and a sweeter, firm apple like Fuji)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted, divided (I used 1/4 cup chopped pecans in the baked oatmeal and then used 1/4 cup sliced almonds to sprinkle on top)
  • 1/4 + 1 tbsp. cup dried cranberries, divided (or use other dried fruit, such as blueberries or tart cherries)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (the thicker kind rather than the thin instant oats; I buy mine from the bulk bins at Sprouts or Whole Foods)
  • 1 tbsp. flaxseed (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 3/4 tsp. apple spice mix (1 tsp cinnamon + 1/2 tsp nutmeg + 1/4 tsp allspice), divided
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, regular syrup, or honey (maple gives best flavor)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. turbinado sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Melt butter and allow it to cool while mixing rest of ingredients.
  3. Peel, core, and slice apples. Mix with 1 tsp. of the cinnamon or apple spice. Spread evenly over the bottom of a 7 x 11 baking dish or a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.
  4. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the nuts and 1/4 cup of the cranberries over the apples.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine oats, flaxseed, baking powder, remaining 3/4 tsp. apple spice mix, and salt. Sprinkle the oat mixture in an even layer over the apples/cranberries/nuts.
  6. To the melted and cooled butter, add the syrup (or honey), milk, egg, and vanilla. Stir with a fork to combine. Pour evenly over the oats.
  7. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup nuts, 1 tbsp. cranberries, and 1 tsp. turnbinado sugar (optional but it adds a heavenly light sweet and crunchy touch).
  8. Bake 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned and the oats have set. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

SOURCE: adapted from Baked Oatmeal post

2012 Holiday Cookie Line Up #1: Macadamia Butter Cookies

MacadamiaNutButterCookies

What a luscious surprise these turned out to be! The recipe has been hiding in my “To Make” notebook for three years now. I’ve eyed it many times, but I rarely have macadamia nuts on hand because they are so darn pricey. And when we do have them, hubby hoards them because he loves macadamia nuts.

However, I had bought them specifically to make these cookies as part of the Thanksgiving Dessert Extravaganza. When buying the nuts from the bulk bins at the store (I prefer Sprouts) and you just buy what you need, then the cost doesn’t cause heart palpitations.

I did actually set out to make these cookies once before but didn’t know what macadamia butter was or where to find it. Silly me. When the recipe says to process until smooth, it refers to making the butter out of the nuts themselves. Yes, my skills in the kitchen have grown tremendously in the past few years. Or perhaps we can classify that as my reading comprehension skills?

Anyhow, the final cookies have the buttery tenderness of shortbread with a crispy exterior. Studded with cranberries and coated in sparkle, this cookie just screams “HOLIDAY.” It is basically a dressed-to-impress cookie with a fabulous taste.

MacNutButterCookies

Macadamia Butter Cookies

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 cup macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus extra for coating balls of dough
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 5.6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Place nuts in a food processor; process until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl once or twice.
  3. Combine macadamia butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed.
  4. Add vanilla and egg; beat well.
  5. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.
  6. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg; stir with a whisk.
  7. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until combined (mixture will be very thick).
  8. Stir in cranberries. Chill 10 minutes.
  9. Divide chilled dough into 30 equal portions; roll each portion into a ball.
  10. Place 1 tbsp. granulated sugar in a small bowl. Lightly press each ball into sugar; place each ball, sugar side up, on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Gently press the top of each cookie with a fork, the press in the opposite direction to make a crisscross design. (I flattened the balls of dough between my palms, then dipped one side into the sugar.)
  11. Bake cookies at 375 degrees F for 9 minutes or until golden. Remove cookies from pan; cool on a wire rack.

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

Note: These cookies freeze well. I simply placed them in an airtight container, then popped the container into the freezer.

SOURCE: Cooking Light magazine, December 2009 issue

Looking for other cookie recipes for the holidays? Check out last years Cookie Roundup and you’ll find even more under the “Cookies” category on the drop down menu to the right.

Holiday Cookie Line Up #2: Cranberry Coins

Cranberry Coins–such a holiday ring to the name, don’t you think?

And the sprinkles of sweet, tart cranberries throughout the shortbread dough look so festive. And add a slightly tangy, chewy element.

Difficulty level: super-duper easy

Dough texture: soft and light

Taste: melt-in-your mouth buttery goodness

Drool factor while anticipating the first bite: very high

Freezability: yep! Just roll those logs in plastic warp and pop ‘em in the freezer until ready to bake

Cranberry Coins

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries

DIRECTIONS

  1. Beat butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  2. Add flour and salt; stir just until combined.
  3. Stir in dried cranberries.
  4. Divide dough into quarters. On parchment paper, shape each portion into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 4 inches long. Wrap logs tightly in parchment paper or plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes or up to one day. (Dough can also be tightly wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to one month.)
  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. With a sharp knife, slice dough into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Rotate log as you cut to keep it from flattening. Place rounds on parchment-lined cookie sheets or on silicone mats, one inch apart.
  6. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges just begin to turn golden, 20-22 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets on wire racks.
  7. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

SOURCE: Martha Stewart

Cranberry Scones & Lemon Curd

If you like the tingle of tartness tickling your mouth, then I highly recommend these cranberry scones accompanied with lemon curd.

Back in December, I purchased a HUGE bag of cranberries. I thought they might work well in the fruit smoothies I make (yes, they do, but a small handful offers quite a tang). The bag turned out to contain waaaaaay too many cranberries, so I dried a bunch in my dehydrator to lengthen their life span. Still tons of cranberries hanging around that needed use, though…until I discovered this cranberry scone recipe. What a gem of a recipe: easy to whip up, tinglingly tart snippets in every bite, and adaptable to freezing for later use. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the significant scrumptious factor!

I’ve made them a couple of times already. I’ve sprinkled the tops with table sugar, chunky sugar used for decorating cookies, and turbinado sugar. All delightfully sweet, but the turbinado provided the biggest crunch and greatest amount of extra sweet sprinkling. I also tried them with no sugar sprinkles. Still delish. The sugar sprinkles do add a pretty sparkle to the scones, though, so go ahead if you want a bit of bling to jazz up your creation.

With the tart cranberries in the scone, this version lends itself well to a healthy spread of  lemon curd. Mmmmmmmm, even more tingly tart in each bite! Surprisingly, lemon curd is super easy to make, and thanks to a recipe on David Lebovitz’s blog, I’ve whipped up a couple batches already as well–also thanks to the lemon tree in our backyard that produces plentiful fruit.

The second time I made these scones, as I mixed the dough, I felt a sudden urge to toss in some chopped pecans. The final product had a heartier flavor than without the nuts. Ultimately, I like both versions…just depends on my mood and how hearty or light I want the scones to taste.

Obviously I’ve made these twice in a short amount of time. You can bet I’ll bake up a few more batches, at least!

Cranberry Scones

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1½ tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup plus 3 tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 6 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1¼ cups fresh, frozen, or dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • optional: 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • additional sugar for sprinkling (table sugar or turbinado sugar)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a food processor, combine the lemon zest, flour, ½ cup of sugar, baking powder and salt.  Pulse briefly to blend.  Add in the cold butter pieces and briefly pulse again until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter pieces are no larger than peas.  Transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Note: A food processor is not required for this recipe.  You can achieve the same result using a stand mixer, a pastry blender, or even just two knives.
  3. In a small bowl, toss together the chopped cranberries and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir this into the flour-butter mixture. If using pecans, toss them into the mixture, too.
  4. In another small bowl or a liquid measuring cup, combine the egg, egg yolk and heavy cream; whisk to blend.  Add the liquid ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir gently with a spatula or wooden spoon just until all the dry ingredients are moistened.  Knead gently to be sure the dough is evenly mixed (it will be sticky), being careful not to overwork the dough.
  5. Shaping the scones: You can shape the dough into one large disc about 1-inch high and slice into triangular wedges, roll it out to a 1-inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter, use a dough scoop and simply make drop scones, etc. On a sheet of parchment paper, I formed a large disc about 1-inch thick and 8 inches in diameter. Because the dough is so sticky, I used a bit of flour on my hands to make handling the disc easier. Lightly sprinkle with sugar at this point. I then popped the disc into the freezer for about 20 minutes so I could cut wedges more easily. At this point, I carefully broke loose the wedges I wanted to bake. The rest traveled back to the freezer for flash freezing, meaning they remained there until frozen. Then, I individually wrapped each scone in plastic, followed by placing them in a Ziploc bag and back into the freezer, ready to use when the urge for a sweet scone hits.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until light golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.  (If baking from the freezer, add approximately 5 minutes to the original baking time.)

Yield: 8-10 scones

Lemon Curd

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl; set aside.
  2. In medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, lemon juice, egg yolks, eggs, and salt.
  3. Add butter cubes and set pan over low heat, whisking constantly until butter melts.
  4. Increase heat to medium; whisk constantly, until mixture thickens and just begins to become jelly-like. It’s done when you lift the whisk and the mixture holds its shape when it falls back into the saucepan from the whisk.
  5. Immediately press the curd through the strainer. Once strained, store the lemon curd in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to one week.

Lemon curd can be spread on toast or crumpets, used as a cake filling, and you can make a tangy lemon cream to serve alongside gingerbread by folding in an equal amount of whipped cream.

SOURCES: scones: adapted from Annie’s Eats; lemon curd: David Lebovitz