Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cranberry Muffins

As I sit here, writing, a foot of snow has settled outside our kitchen window. It's still dark, but I know that snow has crusted on the lower halves of the screens of our dining room and there are long icicles hanging from the branches of the tree outside. The icicles' tapered ends curve northward from the wind that we had on Christmas Day.

I am in Salt Lake City for the holidays. And it is cold.

Every year, I try to pack the right clothing for Salt Lake. Living in Florida (and not actually having grown up in a cold climate) means that I win some and lose some in this regard. That's part of what I love about coming home for the holidays, though: the complete change of scene. This is a vacation and every vacation, even visits to family, should have a tinge of the unfamiliar.

Winter is a foreign season to me in so many ways, even though I went to college in New England and have spent the last six or seven Christmases in Salt Lake. I still don't quite get winter.

As we were preparing to leave my parents' house for a Christmas Eve party, my mother stared at my python-printed, three-inch heels in disbelief and was silent for a moment as she considered what to say to me about my footwear. The little bushes that line the walkway in front of my parents' house stooped under a hood of snow. The streets had been ploughed and the sidewalks cleared, but inch-deep crevices of ice will stick to the concrete until next April.

For me, shoes are decorative items which I value for appearance, not utility. I've never had to think of them in any other way. When Mom proposed that I wear a pair of boots--the big, lace-up snowboot kind--I declined. I was able to wobble over the ice to the party and back while leaning on my husband's arm, but I questioned my judgment a little while executing a two-stepped scramble over the driveway's snow-ploughed edges.

Yesterday, we went east to Park City for an afternoon of gallery-browsing. The sun was out and as we drove up the canyon on I-80, I could see thousands of meandering foottrails on the slopes; deer, probably, or elk, picking their footing through the fresh snow. If I'm lucky, I'll see a moose before we leave. After all, I have the right gear now; I rented a pair of snow boots and snowshoes yesterday afternoon.

Cranberry Muffins with Pecan Crumb Topping
Adapted from this recipe at Food and Wine

For the pecan crumb topping
1/4 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the muffin batter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

For the glaze
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
3 teaspoons of water

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-muffin tin and insert liners into each space.

To make the crumb topping
In a small, dry skillet, toast the pecan pieces over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until they are browned. Set them aside to cool. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the granulated and brown sugars, baking powder and salt. Stir in the butter, then add the pecans and pinch the topping mixture into clumps.

To make the glaze
Combine the confectioners' sugar with the water in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Set aside while making the muffins.

To make the muffins
In a medium bowl, mix the 2 cups of flour with 1/2 cup of sugar, the baking powder, baking soda and salt until well-combined. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix the yogurt with the egg and butter until smooth, then stir in the dry ingredients in 3/4-cup batches. The batter should be fairly moist; if your dough seems dry, add 1/4 cup of water to loosen the consistency.

Toss the cranberries with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and fold them into the muffin batter. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups in 1/2 cup amounts and sprinkle the pecan crumb topping over each muffin, gently pressing the crumbs into the muffin batter.

Bake the muffins for 20 minutes, or until the muffins are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of glaze over each muffin and let the glaze set for a few minutes before serving.

Makes: 12 muffins


Grace said...

what luscious muffins, sarah! i hope you're staying warm, regardless of your choice of shoes. :)
and let us know if you see any meese/moosen/mooserinos. :)

Rebel said...

These muffins look and sound delish. I'm always lookin' for good muffin recipes, my husband takes muffins everyday to work for mid mornin' snack. Thanks

Foodycat said...

My husband had the opposite problem over Christmas - he insisted on wearing socks, jeans and long sleeved, thick cotton rugby shirts in 30C temps in Australia! He was melting but didn't believe me that leaving off the socks and wearing short sleeves would make all the difference!