Muffins are often associated with breakfast and so the requirements are a little different than for a cake. To me, a good muffin needs to be crisp on top and almost crusty while on the inside should be a moist and light crumb. Lastly, it needs to not be a dessert. No frostings, not excessively sweet, and relatively shelf stable.
I agonized over whether or not to group all fruit muffins together. On the one hand, they tend to be similar and you often look for similar properties in this baked good regardless of the fruit being used. On the other hand, the different fruit will have different baking properties. (Pineapple would add acidity, dried fruit will act different from fresh fruit, etc.) In the end I decided that having a space to compare and contrast these properties and their effects on the muffin would be more interesting than just tweaking baking powder.
Why is this section so empty?
Look, I’ve only made one test in this category. It was a very successful delicious test but that doesn’t give me much to compare with. I will try to fill this in more as I go but give me a little break for now. Go look at the one test. Try it out. It’s well worth it I promise.
After your Thanksgiving celebrations are done, the turkey eaten, the pants unbuttoned, the last bit of leftovers is always the cranberry sauce. What to do with this food now? Who will keep the sauce from going bad? I present you with a wonderful solution! Muffins!!
I started by preheating the oven to 400°F. In my standing mixer (though you can use a bowl and hand mixer easily here) I mixed together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
I got lazy and just tossed all the wet ingredients in next, sans egg shells (don’t be a smart ass). The cranberry sauce can be the pulp left over from making cranberry jelly, leftovers of your cranberry jam or store bought. I would recommend to use something with actual fruit bits in it for texture. I also would be hesitant to use something like cranberry relish here, I worry there is too much water, though maybe it would work, I haven’t tried.
Then turn on your mixer and get things thoroughly mixed but don’t overwork it. Get it so the batter looks the same throughout but don’t leave it running for an hour. You want to work it less if possible which will ensure less gluten development which means your muffins will be lighter. Think of gluten as binding power, we don’t want a lot of that in a muffin.
I divided these into 12 muffins. This meant that my muffin cups were full almost to the top and is why my muffins have that awesome dome on top. Don’t be afraid of overflowing your muffins, they’re going to be great.
I sprinkled some of that crystalline sugar for a fancy muffin effect. This is a personal choice, they’re great without this too.
I baked these for 22 minutes and even remembered to rotate the pan half way through.
I am in love with these muffins for a few reasons. Firstly, I hate waste and cranberry sauce never gets finished so this satisfies my obsession with using up all leftovers. Second, when they actually get a few minutes to cool before you try to eat them, they develop this crust on top that is incredible. I have rarely been able to achieve this in a homemade muffin. Lastly, they look so darn good! I mean look at those domes!
All ingredients were combined in a small pot and set over medium heat. You could see it foam up as the cranberries begin to pop. Slowly the foam subsides and the berries all burst, the mixture thickens to a thick paste even when hot. This did not take long, roughly 15 minutes. You can see the progression of the consistency in the small gallery below. Towards the end I did start helping the berries pop to speed things up.
This mixture was then strained into a clean bowl while still hot. It is a bit of a process but not so bad. I simply used a rubber spatula to help push the juice through the mesh. Remember to remove precious juice from the underside of the strainer where it likes to collect. Your efforts should be rewarded with a beautiful clarified cranberry juice. Pour this juice into any container. A mason jar will give you the iconic canned look or a beautiful mold can turn this into an elegant presentation.
I refrigerated my jelly overnight but you should let it cool for at least 3 hours before unmolding.
I tend to not be in a hurry, so I prepared my jelly for unmolding by simply letting it sit on the counter while I cleaned the kitchen and prepped my food. You could also carefully run some hot water for a few seconds over the mold. This should loosed the sides enough to allow your cranberry jelly to come out cleanly.
DO NOT THROW OUT THAT PULP! Cranberry sauce muffins are a great way to us it up!
This recipe is another one for the bank. Simple and makes a great centerpiece.
All ingredients were combined in a small pot and set over medium heat. You could see it foam up as the cranberries began to pop.½½
Slowly the foam subsides and the berries all burst, the mixture thickened to a thick paste even when hot. This did not take long, roughly 15 minutes. You can see the progression of the consistency in the small gallery below. Towards the end I did start helping the berries pop to speed things up by crushing them with my spoon.
Before storing, remove the orange peel and large spices. Can be canned or just refrigerated. Lasts quite a few weeks in the fridge.
The resulting jam-like condiment is similar to the cranberry sauce most people know but with bits of tart fruit. The spices are strong but well balanced. I don’t feel like this need any further adjustment.
Fresh cranberry sauce, or cranberry relish, is often overlooked as an ideal turkey condiment. I am not sure why no one has noticed how well this fruit mash works with turkey. Honestly I’ve eaten this stuff by the spoonful because it’s just that good.
I started by adding the cranberries, the whole peeled orange, nutmeg, ginger and 1 cup of sugar to the food processor and running it until finely pureed.
When I tasted it at this point, it was too tart and I opted for another 1/4 cup of sugar. Unfortunately, the relish was still too tart!
My solution this time was to add two apples that I had on the verge of going bad. It worked! It brought the tartness down quite a bit but now the whole thing was too sweet. Omit that last 1/4 cup is my recommendation and you’ll have a well balanced relish.. I suspect it will ferment sooner than spoil.
Throw it into a storage container. You’re done. How easy was that? This should last at least 2 weeks though I’ll keep you posted as mine sits in the fridge. At 2 weeks it’s still going strong. (A month later it had still not spoiled but I no longer felt willing to eat it past 1 month).
This is by far the easiest cranberry condiment for your turkey, adding bright flavor to compliment the turkey’s blandness. Not the the other cranberry sauces take much work but this one also brings in the freshness of uncooked fruit. It’s really an underappreciated delight.
For this post I’ve chosen to consolidate my cranberry sauces and relishes because their purpose is the same – slathering onto turkey to make it edible. We can disagree on the worthiness of turkey if you’d like but we can all agree that cranberry condiments are necessary and delicious. There is something very festive about that tart and sweet, bright pink flavor.
So which one is better?
That depends on what you’re going for. The jelly has the least tartness and some deep notes from the anise and cinnamon. The cranberry jam style is more chunky but also packs a bigger punch as the cranberry skins are very flavorful. Both the jelly and the jam and cooked and thick and deep but if you want something fresher and lighter the relish is fantastic. Each of these is great in its own right
Boy that jelly is nostalgic and tasty but what do I do with all the remaining pulp?
I’m so glad you asked because I was asking myself that too. That pulp is the bomdiggity and it would be a shame to throw it out. I highly recommend making these festive Cranberry Sauce Muffins.
How can my cranberries become a molded jelly without any added gelatin?
The short answer is that cranberries are really high in pectin. For a longer answer, here is an excerpt form Scientific American on the subject.
Pectin is a natural polymer—a series of molecules that attach to one another to form long chains. It is found between plant cells and within their cell walls. Pectin helps “glue” the plant cells together, keeping their tissues firm. And in cooked cranberries as well as in other fruit jams and jellies this pectin can help stick the cooked fruit together to form a solid jelly. When cranberries are cooked, their pectin polymers tangle and interact, forming a net that traps dissolved sugar molecules so they can’t flow. This creates a firm shape. Cranberries naturally contain a lot of pectin, which helps keep the berries nice and firm. This extra pectin gets released when they are cooked. But what determines if the resulting cranberry sauce is liquid or jelly?
You can see how cooking affects the sauce in the picture progression below. As the sauce cooks, you can see how it thickens. The longer you cook it, the thicker it will be and the more solid it will become when cooled. And yes, that means you could mold the cranberry jam and not just the cranberry jelly.