You always know that Thanksgiving is officially coming up when grocery stores really start pushing the fresh cranberries. While I personally prefer canned whole-berry cranberry sauce to homemade (I know, blasphemy! Revoke my foodie credentials!), I do love to bake with fresh cranberries, so I picked up a bag when I was last at the store. I also got an orange and a bag of walnuts, knowing that I would end up making these muffins.
When I was a kid my parents never made muffins from scratch– instead we would get a box of muffin mix from the grocery store. If we were lucky it would be the kind of mix that came with a little round tin of blueberries or cranberries to stir in, rather than just having dried berry-like bits in the bag of mix. (I can still remember the purple muffins that resulted the one time I forgot to drain the blueberries before stirring up my batter) And I specifically remember some delicious cranberry-orange muffins we made once, that were the perfect blend of tart and sweet with a delicious crunch of granulated sugar on top (one way we used to dress up muffins)– so I thought I’d take a shot at making my own from scratch!
These turned out soft, tender, and extremely bright and tangy from all of the cranberries. The orange provided a nice citrusy background, and the walnuts balanced it all out nicely, adding some extra texture to the otherwise pillowy muffin. The whole thing was topped with a lightly caramelized lid of sugar, which really took it over the top. I would definitely make these again!
Cranberry-Orange Walnut Muffins
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup orange juice
zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup coarse sugar (I used demerara sugar)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and the granulated sugar together, then add the oil, orange juice, and orange zest.
4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir in the chopped cranberries and walnuts.
5. Scoop into paper-lined muffin cups and top each muffin with 1 tsp. of coarse sugar.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
- I actually wanted to eat the orange, so after zesting it I used bottled orange juice in my recipe. It works just as well in baked goods, so don’t worry about needing to use fresh-squeezed. The zest, however, is crucial to the orange flavor, so don’t skip it!
- The muffin cups will be filled extremely full, as you can see, but the batter won’t run over in the oven. Sadly, the muffins didn’t dome as much as I prefer (for aesthetic reasons only, they still taste fine), which might be remedied next time by adding a little extra baking powder and a little less orange juice.
- If you’re out of paper muffin liners, just spray the pan well and these will release pretty easily– nothing to melt and stick to the pan.
- You don’t have to chop your cranberries if you don’t want to– it can be kind of a pain since they roll everywhere– but I think it helps to distribute them (and their tart flavor) more evenly in the muffin.
- While many muffin/quickbread recipes are interchangeable, I get the feeling that this one might be too tender to hold together as a slice of bread. I wouldn’t recommend baking this in a loaf pan– stick with muffins.