Cranberry Orange Muffins

by Elizabeth Dengler, The Huckleberry Home

This is one of my family’s favorite delectable, seasonal baked goodies. I make these every year through the fall and winter holiday season. They are as beautiful to look at as they are to eat with gorgeous flecks of orange and red with a glistening sugar topping. The muffin is light in texture with a perfect balance of sweet and tart. The key to really dispersing the orange flavor throughout the muffin is to work the orange zest into your sugar before anything else. This process will infuse the flavor throughout the muffin. Now, I’ve made these without that step and I have to say that the depth of the flavor was missing when I skipped the infusion process. It’s not complicated to do and totally worth it, however, as always, if you skip it there will be zero judgement from this gal.

I’ve gifted these to my neighbors during the Christmas season as baked treats are usually what I give to the folks that live on my block. I’ll include some easy substitutions for the recipe to avoid last-minute trips to the grocery store and I’ll include instructions if you’d like to make this as a single loaf instead of a dozen muffins. I hope you enjoy this tasty treat as much as we do! And if you have a favorite muffin or bread recipe you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you! Wishing you all the joys of the season!

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour (Shepherd’s Grain is my favorite)
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 C granulated sugar (I use C&H)
Zest of 1 large orange (if you have a bag of oranges, scrape a couple with your fingernail to find the most fragrant, that’s the one you want to use)
3/4 C buttermilk (or pour 3/4 teaspoon white vinegar into your Pyrex measuring cup, and then add in milk to the 3/4 Cup line, stir and let sit for a few minutes, voila you have a buttermilk substitute.)
1/2 C vegetable oil (or substitute 1/2 c of unsweetened apple sauce)
2 large eggs
1 T orange juice (fresh or from a carton, you pick)
1 t vanilla extract (it’s not going to be the end of the world if you don’t add this)
1 C fresh cranberry, roughly chopped (I chuck these in my mini food processor and pulse until chopped)

Topping: Sanding sugar (I use Wilton white sparkling sugar sprinkles) or you can make an Orange Glaze if you don’t have sanding sugar.

Orange Glaze Topping:
1 C powdered sugar
1 1/2 T orange juice
Orange zest from one orange

For muffins: preheat oven to 425 degrees, lightly grease a 12 count muffin tin and line with muffin liners.
For 1 loaf of bread: preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan.
In a small mixing bowl, add your granulated sugar and orange zest. Rub the zest into your sugar with your fingers until the zest is completely incorporated and the sugar is fragrant and has changed color, meaning it is no longer bright white. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together your flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
In a medium bowl (yes, you’re going to go through your stack of Pyrex nesting bowls for this recipe, but it’s worth it!) whisk together your buttermilk, oil, eggs, orange juice and vanilla. Set aside.
Add your orange zest infused sugar to your dry ingredients and whisk. Next, slowly add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients, careful not to over stir. Fold in your cranberries. Scoop batter into muffin liners almost to the top of the paper or pour into your prepared loaf pan.
If you choose the sanding sugar topping, sprinkle your sanding sugar over your batter before baking. Omit this step if you are going to use the orange glaze after baking.
Bake muffins for 13-17 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick or wooden skewer. It should be clean, having no batter on the stick.
Bake bread loaf for 70-75 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer comes out clean. Be mindful of browning. You don’t want this to brown on the top. If you notice coloring, tent some foil and place it over the top to finish baking.
Remove your muffins/bread loaf from the oven and allow to cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan. Let cool completely on wire rack.
If you are going with the orange glaze topping: Once bread/muffins are cooled make your orange glaze. In a small bowl whisk together your powdered sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Whisk until smooth. Using a spoon or fork, drizzle the glaze over your cooled muffins/bread.
I store these on my counter in my cake stand for several days. These can be kept longer in the refrigerator or even longer if you wish to freeze them.