Orange and cranberry is by far my favorite holiday flavor combination. (If it were a candle scent, I would have it lit non-stop throughout the month of December). I’ve been struggling to get into the holiday spirit the past few weeks–not even breaking open the annual Advent Calendar could get me into a festive mood. (I blame the 60+ degree temperature in D.C.). One holiday tip I learned from my mom is that a day spent baking Christmas treats in the kitchen is the most foolproof way of catching the holiday spirit. To kick-off my Sunday holiday baking spree, I turned to foolproof holiday flavors for inspiration: tart of the cranberry and citrusy burst of the orange.
I adapted this Christmas Morning Muffin recipe from a traditional Cranberry Orange Bread my mom and Nana make every year. As I was putting this recipe together, images of fluffy, airy, fresh-from-the-oven muffins served by my mom as my sisters and I stared down the pile of Santa’s presents under the Christmas tree danced in my head. See? I’m catching a waft of the holiday spirit already (and yes, I’m still very much in touch with my inner 5 year-old).
This recipe is also my first dive into Clean Eating. (I like a good challenge). Rather than use one cup of processed white sugar, I substituted raw honey–nature’s original sweetener. The trick to mastering dry to liquid sugar substitutions is to convert by weight, not volume. Thus, I only used 1/2 cup of honey to replace 1 cup of refined sugar. The result? A beautiful muffin perfect for breakfast. In other words, a semi-sweet muffin that did not make me question whether or not I should have saved it for dessert.
Lately, I have abandoned the straightforward Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour box mix, which I find yields mixed results. Carol Fenster’s “100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes” cookbook (which, I might add, I got as a Christmas present last year) provides a fantastic gluten-free flour baking blend, which I included at the end of the blog post. Instead of running around multiple grocery stores, I turned to the convenience of the web and ordered all three from Bob’s Red Mill, which showed up on my doorstep in a matter of days. I keep the flour blend in an air-tight container in the pantry and turn to it for all of my baking needs–and I have not once been disappointed.
The timer just went off…holiday spirit, here I come!
Fresh from the oven…oh yes…I’m in the holiday spirit now!
Cranberry-Orange Christmas Morning Muffins
Yield: One dozen large muffins
**2 cups gluten-free flour mix
1 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest (about zest of 1 large orange)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degree F. Lightly grease muffin tin (one dozen) with cooking spray.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
3. In a stand mixer or large bowl, combine beaten egg, orange juice, almond extract, olive oil, and honey.
4. Slowly add dry ingredients, blending at medium speed.
5. Fold cranberries into the batter and distribute evenly amongst the dozen cups in the muffin tin.
6. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.
7. Let cool slightly, then move muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.
**Carol Fenster’s Sorghum Blend Mix (Yield: 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1 1/2 cups potato starch or cornstarch
1 cup tapioca flour
Combine and store in an air-tight container for up to 3 months.