Honey Cranberry Orange Muffins

Honey Cranberry Orange Muffins

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As a little girl, cranberry orange muffins were an absolute autumn favorite of mine. I don’t remember if my mother, grandmother, or aunt taught me to make them. I don’t even remember the first time I had them. I just remember sitting on a kitchen counter, somewhere in East Texas, thinking I was sneaking dried cranberries (while the ladies of the kitchen laughed) and begging to lick the spoon (they didn’t let me) as the women in my family made these warm treats for after dinner for our family gathering.

Now, somewhere over 20 years later, I get to make these muffins for my own children and friends. I often make them for holiday gatherings … and cookouts, dinners, it felt like an afternoon that needed muffins … pretty much any excuse to make my favorites year-round, though the flavors themselves always bring autumn to mind. Matter of fact, it was just last night that my youngest son asked me to make “his” cranberry orange muffins, “but with the sweet, ‘Christmas walknuts’” that he loves so much.

It’s quite safe to say that cranberry orange muffins are still a family favorite, though I’ve made some adjustments to the original recipe I was taught (such as using honey in place of sugar). I hope you enjoy these mildly sweet, satisfying bites from my childhood.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 6 tbs unsalted butter
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbs honey
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¾ cup milk*
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ to ½ tsp each: allspice, powdered ginger
  • 1 ½ cups cranberries, dried or fresh** (I usually use dried.)


*Any milk will work for this recipe. I’ve used almond milk more than once to give an extra layer of flavor.

** Not a cranberry fan? Try substituting golden raisins or chopped, dried cherries. Or even mixing all 3 fruits into the muffins.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Melt butter and place in large bowl.
  3. Add honey, vanilla, orange zest, milk, and orange juice to butter. Mix until smooth.
  4. Add eggs. Mix well.
  5. Add salt, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, and allspice to honey mixture. Mix well.
  6. Add in flour a little at a time; mix well until batter is smooth.
  7. Fold in cranberries (or other fruit. If adding nuts, this is when you should add those as well).
  8. Bake for 17 minutes for full-size muffins; 12 for mini muffins.

Makes about 2 dozen muffins, 3 dozen mini muffins.

Top with honey-glazed nuts, a small bit of lavender thyme honey syrup, or simply turbinado sugar.

Extra muffins (if you have them! I never seem to have extras) can be stored in an airtight container for a few days or up to 3 months in the freezer.

This is a very forgiving and versatile recipe, so don’t be afraid to swap some things around and try different fruits or toppings. Occasionally, I’ll be a little more on the lazy side and, instead of making a glazed nut topping, I will mix the nuts in when I fold in the cranberries, skipping the entire glazing process. If you mix the nuts into the batter, I do recommend crushing them a bit smaller than you would for a topping, especially if making mini muffins.

Glazed Nuts

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons honey
  • Cinnamon and/or nutmeg to taste (usually no more than ½ tsp of each is needed)
  • 1 ½ cups crushed or sliced nuts (almond, walnut, or pecan are my go-tos)


Instructions:

  1. In a small pot on medium-low heat, melt butter.
  2. Add honey and spice(s).
  3. Mix and let warm for a minute or two. Try not to let it boil too much: you don’t want to change the flavor of your honey.
  4. Add nuts of choice.
  5. Cook on low heat about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Remove from heat and pour onto wax-paper-lined pan or directly onto muffins (or other dessert of choice!).

Kick it up a notch:

My older children and family members love a little heat with our sweet. Use hot honey in place of regular honey for your glazed nuts and experience a slightly sweet, slightly spicy treat sure to warm your belly.

Another option is to rehydrate your dried cranberries. This is a very *extra* step, and I only do it if I’m really trying to make some kind of impression. If rehydrating cranberries, there are so many options. I’ve used a combination of fruit juices, orange liqueur (when I knew I wasn’t serving muffins to children), or water. And, yes, you can make the cranberries spicy, too, if you halve a jalapeno or two, sliced in half with seeds removed, and drop them in the rehydration bowl with the berries and water and refrigerate a couple hours or overnight.

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