Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cranberry Lime Muffins

A paragraph or two describing life lately would be a whining session right now. I’ve been sick for a week (rare for me), and it was the week I was on vacation from work, so I’m not exactly the happiest of campers right now. So, please allow me to reminisce about life a few weeks ago, when I was thinking about leisurely brunches and winter comforts. And cranberry muffins with a hint of lime and a crumbly streusel topping.

Except for the general healthiness of fresh or frozen cranberries, these muffins aren’t exactly typical New Year’s resolution food. There’s plenty of refined sugar and no whole grain flour, but I think you could tinker with the recipe if you want to improve the healthfulness of the recipe. I probably will someday. Maybe.

As they are, they’re delicious. I dug into the archives for the streusel topping recipe I used on these muffins and this coffee cake, then added a bit of lime zest to it. I used the rest of the zest from the lime I had attacked with a microplane grater (my preferred method of acquiring flavorful citrus zest) in the muffin batter itself to give it a bit of lime-y perfume. Of course, there are plenty of tart cranberries in that batter as well, which cut through the sweetness and tender crumb of the muffins.

I don’t mean to be a saboteur of any of your 2015 aspirations with this sweet and delicious recipe. I’m just here for those of you who finally got hungry! Seriously, though, if you’re going to indulge occasionally, you could do a lot worse for yourself than a small cake with cranberries in it. Right?

Lime Scented Cranberry Muffins
Based on recipe in The Ultimate Muffin Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

I highly recommend using a microplane grater to remove zest from the lime.

You may have more streusel topping than you need for your muffins. I like the easily-measured proportions in this recipe. I also like to pile on the streusel!

finely grated zest of 1 lime, divided (you will use this for the topping and in the muffin batter)

for the streusel topping:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
pinch fine salt
2 tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces

for the muffins:
1 ½ cups chopped fresh (or frozen) cranberries
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
6 tablespoons butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 large egg
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or grease as desired, or line with paper cupcake liners.

2. To make the topping, combine ½ teaspoon lime zest, 1/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and a pinch of fine salt in a small bowl. Stir together to combine well. Add the cold butter and work into the flour mixture until the butter is in tiny, flour-coated pieces. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (This can be done a day or two ahead.)

3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the cranberries and about 2 tablespoons flour. Toss to coat the cranberries, set aside.

4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Set aside to cool slightly.

5. In a large bowl, combine the remaining flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt. Whisk or sift together to combine. Set aside.

6. Beat the egg in a medium-size bowl. Beat in the cooled, melted butter. Beat in the buttermilk and vanilla. Pour this liquid mixture in the flour mixture. Stir just until most of the flour mixture is moistened. The batter will be thick. Stir in the cranberries.

7. Distribute the batter among the cups of the prepared muffin pan. Squeeze the streusel mixture together to form small clumps. Sprinkle the streusel over the batter in the muffin cups. You may have more streusel than you need, but you can really pile it on if desired.

8. Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.

9. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack in the pan for about 8 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool on the rack until cool enough to eat. Store in an airtight container for a few days or in the freezer for a month or so. The streusel only remains pleasantly crisp for a few hours after baking, but it’s still good once it gets soft.

Makes 12 muffins.

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