Cranberry Muffins with Orange Zest and Pecans

Yesterday, my sister-in-law, Terry, asked me to post my recipe for cranberry nut muffins. I had completely forgotten about these flavor-packed muffins!

The ingredients include a lovely mix of cranberries, pecans, orange zest, and cinnamon.

An interesting tidbit about cranberries — each cranberry has four interior chambers that hold pockets of air.

The air pockets allow the berries to float, a characteristic farmers use to their advantage when it comes time to harvest.

During the spring and summer, the berries grow in fields called bogs. In the fall, farmers flood the bogs and use a harvesting machine to dislodge the berries that then float to the surface. There is more to the story that can be found here.

In most recipes calling for cranberries, you can use fresh or frozen. I would not use dried cranberries which are sweetened and have lost much of their nutritional value in the process. For this batch of muffins, I used last year’s frozen berries because that is what I had on hand. When using frozen berries, do not defrost them before measuring or chopping. If you see a berry that is shriveled up, discard it.

I used self-rising flour. If you do not have any, substitute with 2 cups of regular flour, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of fine salt.

Yield: 12 small or 8 large muffins.

Ingredients:


1¼ cup whole cranberries
⅓ cup granulated sugar
½ cup pecan halves
zest from ½ half a medium orange

1 large egg
¾ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups (8½ oz.) self-rising flour, (measured using the spoon and level method)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup butter, softened and sliced

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375º. Line muffin tin with paper liners or grease each muffin cup.

Place cranberries, ⅓ cup of sugar, pecans, and orange zest in a food processor. Pulse until all ingredients are rough-chopped. Be careful not to over-process.

Measure milk in a liquid measuring cup. Add egg and vanilla to the cup. Whisk ingredients together.

Place flour, cinnamon, and ⅓ cup sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk these dry ingredients together. Add butter slices. Using a wire pastry blender, combine ingredients until there are no more large clumps of butter. See photo below for guidance on what the texture should look like.

Gently stir in milk mixture until just blended. Fold in cranberry mixture. For a light and airy muffin, stir as little as possible.

Use a tablespoon or cookie scoop to fill the muffin cups. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of sugar over each muffin to crisp up the top when baked. If making large muffins, use a whole teaspoon of sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes on the middle oven rack. Muffins are done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If you would like to brown the tops a little more, move tin to the upper oven rack and bake for 3 more minutes.

Thank you, Terry, for reminding me about these muffins! I’m glad to have the recipe at my fingertips, again.

Check out the Thanksgiving Menu for Tday dinner ideas.

Other Cranberry Recipes:
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Hot Pepper Jelly or Cranberry Brie Bites
Grandma’s Cranberry Chutney
Sautéed Collards (or Swiss Chard), Toasted Pine Nuts and Cranberries
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Cranberries
Sorghum, Oats, and Cranberry Granola
Oats, Sorghum, Ginger and Cranberry Cookies

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

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© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Mary’s Award Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last winter, I was on a mission to find a chocolate chip cookie recipe to love. Don’t get me wrong, I love the queen of all chocolate chip cookie recipes, the one I have known by heart since I was ten, the venerable Nestle’s Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie. But I was looking for something thicker and a little less crunchy.

It turns out, I was looking for Mary’s chocolate chip cookies, all along. But that’s jumping the gun.

Did you know that back in the 1930s when Toll House Inn owner, Ruth Wakefield, first published her famous cookie recipe, she called it Toll House Chocolate Crunch Cookie? Ruth meant for her cookies to be crunchy.

I tested many recipes during my search for a chewier cookie.

In the end, I couldn’t find a favorite and instead wrote a post about cookie scoops, Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure.  Who knew the tiny numbers on cookie scoops described the number of scoops of dough in a one-quart container?

During my research, I learned a nifty way to scoop and freeze cookie dough before storing it.

My kids went home with bags full of frozen cookie dough every time they stopped by to visit; tasty rejects from the recipes I tested.

Ultimately, I realized my favorite cookie was the one my dear and funny, food-styling, recipe-developing friend, Mary Carter, sold back in the summer of 2011 at Nashville’s 12South Farmers Market. By the way, Mary is an artist, as well.

Her best selling cookie at the market was Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt. She submitted the recipe to Southern Living Showhouse’s  “Ultimate Southern Cookie” contest and took home first place.

What is not to love here?

Many years ago, I tried making her recipe, but my cookies didn’t come out as well as hers. Last week, she came over to my house so we could bake them together to see what went wrong. I learned I was cooking them too long, mixing them too long, and not using the right amount of flour. To come up with a reliable amount of flour to use, I weighed each cup as she added it. The cookies came out perfectly under her tutelage

A few words on measuring flour:

When I write recipes, I envision my boys making them and add the specific chopping or measuring instructions I think they might need. IF they were to measure flour, they would stick a measuring cup into the flour bag, use their finger to level it off, and dump it into the batter.

So, that’s what I did. I measured 4 cups of what is ultimately packed flour, poured it into a glass bowl, and measured the weight of the flour (having first zeroed out the weight of the bowl). The flour weighed 21 ounces.

Compare that to the way I learned to measure flour (in Junior High Home Ec) where you lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and use the backside of a knife to level it off. Measured that way, 4 cups of flour weighs only 17 ounces! Scooping flour directly into a measuring cup can result in using more flour than the recipe writer may have intended. This discrepancy in amounts has become more common and is the reason many recipes now include a weight measurement in parentheses. Here’s  a video from King Arthur Flour that shows how to properly measure flour.

Pro Tips

Before we get started on the recipe, here is a list of baking tips I learned from Mary over the course of our afternoon together.

  • Do not overbeat the fat, sugar, and eggs. A soupy batter leads to pancake-like cookies. When Mary makes these cookies at home, she dumps all the ingredients at once into her favorite mixing bowl and mixes them by hand. I always use my beloved Kitchen Aid.
  • Mary uses self-rising flour when developing recipes. Cup for cup it has the correct proportion of flour to baking powder and salt, making it easy to increase or decrease flour as she makes up new recipes.
  • One level cup of self-rising flour weighs 4.25 ounces and is comprised of:
    1 cup of all-purpose flour
    1½ teaspoons baking powder
    ½ teaspoon salt
  • Bake cookie less than seems right. She bakes them until they just start to tan on the edges and are still quite pale in the center. She leaves them on the pan to cool completely.
  • Placing pecans on top of the cookie allows them to toast while cooking. This makes them so much more flavorful.
  • Place 3 chocolate chips on top of each cookie before baking; that’s a food-styling tip.
  • For whatever reason, this cookie dough doesn’t taste as good raw as Toll House cookie dough. We decided that was a good thing:-)
  • As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, Mary uses the tip of a spatula to smush the edges that have spread out too far, back inward. It makes the cookie rounder and taller. Here is a video of her demonstrating.

 

Mary’s Southern Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

Yield: 24  3-inch cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup (8-ounces) salted butter, at room temperature
½ cup (8-ounces) vegetable shortening
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large (4 ounces) eggs
3¾ cups (16 ounces) self-rising flour (I use unbleached King Arthur’s)
2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I love Trader Joe’s chips)
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)

Topping Ingredients
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes or fine sea salt
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate  chips
1 cup pecans

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350º.

Add butter, shortening, sugars, salt, vanilla, and eggs into a mixing bowl.

Blend together for one minute on medium-low speed. Halfway through mixing, turn mixer off and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl. Don’t let batter get soupy.

Add flour and mix on slow speed until flour is just incorporated into batter, about 45 seconds. Fold in chocolate.

Using a #30 (2-ounce) cookie scoop, place dough on a parchment-lined or ungreased, insulated cookie sheet.

Gently flatten the top of each cookie with the palm of your hand.

Sprinkle each cookie lightly with sea salt flakes or fine salt, three pecans, and a few extra chocolate chips.

Bake for 14-17 minutes, or until cookie edges start to tan and center of cookie is still fairly pale. In Mary’s oven, that’s 14 minutes, in mine, it’s 17 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately use a spatula to adjust the outer edges as described in video. I’ve noticed the cookies appear a little darker a few minutes after they get out of the oven.

Leave on baking sheet until cookie is completely cooled. Enjoy!

Some readers might remember a story I wrote about Mary and a food-styling job she brought me on, Food Styling with Mary Carter.

Thanksgiving is coming up. Take a look at THIS page for a list of tried and true recipes, especially Foolproof Make Ahead Gravy, my Mom’s Pumpkin Pie, and my Grandmother’s (killer) Cranberry Chutney.

Related Posts
Cookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure
Stocking Stuffers: Tools for the Cooking Life
Home Ec: How to Measure Ingredients Properly
Pecan Picking in Mississippi (and recipes to go with them)

If you enjoyed this post, please share and become a subscriber! Be sure to confirm the subscription on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

My Favorite Rollout Butter Cookies

I am a baker at heart.

I love making pies for Thanksgiving, Italian cookies for Christmas, cakes for birthdays, and frosted rollout cookies for any event where children are in the house.

I loved the days as a teenager when I baked sweets for my brothers and the neighborhood kids, and then, as a mother, when I rolled out cookies with my sons.

When it comes to making dough suitable for cutting out cookies, there is one recipe I have used for the last thirty years, Bee’s Mother’s Butter Cookies. I laugh when I look at the recipe in my old cooking diary because it reminds me that at one time I thought I could save a few calories by cutting out a third of the butter. As if.

What is the difference between cookie doughs designed for rolling out versus  drop cookies? You won’t see baking powder or baking soda in the list of ingredients. Those ingredients, both leavening agents, are added to make baked goods rise, spread, and become airy. Rollout cookie dough should not spread in the pan. We want sharp, crisp edges and tender centers.

What I especially like about Bee’s recipe is it is not too sweet, it has a lovely buttery flavor, and a hint of lemon. Texture-wise, if I roll the dough out to a quarter-inch thickness, the cookies have just the right amount of chewiness for my liking. My new adjustable rolling pin assures a uniform thickness.

Even as a seasoned baker, I sometimes mess up on how long I bake cookies. I want them light in color, but if they are not cooked enough, the taste can be off from not cooking the flour long enough. If they are too dark, they are not as pretty as they could be. Cook them until the edges just start to brown. Having said all that, for whatever reason, the cookies always taste better the day after you frost them.

A few words on measuring flour:

The proper way to measure flour is to lightly spoon it into a dry measuring cup and then use the flat edge of a knife to level it. If weighed, one cup should equal 4.25 ounces.

Yield:  75 ¼-inch thick cookies

Ingredients:

6 sticks (1½ pounds) butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 large grated lemon rind
8 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and then leveled in a dry measuring cup

Instructions:

Measure flour into a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.

Zest one lemon. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar for one minute on medium speed. Add eggs, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Be sure to scrape down the dough on the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add flour and mix slowly. Once it is all incorporated into the dough, increase mixer speed to medium and beat for two minutes, scraping sides and bottom as you go. Cover dough and place in refrigerator to chill for two hours or up to two days.

Remove dough from refrigerator and cut into portion sizes suitable for rolling. Allow to soften for 20 minutes before rolling. Dough should be softened and still cool.

When ready to roll dough, preheat oven to 350º.

Place a segment of cool dough on a sheet of parchment paper. Lightly flour the rolling pin, the cookie cutters, and the top of the dough. The trick to creating a nicely flavored, tender cookie is to use as little extra flour as possible and to not keep reworking the dough.

Using cookie cutters, cut the shapes as close to one another as possible.

Remove the scraps and put them in a pile. After you have rolled out all the dough once, take the scraps, knead them together, chill, and roll out again.

Place cookies on a parchment-lined (or ungreased) cookie sheet. They can be arranged close together because they will not spread. I like to get all the cookies rolled out first and then cook them.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges just start to brown. Shift pans around in the oven midway through the cooking time for more even browning. Always remember, the back two corners of an oven are the hottest.

Cool cookies on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To learn how to make and decorate with Royal Icing, please look at this post.

Sometimes, I thin the icing, brush it on the cookies, and then immediately add the sprinkles so they stick as the glaze cools.

Allow cookies to dry for two hours before stacking and storing.

Related Posts:

A Tale of Two Parties, Each Involving Royal Icing

Italian Sesame Seed Cookies
Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies
Three Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
Oats, Ginger, and Cranberry Cookies

If you enjoyed this post, please share and become a subscriber! Be sure to confirm the subscription on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

A Tale of Two Parties, Each Involving Cookies with Royal Icing

I recently helped host two parties, both for babies. One was an early celebration for my granddaughter’s first birthday. The color scheme was pink and white. All. The. Way. My family had been waiting a long time for a little girl since I grew up in a house with six brothers, then raised three sons and loved-on one grandson. It was always “Judy and the boys.” But not anymore.

The other party was a baby shower for the daughter of one of my besties, LouAnn.  The color scheme was sky blue and white, with a few cherished googly eyes thrown in for fun.

Both parties were designed with love and whimsy. For the baby shower, co-host Nan, decorated white pumpkins with ribbons. I had never considered bedecking pumpkins in this way, but when I saw hers, I was suddenly ALL IN on party spirit. Nan’s natural enthusiasm for life has a way of doing that to you.

She inspired me to make pretty pumpkins for my baby girl’s party. I bought white pumpkins and spools of ribbon to match the delightful print of the table runner my daughter-in-law, Meera, had purchased. Thanks to Meera, I am now obsessed with the color and pattern of this line of paper products from The Rifle Paper Company.

When I went to decorate the pumpkins, I got a heaping case of startitis and texted Lou Ann to ask if I could bring the supplies to her house and let her work her magic on them. She whipped these up on her kitchen counter while her dinner cooked. I love them! They make me smile.

Lou Ann is one of those creatives who gets in this peaceful place and calmly creates beautiful objects. It is as much a pleasure to watch her work as it is to work alongside her. Long-time readers of Judy’s Chickens may remember the  post I wrote on how she used greens from my yard to make a stunning winter floral arrangement.

Individually Wrapped Frosted Cookies for Party Favors

One of the tasks I took on for both parties was to make frosted cookies for party favors. I invited Nan and Lou Ann to come over for the morning day to help me out. I had never successfully negotiated how to use royal icing and a piping tool to decorate cookies. They were pros. A lot of what they taught me is explained more succinctly than I could ever express in the blog, Sally’s Baking Addiction.

You will need a disposable piping bag and a #2 or #4 piping tip. A Ziploc bag works fine if you run out of piping bags.

Gel food coloring has more color pigment than regular liquid food coloring, so you need less and the colors are truer. The girls taught me to poke a hole through the foil lid with a toothpick and use the toothpick to add color. We made three bowls of icing: white, sky blue, and pink.

They showed me this nifty way of filling a piping bag.

First, they piped an outline onto the cookie to create a nice edge.

After the outline dried, they used a miniature spatula to fill-in the interior space with icing. You may need to thin the icing with water, first. This filling-in process is called flooding in the icing world.

In addition to piping supplies, Nan brought this awesome adjustable rolling pin that keeps the dough thickness consistent when rolling out cookies. This leads to more even baking.

How to Make Royal Icing

Ingredients:
3 ounces (6 T) pasteurized raw egg whites 3 tablespoons meringue powder
1 pound (4 cups) confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
Water for thinning icing, as needed
Gel Food Coloring
Piping bags and tips

I mixed all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. I made the first batch with vanilla extract and the second batch with lemon zest. Both were good. You can store leftover icing in the freezer.

After we made the blue and white cookies, Lou Ann got busy on the dresses.

When she added the pink, I melted.

After the girls left, I decorated a few cookies for my grandchildren. I pushed the easy button on those and used a pastry brush to slather on the frosting without piping an outline first. Still cute, especially when I added the fun sprinkles from The Kitchen shop in Nashville. I purchased the cookie cutters and the adjustable rolling pin from there, as well.

I was babysitting that day, so in between all the rolling, baking, piping, flooding, and laughing, we women of the kitchen took turns holding my darling granddaughter.

Long before I learned about royal icing and piping, I frosted cookies another way with my grandson:

“Dog!” says my grandson.

A Few Other Party Touches:

Leave it to Nan to come up with a specialty drink for a party. She loved this cocktail when she had it in Las Vegas and figured out how to reproduce it.

These asparagus roll-ups were the best I have ever tasted. Liz, another host for the baby shower, created them. She used a combo of Boursin and Parmesan cheese in the spread.

My DIL ordered this delicious and gorgeous strawberry cake from Baked on 8th.

My sons’ generation refers to a baby’s first birthday cake as a “smash” cake. Baked on 8th makes those as well. This one has strawberry frosting and was out of this world. The blue high chair was used by my husband’s father. We continue to use it with love and careful attention — it may not be up to today’s safety codes.

My future DIL (!) Lily, ordered the flowers from the Green Hills Kroger. Ever since Lead Floral Designer, Liz Blalock joined their staff, the floral department has blossomed with beautiful arrangements.

The two parties were back to back events. Each was very different, but both were filled with many delightful moments, now memories, enhanced by the special touches of all who were involved in planning and hosting. After each event was over I had that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Corny, but Oh so TRUE!

Related Posts

Winter Floral Arrangements Using Greenery from the Yard

 

 

How to Make Birdhouse Gourds for Fall Decorating

 

 

Old-Timey Vanilla Bunny Cake

 

 

 

Chocolate Birthday or Valentine’s Day Cake

 

 

WWMD? A Bucket of Spring Veggies as a Centerpiece

 

 

Group Project: A Shibori Dyed Quilt

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, please share and become a subscriber! Be sure to confirm the subscription on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Always check my blog for the latest version of a recipe.

© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.