I begin as many valentines do… with an apology. Alas, it’s true; over two years ago, I wrote a post about the inspiration for my original Love Muffins and then, some posts later, gave you another recipe and promised you something I never delivered: A Love Muffin E-Cookbook. Cookbooks, I have discovered, can be difficult to write. Duh. However, my broken promise hasn’t stopped me from creating muffin recipes, and, eventually, I still plan a seasonal cookbook series of Love Muffins.
But until I make good on that promise, how about another Love Muffin recipe? Kiss and make up?
Actually, these muffins were inspired by a bag of frozen cranberries I had tucked away for the holidays and then overlooked (I do tend to hoard cranberries November through December, and this little bag must have slipped to the bottom of the freezer.). So these muffins are, in many ways, a “long lost love” kind of thing… a nearly forgotten affair from the past. And their flavor is, in my opinion, as nuanced as a well-written, eighteenth-century romance novel.
They begin with homemade cranberry sauce—this version is perhaps the best I’ve ever made and works in many dishes besides these muffins. If there are no long, lost cranberries in your freezer or if you simply don’t have time to make your own, I do believe you can substitute organic canned cranberry sauce or a pie filling such as cherry in this dish and come out just fine. I did a little research and discovered that Pacific Foods makes a packaged Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce. And, you might also look at Omena Organics, growers of organic tart cherries (among other produce) and makers of Organic Montmorency Cherry Pie Filling (So you’d get a chocolate-covered cherry version of this muffin.). Worth a look, I think. Now, shall we reach for those muffin tins?
- One, 12-ounce bag whole cranberries, fresh or frozen, rinsed well
- Three-quarters cup organic sugar, such as evaporated cane juice or raw sugar
- Four tablespoons orange zest (always organic if you are consuming the peel, remember)
- One-half cup fresh orange juice, (from a large orange)
- One teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- One whole clove bud
- Two tablespoons dark balsamic vinegar (I used one infused with dark chocolate, which worked really well.)
- One cup whole hazelnuts, lightly toasted, skins removed and processed fine (You should end up with one and one-half cups “nut flour,” which is what you need here. Any extra can be saved for another recipe or as a topping.)
- One cup oat flour
- One and one-half cups spelt flour
- One cup oat bran
- One-half cup freshly ground flaxseed
- Two tablespoons high-quality cocoa powder (My go-to brand for years has been Rapunzel, which is readily available in health food stores.)
- One teaspoon ground cinnamon
- One teaspoon baking powder
- One tablespoon baking soda
- One-half teaspoon fine sea salt
- One 13.5-ounce can full-fat organic unsweetened coconut milk, well blended
- Two large eggs, slightly beaten
- Two tablespoons melted coconut oil
- One-half cup melted semi-sweet chocolate chips (Use a double boiler and melt your coconut oil and chocolate chips together.)
- Two tablespoons unsulfured blackstrap molasses
- One and one-half cups cranberry sauce (or pie filling)
- One cup sifted powdered sugar
- Four or five tablespoons cranberry sauce or pie filling syrup (or pureed berries, anything to add a little fruity flavor and color
- One tablespoon heavy cream
- Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce and simmer15-20 minutes, until the cranberries burst and the sauce reduces slightly and thickens.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Be sure to fish out the whole clove bud and discard. The sauce can be made several days in advance and kept refrigerated until you are ready to use.
- Have all refrigerated ingredients at room temperature before you begin.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the hazelnut “flour,” the oat flour, the spelt flour, the oat bran, the ground flaxseed, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk very well to thoroughly combine all the dry ingredients.
- In a large measuring cup or medium mixing bowl, combine the blended coconut milk, the beaten eggs, the melted chocolate, melted coconut oil and molasses. Whisk to thoroughly combine; then, fold in the cranberry sauce until everything is completely combined and fairly smooth.
- Create a “well” in the center of your dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into this well. Working with a rubber spatula, combine the dry ingredients into the wet by pulling from the edge of the bowl inward and giving the bowl a quarter turn. Repeat only until all the ingredients are combined. Try not to over mix or your muffin texture will be tough.
- Prepare your muffin tins, either by greasing with butter or coconut oil or using unbleached baking cups such as If You Care Baking Cups
- Fill the muffin tins about three-quarters full of batter for extra-large muffins. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the tins halfway through the baking time.
- Cool the muffins for 10 minutes in the pans; then, transfer to baking racks and cool completely before icing.
- Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Whisk in the fruit syrup and heavy cream. This icing will be fairly thick but very spreadable—and you have avoided dreaded food dye by using colorful fruit syrup.
The prep time does not include making the cranberry sauce or toasting the hazelnuts. The sauce takes about 30 minutes total to make and, as indicated, can be made several days in advance. The hazelnuts take about 10 minutes to toast, 5 minutes to cool and another 10 minutes to "peel". See the end of this post for hazelnut tips.
Hazelnuts have a wonderful flavor, but they take a tiny bit of extra effort. Toast your hazelnuts whole in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Keep a nose out—they burn easily, and when their glorious fragrance is discernable, remove them from the oven. Once they cool a bit, you can use a clean kitchen towel to easily rub off most of the brown skin, which can be a little bitter.
Most of the ingredients in these muffins are gluten free. The only flour that contains gluten is spelt. Spelt is an ancient grain that contains less gluten than modern wheat, but is not gluten free. I love using it in baked goods because it creates a light cakey texture. If you are looking for a muffin that is gluten free, try substituting one and one-half cups of a commercial gluten-free flour mix such as Bob’s Red Mill for the spelt flour and adding a quarter teaspoon of xanthan gum. I have not made them this way, but I’m pretty sure this will work. Let me know if you give it a gluten-free go and how your little love birds liked the recipe!