Cranberry Muffins
After having brownies for breakfast two days in the past week, I decided it was high time to get something more appropriate in the house.  Nothing at the grocery store appealed to me, so I came back home to bake something.  Fortunately for me, my buddy Jessica over at A Singleton in the Kitchen has been sharing muffin recipes every Monday as part of an event she calls Muffin Mondays.  I’ve bookmarked many of the recipes as she’s posted them so I just needed to figure out which one I’d try first.  I kept going back to the first recipe she shared – cranberry vanilla muffins – they’d appealed to me immediately when I’d seen them back in February and even though cranberries are no longer in season, I had a bag stashed in my freezer just begging to be used.  Besides, I think we can all agree that cranberries are a bit easier to justify than brownies when it comes to breakfast…

Cranberry Muffins

I adapted the original recipe just slightly based on Jessica’s recommendations.  The recipe calls for vanilla sugar, which the author makes by combining half of a vanilla bean with a cup of sugar in a food processor.  I substituted 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract for the 1/2 vanilla bean.  I actually had vanilla sugar in my kitchen (which I’d made previously by tossing used vanilla beans into a container of sugar) but I wanted to see how the vanilla extract substitution would work.  The only other change I made to the recipe was to substitute 4 tablespoons of nonfat Greek yogurt for 4 tablespoons of the butter.  It’s not a change I’ve ever made to a muffin recipe but Jessica said she does it regularly with good results and I’m definitely in favor of lightening things up where possible. 

The verdict?  They were very good muffins!  The batter was delicious and just a bit sweet and the tartness of the cranberries was a nice contrast to that sweetness.  The yogurt for butter substitution worked perfectly – the muffins were moist, fluffy and not at all lacking in flavor.  My only minor change the next time I make the muffins might be to cut back a bit on the cranberries.  Granted I’ve only tried two muffins so far, but I thought the ratio of cranberry to muffin was high.  Still, these are a great breakfast treat and one I definitely recommend trying if you have cranberries leftover in your freezer!

Cranberry Vanilla Muffins
adapted from Cold Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase (as seen on A Singleton in the Kitchen)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk (I used 1%)
2 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line 12-14 muffin cups with paper liners.
Place the vanilla extract and sugar in the bowl of a food processor (or blender) and process until the vanilla is fully incorporated into the sugar.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the vanilla sugar with the butter and Greek yogurt until smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, mixing until smooth and fluffy.  Fold in the cranberries. 
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.  Mix together the sugar and the nutmeg for the topping and sprinkle generously over the muffins.  Bake until the muffins are light golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes. 
Makes 12-14 muffins
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