If you have ever read any of my posts here, you know that I am a) definitely not a professional food photographer and b) I am not "monetizing" the blog with any kind of promotion, either of ingredients or equipment.
What I do like to do with my little essays is present some recipes I've found pleasing to others that I hope readers will want to try. Along with the recipes I like to include some narrative that includes some "history" on when I started making the dish, a family story or other background comments I hope might be interesting. Sometimes I may also include some hints on how to make cooking and baking a little easier and/or less expensive.
All that said, today I would like to recommend and feature two "tools" that are pretty indispensable for me in my everyday cooking and baking. The muffin recipe that follows uses both pieces of equipment, with only measuring spoons and a mixing spoon to prepare the entire recipe.
First, a clear glass 1 quart measuring cup that doubles as a mixing bowl as well.
Those who know me know that I like to minimize the number of dishes that are going to be needing to be washed when I finish making something, and having to use many different measuring cups for a single recipe is especially not my favorite thing. The nice thing about this large measuring cup/bowl is that many recipes can be adapted to just keep adding ingredients to the bowl rather than measuring each separately.
Today's mini-muffin recipe is especially easy to adapt to using only the measuring bowl. As you'll see in the recipe, I first layer in the cranberry sauce and applesauce and then pour the canola oil over:
3/4 cup cranberries + 1/4 cup applesauce + 1/4 cup canola oil = 1 1/4 cup total. (Though I realize now that the angle of the photo makes this look like 1 1/2 cups, it really is the right amount. As I said before, I am definitely not a pro at food photography!)
Then I add the eggs, brown sugar, and spices:
At this point, I beat everything together until well mixed. The clear glass helps me to see if I have any spots where some of the ingredients didn't get stirred in.
Now to the dry ingredients and the other "basic tool" that I have had for decades, literally! This, my friends who may be a little new to baking, is a flour sifter!
Probably the most important thing a flour sifter does is make sure that those "concentrated" ingredients like baking soda, baking powder, spices, and even cocoa are evenly distributed throughout the flour. I know that many, many people no longer have one of these, and you can get by without one. If the recipe says "sift together...," then you can just put all those ingredients in a large bowl and stir well with a fork to be sure that everything is evenly mixed. If you ever make the mistake of not thoroughly sifting or stirring in the baking soda, I can tell you from sad experience that you may get very uneven rising--and some bites will not taste good at all!
Wait, you may say. If it is so important to sift the spices along with the flour, why do I suggest adding them with the wet ingredients here?
When I am doing a lot of baking, I don't always wash my sifter between every recipe! If the only things going into the sifter are flour, baking soda, and/or baking powder, there is no problem with just reusing the sifter without washing. If I don't want to use the same spices in consecutive recipes, there could be a residue left in the sifter from one to the next. Thus, I long ago learned that spices can be evenly mixed in with a very liquid set of ingredients, and my sifter would be left for only those more basic ingredients. So for this recipe, I have used my somewhat unorthodox method. If this sounds heretical to you, do feel free to sift those spices in with the flour.
Now, finally, on to the recipe.
If you are like most people I know, cranberry relish is a very seasonal dish, so you might well have a can of cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving or Christmas. Instead of having that linger on the shelf until next fall, this is a good way to use it up.
Cranberry Applesauce Mini Muffins
3/4 c cranberry sauce--the "whole berry" kind if you are using canned
1/4 c unsweetened applesauce, preferably homemade!
1/4 c canola oil
1/3 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger
1 1/2 c flour--either unbleached, whole wheat, or a mixture of the two
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and use non-stick cooking spray to prepare enough mini muffin pans for 36 muffins. Be sure to cover each litle cup completely to avoid any sticking!
2. Put the first 8 ingredients in a clear glass quart measure or other large bowl, in the order listed. Beat until thoroughly mixed.
3. Sift the flour, soda, and baking powder together (or mix with a fork in a second bowl). Pour over the liquid ingredients and stir gently with a fork just until blended. Try not to over-mix.
4. Spoon the batter into the greased pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until the muffins are nicely browned and spring back if touched lightly.
5. Remove from oven and loosen from pans as soon as possible. Cool.
Makes 36 mini muffins.
If you prefer to make regular size muffins, this recipe will make about 12. Bake at 350 for approximately 16 to 20 minutes.