When I have a hankering for muffins, I pull out a tiny cookbook, a brochure really. It’s called “New England Muffins,” and was written by Nancy Berzinec in 1987. It has simple, unfussy muffin recipes that are completely reliable.
These tender, light muffins go together in a flash. Orange zest adds a lovely, slightly bitter undertone to the sweet muffins. They are also just dandy with some walnuts or pecans stirred into the batter. I was out of oranges but had a big bag of gorgeous clementines, so I used their zest instead.
This is a slight adaptation of the original recipe; I used a full cup of cranberries instead of the 3/4 cup called for (and would boost it to 1 1/4 cups next time), and I sprinkled the tops of the unbaked muffins with sugar for a crackly crust. I used granulated sugar instead of confectioner’s sugar when I discovered that my bag of confectioner’s sugar had expired in 2009. (I don’t bake sweet stuff much, can you tell?)
Makes 1 dozen muffins
1 1/4 cups chopped fresh cranberries
1 tbs. grated orange zest (lemon and tangerine also work)
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 cups flour
1 tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter
3 tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease muffin cups, or line them with paper liners.
Mix cranberries with zest and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Stir well, and set aside. Combine flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the egg, milk, and melted butter in a small bowl. Stir together the 3 tbs. sugar and cinnamon in a tiny bowl.
Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until barely combined. Fold in cranberry mixture; the batter will be stiff. Fill muffin cups a bit more than 3/4 full. Sprinkle tops with the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake for 18-20 minutes.