Bringing Out the Big Guns

I always imagine Christmas morning having a picturesque spread of various delectable treats that are laid out beautifully before you on a soft, warm, inviting table.  And then, there’s us… I baked simple muffins, Paul burned bacon (Happy was stoked! because of course we forgot to get him a treat for Christmas), and we ate breakfast on the couch.  But it was perfect for us, and I loved every moment of it!

In honor of Christmas, I wanted to sass it up a bit and make a festive muffin.  I found a recipe for chocolate oatmeal cranberry muffins and knew that I had found the one!  Now, we all know I am not the most prepared or organized baker but I actually remembered to buy all of the ingredients and even left the butter out to soften overnight (aren’t you proud of me?!).  Side note… I saw a fantastic trick on how to soften butter on the Today Show.  This is for all of us slackers who don’t think ahead.  Seal the butter in a large ziplock bag, releasing all of the air, and pound the begeezies out of it with a rolling pin.  Works like a charm!

I digress, back to this morning.  I began to read the recipe (which I never do until I actually start baking much to my poor mother’s dismay who always tried to get me to pre-read the recipe, bad habits die hard) and realized this would require the “big guns”.  In order to melt the chocolate and butter I would need a double broiler, and to measure the correct amount of cocoa I would need a sifter.  Now, one can melt and combine chocolate and butter in the microwave, but I’m an old fashioned girl and LOVE my mom’s original double broiler from the 60’s.  When I read I had to sift the cocoa, I begrudgingly pulled out my tiny sifter and said, “Sift the cocoa, really??? Oh Lord!”  But in truth, it was the right thing to do because as I sifted I noticed large cocoa balls being broken down in the sifter which, if incorporated into the batter,  would have changed the taste of the muffin.

Double Broiler

So as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra crooned classic Christmas carols through Pandora and the fire burned on in our decorated fire place, I baked away.  The muffin is a moist, chocolately, not too sweet, cranberry busrting treat that would be perfect for any holidayish meal.  Added bonus, it’s super easy to make.  Bake on my friends!!!

Chrstmas Fire

There are just certain moments in your life when you feel completely content and happy, and that was this morning for me.  It’s not about gifts or material things, it’s about being in a warm home filled with love with a simply wonderful husband for whom I’m so grateful.  I am blessed.

“Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

Christmas Tree

CHOCOLATE OATMEAL COOKIES WITH CRANBERRIES (care of Dorie Greenspan’s adapted “Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins”  Baking From My Home to Yours)

Chocolate Oatmeal Cranberry Muffins

INGREDIENTS:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (2 ounces to melt, and 2 ounces to add to the muffins later), 1-1/4 cups buttermilk, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup frozen cranberries

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease your muffin tin, both inside and along the top edge. I usually use a silicone pastry brush and a bit of vegetable shortening. It just takes a few seconds. Alternately, you could just use paper liners.

Gently melt together the butter and half of the chopped chocolate. You can do this by combining them in a microwave-safe bowl and heating in the microwave 15-30 seconds at a time, stirring well after each burst of heat until smooth. Or in the top of a double-boiler or in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. I usually melt chocolate very, very carefully in a heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring frequently until the chocolate is just melted. Chocolate can scorch really easily, so best to do this slowly and gently. Once melted, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In another bowl or a large measuring cup, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and vanilla together. Stir in the oats and allow them to soak while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together well and set aside.

Add the melted chocolate mixture to the rest of the wet ingredients and stir well.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and gently stir together until just blended. It’s okay if there are still some streaks of flour – with muffins, undermixing is always better than over mixing.

Fold in the rest of the chopped chocolate and the cranberries.

Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, portion the batter into the muffin tin. Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack for about 5-10 minutes before removing from the muffin tin.  Makes 12 muffins.

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