These cranberry gingerbread muffins are flavoured with fancy molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg for a festive breakfast treat in the winter.
It doesn’t feel like winter if there’s no gingerbread. The gingerbread could come in the form of gingerbread granola, gingerbread cookie cut-outs, and even muffins like these. I associate gingerbread with fall–winter more than Christmas. I think it’s always best to just answer a craving, rather than try and ignore it until it’s proper gingerbread season. Why the sudden urge to listen to my cravings? Let me explain.
The key to tasty gingerbread is the mix of spices (heavy on the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg) and the fancy molasses (not to be confused with blackstrap molasses, which would be overpowering). If you have a muffin recipe you like, an easy baking substitution would be to replace half the sugar with fancy molasses, by the way.
Sweet gingerbread flavours go hand in hand with tart cranberry, and there are two ways of incorporating cranberries in muffins: dried cranberries or fresh/frozen cranberries:
- fresh or frozen cranberries will inevitably release some fruit juice into the muffins as they bake and the fruit begins to heat up, which can lead to a certain gummy layer of batter around the fruit if the recipe already has a high level of moisture
- dried cranberries don’t add more moisture to recipes, which is a good thing in most cases, but because they absorb moisture, they can lead to a dryer crumb
For this recipe, I pre-cooked the cranberries by poaching them in a simple syrup, which is actually the first step in making the sugared cranberries you see on this frosted chestnut cake.
Cranberry gingerbread muffins
For the poached cranberries
- 180 grams (⅓ lb) frozen cranberries 1.5 cups
- 250 mL (1 cup) water
- 100 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar
- 8 grams (1 tbsp) all purpose flour
For the muffins
- 200 grams (1⅔ cups) all-purpose flour
- 3.75 mL (¾ tsp) baking powder
- 2.5 mL (½ tsp) baking soda
- 2.5 mL (½ tsp) fine kosher salt
- 5 mL (1 tsp) ground cinnamon
- 2.5 mL (½ tsp) ground cloves
- 1.25 mL (¼ tsp) ground ginger
- 1.25 mL (¼ tsp) ground nutmeg
- 100 grams (½ cup) unsalted butter
- 100 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar
- 100 grams (⅓ cup) molasses
- 2 large eggs
- 5 mL (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
- 57 grams (¼ cup) buttermilk
To make the poached cranberries
- In a large saucepan, combine the cranberries, water, and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and when the sugar is completely dissolved and the cranberries are soft (but haven't burst), take the pan off the heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Strain the poached cranberries (you can save the liquid for cocktails or for another batch of poached fruit) and blot them on a paper towel to dry them before tossing them with 10 grams of flour to coat them. Freeze them for 10 minutes to firm them up while you make the gingerbread muffin batter.
To make the muffins
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line 10 slots of a muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the 200 grams flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the spices. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the molasses, then the eggs one at a time, beating and scraping down the mixer bowl as needed. Add the vanilla.
- Dump in a half of the dry ingredients, then the buttermilk, and the rest of the dry ingredients.
- Fold the flour-coated frozen poached cranberries into the batter, divide among the paper-lined muffin pans and bake for about 23–25 minutes. Let cool.
I do my best to bake with the finest ingredients. Stirling Creamery, a Canadian company, has provided the butter for this post.
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University. Visit janicelawandi.com to see my portfolio.