Lest you think I am the perfect sort of person I must confess: I'm a thief.
As a kid I stole something, a toy or a book or who knows what, from my neighbour. My parents found out, despite my denials. So my Dad drove me to the police station to turn me in. I confessed as we were pulling into the parking lot. Returns and apologies later I should have been cured.
In University I worked part-time for a caterer. She had a spot in a fancy mall food court and mostly catered to hospital events. She was a very nice woman, good cook, horrible boss, and a bad business woman. She would literally do her grocery shopping from the kitchen where we worked. No inventory, no record of what she was taking. We staff initially felt bad that we were even taking home the food that was supposed to be trashed at the end of the day, but as her grocery shopping increased and her presence decreased we got cranky. Despite the fact that I was a poor student (woe is me) I never actually got my daily groceries there, but I ate well from leftovers. And I had a serious addiction to making hot chocolate with the couverture chocolate she bought by 10 kilo packs.
Then one day I crossed the line. It was a slow day and the two of us working started flipping through the cookbooks at the back of the kitchen. I can't remember the recipe that made me want to borrow the book, but that night I took one book home. And never brought it back. I worked there for many months more. At home I cooked from that book a few times, as much as my budget would allow.
That was over 15 years ago and I still cook from that book. Only now I don't feel guilty anymore. I'm a thief and I know it.
These muffins have been in my repertoire since the first winter with this book. I've made a few changes to the recipe over the years, but the spirit of Sarah Leah Chase's Cold Weather Cooking is still there. Definitely best the day they are made, better yet, still warm. They are closer to a cake than a muffin, a real treat.
Cranberry Vanilla Muffins (with orange)
(Adapted from Cold Weather Cooking)
Makes 12 muffins
1/2 vanilla bean
1 orange, zested
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12 muffin tins with papers or spray with non-stick spray.
2. Chop the vanilla piece into smaller pieces. Combine with the sugar and orange zest in a blender or food processor. If you don't have a food processor you can substitute 1 cup sugar with vanilla sugar or sugar plus 2 tsp vanilla extract. Process until the vanilla bean is broken up and the sugar is fully flecked with those black seeds of the vanilla and the gold of the zest.
3. Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well each time.
4. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the the creamed butter and sugar alternating with the milk. When the batter is smooth fold in the cranberries.
5. Pour into prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle with the nutmeg and sugar topping. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.