Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cranberry Cardamom Muffins

These are really nice moist muffins that have a nicely distinct flavor that comes from the cardamom. And I've become a bit picky about cardamom, preferring to grind the cardamom seeds myself in my mortar and pestle. The seeds are very hard and it takes a while to get them ground, but it's worth it and it's a good way to work out frustrations.

People usually think of cardamom as a spice used in savory Indian dishes or Indian sweets, but it's a favorite spice used by Scandinavians in their pastries.

One baking secret I'll share is my fairly recent discovery of vanilla bean paste. It's used as a substitue for vanilla extract. It gives baked goods a richer taste.

(for 2 dozen muffins)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
4 eggs
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

I started this recipe by cracking open the green cardamom pods to reveal the dark brown to black seeds within. I popped them in the mortar and started the grinding.
As the seeds grind the aroma of the cardamom fills the kitchen. It has such a strong scent, but is quite pleasant. I grind the seeds until I have a dark brown to black powder. I set those aside and gathered all of the dry ingredients together for mixing. At the same time I put the butter in a bowl and set it on the stove to start melting. It's nice to have a gas stove that has pilot lights underneath for gentle melting like this.

Ok, on to the muffins...

I measured out the dry ingredients, the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cardamom powder in one bowl and mix it all together really well.

Then I tossed in the cranberries and coat them with the dry mixture. You can toss frozen cranberries directly into the mix without thawing them.

Next, I mixed all of the wet ingredients. I slightly beat eggs and added the sour cream, mixing the two together well. Then I added the melted butter and finally the vanilla paste. And because the vanilla paste is soooo thick, it doesn't all come off the measuring spoon, so I get a taste of the vanilla...yum. This is something I don't think you could do with vanilla extract. It just doesn't taste the same.

Then I added the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Now with muffins, you don't want to over mix the wet and dry ingredients. You want to mix it just enough so that you don't see any dry ingredients and it's perfetly fine for the batter to be lumpy. In fact, the lumpier, the better. It gives the muffins their texture.

This batter is real thick, as it should be and almost a bit annoyingly sticky and difficult to scoop into the muffin tins. But anyway...

I filled muffin tins with paper liners or you could lightly grease the tin so the muffins don't stick. It's best to fill the tins about 2/3 deep, but I know these muffins aren't high risers (probably because of all the moisture from the sour cream...not sure), so I take it a smidge higher.

I popped the muffins into the oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. But I did the first toothpick test around 15 minutes to see how they were going. The toothpick test is where you take a toothpick and slide it into the center of the muffin and see if the toothpick comes out with batter on it, or if it comes out clean. If it's clean, the muffins are done.

These are so yummy strainght out of the oven warm. With a cold glass of milk....nice!

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