Sparkling muffins

I know, I know, if you sparkle a muffin, you’ll only be contributing to the trend — is something so established still considered a trend? — of turning muffins into cupcakes. And yet sometimes the urge is irresistible.

I made these the other day. They are one of my favorite muffins (of the cupcakey muffin style), so I thought I’d share them with you.


1 C frozen cranberries, chopped. I suggest a food processor to chop the cranberries. You’re not looking to grind them into a paste, so just pulse until they are fairly well chopped.
2 Tbsp sugar
2 C flour
1/3 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C butter
3/4 C orange juice — I use frozen concentrate because I just keep it in the freezer and use it now and then, but I guess fresh would probably be better.
1 egg, slightly beaten

1/4 C butter, melted, for dipping
1/4 C sugar, for dipping

Spray muffin cups with whatever oil spray you prefer. They will stick if you don’t spray the cups. If you use paper cups, put them in the muffin pan and then — this is important — spray the paper cups.

Combine the chopped cranberries with the 2 Tbsp sugar and set aside.

Combine the flour, the 1/3 C sugar, the baking powder, and the salt. Cut in the butter. I suggest cutting the cold butter into roughly Tbsp chunks, adding them to the flour mixture, and then using a Really Sturdy pastry cutter (with FLAT BLADES not ROUND WIRES) to cut in the butter. It only takes a minute if you have chunked the butter rather than dropping a whole stick into the bowl. Incidentally, if you’re not used to cutting in butter, you first press straight down and then twist the cutter in a circular motion. If (when) butter sticks to the cutter, scrape it off with a spoon or knife.

You cut in butter to produce flakier pastries, incidentally. It makes an enormous difference when you make scones, but I’m not certain it honestly matters tremendously for this recipe. The alternative would be to soften the butter (15 seconds in the microwave) and beat it with the egg and sugar, then the orange juice, then add the flour mixed with the baking powder and salt. That would probably work fine, too.

Anyway, provided you cut in the butter the way the recipe directs, you cut it in until the bits of butter are the size of peas or smaller and then stir in the orange juice and egg, mixing gently.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. For me, this makes 12 muffins with no batter left over.

Bake the muffins at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or so, until lightly browned. Cool in the pan five minutes. Lift out and set on a rack. If you sprayed the muffin pan, they should lift out easily, or at least mine do. While still warm, dip each muffin in the melted butter and then the sugar. Serve warm, to cries of delight from all.

Though sparkling cranberry muffins are popular, I’m sure you immediately notice the potential of this techniques for other kinds of muffins. If you sparkle a chocolate or chocolate chip muffin, you may as well give up and call it a cupcake, but you can probably get away with serving most other kinds of sparkled muffins for breakfast. I must admit that I am perfectly capable of eating them for breakfast and then for dessert at dinner, so a batch doesn’t last long at my house.

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