I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Merry Morning Muffins with Eggnog Butter (Overnight Gingerbread and Cranberry Muffins)

Everyone is up earlier than any other day of the year to see what’s under the tree.  Wrapping paper ripping, bows flying, boxes everywhere.  And somewhere in there, folks get hungry.  Just a nibble before the big celebration.  Something special, but simple.  There’s just too much going on to whip up a gourmet feast.  And the cookies Santa left behind just won’t do.

I’ve been making versions of this type of muffin for years, and decided it was finally time to work out a Christmas version.  Because these are the perfect treat for a crazy, busy morning.  Make the batter a day or two ahead, then simply scoop them out in the morning and bake.  The deep ginger and molasses flavor sings of Christmas and the tart, sweet cranberries add to the festive flavor. I love the added hit of candied ginger, but feel free to leave them out or substitute raisins or nuts.  These muffins are delicious straight up, spread with a little plain butter or some cranberry jam if you happen to have any around.  But add this nutmeg-y butter with the flavor of eggnog to add to the holiday spirit.  Make it ahead too, even a double batch for toast or waffles.

Merry Morning Muffins with Eggnog Butter (Overnight Gingerbread and Cranberry Muffins)

For the Muffins:

½ cup butter, room temperature

½ cup white sugar

½ cup molasses

2 eggs

1 ¾ cup flour

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon warm water

1 cup dried cranberries

¼ cup crystallized ginger pieces

For the Butter:

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon nutmeg

For the Muffins:

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using an electric mixer.  Beat in the molasses, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined.

Sift the flour and spices together and beat into the batter, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the batter is just mixed.  Dissolve the baking soda in the warm water in a small dish, then mix into the batter.  Stir in the cranberries and ginger until they are distributed throughout.

At this point, the batter can be refrigerated for up to two days, tightly covered.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Grease 12 muffin cups and divide the batter among them equally.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 12 muffins

For the Butter:

Beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla and nutmeg until combined and smooth.  Scoop into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until firm.

The butter can be made up to a week ahead.

Makes ½ cup

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