Cranberry Ginger Muffin Tree

Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

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.

Cranberry Ginger Muffin Tree

Make anything in the shape of a wreath or a tree at this time of the year and instant celebration! So I present this lovely and charming muffin tree for the holidays. It’s bound to bring a smile to the faces of your breakfast companions, and I love how fun it is to serve it right on the baking sheet and let everyone tear-and share.

These treats are something of a cross between a muffin and a scone (a scuffin?) and I think best served just warm, though they are still lovely at room temperature. I chose to flavor these with seasonal cranberries and tangy ginger which works so beautifully with the Christmas tree theme. But honestly,  you can use you imagination with any combination of dried fruits and perhaps some chopped nuts. Add whatever spices appeal – nutmeg and cinnamon would be holiday perfect. The muffins themselves are not overly sweet, with the flavor coming from the cranberries and ginger. The streusel top adds a hint of sweet. I add a purely optional glaze, for a little extra sweet and a pretty flourish. Using cranberry juice adds a festive pink tinge, but you can use just cream of milk, or a tiny drop of food coloring. I promise, making the tree shape is easy but don’t get too caught up in perfect – the delightfully homemade, rustic look is part of the charm.

Cranberry Ginger Muffin Tree

For the Streusel:

4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 Tablespoons light brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ginger

2 Tablespoons butter, melted

For the Muffins:

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup diced crystallized ginger pieces

2 cups buttermilk

For the Glaze:

2 teaspoons cranberry juice

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Milk, cream or water

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

For the Streusel:

Mix the flour, sugar and ginger together with your fingers, breaking up any lumps. Pour in the melted butter and use a fork to blend it together until crumbly. You may want to finish blending with your fingers to create a damp rubble.

For the Muffins:

Put the flour, baking soda, ginger and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low a few times to blend. Mix in the cranberries and ginger pieces. Cut the cold butter into small chunks and add the flour, tossing them around with your hands to separate. Mix on medium low to rub the butter into the flour until there are just very small pieces of butter left – you can help it along with your fingers if needed.  Add the buttermilk all at once and mix just until combined. If there are some dry ingredients stuck at the bottom of the bowl, knead those in with your fingers.

Use a large cookie scoop and run it under water to just wet the surface – shake it out so there is no pooled water and wet the scoop a few times while forming the tree to help keep the dough from sticking. Scoop one ball of dough at the top of the sheet, then two beneath it. The balls should touch. In the next row, center a ball between the two above, then put one on either side. Next row put four balls across, then five, then two centered at the bottom for the trunk. I sometimes have enough dough left for two or three more muffins, which I bake on a separate lined baking sheet.

Carefully sprinkle some of the streusel on top of each muffin ball. Some will get on the baking sheet, but try and keep that to a minimum, returning it to the top of the muffins, with some falling between the gaps is fine.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the muffins are firm and golden. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes.

For the Glaze:

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl and whisk it with the cranberry juice to blend, then whisk in just enough milk, cream or water to produce a drizzle-able glaze. Drizzle over the muffin tree, then sprinkle over a little powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Makes 16 – 18

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