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Cranberries are an underrated fruit.
They’re far too tart to eat fresh, but when they are combined with some sugar or a sweet fruit like bananas and clementines, that fierce sourness turns into something downright delightful.
When cooking with fresh cranberries, it’s best to rinse them and sort through them to find any soft or shriveled specimens and toss those one. Firm, shiny, deep red cranberries are what you’re after.
Fresh cranberries usually stay good for at least a week after you buy them if they’re stored in the refrigerator. If you don’t use them in that time, stick them in the freezer.
Cranberries freeze beautifully. If you want to keep them around longer than the late months of the year when they are typically available, simply buy an extra bag, put it in an airtight container (such as zip-top bag) since cranberries are often sold in bags with holes in them. They’ll stay good in the freezer for a year.
You can use frozen cranberries in virtually any recipe that calls for fresh cranberries—no need to thaw them first. (Don’t substitute dried cranberries, which are typically sweetened and behave very differently.)
These cranberries are more than the sum of their simple parts. They are excellent on oatmeal, in yogurt, as a topping for pancakes, waffles, or french toast. They are also wonderful with cheese. You can use fresh or frozen cranberries here. I always buy an extra bag or two of fresh cranberries to stash in the freezer to have on hand for times like these. I like to make these with raw cane sugar, which adds a little more complexity than white sugar, but whatever granulated sugar you have on hand will be fine. If you are comfortable with water bath canning, feel free to do that with these. They should be processed for five minutes and will keep for a year. If not, you can just jar them and store them in the refrigerator where they’ll keep for several weeks.
This cranberry curd tart uses a press-in shortbread crust inspired by one Alice Medrich uses in everything. This one has a bit of orange zest and powdered sugar to keep it tender. The cranberry curd itself is a riff on one I've been making for years that's rounded out with a generous splash of vanilla, some freshly squeezed orange juice from the orange you just zested, and an optional splash of any orange liqueur you like (but don't bother going out to buy Grand Marnier or Dry Curacao just for this). The tart crust can be made and baked up to two days ahead, and the curd can be cooked and chilled up to a week in advance, you can then assemble and bake the tart on the day (or day before) you want to eat it. The meringue is totally optional, but because the tart leaves you with extra egg whites from the curd, it's easy to go that extra step and add the meringue. The amount of meringue isn't as much what you would typically do for a towering lemon meringue pie, but it's plenty for piping decoratively on the top (and enough to cover the whole top with dots like you see pictured if you wanted to do that). You'll need a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom for this recipe.
These poached apples are smoky and sweet with ginger and allspice. Cranberry juice brings out their tartness and turns them a gorgeous dark red color. They work well as an appetizer paired with rich cheeses on toast, but they also make a sophisticated dessert paired with vanilla or caramel ice cream. They are easy to make ahead of time and keep well in the refrigerator for several days.
This smoothie takes about two minutes to make. The sweetness of the clementines and banana balance out the tart cranberries without any added sweeteners. The almonds provide some added nutty creaminess. You can toast the almonds before adding them to enhance the flavor (or you could use almond butter if you prefer). The vanilla extract rounds out the acidity of the fruit. When I have bananas that are on their way out, I peel them and put them in a ziploc bag to freeze. Fresh or frozen bananas work here as do fresh or frozen cranberries. If you’re using frozen bananas, you can skip the ice cubes.
This luxurious, brilliant pink curd is a cinch to make. Cranberry’s natural acidic tartness is tamed here into something sweet and round, but the berry’s bright fruit flavor remains strong. It would be right at home on a holiday table, but it really shines as an accompaniment to a simple breakfast or dessert. If you want to make this beyond the season when cranberries are available in the grocery store, stock up on a few extra bags and throw them in the freezer where they’ll keep for months.
This Dutch baby is a puffy, eggy oven pancake. It works best in an 8 or 10-inch cast iron skillet, but will work in any similarly sized oven-safe skillet. Mixing the batter in the blender helps to whip the eggs into a light and airy froth that gives it more height in the oven (you can also do this with a stick blender in a deep container). You can also mix it by hand, but you won't get the same amount of loft (but it will still be delicious). You can use fresh or frozen cranberries here. Because this is breakfast, I keep the sweetness in check. The tart cranberry flavor still comes through, but if you have a sweet tooth you can add more syrup or powdered sugar at the end. Chinese five spice, which contains cinnamon, fennel, cloves, star anise, and white pepper is a great spice blend to have in your baking arsenal. I think it pairs beautifully with the cranberries here.
Brown Butter Cake with Cranberry Curd, Orange Cardamom Crumbs, and Biscoff Frosting (a la Momofuku Milk Bar)
This is my take on a Momofuku Milk Bar cake. The cake and the method are Tosi’s (she’s really the genius here), but the fillings and flavor combinations are mine. This is a big project and needs to be started at least a day before you want to serve it, but all of the components except for the frosting can be made a few days ahead of time, and the fully assembled cake keeps in the freezer for up to two weeks. So you have plenty of flexibility in getting it ready for a special occasion. I had leftover orange cardamom crumbs, but I would layer them on even more densely if I made it again. I love this cranberry curd and think it’s special enough to consider doubling just to have leftovers. This method of making curd without tempering the eggs is unorthodox, but again, the method comes from Tosi, and I’ve started making all of my fruit curds this way. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you should really think about getting one. Grams are so much more precise than cups and tablespoons. I’ve provided measurements for both weights and volume, but you’ll get more consistent results if you weigh everything.