My May-December Romance

Don’t start blushing and getting worked up into a state of shock.

This is no confession about any affair with a much younger or older man.

Instead, it’s my declaration of my unabashed May-December relationship with fresh cranberries.

The winter holidays come and go in a flash, and with them, those lovely, jewel-like sweet-tart berries that we gorge on in sauce, chutney, breads, scones and cakes only at that time of year.

But months later, even as the days grew sunnier and warmer, I end up missing them, even longing desperately for them.

So I do what the food editors of Sunset magazine do. Because of their crazy far-in-advance deadlines, they often find themselves having to test cranberry recipes in the summer. So, they got to stashing bags of fresh cranberries in the freezer for months on end. I decided to do the same and haven’t looked back since.

The beauty of this is that my lode of cranberries I put in the freezer in December can be pulled out later in May to enjoy in such treats as this “Cranberry Coffee Cake” from the December 2009 issue of Cuisine at Home magazine.

A good cup of fresh cranberries gets pulverized with sugar, and orange zest and then incorporated into the cake batter like swirls of fuschia-hued jam. Another 1/3 cup of dried cranberries gets mixed with butter, flour, sugar, pecans and more orange zest to make a crunchy, sweet streusel topping.

The cake bakes up easy in one big pan, and emerges tender, sticky, crunchy, buttery and shot through with deep cranberry flavor.

Now, that’s one love affair that’s bound to last.

Cranberry Coffee Cake

(Makes 16 servings)

For streusel:

1/2 stick unsalted butter

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons minced orange zest

For cake:

1 cup fresh cranberries

2 1/4 cups sugar, divided

Zest of 1/2 an orange

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon EACH table salt and ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

4 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray. Line pan with parchment paper so it hangs over the edges to create handles; spray again.

Melt 1/2 stick butter; stir in the 2/3 cup flour, pecans, dried cranberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons zest; set streusel aside.

Pulse fresh cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar and zest of 1/2 an orange in a food processor; set aside. Whisk together 2 cups flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder in a bowl; set aside. Whisk together eggs and egg yolk; set aside.

Using a hand mixer, cream 3 sticks butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in a large bowl.

Add flour mixture and egg mixture alternately to butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Transfer half of the batter to prepared pan; top with cranberry mixture and remaining batter, smoothing each layer. Use a knife to swirl batter and cranberries; top cake with streusel.

Bake cake 55-60 minutes; cool on a rack for 20 minutes before serving.

Per serving: 367 cal; 22g total fat (13g sat); 98mg chol; 184 sodium; 41g carb; 1g fiber;ร‚ย  4g protein

From Cuisine at Home, December 2009

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