Cranberry Mint + Bourbon Ice Pops

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So, it maybe slush-snowed yesterday and maybe it’s been kind of freezing around here, but I made popsicles anyway…cause, why not? Especially when these pops combine a seasonal gem like cranberries, herbal mint, and a hit of warm bourbon for good measure. The pops freeze up with an almost sorbet-like texture and turn out the best jewel-toned berry hue. I mean, I’ll just pull on my f-ugg boots and add another layer in the form of a cardi coat to get my pop-tail on…weather be damned, I don’t even care.

Cranberry Mint + Bourbon Ice Pops

Makes about 10 servings.

As always, these pops are not SUPER boozey since alcohol inhibits freezing…meaning too much booze will result in slush…which isn’t really a bad thing, but it won’t result in a pop. Also, I use THIS ice pop mold. 

12 ounces of fresh or frozen cranberries

1/4 cup mint leaves

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups water, divided

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) bourbon

In a saucepan combine the cranberries, mint, sugar, and 1/2 cup water. Heat until it comes to a boil, the sugar dissolves, and cranberries pop. Remove from the heat and press the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Whisk in the remaining water and the bourbon. Allow to cool to room temperature and pour into ice pop molds. Freeze 1 hour before inserting the stick, then continue to freeze for several hours until solid.

In a saucepan

 

Cranberry Semifreddo Cups

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Are you tired of pumpkin yet?

I’m totes not…but, maybe we need a teensy break. Besides, fall has other stars! Pink ones even, like the tart and native-North-American-beauty, the cranberry. In my head I’m saying “cran-brerry,” in case you wanted to know. Anyway, cranberries shouldn’t just be relegated to side dish status. They are tart, a little bitter, and have the prettiest jewel-toned hue.

I’m a big fan of semifreddo, it’s a lot like ice cream–but it isn’t. It’s a little less fussy, since you don’t have to bust out a machine to churn it, but still manages to maintain a light-yet-rich character.  The deep fuchsia cranberry puree turns the best shade of pink when folded into the semifreddo base–no dyes up in here. A little vanilla and some bourbon bring warmth to the bittersweet tang of the cranberry, while whipped cream and egg yolks bring creamy lushness. Even though it’s a pretty easy recipe, this dessert certainly feels fancy and would be a perfect make-a-head treat to round out a fall or holiday gathering.

Cranberry Semifreddo Cups

Adapted from this recipe. 

You could use another fruit puree if you aren’t feeling, or can’t find, cranberries. Any tart, red fruit would be a nice substitute. You can also serve this semifreddo in scoops or smooth it into a loaf pan before freezing and slice once frozen (like this). I garnished these cups with lightly sweetened whipped cream and some chocolate vermicelli sprinkles. I happen to like tart cranberry with chocolate, but if you aren’t a fan, these are lovely unadorned as well. The recipe below produces more cranberry puree than needed–use it to serve these semifreddo cups or save for another use. 

12 ounces cranberries

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 Tablespoons mild honey

2 Tablespoons sugar

3 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons bourbon (optional)

In a medium saucepan combine cranberries, 2/3 cup sugar, and water. Cook over medium heat until cranberries burst and release their juices and the mixture starts to thicken. Press the cranberry mixture through a fine mesh sieve, discard skins and seeds. You will have around 2 cups of cranberry puree. Set aside to cool.

Create an ice bath and set aside.

Fashion a double boiler out of a bowl and a pot with a bit of simmering water in it–place a dampened paper towel on the underside of the bowl, making sure it is just larger than the pot below, to avoid slipping while whisking. This way you are able to whisk without steadying the bowl with your other hand.

Place the honey, remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugar, and egg yolks in the bowl. Whisk over the simmering pan of water until the yolk mixture gains some volume, becomes pale in color, and the whisk is just beginning to leave tracks in the mixture. Slowly drizzle in the vanilla and bourbon–whisking the whole time. Continue to whisk the yolk mixture over the simmering water until thickened and the whisk leaves clear, visible tracks in the yolk mixture. Remove the bowl from over the pot of water and whisk over an ice bath until cooled. Gently fold about 1-1 1/3 cups of the cranberry puree into the yolk mixture.

In a clean bowl, whip the cream until it holds medium peaks. Fold in 1/3 of the cream mixture into the cooled yolk and cranberry mixture. Once combined, repeat with the remaining whipped cream. Spoon the semifreddo mix into cups, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for several hours until very firm. Serve cold with desired garnishes.

Recipe: Cranberry Eggnog Coffee Cake

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On a holiday like Christmas, the morning can be a little hectic. Especially if there are little ones around, or dudes like my brother–a child trapped in a mans body–with their minds on what’s under the tree and not what’s in the kitchen. For my family, this isn’t the time for long, lingering breakfasts…it’s a time for coffee and something to snack on whilst tearing through that paper and cozying up on the couch for a few hours before heading to my aunts house for an extended family gathering and feast session.

We try to have something for breakfast that can be baked while the coffee is brewing. It can’t be anything that requires anyone to be sequestered in the kitchen for long, that’s just not right, and it has to be able to bake while the coffee is brewing. Meaning, it can’t take more than an hour, because it doesn’t matter how early my mom and I rise…the rest of the house will soon follow and a battle like that isn’t fit for Christmas morning.

I suspect that this year will be even more of a challenge since my niece is a toddler and we will all be anxious to see her react to the tree, and the gifts, and all of the festive, magical glory that is Christmas. She’s already at an exciting age and this exciting time of the year is sure to be a good memory for us all. I really cannot wait!

This cake would be a perfect Christmas morning treat. It’s pretty and full of holiday flavors–eggnog, cranberries, vanilla, and nutmeg–plus it has a little crumble on top. The jeweled cranberry layer takes on an almost jam-like quality, while the vanilla and nutmeg make the flavor of the eggnog sing. The cake is moist and a little dense in that coffee cake way. It’s delightful, albeit messy, served still a bit warm from the oven, though it keeps well overnight and can be baked ahead…further freeing up your morning for the fun stuff.

Cranberry Eggnog Coffee Cake

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

I have made this cake before, with buttermilk instead of eggnog and without the nutmeg. I loved it the first time, but I may like this festive version even more. This cake can be made year-round too with any flavor of jam standing in for the cranberry layer. 

1 vanilla bean split and scraped (save the pod for extract or sugar)

1 3/4 cup sugar

6 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon fresh, grated nutmeg, divided

1 stick (4 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon softened butter, divided

2 large eggs

1/2 cup eggnog

confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 375F, placing the rack in the middle. Butter a 9-inch springform pan (or cake pan) and line the bottom with parchment. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process sugar with vanilla bean until combined well. Pour vanilla sugar into a separate bowl. Add cranberries and 1/2 cup of the sugar back into the processor bowl and pulse a few times until finely chopped, but not puréed.

In a medium bowl whisk together 2 cups of flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Set aside.

In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup of vanilla sugar with 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon each of butter and flour. Blend well with fingers, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with electric beaters,  beat together 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl well and alternately add flour mixture and eggnog, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.

Spread half of the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan, smoothing as best as you can. Spread the cranberries over the batter, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the diameter. Gently spread the remaining batter on top of the cranberry layer, all the way to the edges, and sprinkle with crumble topping.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake (not the cranberry layer) comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the pan–40-50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 30 minutes before releasing from the pan.

Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Can be made 24 hours ahead, stored cooled and tightly wrapped at room temperature.