Cranberry Sauce -Three Ways

The first time I made cranberry sauce from scratch was as one of those magical moments in life that brought back a sense of childlike wonder. As I stood over the stove, I watched the brilliant red cranberries undergo a kind of metamorphosis, every few seconds another berry bursting out of its skin with a soft “pop”, revealing a unique striped pattern. Just like snowflakes, the beauty and magic is fleeting – lasting only moments before melting into the rest. But in the end, I had a bright ruby sauce with a perfect balance of tart and sweet to awaken the palate.  

And so began my fascination with homemade cranberry sauce. I still can’t believe how easy it is to make (just 15 minutes and only three ingredients!), along with the endless variation potential (you can add apples, cinnamon, pears, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, persimmon, pretty much anything your heart desires!). Not to mention all of the things you can use leftover cranberry sauce for (my favorite is to add a dollop in my oatmeal)… Go ahead, grab some fresh cranberries, a spoon, and dig in!

Recipe for cranberry sauce

The Basic Cranberry Sauce:

  • 12 oz. (1 bag) or about 4 cups fresh cranberries, washed and drained
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)

Pour the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture is boiling and the sugar has dissolved, add in the cranberries and return to a boil. Now, lower the heat and bring to a simmer.

This is when the magic happens! Over the next 10 minutes, the cranberries will burst open to reveal brilliant stripes and then melt together to create the sauce. This is when you can add your cinnamon, nutmeg or any other spices that you like.

Once most of the berries have burst, remove the pot from the heat and set aside to let cool. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. You can serve it right away, or you can store it in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.

Apple/Pear/Persimmon Cranberry Sauce

If you want to give some your cranberry sauce some added texture and flavor, you can add apples, pears, and/or persimmons. Most people like using tart apples (like Granny Smith), but I like fuji or gala. Pears add a nice sweetness too (I like red Anjous or red Comice), but make sure to peel them first if using pears with rougher skin (like Bosc) so you don’t end up with sandpaper-like bits in your cranberry sauce. If adding persimmons, make sure you use the crunchy fuyu type which cook more like apples. Be sure to peel the persimmons completely and remove any seeds before dicing.

  • Add 1 or 2 diced apples, pears, or persimmons (or any combination!) to the above recipe. (This is about 2 cups diced fruit.)

Follow the recipe above for basic cranberry sauce, adding in the diced fruit right after you bring the cranberries to a boil.

Ginger-Cranberry Sauce

If you want a spicier sauce to cut the sweetness, you can add some freshly sliced, diced or grated ginger. Using sliced ginger enables you to remove the ginger after the cooking process so that you get a mild flavor of ginger in your sauce. Using grated ginger pulp will yield a sauce with stronger ginger flavor, while still maintaining a smooth texture and consistent spiciness throughout. Using finely diced ginger will result in a cranberry sauce with bits of the spicy ginger that can add a bright surprise to any bite (recommended for true ginger lovers). 

  • Add a 1-inch segment of peeled ginger root, either sliced, grated into a pulp, or finely diced to the basic recipe

Follow the recipe above for basic cranberry sauce, adding in the ginger right after you bring the cranberries back to a boil.

Matcha Shortbread

My love for all things matcha has evolved over the years, from tasting my first matcha latte at TeaDo to experimenting with matcha in my own baking. I discovered this recipe (originally adapted from Tiny Urban Kitchen) for matcha shortbread and with a few tweaks, have been baking them into stars, rocket ships, dinosaurs, and teapots ever since…!
Recipe for Matcha Shortbread
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3-4 tbsp matcha powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 ½ sticks (20 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp almond milk
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
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In a medium bowl, mix/sift/whisk the flours, matcha powder, baking powder, cocoa, and salt together. In another (larger) bowl, beat the sugar and butter together with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add the almond milk, vanilla, and egg, and beat until smooth. Add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.
Turn the dough onto plastic wrap or sometimes it’s easier to just pour it into a ziplock bag. Shape the dough into a disk and refrigerate until firm (usually at least 2 hours, or overnight).
20150830_114312When you’re ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature (about 15-20 minutes). Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375°. Roll out your dough on a floured work surface until about ¼-inch thick. Be sure to generously flour your work surface and rolling pin as you work.
Grab your favorite cookie cutters and go to town!  Be sure to space out your cookies about 1-inch apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 375° until edges are lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
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Pie Crust

It was the first Thanksgiving I was going to attempt to make pie, and it was going to be the first pie I ever attempted to bake. I must have been like 9 or 10 at the time and I was going to make pecan pie. I don’t even remember if I liked pecan pie at that point in my life. Or if I had ever even had pecan pie before. But I was going to bake one because that’s what my family requested that year.

I didn’t know what I was doing. In a last minute shopping trip, I ended up grabbing pre-made pie crust from the frozen food section, and then frantically searching for all the ingredients listed in a recipe on the back of a bottle of Karo’s syrup I found in the baking isle. I had no idea what corn syrup was or why it looked so different from corn on the cob. I was still confused as I poured a soupy mess of beaten eggs, corn syrup, and melted butter into the raw pie shell–bewildered how this was all supposed to come together in a nice little slice of heaven. I was amazed when I took it out of the oven, toasted pecans nicely nestled in a golden brown crust.

I remember tasting my slice of pie that night and thinking it was so sweet it made my teeth hurt. And I wondered why the store-bought dough was so salty. Pies are supposed to be sweet, aren’t they? But making that pie was magical. How the ingredients all came together and underwent a transformation into this sweet, buttery, nutty dessert. I was hooked on pies. By the next Thanksgiving, I was making my own pie crusts from scratch and reducing the amount of sugar in any pie that I baked.

My pie crusts have since evolved over the years to incorporate a hybrid of whole wheat flour and regular all-purpose flour. I like the earthier and more complex flavor the whole wheat flour adds, though it does sometimes make the dough more crumbly and harder to work with. But it’s worth the extra effort, especially since the food processor is doing most of the work anyway. I’ve used this for a variety of fruit pies as well as galettes and mini-pies. Enjoy!

Recipe for Pie Crust

This recipe makes enough dough for 2 pies, or a top and bottom crust for a single pie.

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cold, unsweetened butter, cut into chunks (and refrigerated again)
  • 4 tbsp ice water or fruit juice

Place flour, sugar, and salt in food processor.  Pulse for 5 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over the flour, then pulse until mixture resembles a course meal. Sprinkle with water and process until dough starts to come together, but NOT until it forms a ball. Remove from food processor and press mixture together.  Form 2 disks and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling and baking.