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cranberry-and-pear-upside-down-muffinsThese probably aren’t going to be the prettiest muffins you will see in the run up to Christmas. If you want pretty – and I’m sure extremely tasty – festive baking, have a look at the world of wonder and fantasy that is Pinterest.  I’m crushing on this page in particular. I practically weep at the skill and creativity contained within those rolling pixels of perfection. Maybe I have even wailed and gnashed my teeth over your dainty treats.  To restore sanity and a sense of perspective I have recently adopted a habit of going over to Damn You Autocorrect. I find it is just the thing to cheer myself up after going on my increasingly regular Pinterest benders. True.cranberry-and-pear-upside-down-muffinsAs much as I have in the past attempted to be one of those lucky sods who can pipe a straight line, or dollop excruciatingly exact macarons, I am now not even trying to go there. Sadly my historically poor eyesight and even poorer fine motor coordination early on knocked out any ideas of culinary grandeur that I may have once incubated.

My creative stripes appeared early enough. I was that young girl who would rip apart perfectly good shoes in order to refashion/ruin them using a staple gun and scraps of felt: “A” for creativity but a “D-” for practicality. Perhaps I could have been Lady GaGa’s go-to cobbler if I had stuck at it. On the food front I could hollow a watermelon basket and fill it with vodka soaked fruit kebabs with the best of them (I was slightly older by this point). In point of fact I can do you a decent homemade bread, a more than serviceable cake, even a delectable and more-ish tart. But pretty? I think not. Pretty damn tasty, but definitely not pretty damn pretty.

However, I promise you the rough and tumble exterior of these beastly looking cranberry and pear upside-down muffins belies a tender and delicious heart. So to speak. And it is super easy too. All you do is simmer down the cranberries to a syrupy sticky mess (mess I can do!), pop them in a lined muffin tin, cover with a pear-studded dropping batter of oats, yogurt and honey and, et voila, ugly muffins.

I’m sure in your capable hand they will look like something from an Ottolenghi shop window – tweet me any ones you make and I will RT them with thanks – but even if you are just as much of a decorating duffer as I am I hope you appreciate the fresh and zingy taste. They are a big hit at home and at my cancer nutrition classes, so hopefully you too will like them. Now, do you dare me to put these on Pinterest?!

PS This post is dedicated to Daphne in Helensburgh, who I hear tell is wondering what the deal is with all the kale. No kale here, Daphne. You are safe for today. ;D

cranberry-and-pear-upside-down-muffinsCranberry and Pear Upside-Down Baby Cakes

Last year: Cranberry and Apple Sauce + Cranberry-Pomegranate Fresh Relish; Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Sage Crumbs

Two years ago: A Trio of Kale Recipes – Crisps, Frittata and Pasta

Miss R’s track of the week: Johnny Clegg (joined onstage by Nelson Mandela) – Asimbonanga

These are one of the few lower sugar bakes that I find tastes and ‘feels’ as good on the second day as the day it is baked. I think the secret is the Greek yogurt. All that protein and dense creamy texture gives muffins and cakes a light crumb, and better keeping powers. Greek yogurt is also great in gluten-free baking, giving a fine, light texture. Try it and see.

I used fresh pears in an initial batch – and they were fab – but the pear taste didn’t really come through enough for me. Use diced fresh pears if you like – 2 small ones. No need to adjust the liquid measures unless the pears are dripping with juice.

Adapted from Susan Reimer’s Muffins Fast and Fantastic and

Fresh cranberries – 140g (1 ½ cups)

Honey, date syrup or maple syrup – 75ml (1/3 cup)

Star anise, 2 – optional

Flour, plain/AP or gluten-free flour – 200g (1.6 cups//7 oz)

Baking powder – 1 ½ tsp

Salt – ½ tsp

Porridge/rolled oats – 75g (¾ cup)

Bicarbonate of soda – 1 tsp

Non-fat Greek yogurt OR non-dairy equivalent – 225g (1 cup)

Egg OR egg replacer, 1 –  lightly beaten

Acacia honey, date syrup OR maple syrup – 75ml (scant ¼ cup)

Almond OR dairy milk – 80ml (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp)

Rapeseed/canola oil OR other flavourless oil – 90ml (scant ½ cup)*

Dried pear, chopped – 100g (1/4 cup)

1. Preheat your oven to 190C/375F – lower if you have a fan oven. Line a 12-hole standard-sized muffin tin with two paper cases in each hole and spray lightly with your favourite non-stick spray – or use a silicon tray.

2. Make the cranberry sauce for the upside-down part of the cakes by putting the washed cranberries in a small saucepan with the honey, star anise (if using)  and a dash of water. Bring to a slow simmer and stir occasionally, until the cranberries have mostly popped and gone syrupy. Add a little more water if it threatens to stick during simmering but you don’t want the sauce to be wet – more like jam. Spoon a tablespoon of the cranberry sauce into the prepared muffin cases. I sprinkled in some demerara sugar, but it doesn’t need it.fresh-cranberries-in-pot

cranberry-sauce-in-muffin-cases3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Put aside.

4. In another bowl mix together the oats, bicarbonate of soda and yogurt. Let this sit and absorb for a minute then thoroughly stir in the egg/egg replacer, honey, almond milk and oil.

5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and, using a metal spoon for the most efficient mixing, gently fold in the wet mixture until just combined, adding the chopped pear in with the final few strokes. The whole thing should take about 30 seconds. You don’t want any obvious clumps of flour, but the mixture will be lumpy. Over-stirring will work the gluten in the flour (unless using gluten-free of course) and give a rubbery texture – nasty. American ‘AP’ flours have even more gluten than the equivalent British flours so be very light-handed if you are baking with American flour.muffin-batter-in-muffin-tin

6. Dollop spoonfuls of batter into the prepared tin – about three-quarters full will give a nice shape despite the heavy ingredients. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden, possibly slightly cracked, and an inserted skewer or toothpick comes out clean. My oven is ‘fast’ so I only had mine in for 20 minutes.

7. Cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing the muffins in their cases. Let stand a further few more minutes before removing the papers without fear of most of the muffin staying in the case. These guys are sticky so watch out for hot, sweet-tart cranberries!

Makes 12 standard sized muffins, or 6 standard and 12 mini muffin sized (good for family eating this way).fresh-cranberries-image

30 thoughts on “Cranberry and Pear Upside-Down Muffins

  1. Laura says:

    I think these look amazing! Yum!

  2. Dee says:

    Oh my gosh … These look so good. Messy, but good! Can’t wait to try them. Happy Holidays, Kellie!

    1. Thanks so much Miss D. Happy Christmas to you and your lovely, gorgeous family. Funnily enough it is not that much colder right now than when you saw us in Edinburgh – heat wave! x

  3. I love what you do with cranberries between these muffins and your cranberry beet juice. These look amazing – it’s nice when a baked-good can double as desert and breakfast. Your cranberry beet juice is such a favorite I almost put cranberries in my kohlrabi juice recipe, but decided to keep it strictly green this time! Thanks for more creative cranberry inspiration!

    1. Wow, kohlrabi juice. I will have to give that a go, That’s one of the veggies that I don’t really mess with. I hadn’t heard of it until about 10 years ago so never got the hang of working with it. I think I’ve only ever gratineed it and popped it with other bits in a soup. Thanks for the idea, and the very sweet comment, Katie. The juice is good, isn’t it? Had it this morning but as a smoothie without the pear, which was exceedingly filling

      1. Making it into a smoothie sounds good too! Yes, I’m new to kohlrabi too, think it’s more popular here in Europe that the US. Reminds me of jicama, which I’m sure you know being from Florida! It’s surprisingly clean and mellow when juiced. I made it into an immune-boosting juice with parsley, orange, ginger, etc. Check it out, I think you’ll like it. 🙂 Happy holidays to you!

  4. helenportas says:

    These look lovely and, as luck would have it, I have some left over cranberries in need of using up (after my cranberry vodka experiment at the weekend but, that’s another story!) Do you think I could use fresh pear as I have one of those sitting in the fruit bowl, looking sad?

    1. Absolutely. I used them originally but subsequently opted for dried. Amount is mentioned in the recipe. Thanks for asking, Helen.

    2. PS Cranberry vodka sounds like a good Christmas pressie to me. I wish someone would make me some!

  5. These are the absolute cutest.

  6. narf77 says:

    My mother used to bake a cake for me to take to school for my teachers every single week through my school life. I remember hitting Home Economics classes with trepidation and having my teacher stare blankly at my cooking results and saying “but your mother makes such GOOD cakes…” I rest my case! ;). I love rustic cakes and shun fancy icings and wondrous pastry creations but like to temper my twitching by stating that most of the luxurious variety of cakes (that my abilities simply refuse to stretch to) are also the worst for you so happily, where I am lacking keeps me healthy.

    I love the look of these muffins. Only someone who hasn’t ever sunk their teeth into a moist sticky fruit laden muffin would “tut” their presentation. The appreciation is all in the eating. My kind of food :). I am not even sure we can get frozen cranberries here in Tasmania. When I was in Hobart recently (Tassie capital city) I wandered over to an outdoor market where I picked up a few interesting veggies to grow and noticed that the lady at the stall was selling cranberry plants. I didn’t buy one because Serendipity Farm tends to resemble the wastelands from Mad Max by the end of the summer but if I was bothered to set up some kind of pond feature I could grow my own. Not entirely sure that the few straggly fruits from an equally straggly and unattractive plant would be worth the efforts but remembering the lessons from “judging a muffin by its cover” maybe it would.

    I note you couldn’t just dump the kale entirely…methinks you have a serious addiction…this time 2 years ago you were swimming in the stuff! 😉 Cheers for this recipe. I might have to sub out the cranberries but our cherry season just kicked in and we are surrounded by cherry orchards here in Sidmouth so methinks I just found a likely sub.

    1. Your comments always make me smile so much. I get a frisson of excitement when I see your moniker on my monitor, 😀 Wishing so much that I could send you a HUGE bag of snappy zesty cranberries. Or better yet, fly them down in person and visit Serendipity Farm. Re the recipe, cherries would be a luxurious addition, and you could forgo the honey by doing so. LOL about my kale addiction. It probably is certifiable. I had some at breakfast and dinner today!

      1. narf77 says:

        I am just jealous…looks like kale is also addictive to something that rhymes with kale that spends its life slinking around when the sun goes down and inviting it’s shell-less mates around to have major house parties at my expense overnight in my veggie garden. We did buy some cranberries when we visited the U.K. at Christmas in 2005/6. My daughter wanted some and so we bought some for her. We were eating blueberries, raspberries etc. and none of us knew what cranberries actually were at the time…she soon found out! ;). Needless to say after an explosive mouthful the cranberries remained in the fridge till after we wended our merry way from old frigid blighty at a tasty 0F to Perth W.A. where we hit the ground running at 43C. Forget culture shock we were shell shocked! ;). Cherries are cheap in season here in Tassie as they are one of our main stone fruit crops so for once, I can use them with impunity :).

      2. No, I’m jealous. Cherries are my absolute favourite fruit. Love the sweet-tart thing, the slight resistance of the skin, the vampiric look when I really get going (good for scaring people away so I don’t have to share). Cranberries should probably come with a warning label. Your poor daughter. Scarred for life, I imagine. As for the kale, I always have a sacrificial plant in amongst that the slugs and bugs go for first. They are creatures of habit in some ways. Once a plant gets big enough hens aren’t so interested in them and they scare off the freeloaders.

      3. narf77 says:

        My chooks turn their noses up at slugs and snails and are more interested in the kale and my artichokes. I had to resort to stacking tyres up around my poor almost pecked to death artichoke. My chooks are living on borrowed time! ;). Madeline will only imbibe of the jar of sweet cranberry relish thats about as exotic as she goes on the cranberry fronts. I hear Mr H. Blumenthal has put out a range of Christmas Mince Pies this year available here in Aus with cranberries in the fruity mix…might have to force some down Stevie-boy (guinea pig boy) and see if they live up to Hestons allure (maybe they are like popping candy! 😉 )

  7. This is like my breakfast dreams come true. I’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal lately and this is SUCH a huge step up!

    1. Oh, I’m still loving my porridge. Have you seen my take on porridge? It is in the Index under Breakfast, funnily enough. Sometimes I add fresh sour cherries (or frozen and heat them through) with cacao and a little maple syrup. Weird but good. Not very pretty, but what’s new?!

      1. That sounds delicious. I cook mine with orange juice and mix in a little fancy fig jam. good stuff. Ridiculously ugly, but tastes like heaven.

  8. Sam Sin says:

    These DO NOT look messy! They look so delicious and inviting… Inspiring! I loved reading this article, made me laugh. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work.

    1. Truly kind of you to say so. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  9. foodbod says:

    Bookmarked 👍👍

  10. lizzygoodthings says:

    Actually Kellie, I think your muffins look absolutely mouthwatering, if not a little rustic, which is a good thing in my eyes!

    1. You are very kind, Liz. I imagine cranberries are as scarce as snow for you right now 😉

  11. Urvashi Roe says:

    Oh these look so virtuous and naughty at the same time. Beautiful colours

  12. I love the look and sound of these rustic muffins Kellie. Even if the muffins aren’t picture perfect your photos are works of art in themselves….you get better and better with every post, and your colours are as always fabulous.

    1. Quite the compliment coming from a fabulous photographer such as yourself. Thanks so much, Seonaid x

  13. Thank you for sharing. These muffins look so tempting !

  14. Everything you post is so fabulous! I must try this recipe!!!

  15. I’m with you Kellie, making things pretty is not one of my skills! But tasty, tasty is something I can do. I haven’t made an updside down cake (or baby cake) for ages, but I do love the combo of pear and cranberry, and the dainty portions here. This would be a great addition to the table for christmas morning breakfast.

  16. o my gosh, I’ve never seen something so sexy xD

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