Yes, let’s consider this pretty, native fruit for more than just a sweet jammy condiment to turkey once or twice a year; its popularity as a beverage is on the rise and its culinary value should increase as well. It’s a relatively inexpensive, local product that is available fresh in the fall and frozen all year with a nice tart taste that complements pork, game and fowl. It’s high in antioxidants, is useful in treating urinary tract infections, some stomach ulcers and gum disease!
That’s a lot of work for a little berry. I have also discovered that they are wonderful in baking, and to prove the point I’ve adapted a basic carrot cake recipe to increase its nutrional value, decrease saturated fat, refined flour and sugar while improving taste and texture. The first thing I did was to replace the canned pineapple with fresh cranberries (frozen work equally well), substituted extra-virgin olive oil for the butter, cut back the sugar by 75%, and deleted the white all-purpose flour using a mix of unbleached and whole wheat flours, and flax meal.
The extra-virgin olive oil not only improves the flavour and texture of the batter, it is high in anti-oxidants (omega3 fatty acids) and lowers LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, raises the HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol and contains Vitamin E. Do not be tempted to substitute another vegetable oil, the flavour and nutritional benefits will be lost; likewise, extra-virgin olive oil is superior in its nutrients, flavour and viscosity to more processed, less purer forms such as virgin, pure or light olive oil.
In the dry ingredients, I consider the most important improvement to be the use of flax meal (which is ground flax seed). Linum usitatissimum, to use its botanical name meaning ‘most useful’, lives up to its reputation as it has since ancient times been used for cloth to make sails, sheets and shrouds, furniture oil, paints and polishes, intestinal medicaments and flour for baking; which is where I come in. Flax meal is recommended for lowering LDL cholesterol and is most efficacious in its ground form making its nutrients easily absorbed by our bodies, something the whole seed is not. Flax imparts a nice nutty flavour and its oils add moisture to batter or dough (it makes a very pretty garden plant as well). Also, the use of unbleached flour and whole wheat instead of white flour enhances the nutrient and fiber content.
Trimming the refined white sugar by 75%, but retaining natural sugars in the grated carrot lowers the calorie content and improves nutrition, especially as carrots are high in antioxidants, pro-vitamin A and carotenes; all of which are responsible for improved night vision, and protection against macular degeneration and cataracts. So, try this recipe and enjoy the moist cake, tart cranberries and like your mother said, “Eat your carrots!”.
Since holiday season is drawing near, I have included this simple recipe for cranberry stuffed brie encroute (pictured) using frozen pizza dough, much less fatty than the puff-pastry version, easy to make and deliciously sumptuous and tangy to eat.
(makes 12 medium muffins or a 10” round cake)
· 3 medium carrots, grated
· 2 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries (if using frozen thaw and drain well)
· 3 eggs, lightly beaten
· ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
· 1tsp. vanilla extract
· 4 tbsp. brown sugar
· 2 tsp baking soda and I tsp. baking powder
· ½ tsp. salt
· ½ cup whole wheat flour
· 1 ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
· generous ½ cup flax meal
· 1 ½ tsp. of cinnamon
Method: (this batter is best mixed by hand)
- Preheat oven to 350
- grease and flour 10” round cake pan or medium muffin pan for 12
- combine eggs, vanilla, and olive oil in a small bowl
- combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together
- add egg mixture to dry ingredients, stirring lightly to combine-do not beat! Mixture will be gooey at this stage.
- fold-in carrots, then cranberries
- spoon batter into prepared cake pan, or using an ice cream scoop, fill each well in the muffin tin (this method works brilliantly, one level scoop per muffin)
Cranberry Filled Brie Encroute
· One 450 gram wheel of brie
· Combine cranberries, honey, rosemary and wine in a shallow saucepan, cover and cook over medium-high heat for 2 mins., stir, then cover and cook for 2-3 mins. more, until the cranberries begin to soften and the mixture thickens – do not overcook, the cranberries should retain some shape
· Remove from heat, discard rosemary and chill mixture in refrigerator
· Preheat oven to 375, line a heavy baking tray with parchment paper
· Roll dough-out on a well floured board to a circle large enough to wrap the brie and be approx. ½” thick, too thin and the cheese will leak-out during cooking
· rest dough on board
· Cut brie in half, horizontally, remove top portion, place bottom in the middle of dough , spread cooled cranberry mixture to within ¼” of the edge, cover with top portion
· Carefully bring the edges of the dough up to cover the cheese snugly, do not stretch the dough
· Gather the ends and twist them together and pinch closed, forming a purse, if there’s too much dough, trim-off excess
· Carefully place brie on to prepared cooking tray, bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 15-20 mins., until dough puffs-up and browns lightly
· Remove brie from oven and cut a few shallow steam-holes in the top, let cool for 15- 20 mins. before serving, the cheese will be runny, so serve in a slightly curved dish
|photo by L. Gatto-White|