Thursday, February 19, 2009

I've got a case of the cranberries

My secret wish, besides the one about being a librarian, is to visit a cranberry bog. Not any one in particular, I just want to be up to my waders in cranberries. Since that is my "happy place" I often go there when the world gets me down and I tend to eat/drink anything cranberry when I'm depressed. It's kind of like my "chocolate" or "fried chicken"; they are my comfort food yet secretly they boost my insides so I don't sick too. Philistines, I love them little bouncy berries! While I was in one of these sour moods I perused like one might Google "fluffy kittens". There I found something that could lift the moods of a landlocked sea dog (don't ask): Cranberry Vanilla Bean Coffee Cake. just so happens I have a three-pound bag of cranberries in my tiny freezer. Why, you might ask, would I keep so many cranberries on hand? Well why would you, oh never mind, I was reaching for something clever. You see, this is why I needed these cranberries.

If you need more convincing that cranberries can be an anti-drug, legal form of crack and oh yea antioxidant healthy superfood you should talk to the people at The Cranberry Institute. Yes it really exists, almost as exclusive as the MIB, or the CIA( that would be the Culinary Institute of America).

Of course you could Google "cranberries", if you needed a visual pick-me-up. Just looking at pictures of those little crimson candies does it for me. Then again your search might yield some unwanted materials, such as the semi-popular musical group "The Cranberries"; who knows they might be able to cure a urinary tract infection with their magical voices.

Anyways, I was quite upset this past week and one night I had just enough, even the vocal chords of Dolores O'Riordan couldn't make me happy again. So I bogged out my bag of cranberries and made myself a cake. Cranberry Vanilla Bean Coffee Cake.

Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake
Gourmet, December 2008

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (6 ounces)
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
*1/4 tsp nutmeg
*1/2 tsp cinnamon
Confectioners sugar, for dusting

*These ingredients I added of my own volition, add them if you'd like.

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Generously butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.
Line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment.

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a food processor with tip of a paring knife
(reserve pod for another use if desired). Add sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to a bowl.

Pulse cranberries with 1/2 cup vanilla sugar in processor until finely chopped (do not purée).

Whisk together 2 cups flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Beat together 1 stick butter and 1 cup vanilla
sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time,
beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl. Reduce speed to low and mix in
flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour, until just combined.

Spread half of batter in pan, then spoon cranberries over it, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge.
Spoon small bits of the remaining batter over the top of the cranberries and smooth them with as gentle
of a hand as possible.

Blend remaining 1/4 cup vanilla sugar with remaining tablespoon each of butter and flour using your
fingertips. Crumble over top of cake.

Bake until a wooden pick inserted into cake (not into cranberry filling) comes out clean and side
begins to pull away from pan, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 30 minutes, then remove from pan and cool
completely, crumb side up.

Do ahead: Coffee cake can be made 1 day ahead and kept, tightly wrapped, at room temperature.