It was simple and boozy. And beautiful. And boozy.
In trying to brain storm a way to use those leftovers, I decided it wasn’t quite right for The Cranwich and I definitely didn’t want to be tied down to a big cake or full batch of cupcakes so close to “Pie-palooza.” And that’s when I spotted the box of Ghirardelli brownies I keep on hand in case of emergencies.
(And now you know how we define “emergency” in this house.)
I simply prepared the brownies as directed on the box and then I dropped the leftover boozy cranberry sauce over top by the tablespoon, swirling it together.
I don’t know why it took so long to come up with the idea of cranberry brownies. Cranberries and chocolate are a delicious and under-appreciated pair. Around the holidays, Costco used to (and maybe still does?) sell dark chocolate-covered cranberries. Those things were like crack, if crack made you gain 3lbs in 3 days. The dark fudgey brownie was the perfect compliment to the cranberry sauce.
Use your favorite brownie mix (I used Ghirardelli Triple Fudge, it’s insanely chocolatey… and has chocolate chips!) and leftover whole berry sauce (homemade is easy and takes almost no hands-on time).
Rich, fudgey brownies swirled with leftover cranberry sauce. Dessert couldn't be easier.
1 box brownie mix (or your favorite recipe) prepared in an 8x8 pan, according to package directions
~1/2 cup leftover whole berry cranberry sauce
Preheat oven according to the directions in your brownie recipe.
Prepare the recipe according to directions and transfer to a greased 8x8 pan.
Drop small spoonfuls of leftover cranberry sauce over the top of the batter (I used about 1/2 cup).
Using a knife held vertically, swirl the cranberry sauce and the brownie batter together.
Bake as directed in your recipe, (take note that my recipe needed an extra 8 minutes).
Let cool and then cut into 4x3 or 4x4 servings.
Leftovers should be covered and stored at room temp.
I grew up in a very small town where, by today’s standards, the “exotic” food choices weren’t exotic at all. There were many common foods that I never tried until into my mid-20s. Yet somehow in my early 20s I gained the “Martha Stewart” nickname among my girlfriends, despite being very much a connoisseur of Lean Cuisine and Duncan Hines.
What that really meant was I had a subscription to Martha Stewart Living, I kept my apartment clean, and I could make a mean chocolate chunk cookie and wrap a fancy sheet of puff pastry around a wheel of fancy cheese topped with a mound of caramelized onions. An appetizer that’s still one of my very, very favorite things to eat to this day.
At Thanksgiving and Christmas, those caramelized onions are replaced with a cranberry concoction. The appetizer comes together pretty quickly – place a few generous scoops of cranberry-apricot chutney over top, wrap in puff pastry, pinch the sides to seal, and bake. The end result is a melty, creamy cheese topped with a sweet & tangy sauce, all wrapped in a buttery, flakey crust. I haven’t done the math but I’m pretty sure it’s close to 2500 calories a bite.
A side note: Don’t shoot me… but if you have a lull before the holidays, set aside some time to make homemade puff pastry if you can swing it. We’re talking 20 minutes of hands-on + an hour rest. It’s pretty much just butter and flour but it’s ridiculously amazing. And a side-by-side taste-test with the box from the freezer section proves that it’s totally worth the effort. I made a batch last week, which yields the equivalent of 2 store-bought boxes (4 sheets total) and have 3 sheets left to get me through the holidays.
Baked Brie with Cranberry-Apricot Chutney
Tangy cranberry-apricot chutney tops a creamy wheel of brie wrapped with flakey, buttery puff pastry.
Lightly spray a small baking dish with baking spray or cooking oil. I have a small 6-inch mini-casserole dish that works perfectly - otherwise, just select something that has a slight lip or sides in case your brie tries to make a run for it.
Unfold the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it a couple of times each direction.
Place the wheel of brie in the center of the dough and top the wheel with cranberry chutney.
Fold the sides around the brie, pinching to seal (it may or may not cover the top) and trimming if necessary.
Place the wrapped brie in the baking dish.
Whisk egg with 1 Tbsp water and brush the dough.
Bake for ~25 minutes, until golden brown.
Let cool ~10 minutes and transfer to a dish.
Serve warm or room temp with crunchy dippers like pita chips and toasted bread.
Here in southeast Texas, we don’t really get a ceremonial changing of seasons to signal that fall is (according to the calendar) here. We know by the crates full of pumpkins piled up outside the grocery stores, the first glorious bags of glorious grapefruit from the glorious Rio Grande Valley appear lined up next to them, and suburban front lawns are overtaken with a layer of pine needles and those gigantic inflatable Halloween decorations.
Who knew life felt incomplete without a 12-ft tall inflatable Halloween snow globe out front? (My neighbor puts up and decorates a “Halloween tree,” I think she earns bonus points for that out here. Probably more bonus points than I get for pushing that gigantic plastic car shopping cart at HEB.)
There are pretty much no other signs of fall at this point, certainly not the thermostat of my black interior/black exterior car that lives in a sunny driveway (which, by the way, could really use that interior detailing that comes with an oil change… in another 1047 miles) just two zip codes north of the Seventh Circle of Hell.
And while an endless supply of pumpkin and apple goodies (and grapefruit margaritas!) are great and glorious, next in line to start driving that “no really – fall is here!!” feeling home is the appearance of a particular sandwich at a local chain deli.
They call it a Turkey Cranwich. And for as excited as I get about seeing it back on the menu, it’s kind of a total mess of a sandwich. They always sloppily throw it together in that typical lopsided, assembly-line, lunch-rush fashion and put enough red onion on it (but always clumped together on one side of the sandwich) to cripple a vampire. (That’s a lesson you only have to learn once. [shudder])
But it oozes melty cheese and cream cheese (when they remember that I order it grilled, with cheese) and tangy cranberry chutney with every bite. It’s like having Thanksgiving leftovers in mid October, only without the 4 loads of after-dinner dirty dishes. And it makes me far happier than any sandwich not wrapped in money and Super Bowl tickets should.
To whip up the sandwich at home, I added brie, omitted the cream cheese and red onion, and slathered generous amounts of a quick & easy homemade cranberry-apricot chutney (a sort of mash-up of thesetwo recipes). No lopsided, assembly-line, lunch rush mess here! And bonus – the homemade cranberry-apricot chutney doesn’t cost nearly as much as the tiny jar from that shiny, gourmet kitchen store.
And PS. It goes great served with a bottle of Riesling, just in case you were at a loss for what “vegetable” side to serve with your fancy sandwich
Turkey & Brie Cranwich
Homemade cranberry-apricot chutney is the star of this turkey and brie panini.
For the cranberry apricot chutney:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1 spicy red pepper, seeded and chopped (optional; I used a red serrano)
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
1 tsp worcestershire
3 Tbsp brown sugar (more if desired)
Pinch of ground ginger
12 oz bag of cranberries
12-15 dried apricot rounds, chopped
1 cup water
Pinch of salt
For the sandwich:
Slices of brie from a small wheel
Handful of salad greens
To make the chutney, heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.
Add onion and pepper (if using), and cook ~3 minutes, until the onions have softened.
Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
Add the remaining chutney ingredients to the pan and bring to a boil, let cook covered for ~10 minutes until the cranberries have softened and then remove the lid and cook until nearly all of the liquid has cooked away, about another 10-15 minutes.
Taste for sweetness and add another tablespoon or 2 of sugar, if you think it needs it (I was looking for just enough sweetness to take the edge off the cranberries).
Let cool and then transfer to a jar or bowl and keep in the refrigerator (will last a good 2 weeks).
To assemble the sandwiches, heat your panini maker or grill pan to high.
Lightly brush the outside of the bread slices with olive oil and the inside with a generous smear of chutney.
Pile turkey, brie, and salad greens on top and grill until golden brown.
My week to host Project Pastry Queen fell during Christmas so I picked the most Christmasy recipe I could find: Glazed Lemon-Cranberry Loaf Cake.
It’s “just” a small loaf cake scented with lemon zest, studded with fresh cranberries, and topped with a lemon syrup that soaks into the cake. I brought the cake to Christmas Eve dinner and it “just” went over really well.
I stayed true to the recipe but have no doubt it would work as beautifully with orange instead of lemon.
Glazed Lemon-Cranberry Loaf Cake
A moist lemony cake studded with fresh cranberries and glazed with a lemon syrup.
For the cake:
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 2/3 cup flour + 1 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar (I reduced to 2/3 cup)
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (I used 0% fage)
For the glaze:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 350.
Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
Toss the cranberries with 1 Tbsp flour and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
Add the eggs and lemon zest and beat until thoroughly combined.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add half of the mixture and mix on low speed just until combined.
Add half of the milk and mix on low speed just until combined.
Add the remaining flour, mixing just until combined, and then the remaining milk.
Add cranberries and mix a few seconds longer.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake 45-60 minutes, until a skewer comes out with moist crumbs attached.
Cool the cake for 15 minutes and then remove it from the pan.
To make the lemon glaze, combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil for 30 seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat.
Gently pierce the top of the loaf cake many times with a toothpick.
Use a pastry brush to apply the warm glaze evenly over the top of the loaf.
Slice into ~10 slices to serve.
Store leftovers tightly wrapped, will keep ~3 days.