Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fresh Cranberries.... part one of two

We're back with another day of baking for the weekly Wednesday Treat Day for Jeff's coworkers - this time we used a favorite fresh fruit of the season, Cranberries! I love this time of the year when we can find them all over - I always buy extra and keep a few bags in the freezer so we can enjoy them throughout the year.

I was feeling adventurous, so I ended up making two different treats, with the first one being a Cranberry Upside-Down Coffee Cake. The bottom layer, which will end up being the dark colored top, is created by melting a couple tablespoons of butter and adding dark brown sugar, fresh orange juice and cinnamon. This cooks for a short time and is poured into the bottom of the baking dish. Tart fresh cranberries, crunchy walnuts, sweet pitted dates and a bit of orange zest are then sprinkled on top of the caramel mixture. A buttery cake batter is then mixed up and spooned over the cranberry mixture. Once baked until firm and golden, the cake rests for a short time and is turned out to reveal a sticky, sweet and beautiful jeweled top.

For a striking contrast in color, a zesty glaze made simply from confectioners' sugar, butter and fresh orange juice is drizzled in lines across the top to finish off this moist cake.

Be sure to have lots of time if you want to make this Spaghetti Bake that we had for dinner tonight. Between the prep work, making a homemade sauce, the cheese topping and then baking the dish, it took me awhile to get everything together. Don't let that scare you off though, the effort it took to make definitely showed up in the taste. A hearty meat sauce abounding with fresh onions, garlic, carrots, zucchini, red bell peppers and mushrooms bubbles away with chopped fire-roasted tomatoes to create a deep full-bodied filling. As you wait for the sauce to thicken, a base for the cheese topping is created by whisking melting butter with flour. Milk is added in a slow stream and the mixture cooks until thick and bubbly. A dash of fresh nutmeg is then added - don't skip this step, it brings an interesting depth to the sauce. This mixture needs time to cool before adding the remaining ingredients.

Once the meat sauce is ready and removed from the stove, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar heightens the flavors with a shower of Parmesan mixed in for for a touch of sharpness. This is then mixed with whole wheat spaghetti that has only cooked for about 5 minutes - you want it to still be pretty firm as it will continue to cook in the oven and this will help soak up the extra moisture and flavor in the sauce. This mixture is then placed in the baking dish and the base for the cheese sauce is finished by mixing in creamy ricotta and an egg. The sauce is then spooned on top and a light scattering of Parmesan finishes the dish. Baked until golden and bubbly, this hearty comfort dish has generous portions that can be cut and served in neat squares. I hope the night hurries by... I can't wait for lunch tomorrow to enjoy another piece of this!


  1. Yum! That Cranberry upside down cake looks awfully good.

  2. Joe, I just made your cranberry cake after checking the freezer to make sure I had everything.

    It's cooling and looks wonderful! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Oh wow, that cranberry upside down cake looks amazingly delicious. I will have to make it!

  4. Barbara - Thanks!

    Jennifer - I hope you enjoyed it!

    Anon - Let me know what you think!

    Wheresmymind - Thanks!

  5. This looks great and I love the combo of sweet dates & tart cranberries. I'm going to make 2 of them shortly. Can you let me know if they freeze? Or what is the shelf life if unfrozen? If I bake tonight, give to friend tomorrow - will it still be edible on Xmas day? Or should she freeze it?

    Thanks - Sugarcube (from London and wishing that tablespoons measurements were also in grammes or ozs).

  6. Sugarcube - I haven't frozen them, but I don't see why it wouldn't be okay. I might leave the glaze off until serving. I would probably have her freeze it and thaw the night before so it would be a bit more fresh tasting.