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I love all the feasting that happens on Thanksgiving Day, but among my favorite parts of the day are the pastries and a cup of coffee that start the day (a tradition that has grown in our family over the last few years). My “favorite” pastry changes from year to year – some years I heartily enjoy yeasty treats like Cranberry-Orange Cinnamon Rolls fresh from the oven, and other years I love muffins and other melt-in-your-mouth quick breads – but there's just something about a fresh baked item and a cup of coffee to ease into a day spent celebrating with friends and family and giving deep thanks for our abundant blessings.

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As our family has gradually moved to incorporating more and more traditional methods of preparing foods to make them as healthy and digestible as possible, I have become a huge fan of sourdough. As I've discovered that sourdough is not just limited to creating yeast breads, but can be used in any baked good imaginable with delicious results, I've included it in more and more of my baking. These cranberry-orange muffins are cakey and satisfying and are sure to hit the spot on Thanksgiving morning.

If you don't have a friend who can pass off some sourdough starter to you, check out Cultures for Health. They have 16 varieties of sourdough starter to choose from, and they offer extremely high quality products and wonderful customer service!


Cranberry-Orange Sourdough Muffins

adapted from Richard Packham's “Sourdough Muffins

Makes 12 muffins or 30-36 mini-muffins. Easily doubled or tripled.

1 cup fresh sourdough starter
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup milk
1 cup white all-purpose flour – unbleached and unbromated
1 cup of any flour, oatmeal, bran, etc – whole wheat or spelt recommended

1/2 cup crystallized sweetener (raw sugar, sucanat, etc)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup expeller-pressed vegetable oil, melted coconut oil, or melted butter
1 egg
1 cup fresh cranberries (thawed if frozen)


The night before you want to bake the muffins, combine the sourdough starter, orange juice, milk, and all the flours and oats (if using) in a large bowl. Stir together to form a shaggy mess and heap it all together in the middle of the bowl. Cover and let sit overnight.

Also overnight, remember to thaw your cranberries if they are frozen.

In the morning, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease muffin tins or line with paper cups. To the batter add sweetener, baking soda, cinnamon, oil, and egg. Stir to create a homogeneous mix, but do not overbeat. Fold in cranberries.

Spoon evenly into the muffin tins. Bake 20-25 minutes for mini-muffins and 30 to 35 minutes for “standard” muffins, just until beginning to brown. Remove immediately from the tin onto a cooling rack.


Troubleshooting Soaked Quick Breads

These muffins are delicious in whatever form they come out, but sometimes they don't rise as nicely as they could. This can be due to a few reasons:

  • If you use starter straight from the refrigerator rather than freshly-fed, domed, bubbly starter, you may experience some sagging. It won't change the flavor, though, so dig in!
  • Since starters vary greatly in their hydration levels, a thick starter will produce more levity than a thin, almost pourable starter. If your starter is of the thinner variety, try reducing or omitting the milk from the recipe.
  • Using butter will produce a denser, tighter crumb than using oil.
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