Gluten-Free Cranberry Orange Muffins

Two weekends ago, Josh and I were at brunch at Watts Grocery enjoying a delicious Fall Egg Scramble when he leaned over to me, pointed toward the window, and in one excited breath whispered "It's snowing!" I looked outside, and sure enough, big white snowflakes were dancing everywhere. They were blowing this way and that, making little somersaults in the air and sticking to people's hair and coats as they walked by the restaurant windows. It looked like a scene from a movie.

I couldn't remember the last time North Carolina had seen snow this early. There was a buzz of excitement in the air. We walked onto the sidewalk and saw two little girls running hand in hand, mouths opened wide with tongues stretched out catching the snowflakes as they fell, giggling the whole time. Couples were smiling, walking arm in arm and looking up toward the sky.

There is something magical about the first snow of the season. It speaks of cozy winters, Christmas trees, hot chocolate, and warm evenings spent with friends and family by the fire. It also says "The holiday season is here!", which to me means baking time.

So the next morning, with a blanket of snow on the ground and crisp blue skies all around, I made cranberry orange muffins.

What I love about these muffins is that they taste of the holidays without all the excess sweetness you usually get. The tartness of the cranberries and the slight bitterness of the orange rind complement each other perfectly.

I find that each bite trails in its wake the memories of Christmas stalkings heavy with clementines...

Gluten-Free Cranberry Orange Muffins, from Rebecca Reilly's Gluten-Free Baking

1 cup brown rice flour
2/3 cup potato starch
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 tablespoons almond meal
2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon Egg Replacer
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup hot milk
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 eggs
Grated zest of one orange
1 cup dried cranberries
Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Mix together the brown rice flour, potato starch, sugar, tapioca starch, almond meal, baking powder, egg replacer, xanthan gum, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, butter, and eggs. Form a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Mix until well blended. Fold in the orange zest and cranberries.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and sprinkle each top with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 15 minutes.

Take muffins out of oven and allow to cool in pan for a couple minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Enjoy with a hot cup of coffee or tea!

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