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GOOD COOKING

Cranberry Me

November 08, 2000|ABBY MANDEL

Count me among the many cooks who are passionate about cranberries. It's the combination of their color, taste and versatility that's so inspiring. I've used them in many dishes: casseroles, stews, chutneys, muffins, pies, scones and pancakes, as well as quick savory and sweet sauces.

I even keep bags of them in my freezer when they're out of season.

Here is one of the best cranberry cakes I've made, an upside-down cake that highlights cranberries in the most delicious way. It has become my family's favorite. Use it as a dessert throughout the holiday season; it makes a great impact on a buffet table. Or serve it at brunch.

The cranberry sangria offers a sweet-tart option as a holiday punch.

Buy firm, plump, shiny cranberries that are red to reddish black in color. Avoid bags that have shriveled cranberries. Refrigerate cranberries right in their bags (twist-tied airtight once open) as long as six weeks. Wash them only when ready to use. Cranberries can be frozen in their bags up to one year.

Upside-Down Cranberry Cake

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

TOPPING

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, plus more for greasing

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 cups cranberries, rinsed, picked over and at room temperature

* Generously grease 9-inch springform pan; wrap outside with foil (to avoid leakage). Set aside on baking sheet.

* Melt butter in medium saucepan. Add sugar, water and cinnamon. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Stir in cranberries. Pour into pan and spread evenly. Set aside.

CAKE

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

3/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

* Beat butter and granulated and brown sugars on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. On low speed, add half of flour mixture. Mix until combined. Add sour cream and vanilla. Mix until combined. Add remaining flour mixture. Mix until smooth. Transfer batter to springform pan, spreading evenly over topping.

* Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, edges are just beginning to pull away from sides and toothpick comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes. Set on rack 10 minutes. Run knife around edge to loosen cake. Invert onto plate. Remove foil, ring and pan bottom. Replace any cranberries that fall. (Can be made up to two days ahead and kept at room temperature, covered airtight.) Cut into wedges and serve.

14 to 16 servings. Each of 16 servings: 403 calories; 232 mg sodium; 63 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 71 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 1.45 grams fiber.

Cranberry Sangria

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour plus 4 hours chilling

I prefer to use a Pinot Grigio.

1 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups cranberries, rinsed and picked over

1 (750-ml) bottle dry white wine, chilled

2/3 cup orange juice

1 orange, thinly sliced and cut crosswise

1 lemon, thinly sliced and cut crosswise

1 tart apple, halved, cored and cut into wedges

1 1/4 cups club soda, chilled

* Place water and sugar in medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil. Cook until sugar dissolves, 2 minutes. Add cranberries. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Pour through sieve, pressing on cranberries to release all juices; discard cranberries. Refrigerate cranberry syrup until cold, 2 hours. (Can be made up to 5 days ahead.)

* In large pitcher, combine chilled cranberry syrup, wine, juice, orange, lemon and apple. Refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.

* To serve, add club soda. Using slotted spoon, place fruit in wine glasses, dividing evenly. Pour in sangria, dividing evenly. Serve chilled.

6 servings. Each serving: 331 calories; 24 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 65 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 1.80 grams fiber.

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