Back in May, I wrote a post about sugared flowers and how wonderfully they can dress up even the simplest cupcake. Well, now that the holidays are upon us, I thought I would talk about another amazing sugared decoration I love: sugared cranberries! They make everything look so festive, adding a little bit of twinkle to anything they adorn. They are absolutely my favorite go-to from Thanksgiving right on through Christmas. And an added bonus? These are super-easy and there are no little brushes involved!
There are only two things to keep in mind:
- First, they’ll only last for a few days, so be sure you know what you’re going to use them for.
- Secondly, you will need to let them sit for a good 12 hours in the fridge, so don’t plan to use them on the same day you begin (or start very early!).
I start with a standard 12 oz. bag of cranberries; this comes to about 4 cups. I then make a simple sugar syrup. A basic sugar syrup is equal parts sugar and water. With the cranberries, however, I want it to be just a little bit stickier, so I make it slightly heavier on the sugar side. I combine 2 cups of sugar with 1.5 cups of water in a saucepan, bring it to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Be sure to watch it as it cooks: sugar syrup tends to boil over quickly and you just don’t want to deal with that mess on your stove! Once the sugar is dissolved, pour it over the cranberries in a heat-tempered bowl.
You’ll see that they want to bob up to the surface, so find a plate the fits into your bowl to keep them weighed down a bit.
Now just put them in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. When you take them out of the fridge and remove the plate, give them a little stir and you’ll see how nicely the syrup has thickened! Set a rack over a sheet pan. Call me lazy, but I like to line the pan with a sheet of parchment under the rack, just to keep me from having to scrub the pan later. Waxed paper, aluminum foil, or even plastic wrap will work just as well in this case; really, you’re only looking to keep the pan clean from the syrup that will drip onto it! And then grab a slotted spoon and you’ll be ready to go.
Just scoop the cranberries out of the syrup and place them on the rack. You will want to be sure the cranberries are touching as little as possible, so move them around if you need to. That’s the biggest reason why I like using this grid-style rack: it allows them to kind of find their own little nooks and not roll all over the place.
The reason why you don’t want the cranberries to touch is because as the syrup dries a bit, they will stick together. Then when you pull them apart, there will be an uncoated patch where they were stuck and there will be nothing for the sugar to adhere to. It’s not the end of the world – even when I’m super-careful, there are always a few that stick together. But just try to avoid it as much as possible so you’ll get as even a sugar coating as possible.
Now let these sit at room temperature for an hour. This will give the sugar syrup time to sort of gel on the surface of the cranberries. After an hour has passed and you touch the cranberries, they will feel tacky, no longer completely wet with syrup.
Now it’s time to get sugaring! Place a piece of parchment on another sheet pan; this will be where you set the cranberries once you’ve sugared them. Pour a good amount of plain old granulated sugar onto a plate and you’re ready to go.
To sugar the cranberries, it’s just a matter of placing them into the plate of sugar, coating them up a bit so that the sugar adheres to the tacky surface, and then giving them a final toss before removing them to the sheet pan. Take a look, it’s nice and easy.
When you’re all done, they will look like little glistening gems!
You can use these for decorating cakes, cookies, whatever you’d like to sparkle! For Thanksgiving, I used these to top off a ricotta cheesecake.
And here are some molasses cookies all holiday-ed up!
I hope your holidays twinkle and sparkle and jingle all the way!
Check out The Chopping Block’s December’s upcoming baking classes including our three fun holiday exchanges at the Mart:
- Holiday Treats Exchange Sunday, December 9 1pm-4:30pm
- Holiday Cookie Exchange Sunday, December 16 1pm-4:30pm
- International Holiday Cookie Exchange Saturday, December 22 10am-1:30pm