Try this great cranberry alternative for your pudding this year. iStock

Thanksgiving may be done and gone, but delicious cranberry recipes are alive and well for the next few weeks. If you’ve already started to think about Christmas pudding, why not consider a recipe that uses both fresh and sweetened dried cranberries in place of the more traditional dates, figs, and mixed peel. Serve it for Christmas or save it to ring in the New Year. For a simpler holiday dessert, make cranberry nut bars, or for a unique nibble with a holiday drink, try the blue cheese-cranberry shortbreads. I’ve already seen BOGO sales for the versatile little berry, so grab a few bags while you can.

Steamed Cranberry Pudding

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons molasses (dark treacle)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon sweetened dried cranberries
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
Brandy butter for serving

Method:

Butter a 6-cup pudding mold or deep, heatproof bowl; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and cinnamon. In a separate large bowl, stir together molasses, sugar, rum, and oil until blended. Stir in cranberries, raisins, and apple. Stir in flour mixture until blended.

Spoon batter into prepared mold and smooth top. Cover with a double piece of buttered wax paper and a double piece of aluminum foil. Fold together and make a pleat in the center (to allow for the pudding to expand). Tie paper and foil in place with kitchen twine.

Place mold or bowl in a large saucepan or Dutch oven fitted with a rack, or place a folded kitchen towel on bottom of pot to prevent direct contact with bottom of pot. Add enough hot water to pot to come halfway up sides of mold or bowl. Cover and steam on medium-low heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until a skewer inserted into center comes out clean. (Check water level once or twice during cooking and add more water when necessary.)

Carefully remove pudding from pot. Remove foil and parchment and run a metal spatula around sides to loosen. Place a serving plate over mold and invert. Slice and serve warm with brandy butter.

If not serving immediately, let pudding cool, covered, in the mold. When completely cool, unmold, wrap in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Refrigerate pudding for up to one week or freeze. When ready to serve, put pudding back into its mold, cover with waxed paper or foil, and steam for 1 hour, as above, or until heated through. Thaw frozen pudding before reheating as above.

Brandy Butter

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons brandy

Method:

In a small bowl, beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy. Add brandy and beat until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl or crock, cover, and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Return to room temperature before serving.

Cranberry Nut Bars

Makes 24 bars

For the bars:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate or white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup chopped sweetened dried cranberries

For the frosting:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Method:

Make bars. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 9- x 13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on short sides to make handles; spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar for 2 minutes, or until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat 1 minute.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into butter mixture, alternating with milk. Stir in chocolate, nuts, and cranberries.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until top is browned and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let bars cool in pan for 10 minutes. Lift with foil handles to remove.

Make frosting. In a medium bowl, beat confectioners’ sugar, butter, milk, vanilla and salt with an electric mixer until smooth. Frost bars, and then let cool completely and cut into bars (6 rows by 4 rows).

Blue Cheese Cranberry Shortbreads

Makes 20 shortbreads

Ingredients:

2 cups crumbled blue cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

Method:

Combine cheese and butter in a food processor and process until creamy. In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and pepper. Add to cheese mixture, a little at a time, pulsing 4 to 5 times, or until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add dried cranberries and process just until moist clumps start to form. (If dough is not coming together to form clumps, add 1 tablespoon water and process until moist clumps start to form.)

Transfer dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap and knead gently until dough holds together. Shape dough into 5 x 2 1/2-inch log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 325° F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheet. Remove dough from refrigerator and unwrap; slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place rounds 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until light golden brown; rotate pans halfway through baking time.

Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks. (Recipe and image courtesy of Ocean Spray Cranberry Growers)

Margaret M. Johnson’s ”Favorite Flavors of Ireland” is a “labor of love and tribute to her thirty years of travel there. It offers more than 100 best-loved recipes from her previous ten cookbooks and celebrates the special flavors of each Irish season: Spring/An t-Earrach, Summer/An Samhradh, Autumn/An Fómhar, Winter/An Geimhreadh.” To order a signed copy, visit www.irishcook.com.

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This article first appeared in the Irish Echo. For more stories, visit their website here.