A Tale Of Three Muffins
It took three batches to get these Blood Orange Spice Muffins right. It was a true exploration into the world of muffindom. What makes them tender? What makes them sweet? How can you bring out flavor and play with texture to create something wonderful, and still keep it healthy? Big questions, indeed, and with a good solid year and a half of muffin-making behind me, I decided it was time to be bold and venture where no muffin in my kitchen had gone before: an original recipe from scratch.
I started with a batch of blood oranges, and Mark Bittman’s famous muffin recipe, but of course, I had to play with it right from the start. I wanted to experiment with quinoa flour. I wanted to use yogurt. And I like dabbling with different flavors, so dabble I did.
Batch 1 tasted a little bitter, and I thought it could be fluffier.
Batch 2 had a better flavor, and seemed a little fluffier to me, but even after a few days the muffins were still sticking to the papers.
Batch 3 had the smoothest flavor, didn’t stick to the papers, and while denser than I’d been striving for, was extremely satisfying and filling. A win!
The muffin adventure began with blood orange zest.
For Batch 1, I merely added the zest to the dry ingredients.
For Batches 2 and 3, I wised up and used cane sugar instead of brown, and mixed the zest right into it, by hand.
And then THAT was added to the dry ingredients.
All three had a mixture of whole wheat white flour and quinoa flour, and I played with the spices a bit. I was consistent with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, but I played around a bit with small amounts of cloves and allspice.
Batch 1 only had one egg in it.
For Batch 2, I added a second egg, separated them, and beat the egg whites into soft peaks, then folded them into the batter as the final step before scooping the batter into the muffin tin.
For Batch 3, I went back to my one egg.
For all three, there was your run-of-the-mill pouring of liquid into dry
And your basic mixing of batter.
And scooping of said batter into muffin cups, with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar to top things off.
All three batches took exactly 15 minutes to bake properly.
Batch 1 didn’t really puff up much as I would have liked.
Batch 2, thanks to the whipped egg whites, puffed up beautifully!
Batch 3 seemed to puff up as well, even without the egg whites.
Here are the first two together.
I took those around a bit and had people taste test, and a lot of them really liked the bitterness of the first muffin, as well as the texture. I confess I disagreed when it came to the flavor. I preferred the smooth sweetness that came from blending the zest with the sugar.
But it was the third one that brought it all together. The right flavors, the right texture, the culmination of all things muffinish. They are softly dense, filling in a hunger-satisfying way without being heavy, and the blood orange sharpness is tempered by the sweetness and a soft hint of spice.
BLOOD ORANGE SPICE MUFFINS RECIPE
1 teaspoon blood orange zest
1/4 cup cane sugar
1 1/4 cups whole wheat white flour
3/4 cup quinoa flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 1/4 cups low fat vanilla yogurt
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons blood orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
cinnamon-sugar, for sprinkling
Heat oven to 400 degrees, you will reduce the temperature later. Grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin.
In a small bowl, blend the sugar and zest together with your fingers.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, and the sugar-zest mixture, until well combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, egg, honey, oil, juice, and vanilla.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and stir with a spatula just until incorporated.
Scoop batter into muffin cups, distributing as evenly as possible. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar across the top. (I use a grinder I picked up at Trader Joe’s, but you can easily just mix some cinnamon and sugar together.)
Put the tray in the oven and reduce temperature 375. Bake for 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Give them five more minutes in the pan, then move to a wire rack.
These are best eaten the next day, but don’t let that stop you from tasting one earlier.