Sunday, February 17, 2008

Honeyed Orange Ginger Muffins (Quat, Optional)


It's February, cold, snowy, blustery February. The time when children and adults don their cozy mittens and puffy jackets to go sledding or ice skating or -- best of all -- build snowmen. That is if you live somewhere where there's weather. You know like "cold," "snow," "storm" and, the granddaddy of them all, "blizzard."

Since I'm in San Diego, I won't be building snowmen anytime soon (it was in the '70s earlier this week). So I've been occupying myself with a different winter pastime -- experimenting in the kitchen with the "quats."

After my success with Coconut Lemonquat Cake, I was inspired to keep baking.

So I wrote my next Kitchen Window article for NPR on kumquats, where I have recipes for:

  • Watercress and Endive Salad with Kumquats
  • Kumquat and Dried Cherry Chutney
  • Tilapia with Kumquat Citrus Butter
  • Coconut Kumquat Tea Cake
Now it's time for muffins. I actually made three different versions of this recipe, until this past Saturday, when the stars and elements aligned, creating the perfect muffin. Yes, that's a bold statement to make, but after you taste one, you may agree.

Orangequats (also called mandarinquats) are a citrus hybrid of kumquats and oranges. Don’t let their diminutive size fool you. These remarkably juicy fruits have a big, bold orange flavor that is twinged with tartness. Like kumquats, the entire fruit is edible, including the thin rind. Just watch out for a couple of tiny seeds inside that need to be removed (or spit out, when no one's looking).

Orangequats are wonderful for savory salsas on top of pork and seafood or sliced atop a salad of bitter greens such as frisee. For sweet dishes, try them sprinkled on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream, sliced and dipped in chocolate, or baked into cakes and muffins.

These sprightly yellow muffins taste and look like sunshine has been baked right into them. When you bite into one, you'll taste hints of honey, ginger, and vanilla and find them chock full of plump, sweet golden raisins and flecks of brightly colored orangequats. So I'm sending them to Lia of Swirling Notions, this week's gracious host of the wonderful Weekend Herb Blogging, created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.

Don't despair if you can't find orangequats. These muffins are wonderful with navel oranges as well. I know, I've made and eaten both.

Honeyed Orange Ginger Muffins (Quat, Optional)
Makes 12 muffins.
Print recipe only here.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup freshly squeezed navel orange juice (about 2 oranges)
1/4 cup finely minced navel orange pulp (OR, if using orangequats, 3-4 de-seeded fruits, rinds included, minced until pulpy, about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon navel orange zest (about 1 orange)
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup coarsely chopped golden raisins

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12 mold regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.

If using orangequats, then de-seed them by slicing the fruits into rounds with a sharp pairing knife. Using the tip of the knife, gently pluck out the seeds.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, egg, and juice. Add the orange pulp, orange zest, ginger, honey, and vanilla, and whisk until just combined. Add to the flour mixture and stir quickly until well combined. Fold in the raisins. Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 molds.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

You might also like:
Date, Fennel, and Pistachio Scones
Persimmon and Date Bread
Banana Coconut Almond Bread
Warm Banana and Citrus Cups

Other orange-y desserts I've admired:
Orange Poppy Seed Cake with Candied Kumquats
from Swirling Notions
Orange, Chocolate, and Ricotta Cake from Lucullian Delights
Orange Creme Caramel from Trial and Error

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