Orange Muffins with Blackberry Surprise

Deeeeelicious.  These muffins defy the stereotype of ‘whole-grain muffin’ as heavy, gritty, dry, flavorless and yet “good for you.”  (Remember the early 90’s when those brick-hard, dry-as-bone, tasteless bran muffins were all the rage?  <shudder>).  These muffins are light and fluffy, not overly sweet, with a citrusy tang and a surprise middle of gooey baked blackberry: in short, pretty darn close to Muffin Nirvana.  And yet, they are good for you: whole grain flours from Wild Hive; organically-grown blackberries, packed full of antioxidants (did you know the seeds have omega-3 and -6 fatty acids?), fiber, manganese, potassium and folic acid (picked at Fishkill Farms and frozen in August); organic whole milk from Milk Thistle Farm; free-range organic egg from Madura Farms, local butter from happy Ronnybrook cows; and some raw sugar to tie it all together.  Other muffins should be so lucky. 

I made one pan of mini muffins and one pan of regular-sized muffins. I like the minis the best; there is a perfect balance of crispy outside to tender inside, and the burst of one perfect blackberry in the center is a delightful surprise.  In the regular-sized muffins, the blackberries tend to sit on top more (rather than sink to the middle of the muffin like they do in the minis); this creates a lovely, ooey-gooey blackberry top, but you don’t get much blackberry through the rest of the muffin.  Also, the batter as I made it was pretty thin (I could experiment with a bit more pastry flour or a bit less milk) and the loose structure worked better in a mini muffin; the larger muffins were slightly more dense. Still good, but I prefer the minis.  The orange flavor comes through more in the larger muffins, however, so if you are a big orange fan, the regular-sized muffins are for you.  Or try both, like I did – it’s hard to go wrong with these.

Adapted from Raspberry-Topped Lemon Muffins, from Deb at Smitten Kitchen via Susan Elizabeth Fallon and Bon Appetit

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Orange Muffins with Blackberry Surprise

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup sugar, divided, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 tbsp orange zest, from 2 medium organic oranges
  • 3 drops orange oil (optional; I use a chopstick to dip & drip)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (5.5 oz) whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup (4.5 oz) whole white wheat flour (Wild Hive all-purpose)
  • 2 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 oz butter (1/2 cup or 1 stick), room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup whole milk (or buttermilk or cream)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • approximately 2 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)

METHODS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Remove butter from refrigerator and allow to soften.  Grease muffin tins to make about 12 regular muffins or 36 mini muffins (I use spray canola oil here). If using frozen blackberries, remove from freezer and rinse under hot running water to partially thaw.  Reserve.
  2. In a small bowl or mortar & pestle, muddle together 1/8 cup of sugar (I used fine grain organic cane sugar here) with orange zest.  Add in optional orange oil and mix well.  Set aside.
  3. Whisk together flours, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. With an electric mixer, beat together butter and remaining sugar (I used turbinado) until creamy.  Beat in egg, then milk, vanilla, and orange sugar. (At this point the batter was very watery and lumpy from the turbinado. Bear with me.)
  5. Add about half the flour and beat for about a minute.  Turn off beater and fold in the rest of the flour, mixing well but not overbeating (do not worry if the batter is a bit lumpy).  Spoon into greased muffin tins to about 3/4 full. For mini muffins, tap one blackberry each into the center of the batter, pushing down about halfway.  For regular muffins, use three blackberries per muffin.  Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with extra turbinado sugar.
  6. Bake muffins in a preheated oven for 20 (mini) or 35 (regular) minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove to cool completely on wire racks.

Yields about 12 regular muffins or 36 mini muffins.

OPTIONS

  1. The orginal recipe calls for lemon and raspberry which I’m sure is equally delicious.  I also decreased the sugar by 1/8 cup, substituted whole wheat flour for AP flour (use 2 cups only) and used whole milk instead of buttermilk.
  2. Deb’s batter looked much thicker (and smoother) than mine.  A finer-grained sugar might have been a better bet (although I so like the flavor of turbinado) in order to form a stiffer and smoother batter. It could also be the difference between buttermilk, which is thicker than milk, and/or whole wheat flour vs AP white flour.  But I like how my blackberries sunk into the middle of the muffin, instead of floating on top, and became gooey and juicy; I wouldn’t change it.

STORE

Two to three days at room temperature, wrapped in a kitchen towel.  If the muffins get a little soggy, re-crisp in a 375 degree F oven for 10 minutes.  Like most muffins, it is likely that these freeze well (I haven’t tried it out yet; I doubt any will last that long!). 

SEASON

Blackberries are in season in August; with frozen berries, these muffins can be made year round.

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