Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Half-Baked: Marmalade Muffins

One of the things I really love to do to unwind every day is read.  I have found several series of books that I return to over and over again.  One of these is a series of culinary mysteries by Diane Mott Davidson.  I thoroughly enjoy the way she intersperses her love of food with her storytelling.  It is not contrived, as other authors sometimes are.  Seriously, I find myself laughing out loud at times.  Check out the series, starting with Catering to Nobody.  I have found numerous recipes that my family enjoys from these books over the years.  This particular recipe is called "Marmalade Mogul Muffins" and published in Tough Cookie in spring of 2000.
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1-3/4 cups sugar, divided
4 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
4-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (high altitude: add 1/4 cup)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. orange zest, minced
1 cup best-quality bitter orange marmalade (recommended brand: Harry & David Wild & Rare Bitter Orange Marmalade)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (high altitude: 375 degrees).

In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter with 1-1/2 cups of the sugar until well combined.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat well.  Add buttermilk and mix thoroughly.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture.  The batter will be stiff.  Stir in the zest and marmalade.  Using a 1/3-cup measure, divide the batter among 28 muffin cups that have been fitted with paper liners.  Using the last 1/4-cup of sugar, sprinkle a teaspoon or so over each muffin.

Bake 15 o5 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Makes 28 muffins.

So there you have it.  The recipe as it  appears in the book.  Now you get my take ...

I don't fuss with the unsalted butter.  I find it didn't make a significant enough difference in the final product to insist on unsalted.  I do, however, insist on real butter in any baking I do.  Margarine and low cholesterol products just can't compare.
The buttermilk is just 1 pint.  I usually buy just what I need or if I buy a quart, we eat waffles within the next couple of days. Yum!
For the orange zest, I just use a microplane to get the zest off of a large naval orange.  I don't usually get naval oranges, so I have also used the zest from two tangelos or clementines  instead.
As far as marmalade goes, I've never liked the stuff, but I LOVE this recipe.  I use sweet marmalade--Smuckers or a French brand, Bonne Maman.
Finally, I use a heaping 1/4-teaspoonful of sugar to top each muffin.  Not too much, but definitely enough to create a decent crunch on top.  You'll have most of the last 1/4-cup sugar left if you measure it this way.

This recipe makes so much that you can freeze half and no one will know.  Love it!!

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