Lauraine Jacobs

Food & Wine Writer

Lauraine’s blog

7 September 2020

A MUFFIN THAT'S GONE VIRAL

We’re so lucky in the north of New Zealand to have a temperate climate and plenty of keen horticulturalists and orchardists. Each season brings with it an array of sweet, fresh, seasonal fruit that we can feast on. So for my new monthly column in The Hobson for August, my thoughts turned to my favourite of all fruit – NZ grown oranges which had just begun their sweet but short season.

The citrus season starts with sweet little mandarins, but those first loose skinned, seedless varieties are over quickly. They’re followed by limes, lemons, grapefruit, tangelos and other varieties of mandarins. The citrus fruit I have encountered this season has been far juicier and far sweeter than any other year in memory. I suspect it was our long hot summer followed by late season rain that allowed to fruit to swell at exactly the right time.

Early July brought the start of New Zealand oranges, the absolute stars of our citrus season. Both navel and Valencia varieties can be found now, and both are perfect for juicing and eating. The navel orange can be identified by the little navel-like dimple at its base and slightly pebbly skin. It is easy to peel. It’s usually seedless, a rich orange colour and is deliciously sweet. The Valencia is paler, has a smooth skin and is the perfect orange for juicing.

Each of my columns in The Hobson includes a recipe, and I immediately thought of this one, an oldie but a goody, based on an American recipe I had collected back in the 80s on a trip to San Francisco. It is a wonderfully fragrant, moist muffin. It’s interesting when you write recipes, as you never quite know who will love it, adopt it and make it their own. The feedback has been sensational – so much so that I broadcast it when I was talking to Jess Mulligan on RNZ afternoons a week or two ago. Everywhere I go I am told what a success it is so here you go … you will need to buy about three fresh New Zealand grown oranges as one whole orange, (skin, flesh and all) is used in the muffin and there’s extra orange juice that makes the muffin batter truly moist.

WHOLE ORANGE AND DATE MUFFINS

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Butter a 12 cup muffin tray. Sift 210g flour, 1 teaspoon each of baking powder, baking soda and salt together and put aside. Pulse 100g pitted dates in a food processor with 50g brown sugar until the dates are coarsely chopped. Wash 1 whole orange, cut into 8-10 pieces and add this to the food processor, pulsing until all is finely chopped. Add 100g brown sugar, 110g chopped butter, 1 large egg and ½ cup orange juice and blend well. Add the sifted ingredients and pulse until they just mixed, taking care not to over process. Divide the dough among the muffin cups and bake until firm to the touch and lightly browned. (About 15 minutes.) Make 12 muffins. Serve warm with extra butter.

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