Show day came with bleak skies, cold air and rain - lots of rain. But my friend B and her little ray of sunshine H came over for morning tea. We quickly admired the colour in my front garden as we dashed thru the drizzle and into the warmth of the house (yes, this is October in Hobart). We settled down with hot drinks (coffee for B, tea for me; oh, and juice for H) and caught up on trips to the mainland, renovation plans, office politics and dolls-for-little-girls-politics.
B had kindly, deliciously brought along pitch-black chocolate cupcakes from the local gourmet grocers; we laughed at the hypnotised look on H's face; she looked like a little blonde bunny in the headlights of this sugar confection. She kindly assented to eating some of my baking, but all the time those large round eyes stared at the remaining black chocolate cake on the plate before her.
I guess in the face of that dark wickedness (and we adults agreed it was quite something), prune and orange muffins would seem rather lacklustre (and looking at the pics now, they actually look like old-fashioned rock cakes). And that may be why marketers are calling prunes 'dried plums' or even jazzier names. Re-branding them so people forget their health food connotations?
But really, prunes should be proudly prunes! I love prunes, especially in baking. One of my favourites is Nigella's chocolate cake enriched with pureed prunes. Chop up some plump juicy prunes - and maybe soak them in a little brandy or Tia Maria - then fold them thru your next brownie, or scatter them thru your next custardy bread and butter pudding, and then tell me you do not love prunes.
So why I saw this recipe I quite easily bypassed the 'wholesome muffin' label and the fancy re-branding and saw, simply, delicious prunes. Prunes with orange zest - another perfect pairing.
I'm not used to muffins - they are dryer than cupcakes, and not as sweet; or at least these ones were. But I did some re-branding of my own and called them muffin-scones, and then was quite comfy with them. And B said it was nice to have something not-too-sweet. We enjoyed them cut open with a little smear of butter, as you would a scone.
And the prunes? Fruity, silky and rich, brightened by the orange zest and warmed by the mixed spice I slipped in. Perfect.
Prune and orange muffins
Adapted from a recipe by the Sunsweet brand of 'plum amazin diced prunes'. Next time I may add a titch of vanilla for a little sweetness, or just up the orange zest and spice.
- Prep paper cases in a muffin tin or two, and preheat your oven to 180.
- First chop up enough prunes to give you 1 cup of diced prunes, then finely zest 1 orange.
- In a large bowl sift 1 and 1/4 cups of wholemeal SR flour, 1 and 1/4 cups white SR flour. Add 1/2 tspn baking powder, 1/4 cup raw sugar and 1/4 tspn mixed spice.
- In another bowl or large , lightly whisk 2 large eggs and 1/3 cup light oil.
- This is going to look weird, but this is where I mucked around with the recipe, so I'll give you what I did plus what the recipe stated. Into the eggs and oil, add 1 cup plus 2 tbspns dairy. I used 1 cup of a combo of greek yoghurt and sour cream (the recipe: skim milk. Skim? Not in this kitchen!) and 2 tbspns soy milk (the recipe: natural yogurt) (I have often substituted dairy in this way before and everything always works).
- Right, now pour the liquid into the dry, add the prunes and zest, then mix until just combined (I added a dribble more soy milk to catch the loose flour at the bottom of the bowl).
- Spoon into your muffin tins and bake for about 15-20 minutes until done (a skewer comes out clean).
- I think these are best served warm, with that little bit of butter, and a good friend's company.