Christmas Morning Muffins

As Christmas draws near again, I have the pleasure of re-visiting my Christmas cook books, including Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Christmas.

In an attempt to spread my (admittedly premature) Christmas cheer, I’ve chosen to make these Christmas Morning Muffins, which Nigella recommends as a lighter way to celebrate Christmas morning.  Frankly, there aren’t many mornings in the year where you could call a muffin a ‘lighter breakfast’, but Christmas would be the exception.

Being as we are, some six weeks from Christmas, these will be shared with colleagues for morning tea instead; which, for some, may indeed be breakfast. They are beautifully moist and an absolute delight without being too heavy on the spices.

While Nigella calls for ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg, I had neither to hand. Instead I used the last of a jar of Lebkuchen Spice (now sold as Gingerbread Spice) from Gewurshaus in Melbourne; herb and spice merchants, stockists of a spectacular variety of spices to enhance both sweet and savoury cooking.

Makes 12 -16 (depending on size)

250g plain flour
2 1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bi-carb soda
100g castor sugar
2tsp gingerbread spice mix
2 clementines, zested and juiced (or if you’re Australian; oranges)
approx 125ml full fat milk
75ml vegetable oil (or melted butter, cooled)
1 egg
175g dried cranberries (or chopped dates if you don’t have cranberries)
3 tsp demerara sugar for the topping (or raw or brown sugar)

Pre-heat your oven to 200°c  and line a 12 muffin tin with patty pans or silicone liners (as I did).

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, bi-carb soda, castor sugar, spices, and the orange zest.

Juice the oranges, pour the juice into a measuring jug and pour the milk into the fresh squeezed juice until it comes up to the 200ml mark.

To the juice mixture, add the oil (or butter) and egg. Lightly beat until just combined.

Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix gently, without overworking the batter. The batter does not need to be perfectly smooth. Add the cranberries (or chopped dates) and stir through.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, filling each muffin about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle the top of each with the demerara sugar. (I used brown sugar, which doesn’t sprinkle evenly, hence the dark brown spots on the muffins)

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top springs back when touched lightly.

These are so delicious warm from the oven, but equally yummy the next day. To make them any further ahead, Nigella recommends freezing them and defrosting in a low oven prior to serving.

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