Before winter comes to a halt, or winter as we know it here in LA, I knew I wanted to take advantage of one last thing. That would be, to take advantage of as much seasonal citrus as possible, which for me, usually comes in the form of all the oranges and satsumas my mother manages to amass by the bagfuls in her apartment, all which are patiently awaiting my weekly visit.
More specifically though, I wanted to bake with blood oranges but couldn't find them anywhere if I tried. I may have gawked many a time at some of the most gorgeous posts here and there, but what is sure is the fact that the moment I stopped keeping my eyes peeled open for blood oranges, is when they decided to magically appear. In my usual day dreaming fashion, I went on to make these citrus muffins with a drizzle of blood orange curd and, like I said, I was day dreaming...of the most ideal outcome, naturally. We think by now I should have no flops in the kitchen and be able to go on my merry way, or at least, I should maybe expect that once in a while a recipe is going to require a little more trial and error. The latter seems more accurate.
It seems as though I had forgotten how to bake quick breads with acidic fruit. Perhaps for you personally, there may have been a time or two when your quick breads studded with berries turned out green and rather bitter. Sure, we can pretend they were meant to turn out this way because green typically means healthier but the truth is, too much baking soda was involved in the making. And such was my plight in the making of this recipe. I had decided to give up on it after the first time around but sure enough, I caught my second wind and am very glad I did. One other thing to note when making quick breads, a category in which most muffin recipes fall under, is that butter and oil are not as interchangeable as they may seem.
Their taste may differ exponentially and thus, many opt to substitute with butter in search of richness in flavor. I personally can't choose between the two since both taste great in their own ways, but according to King Arthur's baking community, oil has the ability to coat the flour proteins more efficiently than butter can, even if or when butter is in its melted state. The crumb that's produced in the oil variety tends to feel lighter and more springy, and yes, even more "oily" and moist, like how we know store bought muffins to be. Butter on the other hand, is comprised of fat and water, making it difficult to emulsify when meshed with flour proteins and therefore, rendering a not necessarily dry crumb, but certainly a denser crumb. Kind of like pound cake, for example.
In regards to the blood orange curd, I couldn't think of a more delightful variety other than Meyer lemon. The taste is truly unique and somewhat rounder than what I had imagined. It even boasts a slight hint of florals in my opinion, and when drizzled on top of muffins the combination of sweet and floral is just perfect. I can imagine it to be an interesting pairing with greek yogurt or on a hearty slice of toast.
Citrus Muffins and Blood Orange Curd
Time: approximately 1 hour including juicing and baking
Equipment: large mixing bowl, wooden or rubber spatula, small sauce pan, strainer or sieve, muffin tin, ziploc bag and a piping tip
Ingredients for muffins
2 cups all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup neutral flavor oil
1 large egg+1 egg white
1/2 cup milk
zest of 1 blood orange
3 tbsp blood orange juice
Ingredients for fruit curd
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup blood orange juice (it took about 8-10 of them)
1 tbsp blood orange zest
5 tbsp unsalted butter
For the curd, place a sauce pan on the lowest heat possible, star whisking in egg yolks quickly followed by sugar. Whisk thoroughly until the sugar dissolves. Pour the juice and vigorously whisk so as to prevent burning or unnecessary curdling. Heat and whisk on and off for about 8-10 minutes. When a simmering foam starts to form and the mixture is slightly thickened, add butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Take away from heat and let it cool completely. If you want to store half of the curd, pour it in a container with a lid or plastic wrap and store in the fridge for a few weeks.
As the curd cools down, preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Follow with oil, eggs, milk, zest, and juice. Fold in together with a wooden or rubber spatula so as to not over mix. Combine just enough to get large lumps out of the batter. In a lined muffin tin, pour the batter in each compartment to about 3/4 of the way up. Garnish with small slices of blood orange and bake for approximately 18-21 minutes depending on the oven. When they are ready to serve, top with a generous dollop of orange curd and enjoy!