I’m feeling a bit better now; the good news is I’ve now managed a little spring in my step and I no longer feel like that seething cesspool of bacteria like I did a mere week ago. I think my immune system suffered a battering while at the conference last week eating lots of nutritionally deficient foods like hot chips, pizza and meat pies. All great when on the go, but terrible when you are trying to fend off disease.
So in my effort to wage war against those recalcitrant little bugs that have invaded my body and have yet still to pack up and leave completely, I bought a whole bag of Navel Oranges. Not only are they delicious this time of year, when they reach their season but they are also full of virus-fighting vitamin C. I don’t exactly know how adept they are at fighting disease, but it was more to soothe my conscience than anything else. I have little faith in antibiotics and really hate to even more pollute my body with drugs that I am happy to be sick longer and just let my own immune system fight it to the end. I just thought the oranges could provide reinforcements.
And now that I am feeling a bit better, I still have a surfeit of oranges lying around. What to do with so many oranges? Well I had many plans, many grand intentions- orange curd tart, orange focaccia, orange crème brulee; although my body just didn’t have the gusto to go though with any of them. I just wanted something you can whip up when you aren’t feeling 100%, but still wanted something that looked like I did put some ffort into it. Enter these Dark Chocolate and Orange Muffins.
They say that if something is easy that it’s "easy as pie", but truth be known, I never thought pie making to be that easy, especially in comparison to these muffins. I think the phrase should be amended to say: “Easy as Muffins”. This recipe was adapted from one of Donna Hay’s, the only thing I changed was the amount of sugar and I decided to use yoghurt instead of sour cream. I’ve been cooking from Miss Hay’s magazines a lot lately. If you are wondering why, it’s because my mum came across a whole stack of back issues while scouring for bargains at a garage sale (or for you North Americans- a yard sale). She found about 8 back issues altogether and all for a $1 each!
Anyway, I always thought that the chocolate-orange combination was best suited for Christmas. I don’t know why but, but I think it’s because we always used to always get those candied chocolate oranges for Christmas every year from neighbours and family friends. They were always the Christmas gift you gave when you didn’t know what else to give, like the generic photo frame for birthdays. We gave them to our teachers and people who did odd jobs for us around the house, just to say a polite and unattached Thank You. So I never saw the beauty of those chocolate orange candies, until now that I am all grown up and we no longer receive or give those presents.
But nonetheless I needed to use some of those oranges before they were only good for a compost heap, and this muffin was the simplest recipe out of the bunch. It was time to revisit the orange and chocolate combination, sans the actual Christmas-time. As providence would have it, there was also a mid-winter Christmas event being held, so it was event more reason to make this recipe.
You know exactly when these muffins are done because your kitchen becomes filled with a beautiful orange perfume, as if beckoning you to finally open that oven door. The inclusion of yoghurt in the batter creates a slightly chewy and moist crumb. It’s beautiful, and the superfluity of chocolate chips is almost ridiculously childish, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. For these muffins, don’t hold back on the chocolate chips.
So have these muffins whatever season, Christmas time or not. But I assure you these will make any token Christmas present look even more sincere than you intended. If you happen to have some left over the next day, just pop them into the microwave to zap for a few seconds to nring those chocolate chips back to life. It's great for breakfast the next day, if you are inclined to have muffins so early in the day.
If you want more ideas on how to spend your mid-Winter Christmas, or if you are in the Northern Hemisphere- a mid-summer Christmas, which I think is how Christmas is meant to be spent, then make your way to Nihowera, where the round up for the Mid-Winter Christmas should be posted shortly.
Merry Mid-Winter Christmas!
Dark Chocolate and Orange Muffins
adapted from Donna Hay Magazine (Issue 8)
1¾ cups plain all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ cup caster sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
1 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup plain yoghurt (no gelatine)
60g unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp orange juice
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Cut 8 strips of non stick baking paper into 6.5 x 60cm lengths.*
Grease the paper and roll into cylinders, overlapping a couple of times. The cylinders should fit snugly into 8 x ½ cup capacity ramekins or muffin pans. Place the cylinders in the greased ramekins.
Place the flour, baking powder, sugar, orange zest, and chocolate in a large bowl and mix to combine.
In another smaller bowl, combine the yoghurt, butter, eggs and orange juice until well blended.
Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix until just combined.
Spoon the batter carefully into the prepared ramekins.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the tops are golden and cooked when tested with a skewer.
Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. They are ready to serve straight away.
*If you don’t want to make your own cases feel free to use conventional muffin cases. In this case you will make 12 muffins instead.