In bleak January, just when it seems like the sun won’t ever stay up past 4:30 p.m., the temperature won’t rise above freezing, or the permacloud won’t lift, Mother Nature bursts forth with one of winter’s greatest gifts: citrus. These cheery Orange Muffins with Poppy Seeds are full of lightness and brightness, two happy qualities that my sleet-worn soul needed desperately this week.
After spending three magical days enjoying winter at its finest while downhill skiing at Deer Valley, Ben and I arrived home to a work week of winter at its worst: drizzling sleet, harsh winds, and a sky so gray you could name a tragic film after it. If someone were writing a script for the stereotypical harsh transition back to reality after vacation, it would have taken place this week.
Then, yesterday morning as I was contemplating the great mystery of why the first settlers to Wisconsin decided to stick around the frozen tundra instead of rolling on west to California, I remembered the pair of orange muffins I had stowed away in our freezer. I leapt to my feet, popped them into the microwave, and a few minutes later…
About These Orange Muffins
A twist on classic lemon poppy seed muffins that swaps the lemon for orange, these lively Orange Muffins offer a jovial burst of sun on even the dreariest winter day. Although you can find citrus year round, it’s at its prime in January and February. Isn’t it marvelous that at the time when your soul most needs an orange muffin (ahem, now), oranges are also at their peak?
Per usual, I picked up the ingredients for these Orange Muffins at Pick ‘n Save, my local grocery store with which I partner to create fresh monthly recipes. The selection of citrus was enormous! I opted to keep these muffins classic with naval oranges, but they’d also be delicious with grapefruit, blood orange, and, of course, with lemon too.
For maximum orange flavor, this recipe calls for both orange zest and orange juice. Pro tip: if you blend any citrus zest (lemon, orange, lime, etc.) into the sugar before you add the other ingredients, it activates the zest’s oils, intensifies its flavor, and makes your fingers smell quite nice too.
To make the Orange Muffins extra moist, tender, and even healthy, I replaced most of the butter with Greek yogurt. The yogurt makes the muffins taste incredibly decadent while keeping them low in fat. A touch of almond extract pairs delicately with the orange. While the poppy seeds aren’t required, they are super fun and make for a refreshing riff on the more common lemon-poppy seed combo.
I finished the Orange Muffins with a sweet vanilla glaze. The glaze is delicious, but if you prefer to omit it or you like your breakfast goodies to be less sweet, the Orange Muffins taste lovely without it.
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Orange Muffins with Poppy Seeds
FOR THE ORANGE MUFFINS:
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus 2 tablespoons)
- 2 large oranges
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour or substitute whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup poppy seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt at room temperature
- 1/4 cup nonfat milk at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled (or substitute melted, cooled coconut oil, canola oil, or very light olive oil)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
FOR THE GLAZE:
- 2 tablespoons butter softened
- 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons orange juice reserved from the oranges above
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper liners. Place the sugar in a medium mixing bowl, then zest both oranges directly into it. Rub together the sugar and orange zest with your fingers, until the sugar is fragrant, moist, and light orange throughout. Stir in the flour, poppy seeds, baking soda, and salt. Juice the zested oranges and set aside 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon for the muffins and 2 tablespoons for the glaze.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, Greek yogurt, milk, butter, vanilla extract, almond extract, and 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon orange juice. (All of these ingredients do need to be as close to room temperature as possible, or the butter will resolidify. If you don't have time to wait, use canola oil or a very light tasting olive oil, which will stay liquid.) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix gently by hand, just until combined. Do not overmix.
- Divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups, filling three-quarters of the way to the top (I like to use a big cookie scoop for the tallest, fluffiest muffins). Bake 12-14 minutes, until the tops are dry and spring back lightly when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The muffins will look a little flat but will still be perfectly moist and delicious. Let cool 3 minutes in the pan, then gently transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- For the glaze, melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl. Whisk in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon orange juice. Continue adding juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until your desired consistency is reached. Drizzle over the top of the muffins. Enjoy warm or cooled.
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