Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Orange Date Breakfast Muffins

These muffins are based on the flavors of a Lebanese childhood in the Caribbean. I guess they flavors are a mixture of the spices and dates I ate in one form or another. The dates were usually in Maamoul, a pastry made at Easter, but sometimes my sister would make Lebanese Date Rolls, sweet date paste flavored with a hint of cinnamon and orange blossom water, wrapped in a rich short crust butter pastry. I have added flax meal and oatmeal to the muffins in a effort to make them more “healthy”! Have also used as little sugar as possible, relying instead on the sweetness of the dates. 

1 egg
1 cup half and half
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup oatmeal
½ cup flax meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 small orange (enough to give ½ cup of puree)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup dates
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon molasses

1.       Wash the whole orange carefully. Trim about 1⁄2" from the tops and bottoms of oranges. Cover with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Drain. Repeat boiling process twice more with fresh water. Again, cover the orange with cold water.  Bring the water to a rolling boil, lower the heat, and simmer with the cover on for about 1- 1 1/2 hours. Don’t try to rush this part as the prolonged boiling minimizes the bitterness of the skin and pith. Tip: I used a pressure cooker to do this in 30 minutes. Remove from heat but don’t flash cool, let it cool naturally until the pressure has dropped, and it is safe to open. Allow the orange to cool. The orange is “cooked” when the rind gives easily when pierced with a fork. This step can be done the day before and the puree kept in the fridge until ready to use. Remove the center, and seeds if any. Puree in a small blender. Set aside.
Orange after boiling in pressure cooker

Orange puree
2.       Combine flours, flax meal, oatmeal, baking powder and soda, Cardamom, Cinnamon, and salt. Add the chopped walnuts to this. Mix well and set aside.
3.       On low heat, bring the half and half and chopped dates to just below simmer. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Let the chopped dates soak in that mixture. Add the molasses and stir well. Cool.   
4.       Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
5.       Beat egg, pureed orange, oil, lemon juice, and vanilla. Slowly add the half and half/date mixture to the bowl.  Slowly mix in flour mixture until just combined. The batter may be lumpy but mix until just moistened.
6.       Divide batter between 12 muffin cups, filling 2/3 the way up. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes or until a tester inserted in the muffin comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 5 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool.