Like scones, muffins seem simple enough. But as cafe frequenters know, they're not that easy to get right - how often do you get a really good muffin? They turn out to be too cakey or crumbly or lumpy or dry, or taste of baking soda, or are just plain boring.
I've tried a range of muffin recipes, without great results. I couldn't seem to get the hang of mixing the batter just enough, so that the muffins didn't become tough and chewy. They're an American import - they weren't around when I was growing up, so I never saw Mum make them.
Three years ago I found Pat Churchill's recipe for citrus muffins in the Dominion Post. It's become one of my small store of really good baking recipes that are as close to foolproof as possible. Even so, I have to concentrate when I'm making it, and I'm prone to forget something.
Today I was making them for visitors, and I did everything properly - until I put them in the oven without taking note of the time, so I had to guess how long to leave them in. But except for being different sizes, and only one of them coming out of the pan with a perfect bottom (I got impatient and scooped them out too soon), they turned out really well. Though you can make them with oranges or tangeloes, I like mandarins best. The little ones are beautifully sweet now, but they go off quickly, so it's good to use some up.
Set the oven to 200C.
Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.
200g fruit - remove stalky bit, and cut into eighths (or quarters for small mandarins - you'll need 5 or 6 of these)
Put into food processor with:
1 cup sugar
and pulse to process until fruit is finely chopped.
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
100g melted butter
Pulse briefly to mix.
1 and 1/2 cups plain white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and mix very lightly together, just to combine the two. Spoon into the greased muffin pan cups and bake for 12-14 minutes, just until a thin knife or skewer inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.
And although I'm not much of a baker, it's imensely satisfying to see, share and eat these beautiful crisp-edged, orangey-brown, moist, tangy-flavoured creations (slightly broken bottoms and all).