Orange Glazed Poppyseed Muffins

The weather in Rome seems to be in a bit of a rush lately, deciding to skip over Spring and go directly to Summer. The past few weeks have been characterized by sunshine, short sleeves, and lazy weekends in the park -- sunglasses required -- and I am so very happy to not be living in New England right now, where the snowfall continues (sorry Rhode Islanders!) The lack of cooler weather has made me momentarily set aside any recipes falling in to the "buttery," "fudge-y," "rich," or "chocolate-y" categories, cookie cakes and lava cakes suddenly seeming better suited for colder weather and rain. Now don't panic -- I can't stay away from frosting and chocolate chips for all that long -- but I have most certainly found myself looking for lighter, bright and sunny recipes to match the mood outside. Enter these Orange Glazed Poppyseed Muffins!

I had totally planned to make a Tres Leches Cake this weekend -- that would fall squarely into the above mentioned "rich" category -- but found myself instead inspired by the sunshine and a few oranges I had in my fridge, not to mention a bag of poppy seeds still in my pantry. The result was these muffins, which pack a true a citrus punch thanks to the orange zest, juice, and glaze, not to mention the extra juice brushed over the top right after they come out of the oven (the same method I used in these Orange Pound cake) The zest is also heated first with water and sugar, which brings out the orange flavor even more. Citrus aside, these muffins are soft and fluffy thanks to the addition of plain yogurt, and I actually found that they were delicious the next day as well (and perhaps even a bit more orange-y, as the flavor had developed even more). These are perfect for brunch, breakfast, or snack, but I also think the glaze makes them dress-y enough for dessert (just call them Orange Glazed Poppyseed Cakes!) 

A couple of notes: I used poppy seeds in these muffins to shake up the classic lemon with poppyseed combination with another type of citrus, but if you'd prefer, you could also substitute raspberries, blueberries, or even chocolate chunks here. I put 3 tablespoons poppyseeds into the batter and then after wished I had put more, so add 3 to start and then see if you want to up the amount. You could also add a bit of almond extract to make these orange almond muffins, but if that is the case, do not use a whole teaspoon -- almond extract tends to be a lot stronger than vanilla extract. Start with 1/4 a teaspoon and then taste the batter and adjust accordingly. Enjoy everyone! 


Ingredients for muffins:
3 large oranges
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons orange juice (from oranges listed above)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons poppy seeds

Ingredients for glaze:
1/3 cup orange juice for brushing (from oranges listed above)
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice (from oranges listed above)
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and butter a 12 cup muffin pan. Set aside. Finely grate the zest from the oranges (be careful to zest only the bright orange portion of the peel -- the white part of the orange under the peel is extremely bitter.) You should have about 1/4 cup of orange zest. In a small saucepan, combine the zest, 1/4 cup of the sugar, the orange juice, and the water; stir together over medium heat for about 2 minutes until sugar dissolves. Add the butter and stir until melted, about 1 minute more. Set aside the orange zest mixture.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, yogurt, milk and reserved orange zest mixture until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended (do not over mix or the muffins will be tough). Stir in the poppyseeds. 

Spoon the batter into prepared muffin tins, filling each cup three-quarters full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in tins for 3-5 minutes and then remove and cool completely on wire rack. Brush the muffins lightly with some of the 1/3 cup orange juice while they are still warm (you might not use all of the juice).

Combine the powdered sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice in a bowl and whisk until smooth. If glaze is too stiff, beat in a few more drops of orange juice. Spoon over the muffins while they are still a bit warm. Makes 12 muffins.

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