Christmas muffins are quick - and tasty

North Devon Gazette

These muffins are full of Christmas flavours – fruit, spice, and orange, but lighter than traditional Christmas pudding and a lot quicker to cook, writes Vanessa Ebdon.

The fruit really does benefit from at least 24 hours soaking but you can speed things up a bit by mixing the ingredients and microwaving for 30 seconds.

Ingredients (makes 12)

zest of ½ an orange

80g raisins

25g cranberries

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 tablespoons brandy

30g dark brown sugar

250g SR flour

5 teaspoons doves baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarb powder

100g castor sugar

½ teaspoon mixed spice

juice of an orange

150ml milk (approx)

75 g melted butter

1 large egg

The day before cooking, place the raisins, cranberries, spices and the brandy in a small bowl. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and add the orange zest.

Simmer for five minutes, drain and refresh with cold water. This removes any bitterness in the rind. Drain thoroughly and cut into the narrowest strips you can. Add to the bowl and cover, shaking from time to time to mix the flavours.

When you are ready to cook, pre-set the oven to 210°C and line a muffin tin with paper cases. Mix the dark brown sugar into the spiced fruit.

Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb, spice and castor sugar in a large bowl. Mix the milk and orange juice in a measuring jug, topping up to the 200ml mark with milk. Beat the egg lightly and add.

Pour in the melted butter, stir and pour into the dry ingredients, lightly mixing everything. I find a large fork best for this as the mixture is quite stiff and it helps to smooth lumps out.

When everything is mixed, put into paper cases with two teaspoons – the cases should be about three quarters full. Put a heaped teaspoon of the fruit mixture in the centre of each and place in the hot oven.

After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 200°C and cook for a further 8-10 minutes, when they should be risen and golden brown. Test they are cooked with a toothpick, which should come out clean when inserted into the spongy part. Serve with cream or brandy butter if you like!