My favorite muffin recipe! Lately we've been enjoying dried fruit in a lovely cinnamon-and-orange-flavored muffin. This recipe makes 12 muffins. (It fills one 8" cake pan, if you prefer coffee cake to muffins; be sure you grease and flour the pan.)
3/4 cup sugar
1 to 1 1/8 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup (or more) mixed dried fruit, heavy on the cranberries
1/2 cup milk
3 drops orange extract (tis powerful stuff; be cautious at first)
2 large eggs
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (medium). Line a cupcake tin with twelve cupcake papers.
Thoroughly mix together the first four ingredients. Make sure you get all the flour on the bottom of the bowl mixed in; this is easiest if you measure the sugar into the bowl first. Stir in the dried fruit and make sure it is well coated with the flour mixture--this will help the fruit to stay separated, rather than all sinking to the bottom and clumping together. Make a well in this mixture.
Mix the wet ingredients in the measuring cup (beat the eggs into the milk and extract with a fork) and pour into the well.
Stir together thoroughly but do not beat--remember that muffins need quick mixing with a gentle hand. Pour or spoon batter into the cupcake wrappers, distributing fruit as evenly as possible and scraping the bowl to get the last of the batter.
Sprinkle the top of each muffin with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, turn the pan, and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Muffins will rise and crack when they are done; test by inserting a toothpick (or knife) into the center of the largest muffin. If the toothpick comes out clean with no batter or large crumbs clinging to it, the muffins are done. Let cool a minute in the pan, then transfer to wire cooling rack. Eat warm or cool.
Fruit combinations: So far, we have tried 3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries with 1/4 cup chopped dried apricot. This is sweet and tangy and VERY good. We've also tried 1/2 cup cranberries with 1/2 cup mixed diced dried pineapple and papaya--again, sweet, tangy, and very good.
Substitutions: If you don't have orange extract, you can substitute 3 drops lemon or almond extract, or 1 teaspoon vanilla. Alternatively, you can add a teaspoon of orange zest and a tablespoon of orange juice to the batter and leave out the extracts altogether. make sure you use a little extra flour if you try this.
One of these times, I will try substituting 1 cup plain yogurt for the milk and eggs. Eggs are pretty expensive right now and that might be a way to save a little. Also, if one used non-fat yogurt, it would make the muffins (which are already low-fat) completely fat-free, which is a consideration for anyone with gallbladder troubles (an unfortunate and rather common side effect of hormone replacement therapy and/or birth control pills).
I don't believe in using sugar substitutes, so if I needed to make these muffins low-sugar, I would substitute 3/4 cup applesauce for the 1/2 cup milk and leave the sugar out completely. I don't know how that would affect the taste, texture, and baking time, so it would call for some experimenting at first, I think.