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Spiced orange muffins, but not always orange

Recipe: Baking and experimenting with fresh citrus fruit

The color difference in the muffins is subtle but apparent. The red pigments in the blood orange juice turn color when combined in a mixture containing baking soda.

The color difference in the muffins is subtle but apparent. The red pigments in the blood orange juice turn color when combined in a mixture containing baking soda.

Kathy Morrison

So much citrus, so little time while it’s fresh and in season. My Washington navel is loaded, but the produce bins are, too – with Cara Cara oranges and clementines and blood oranges. I try all of them each year, but occasionally the home supply gets to be an overload. Time to get out the juicer or bake something delicious.

Oranges in a bowl and blood oranges on counter
 Muffin ingredients and some of my citrus.

I did both this week, choosing an orange cardamom muffin recipe to try. But I also wondered what they would be like if I used blood orange zest and juice. Well, the muffin recipe looked easy to divide, so I tried a side-by-side test: Half the batch got navel orange juice and zest, and the other got the gorgeous red juice and darker zest.

Scientists learn something even from a failed experiment, and I was no different. The upshot: The brilliant raspberry-red of the blood orange juice disappeared completely in baking, and the resulting muffin was an odd color,  a blue tone that reminded me of a muffin I had made with fresh blueberries. Turns out the juice’s red-causing anthocyanin pigments (which also occur in raspberries) react with the baking soda and change color.

The navel orange muffins, meanwhile, stayed a beautiful orange. So if you want to show off your citrus, bake the navel orange muffins, and serve a glass of blood orange juice alongside. The recipe below is a full batch of the navel orange version.

A note on the spice: The cardamom almost disappears into this muffin,  giving it additional flavor without overtaking the citrus. Cinnamon also could be used, but I might try some ground cloves next time for half the spice.

Orange spiced muffins

Makes 12


3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup milk (plain yogurt also would work)

two piles of orange zest, orange on  left, blood orange on right
Zest from an orange, left, and blood orange.

Grated zest of 1 orange (½ tablespoon or more)

¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon

 Crunchy or sparkling sugar, for topping, optional


Pan of 12 muffins
Orange on left, blood orange on right.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 12-cup muffin pan by spraying with oil or lining with cupcake papers.

 In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, oil, milk, zest and orange juice.

 In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom. Stir in the wet mixture just until the flour is incorporated.

 Fill the muffin cups evenly. Top each with crunchy sugar, if desired.

 Bake 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown. Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Best served warm.


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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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