These pretty, jewel-like muffins are easy-to-make, lightly sweetened muffins are delicious, loaded with plumped-up dried fruit and are perfect for a holiday breakfast or brunch. They’re inspired by Panettone, an Italian sweet bread that is popular at Christmas.
For the muffins, I used dried apricots, golden raisins, dried pineapple, chopped dates, and dried cranberries…all soaked in a little orange juice and Grand Marnier. The bulk bins at stores like Winco are a good way to go with any of the dried fruit that you don’t use on a regular basis. I use lots of dried cranberries so I buy a big bag of those at Costco.
The recipe calls for Fiori di Sicilia, a vanilla-orange flavoring. You probably won’t find it in a grocery store (I found mine at kingarthurflour.com). To get a light citrus taste without hunting down the Fiori di Sicilia, add a little freshly grated orange zest to the batter (1 teaspoon or so). The recipe also calls for King Arthur Cake Enhancer but I didn’t use it.
Before baking, sprinkle each muffin with some sparkling sugar, a coarse-grained sugar that adds a sweet crunch to baked goods. I sprinkle it on top of everything from muffins to scones to pies before baking…it adds a nice finishing touch. I like these muffins best served warm with a little butter. Yum!
-recipe from kingarthurflour.com
These tender, golden muffins mimic the flavor of Italy’s classic Christmas bread, panettone. They’re flavored with Fiori di Sicilia — “Flowers of Siciliy” — traditionally used to flavor panettone. Yield: 12 muffins.
1 1/2 cups diced dried fruit*
1/4 cup apple juice, orange juice, rum, or a mixture
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons King Arthur Cake Enhancer, optional, for enhanced freshness
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2/3 cup milk
2 generous tablespoons coarse white sparkling sugar, for topping
*Our Favorite Fruit Blend — diced apricots, raisins, pineapple cubes, chopped dates, and sweetened cranberries — is a good choice here
1) Mix the dried fruit and liquid of your choice in a bowl. Cover the bowl, and let the fruit sit overnight. Or speed up the process by heating fruit and liquid in the microwave till very hot, then cooling to lukewarm/room temperature, about 1 hour.
2) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin tin. Or line with 12 paper or silicone muffin cups, and grease the cups with non-stick vegetable oil spray; this will ensure that they peel off the muffins nicely.
3) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugar until smooth.
4) Add the eggs, beating to combine.
5) Stir in the Fiori and vanilla.
6) Whisk together the Cake Enhancer, baking powder, salt, and flour. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.
7) Stir in the fruit, with any remaining liquid.
8) Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan, filling the cups quite full. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins generously with the coarse sugar.
9) Bake the muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, or until they’re a sunny gold color on top, and a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean.
10) Remove them from the oven, and let them cool for a couple of minutes, or until you can handle them. Transfer them to a rack to cool.
Tips from our bakers:
-Don’t want to microwave the dried fruit? Simply mix it with the liquid, cover, and let it rest at room temperature overnight.
-Using 1/8 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia will give you a mild hint of flavor; 1/4 teaspoon will be much more assertive.