While cranberry and orange is a familiar flavor combination, there are few bakery items that combine cherries and oranges. While the cherry and orange does make for a tasty muffin, there is a third subtle flavor in these- it is a spice called mahlab.
Mahlab is more commonly found in desserts in the Middle East and Mediterranean countries. It is actually made up of a seed or pit from the Saint Lucie cherry. The pit is actually dried and then ground to a fine powder. Due to its short shelf life, it is best to purchase the seeds and grind them yourself. Adding the ground spice to desserts imparts a cherry almond flavor to your baked goods.
I was pleased with the moist texture as well as the pop of flavor that the dried cherries added to the cake. This recipe is a keeper in my book, but the recipe only makes 18 so you may want to consider doubling it if you have company over.
Cherry Mahlab Muffins
adapted from Moufflet
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup butter melted and cooled
1 cup dried cherries
2 tsp orange zest
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground mahlab
2 tbs butter, melted and cooled
3 tbs orange juice
1 tbs orange zest
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Prepare muffin tins by filling 18 cavities with paper liners and greasing the top edge or spraying pan with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, mahlab and salt. Take 1/4 cup from mixture and place in small bowl. Add the orange zest to the 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients. Whisk or use a fork to blend, making sure that the zest is evenly distributed. Then pour this back into the larger bowl of the sifted ingredients and add the sugar. Mix until all is combined and set aside.
Fill a small saucepan with the orange juice and dried cherries. Place over medium heat, stir a few times and then let mixture come to a boil. Remove from heat and cover with lid. Let sit for about 30 minutes so flavors will meld and cherries will soften more. Then drain the cherries, reserving the cherries in one bowl and liquid in another.
In a medium size bowl add the melted butter, vanilla extract and buttermilk. Whisk until smooth. Then add each egg, one at a time, continuing to whisk. Once blended, stir in the orange cherry liquid.
Go back to the bowl of sifted ingredients and form a well. Then pour in the wet ingredients and fold the both together until just combined. To keep from over mixing, the recipe states that this process should take about 10 strokes. Fold in the cherries in 3 strokes.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cavities, taking care that they all are filled evenly. Place in oven and bake until they are golden brown and spring back when lightly touched. This should take about 18-20 minutes. Let muffins cool in pans for 3 minutes and then transfer to a rack to completely cool.
To make the glaze, blend the melted butter with 1 tbs of the orange juice. Sift the powdered sugar into the mixture and stir. The glaze should be the consistency of corn syrup, so continue to stir in the additional orange juice until the right consistency is achieved. Then stir in the vanilla and orange zest. The glaze can be drizzled on the tops of the muffins or the muffin tops can be dipped into the glaze. The muffins will need to rest for 1 hour before serving in order for the glaze to set.
**2 years ago: Coconut Macaroon Brownies**