Christmas delayed: Orange, cranberry and cornmeal muffins with millet

According to my parents, my sister and I are both very resilient individuals. Certainly a measure of resilience was required when our Christmas plans went tits-up last month. Although it was disappointing to spend the eagerly-awaited holidays apart, after a good wallow Ele and I both picked ourselves up and went off to our respective boyfriends’ families for a very pleasant break.

We still wanted our “family Christmas” though. So we went online, booked two astronomically priced plane tickets, and hopped on a jam-packed flight late last week for a belated holiday visit.

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This change of plans actually worked out very well, giving both of us a chance to visit with extended family and friends, as well as celebrate some semblance of the Christmas we missed. That family Christmas (well, Christmas gift opening session, really) took place on a morning earlier this week specially set aside for the occasion. And it started with breakfast.

Food plays a big part in our family Christmas. Before we even comtemplate opening our stockings (the highlight in our family!) we sit down to a festive muffin breakfast, made by yours truly. Although I have sometimes made these blueberry muffins, most often it’s these orange, cranberry, cornmeal and millet ones that I bake for my family on Christmas mornings, and that’s what I did this year, too. There’s just something so Christmassy about them, with their scent of orange and bright cranberry flecks.

I know that “Christmassy” recipes are the last thing on anyone’s culinary wish list right now, so don’t be out off by my description! This is also just a damn good everyday muffin. While millet would not normally be at the top of my favourite baking ingredients list, its addition is just so right in this recipe, lending a pleasing little crunch. It’s also one of the healthiest whole grains going. So instead of “Hilary’s Christmas muffins”, think of these as “January nutrition resolution muffins”, and try them for yourself.

Orange, Cranberry and Cornmeal Muffins with Millet
From In The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley

Makes 12 generously-sized regular muffins

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone ground
1/4 cup millet
2 large eggs
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 1/2 cups orange juice
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup dried cranberries, plumped in warm water for 30 minutes if necessary

Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C. Grease 6 jumbo or 12 regular sized muffin cups, including rims, or line with paper liners.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Add the sugar, cornmeal and millet and whisk to blend.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, then stir in the orange zest and juice and melted butter. Add the egg mixture all at once to the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon just until the dry ingredients are moistened. While there are still a few floury patches, gently fold in the cranberries.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin, filling each cup to the top. Bake for around 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown in places, spring back when lightly touched and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Transfer the tin to a rack and cool for a few minutes before turning the muffins out onto the rack.

Serve warm with butter. Store leftover muffins in the freezer, or at room temperature for up to two days; to reheat, wrap in foil and warm in a low oven.