Monday, December 29, 2014

Dried Plum Honey Muffins #MuffinMonday

These delicious muffins are sweetened with chopped dried plums - formerly known as prunes - cooked briefly with honey and a little Cognac, which softens them slightly and plumps them up but still leaves them nice and chewy. Great for breakfast or with a cup of tea at snack time.

Dried plums are just prunes with a better public relations campaign. Back in 2000, the California Prune Board received permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to change the name, citing research that the fruit would sell better if it lost the negative moniker prune, more commonly associated with things old and wizen and past their best. That organization has since become the California Dried Plum Board and sales have indeed improved dramatically, a result I figure is akin to the Hollywood studios renaming future stars Marilyn Monroe, Rock Hudson and John Wayne, back in the day.

Salt prunes
As a child, I knew two types of prunes: Salt prunes, which are completely desiccated, salty, sweet and sour, which I adored, and the stewed kind. It was hard for me to fathom that these were even remotely related. Swollen and mushy, dark and forbidding, I avoided the black ones with all the ingenuity a repulsed child can muster. Which is to say, a lot. As I got older and more adventurous, I learned that soft dried prunes could be eaten as is, like very large raisins and, although they were still dark and a little scary looking, they were actually sweet, chewy and rather tasty. It was a happy turning point. Turns out soft dried plums are pretty healthy too.  If you hated prunes as a child, it might be time to give soft dried plums a chance.

Perhaps someday the lowly prune or I should say, soft dried plum, will become, like Norma Jeane Mortenson, Roy Scherer and Marion Morrison, as popular as it deserves to be, even as we all giggle at the original name. Here’s my effort to forward that goal.

Ingredients
Generous half cup, chopped roughly, or 110g soft dried plums
1/3 cup or 80ml honey
2 tablespoons Cognac or Armagnac
2 cups or 250g flour
1/4 cup or 50g sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup or 120ml buttermilk
1/4 cup or 60ml canola or other light oil

Method
Put your roughly chopped dried plums in a small pot with the honey and the Cognac.

That golden color is from my UAE honey. Well, and the Cognac.
Bring to the boil and then take the pot off the stove and allow to cool.



Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan by greasing it liberally or lining it with paper muffin cups.

In one big mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.



In another smaller bowl, whisk the egg with the buttermilk and oil.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. There should still be lots of dry flour showing.



Take out a couple of spoonfuls of the dried plums with syrup to add to the top of the muffins before baking.



 Then fold the rest into the batter.

Divide the batter between the muffin cups.

Top each with a piece or two of the honeyed dried plums with a little syrup.



Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.



Remove from the muffin pan and finish cooling on a rack.


Enjoy!



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