Rhubarb and Orange Muffins

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Our rhubarb is in full swing on PEI. The photo below is of two crowns of rhubarb I started several years ago so it is quite a mature patch now. It has very deep ruby-red stalks.

Mature Rhubarb Patch
Mature Rhubarb Patch

Rhubarb is so versatile as it can be used in pies, puddings, marmalades, jams, tortes, baked goods, sauces, drinks, and so much more.  And, it freezes well for year-round use.

Rhubarb and Orange Muffins
Rhubarb and Orange Muffins

Today, I am sharing my recipe for Rhubarb and Orange Muffins.  I am always looking for uses for rhubarb and, because we have our own patch, it gives me great incentive to be creative.

For these muffins, I have used grated orange rind and a small amount of orange juice to give a little zest and enhanced flavor to them.  

Rhubarb pairs very well with citrus fruits.

The key to using rhubarb in muffins and sweet breads is not to add too much rhubarb as it contains a lot of water and, if too much is used, can make the baked goods somewhat soggy.  I have tested this recipe several times and have concluded that 7 1/4 ounces ( or between 1 1/2 – 1 2/3 cups) of diced rhubarb is a good amount to use.

The other factor to keep in mind is that the rhubarb stalks should be quite thin (about 1/2″ to 3/4″ wide) for dicing as opposed to some larger and wider stalks (some of ours grow to be almost 2″ wide).

Rhubarb Stalks
Rhubarb Stalks

While you can split a large rhubarb stalk in half, lengthwise, it does tend to make the rhubarb bleed and the chunks don’t seem to hold their shape as well when baked in the muffins.  You can use either fresh or frozen rhubarb in this recipe.  In fact, I freeze the measured out amount of diced rhubarb in labeled freezer bags so they are ready to be used for muffins throughout the year.

The streusal topping for these muffins is optional but it does add both flavor and crunchiness to the muffins along with an attractive appearance.

Streusal-topped Rhubarb Muffin
Streusal-topped Rhubarb Muffin

To get that lovely dome-shaped muffin, you need to use a relatively high oven temperature – i.e., 400F or 425F.  

To get that lovely dome-shaped muffin, you need to use a relatively high oven temperature – i.e., 400F or 425F. 

To get that lovely dome-shaped muffin, you need to use a relatively high oven temperature – i.e., 400F or 425F. In my rhubarb muffin recipe, I use a preheated 400F oven.  Using the high temperature allows the outside of the muffin to quickly set while still allowing the inside to continue to rise.  This also gives that nice, soft muffin top crust.  We have all seen those flat-topped muffins and they don’t look as appealing as a nicely domed muffin does.

Rhubarb and Orange Muffin
Rhubarb and Orange Muffin

The texture of a good muffin should be somewhat “open” as you don’t want a finely-textured cake batter for muffins.  A good muffin will have a loose, coarse interior crumb.  When mixing the batter, do not overmix as this will cause the muffins to be tough, rubbery, and somewhat heavy.  Stir just until the dry ingredients are barely incorporated.  In fact, in muffins in which I am adding fruit (which gets added last, using the “folding” technique), I don’t completely incorporate all the dry ingredients to the wet because, when the fruit is folded in, the dry ingredients will get further incorporated then.  The batter should be lumpy, not smooth.

Open, loose crumb texture of muffin
Open, loose crumb texture of muffin

The other thing to keep in mind is not to overbake the muffins.  I have found, in my oven, that 18 minutes bakes these rhubarb muffins perfectly but, as you know, every oven is a bit different.  I suggest checking the muffins at about the 15-16 minute mark and, just as soon as they spring back to a light finger touch, remove them from the oven.  Overbaking will result in a dry, unappealing muffin and it only takes a couple of minutes for muffins to be overbaked so keep a close watch on them as they bake.  To double-check doneness, you can also use a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin – if it comes out clean, the muffins are done.  Let the baked muffins rest in the baking tin for 5-7 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Rhubarb and Orange Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup rolled oats
⅔ cup brown sugar, packed
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp grated orange rind
1 egg, lightly beaten
1½ tsp vanilla
⅔ cup sour milk
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup cooking oil
7¼ oz finely chopped rhubarb, cut into ¼-inch chunks (about 1½ – 1⅔ cups)

Method:
Assemble ingredients.

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease 12 muffin cups.

In large bowl, combine first nine (9) ingredients. Mix well. Make a well in the center.

In separate bowl, combine the egg, vanilla, sour milk, orange juice, and cooking oil. Mix well. Pour into well in dry ingredients. Mix only to barely combine dry ingredients. Do not overmix.

Gently fold in rhubarb.

Mix streusal (recipe and instructions follow)

Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each about ¾ full. Top with streusel mixture.

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until muffins spring back to a light touch or a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Let muffins stand in baking tin for 5-7 minutes then carefully remove them and transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Streusal Topping
¼ cup + 2 tbsp flour
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp chopped pecans
½ tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter

Method:
Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter to make a crumb mixture.

Spoon over tops of muffins. Bake as described above.

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