I love Christmas mornings. It is the one time in the year that I don't detest waking up at the crack of dawn. We are usually awake just before 5:00am, teeth brushed, face scrubbed and curtains about to be drawn open when a note slides under our bedroom door from the boys who we have been hearing whisper quite loudly for the past few minutes. A little impromptu Christmas sketch of a beardless skinny Santa with big teeth and a few lines of scribbles wishing us Merry Christmas and informing us that they are awake and waiting for us to open their presents. We open the door and all hell breaks loose. This is our ritual. Every year.
And that is why I bake a batch of little something sweet, but not too sweet. Something that has a festive ring to it and will make waking up at that hour more bearable. Something that can be enjoyed by all. The boys, as they read cards and open presents. And us curled up on the couch watching them, as we hug our coffee and tea mugs letting the steam jump start our brains. This year, it will be these Cherry muffins.
Built off a basic lemon zest spiked muffin base, these little treats are baked with unrefined sugar and studded with big juicy plump red pitted cherries that I bring back by the bucket from our local farmer's market on Thursdays and often freeze or dehydrate for salads and desserts. The cherries come from the Young district in NSW and are seriously good with no scrimping on the red flesh and only tiny seeds. Young is based in country NSW and is fondly known as the Cherry Capital of Australia, quite rightfully so since 60% of Australian grown cherries come from this region.
Home to many spectacular stone fruit orchards, cherries were first grown in Young in the 1860s at the height of the gold mining boom. Plump cherries like these are excellent in baking recipes. My favourite is the Cherry Clafoutis and this Yoghurt Cake With Wine Steeped Cherries but these muffins are very dear to my heart too. To make these gluten-free, try subbing the regular flour with mostly amaranth flour and a bit of almond meal. Works a treat!
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- 2 organic eggs
- 140 g golden caster sugar, unrefined
- 1 teaspoon vanilla powder/extract
- 100 g salted butter, melted
- 200 ml milk
- zest of 1 large lemon
- 240 g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 20 large cherries, pitted
- icing sugar, for dusting
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line 10 holes of a standard size muffin tin with paper cases.
- Place eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla, butter, milk and lemon gently with a wooden spoon.
- Add flour, baking powder and salt to the wet mix. Fold in gently with a spoon until just combined.
- Spoon batter into the paper cases until each is two thirds full. Push two cherries down the middle of each paper case.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 20 minutes until well-risen, cooked through and turning golden on top.
- Remove from the oven and transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, dust with icing sugar and enjoy.