These easy Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins radiate with bright and zesty citrus. Nutty poppy seeds are the perfect companion to the tender and tangy muffins. With a glowing blood orange glaze, topped in tiny poppy seed sprinkles, these simple muffins almost masquerade as fancy cupcakes.
Lemon poppy seed has long been a favored flavor combination. My popular recipes for Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread Cookies and Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins are prime examples of this pairing. But there is life beyond the lemon. Based on color alone, these Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins are a bright spot in the citrus spectrum. Bonus, blood oranges have a soft and sweet citrus flavor that fits just right into a breakfast muffin basket.
Writing this recipe I couldn't help but think of Seinfeld. Whether you had the honor of growing up in the 90s like me. Or perhaps you are simply a 90s nostalgia armchair enthusiast. 2 specific Seinfeld episodes may come to mind with these Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins.
You know the one when Elaine fails a drug test because she's eaten too many poppy seed muffins. Then, of course, there is the muffin top episode where Elaine crafts the idea of selling just the muffing tops. Morphing into a stolen business idea that involves popping the muffin tops and tossing the muffin stumps. Anyway, there is a whole story arc, leaving Elaine with a mountain of muffin stumps, yada yada yada. Turns out, Top Of The Muffin To You! is not a great business plan afterall.
Muffins are quick breads
You may be wondering, well what the heck is a quick bread? Simple, quick breads are bread recipes made without yeast. The rise instead comes from a leavening agent like baking soda or baking powder. Quick breads can vary from muffins to scones or biscuits, cornbread and quick bread loaves like Banana Bread or Pumpkin Bread. It's a versatile bake that can sway sweet to savory.
Can I bake muffins and quick breads interchangeably?
In most cases, yes! Muffin and quick bread batters are essentially the same. The changes come when considering the volume of a recipe, the baking pans and the time and temperature involved. This recipe would make for a lovely Blood Orange Poppy Seed Loaf!
- Consider the recipe, the total volume should be similar. in most cases, a standard sized 12 muffin tin recipe should translate well to a standard 8 ½" x 4 ½" or 9" x 5" loaf pan. With the larger pan producing a squatter loaf. Both work here.
- Don't overfill your muffin or loaf pans. In both cases a general rule of thumb is to fill the pan with batter about ¾ full. With these Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins we push it a bit towards the fuller side so we get that nice, domed muffin top.
- Temperature and time will vary, but generally muffins bake quicker at a higher temperature than quick breads. Generally quick bread loaves will bake at 350°F for anywhere from 45 minutes up to over an hour. Lower and slower. Some muffin recipes bake as high as 425°F initially for 5 minutes, then at 350°F for the remainder of the bake time. However, these Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins are baked at a steady 375°F for 18-ish minutes. After running many tests, I found this temperature worked best for these citrus poppy seed muffins.
These Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins are as easy as can be
At first glance these citrusy muffins might look like a pretty pink cupcake. But they are a far simpler bake that only take a few minutes to mix. The ingredients are basic but the flavors enhance eachother elegantly. The simple muffin batter mixes together by hand. So there is no need to lug out your mixer for these muffins. Just a little whisking, folding and filling.
Tips for getting that classic muffin dome
We have high expectations for that classic, cartoony, Costco style perfectly domed muffin shape. When in reality, homemade muffins are sometimes flat on top, they don't spill over into that perfectly plump muffin top and they can sometimes crack. Don't get down on yourself if your muffins aren't as high as your expectations. It's normal. But here are some thoughts to keep in mind when going for the golden dome.
- Use the scoop and level method to measure your flour. Rather than reaching the measuring cup into the bag of flour. Use a scoop or spoon to loosen the flour and gently transfer it into the measuring cup. Then lightly level off the top with the back of a butter knife. This helps the flour stay lofty and keeps you from adding too much weight to the muffins.
- Whisk the dry ingredients well. This creates a bit of aeration in the flour, allowing it to better absorb the wet ingredients. Leaning into a loftier muffin as it bakes.
- Fold the batter. We take a tip from cake baking here. Just pass the spatula through the center of the mixture, then across the side, and fold the mix up over the top. This carefully incorporates the wet and dry ingredients while trapping air into little bubbles in the batter that will help the muffins rise as they bake.
- Don't over-mix the batter. Less is more here. The more you stir and manipulate the batter, the heavier it can get. Resulting in a denser, less airy muffin. Fold the ingredients until they just come together. It's ok if it looks a little clumpy.
- For these Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins I found they domed best with smooth, lightly rounded tops when baked at a steady 375°F for somewhere between 16-20 minute range.
Either grease or line your muffin tin
It's always nice to have options. If you've got muffin liners and want that classic paper lined muffin look, have at it! But worry not dear baker, you can simply grease the muffin tin with baking spray or butter before filling.
Better yet, grease the muffin tin with a light layer of butter and then add a dusting of sugar. Simply sprinkle a pinch of sugar into each muffin cup and tap and shake to coat the butter with a light layer of sugar. This gives the outer layer an extra kiss of sweetness and prevents the muffins from sticking to the tin. I use this trick often with my Quick Bread recipes.
Tricks make these Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins extra special
Blood Orange Sugar
By quickly squishing the blood orange zest in with the sugar first, you are imbuing the sugar with sunny citrusy flavor. This easy trick adds big flavor to the Citrus Poppy Seed Muffins.
Almond + Poppy Seed are a natural partner
Yes one is a nut and the other is a seed. But the flavor profile of almonds and poppy seeds really align. Both have a naturally sweet and nutty character and when paired together, they almost taste like one in the same. In these Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins the almond is minimal and only makes its way into the muffins via almond extract. But it's a concentrated flavor that enlightens both the muffins and the blood orange glaze.
The glaze is a smart and fancy finishing touch
Not only does the blood orange glaze looks gorgeous shining atop the Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins in a vibrant pink crown. It also comes in for the win by using up the remaining blood orange juice from the zested oranges. Since we like a lot of zest in those muffins, we use 2-3 blood oranges, depending on the size. The muffin batter uses just 2 tablespoons of blood orange juice. The rest goes to work in that glaze.
How to glaze the Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins
These Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins look as fancy as a cupcake with less fuss
Instead of wasting the remaining juice, this muffin recipe whisks the juice together with powdered sugar and a drip of almond extract. Creating a quick and show stopping vibrant glaze for the muffin tops. Waste not! These easy Blood Orange Poppy Seed Muffins really could pass for fancy cupcakes.