I don’t think there’s any fruit in the world that symbolises the bleakness of winter like mandarins. Rhubarb definitely reminds me of winter, but of a lovely, cosy winter. Not mandarins. They remind me of awful, cold winter. When they start appearing in the shops, I know it’s time to brace myself for the winter that I already know is around the corner. Winter is hard. It’s freezing (it doesn’t help that my house is old and can’t retain any heat, or that my body seems to have missed the compulsory, “It’s really important that you keep her warm” training, back in the day). Winter is grey and gloomy, and the trees lose their lovely leaves.
Although, it must be said that winter in Melbourne is really quite amazing. We’re incredibly lucky to have loads of clear, sunshiny days – days when you would be forgiven for looking outside in the morning and thinking it looks warm out there! Rainy days are normally few and far between in Melbourne, and even though it’s freezing, the sun usually appears to warm us up each day.
But, as bleak as winter can be, cosy, quiet afternoons of tea and baking are the perfect salve (and not only because the oven incidentally heats up the living room as it bakes my food).
And so, I give you the ultimate winter fruit, baked in a nice cosy, wintry way into tiny muffins, and topped with thick, luscious ganache. An equally effective salve in the middle of winter.
Mini Mandarin Muffins with Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from En Casa Cooking Space | Makes 30 mini muffins/15 large muffins
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups caster sugar
3 or 4 mandarins, depending on size (peeled, halved, and de-seeded – but keep the peel!)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups self-rising flour
Pinch of salt
200g dark chocolate (usually one whole block)
1. Preheat oven to 180 ºC fan-forced, and spray or line 2 mini muffin pans with non-stick spray or patty pans.
2. Place the oil and sugar in a small food processor or blender, and blitz for 2 minutes.
3. Add the mandarins and the peel and blitz for another 2 minutes, or until smooth.
3. Add the eggs and vanilla essence, and blitz for 2 more minutes.
4. Then, fold in the flour and salt. (Transfer to a large bowl if needed)
5. Spoon the batter into the mini muffin trays, filling them so they’re almost full.
6. Bake for 10-20 minutes. Start with 10 minutes, then keep baking them until the top of the muffins bounce back when lightly pressed. Keep an eye on them, though – they are small and will bake quickly.
7. Take them out of the oven, and let them cool completely before trying to remove them from the trays. They’ll be fragile and may need some help to be removed. If in doubt, use a knife around the edge of each muffin to loosen them a bit.
8. As the muffins cool, start on the ganache. The ganache cannot be made in advance, as it needs to be warm to frost the muffins.
9. Start by stirring the cream over low heat in a small saucepan until it simmers. As soon as it begins to simmer, take it off the heat and add the chocolate. Let it sit for a few minutes without stirring it – as soon as you start stirring, the cream starts to loose its heat, and will cool down too quickly.
10. After about 5 minutes, slowly stir the ganache until the cream and chocolate come together.
11. Once the muffins are completely cooled, pour/spoon over the ganache. The ganache should still be warm when you do this, but the muffins need to be completely cooled.