Several weeks ago, my pal Catherine bequeathed upon me a hefty sack of kumquats from her best friend’s rather prolific tree. I made a fantastic kumquat marmalade and played around with other canning experiments, but mostly I just popped an embarrassing number of them in my mouth. I savored these little fruit gems like they were candy as I chopped, stirred, and canned, thinking I had thousands left over to turn into sweet, candied bits for the Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Shots with Candied Kumquats photo makeover. After all, a little goes quite a long way in kumquat land, right?.
But as the last few tiny citruses unleashed bursts of mouth-puckering juice onto my tongue, I realized I’d snacked myself into a corner: I’d not only used but consumed all of my kumquats. I hung my head in shame, knowing I’d have to put off another blogging task, but also wondering when I could have my next fix.
Like a good dealer, somehow my kumquat-gifting friend knew that I was out and showed up shortly after my embarrassing binge with another bag heavy with the little bright orange fruits. “What are you using them for?” she asked, a little confused by how quickly I’d used the first huge stash. “Oh, I’m just canning them,” I lied, fingers crossed behind my back. I just couldn’t admit to such shameful kumquat binging.
After preparing more kumquat marmalade & chutney with the new stash, I made another attempt at making the cheesecake shots. But the stormy weather was so lousy, with howling winds and torrents of rain pouring from the sky, that it just seemed like a much better day for baking. Not wanting to waste the cream cheese I’d set out to soften, I thought it might be fun to make some sort of cream cheese & fruit muffin. And with the sweet scent of kumquat marmalade in the air, I knew exactly what I’d be using for my new little experiment.
I love baking with cream cheese (or in my case, Neufchatel; it has a slightly different flavor and is lower in fat calories) because of the different texture it gives to the final product. The crumb is slightly denser and the mouthfeel more velvety than baking with butter. It also makes cakes or muffins taste more rich & smooth, which is why sweet-tart fruits are such perfect complements.
Usually, cream cheese muffins are paired with berries, but I found that the kumquat marmalade was just as delightful. Though the marmalade on its own is tangy-sweet, its flavor is smoothed out by the cream cheese batter. And since I like to keep my marmalade chunky, the large pieces of fruit make for a pleasant little surprise in every bite.
If you don’t have access to kumquats or they’re too expensive where you live (the lowest price I’ve seen in this area is about $6/lb), find a friend with a tree! I’m serious. Chances are the tree has too much fruit and your pal might not have time to use them all. Don’t have access to one of those? No worries. These muffins will probably be just as tasty made with orange marmalade; just be sure to get the kind that has plenty of orange rind in it (Smucker’s is your best bet for that), in order to get as much citrus flavor as possible.
And now that these are out of my system, maybe someday I can get around to those little cheesecake shots for their new photoshoot. Unless I come up with something new to do with kumquats…