Lemon and Poppy Seed Muffins lead out the Baking Page

Some Narcissi have come out in my garden over the weekend, they have joined the rather dishevelled-looking Hellebore and the 1.5 snowdrops.

To celebrate the launch of the Baking Top Page, which will have tips, advice and all that jazz, I am posting my most favourite muffin flavour recipe. The scruffy piece of paper detailing these nuggets of heaven is utterly blotted with baking gunk to the point of obscuring the information and therefore creating a post about these wonderfully fragrant, crunchy delights has risen to the top of the blogging agenda.

I first had a Lemon and Poppy Seed Muffin in Café Nero at least a couple of years ago. The reality of these particular ones did not live up to the hype and I was disappointed to say the least. The primary problem was the consistency. Way too chewy. Now I’m not going to profess to being a muffin guru but I like them the day they are baked so that they are light airy little things with icing sugar dusting the tops and this top retaining a bit of a crust. Anything else is a waste of calories. Muffin bakers, supplying cafés and delis, rise extraordinarily early to bake their goods as I understand it and so if I was to be ranking any muffin making advice, at the top of the list would be to make them on the day of consumption.

The second piece of advice surrounds the process of combining ingredients which naturally also affects consistency. Essentially, all the dry ingredients are combined in one bowl, all the wet in another. The wet are added to the dry and then you STIR/FOLD them together with no more than 20 single stir/fold actions. Whatever gloopy mess you have at that point is what you dollop into the muffin cases. For some reason if you beat everything together as you would a cake, you end up with stodgy, sticky bricks which stick to the roof of your mouth if you are pressed to try one!

The final piece of advice, and this is for the purists, is get some American measuring cups (assuming you are English here), and try to only use American recipes. I’m not really suggesting that anything else just won’t do but there is something about the quantities and again the consistency of the final product which necessitates this. Hummingbird recipes, for example, seem to make their muffins in a similar style to the cupcakes and consequently the result is basically a cupcake without the frosting, tastes good, don’t get me wrong, but not authentic.

Finally, before I start on the actual recipe, don’t be scared to use the muffin tins bare of the paper cases. When Child 1 was very small I used to hang out in a Café which was happy to let breastfeeding Mummys linger for hours, chatting, feeding, eating. It was run by two guys who had moved to the UK from New Zealand I think, and they actually made the very best muffins I have ever tasted. To be honest this compliment can’t be restricted just to the muffins, the food was fabulous. Anyway, before I go off into reveries about all that, as far as I could tell, they filled up the muffin tin holes completely so that the mixture would rise and run over the top and blend with the muffin next door as they cooked. The resultant pile on the plate on the counter, dusted with icing sugar, was glorious, decadent and divine.

The Café isn’t there anymore before you all start asking.

The recipe:

2 cups (280g) Plain/All purpose Four

1 cup (200g) Sugar (I used golden caster here)

1 tbsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Salt

2 Eggs

¼ cup Oil (any flavourless)

4 tbsp Butter/Margarine, melted

¾ cup Milk

1 tsp Lemon Juice

1 tsp Golden (Corn) Syrup

2 tsp Lemon Extract

2 tbsp Poppy Seeds

Preheat the oven to 175ºC /Fan 155-160ºC. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, oil, milk, butter, lemon juice, golden syrup and lemon extract. Catch the yolks with a tine of a fork to ‘pop’ them and then (with the fork) combine with no more than 10 of the single stirs as described above. Add the Poppy seeds and carry on with a maximum of 10 more stirs. You want a gloopy barely combined, this all looks very unpromising mixture, not all the flour needs to look blended I have discovered.

Dollop into a 12-hole muffin tin, with or without cases, but oil the tin if without. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and when cold dust with icing sugar. They freeze very well so what is not consumed that day should be frozen although these are the one exception to the eat on the day of baking rule. I think because of the oil and syrup they are fine the next day.

After that, I take no responsibility for them.

The Baking Page expands a little on some of the advice, so it’s not a mere copy and paste job. This time round there is additional information on American Cups.

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