Early Morning Victory for Murray so it’s Vermont Maple Syrup Breakfast Muffins

Well, finally we have a tennis champion after millions of years or whatever the statistic is. Fantastic news! So to celebrate I am making Vermont Maple syrup breakfast muffins with a British Autumnal twist as we woke up to the news early this morning here in the UK.

This is based primarily on a recipe in the muffin lovers Bible: The Joy of Muffins by Genevieve Farrow and Diane Dreher which is still in print I see and a snip at about £6, but with the addition of oat bran and blackberries.

You will need (for 12):

1 ½ cups of Plain Flour, ½ cup Oat Bran, 4 tsp Baking Powder, ½ tsp Salt, 1 large Egg, ½ cup Milk, ½ cup Maple Syrup, ½ cup melted Butter, cooled slightly, 1 cup Blackberries and a sprinkling of icing sugar.

Preheat the oven to 210°C/Fan 200°C.  Combine the flour, oat bran, salt and baking powder in a bowl and in a separate bowl combine the egg, milk, syrup and whisk together and then whisk in the butter. Add the wet to the dry and fold for about 10-15 fold actions and then add the blackberries and continue to fold in for another 5 fold actions or so. Don’t forget: a light touch makes for lighter muffins. Dollop into a 12 hole muffin tin, with or without cases and bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with icing sugar.

The kitchen will take on a fabulous aroma of maple syrup firstly and then blackberries and when you try one, hopefully warm you have the rich flavour of butter behind the main ingredients and a lovely nutty texture. Yummy.

You can always leave out the oat bran and use 2 cups of plain flour instead and blueberries instead of blackberries.

Posts, I think are going to come weekly for the time being as we have very recently welcomed the gorgeous creature below into our home:

She is a cocker spaniel, 8.5 weeks and we named her Kenya.

Anyway, it won’t be long before she settles down, I hope, and the baking can continue in earnest, but in the meantime I am cooking speedily!!

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Fragrant Rhubarb Muffins

50th Post. How exciting. To celebrate I have added another page up top.

I seem to remember somewhere back in my memory banks that the rhubarb season ends at the start of July. Something about leaf toxins making their way back down the stems after that time, but don’t quote me on that.

Crumble seems to be the main response to a rhubarb glut and more sophisticated desserts such as Creme Brûlée and elaborate tarts don’t really use enough stems to make the fiddling worthwhile. It turns out you can make jam; equal quantities of rhubarb and sugar, boil for 15 minutes with the juice or 2 to 3 lemons and additional flavourings of your choice. Haven’t tried it but I might do this week. Being a baker I naturally turn to cakes and at some point I might try a loaf cake but for now my response to too much rhubarb is muffins and a little polenta inspiration from Violet Cakes has produced the following.

These are very lovely and rhubarb frozen in batches can keep you in these confections throughout the summer at least. They are not a classic muffin recipe in as far as the whole ‘mix as little as possible’ is not required, but muffins would be their closest relative.

You will need (for 12 muffins): 220g Plain Flour, 30g Polenta, 90g Caster Sugar, 1 tbsp Baking Powder, pinch of Salt, 1 scant tsp Ground Ginger, zest of 1 Orange, 1 large Egg, 125g melted Butter, 175ml Milk, 2 to 3 stems of Rhubarb washed, cut into 1-2 cm pieces, and stewed gently in a saucepan with 2 tbsp of Brown Sugar.

Make sure the rhubarb is stewed and soft but still with some pieces retaining their shape. Drain in a colander once cooked to allow the runniest of the juice to dissipate.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180-190°C. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

  • Melt the butter gently in a saucepan.
  • Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, including the zest,  and mix to combine.
  • Having made a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the egg, milk and butter and mix well with a fork to combine thoroughly and leave you with a smooth batter. You may wish to switch to a spoon.
  • Dollop dessert spoonfuls of mixture into each paper case, then add a heaped teaspoon of rhubarb, then another dessert spoonful of batter, then a final teaspoon of rhubarb.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.

Best served warm with icing sugar sprinkled over as there will be a wonderful citrus, ginger aroma as you break into them. The polenta helps to soak up any residual juice and imparts a lovely nutty texture. Yummy.

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.

The Cutest Cakes: Classic Cakes

Lilies and Pearls

The Cutest Cakes: Cupcakes

Rosebud Vanilla Cupcake

The Cutest Cakes: Individual Iced Cakes

Miniature Fruit Cake

Details for The Cutest Cakes can be found at www.cutestcakes.co.uk or if you click the image on the side bar you will be transported there.