Monthly Archives: March 2011

Too exhausted to write up lecture notes? Make muffins!

On Monday, I spent most of my day fieldworking for my Marine Acoustics module, which involved going out on the boat for a few hours to take recordings being transmitted from a loudspeaker broadcasting from the base of the pier as well as doing an echosound transect and then chilling out monitoring the loudspeaker equipment on the pier whilst the other group went out on the boat.  We were incredibly lucky with the weather – it wasn’t too cold, there was fantastic sunshine, hardly any wind (very unusual for St Andrews) and the swell was pretty minimal.  I even managed to acquire a sunburnt nose.  In Scotland.  In February.  Ya, I know, who would have thought?!  Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s proof of the sunshine:

This was followed up by a joint event between the university’s French Department and the French Society, which involved Jean-Yves Laurichesse, a French professor and novelist, reading from two of his novels followed by a Q&A session afterwards.  As President of French Soc (not nearly as impressive as it sounds), I was asked to chair the discussion, and for some obscure reason, I agreed.  I’m dreadful at (and slightly terrified of) public speaking, and I’ve never chaired a discussion before.  As a Zoology student, I’m not particularly used to literary discussions (probably my only exposure to them is the Edinburgh Book Festival – ya, I’m THAT cool).  Needless to say, I was pretty panicky about the event beforehand.  Oh, and the whole event was to be conducted entirely in French (I realise I’m fluent, but the prospect stressed me out further).  Thankfully Professor Laurichesse was very friendly, everybody was keen to ask questions and the whole event went smoothly (the wine provided by French Soc may have helped…).

I realise that our fieldwork sounds like it was a bit of a doss, but I’d forgotten quite how exhausting it is to spend long periods of time outside, particularly on the boat.  This combined with my serious stressing over the whole discussion-chairing thing, meant that by the time I’d had dinner, I was utterly drained.  I was supposed to be writing up lecture notes about thrilling things like krill, but I just couldn’t concentrate, and decided to be realistic: clearly I was getting nowhere with the krill, but it was still a little too early to go to bed.  Since the recipe seemed straightforward enough to follow in my pathetically knackered state and I happened to have all the ingredients, I decided to try out these muffins.  A brilliant decision, because they turned out rather tasty and wonderfully moist.

Apple & raisin buttermilk muffins

Makes 16 muffins
Adapted from Jane’s Sweets & Baking Journal

If you don’t have any buttermilk, just use 225ml of normal milk and add 1 tbsp lemon juice, mix and allow to stand for a few minutes.  Then just add it as instructed (though sieve it first in case any lemon pips snuck in).  I have a permanent stock of raisins soaking in rum, so I decided to use them and they added a subtle taste of rum, but normal raisins would work just as well.

Ingredients

100g porridge oats
225ml buttermilk
90g all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
115g granulated sugar
85g unsalted butter
1 small apple
50g raisins
Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

1.  Mix the buttermilk and oats together in a large bowl.  Leave to stand for 20 mins.

2.  Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Peel and dice the apple (dice it quite finely, but not too much – you still want chunks in the muffins).

3.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.  Line a muffin tin or set out 16 silicone muffin cups.

4.  Once the oats and buttermilk mixture has stood for 20 mins, add the lightly beaten eggs, sugar and melted butter and mix well.

5.  Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Add the apples and raisins and incorporate until just evenly distributed.  Don’t over-mix.

6.  Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups/liners, making sure not to fill them more than ⅔.  Bake for 14 mins.

7.  Allow the muffins to cool in the tin or cups for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack.  Sprinkle the tops with a little cinnamon sugar for decoration.

Enjoy!

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Zoosday Tuesday: Lion icebox cookies

I’m currently in the final semester of my Zoology BSc, and Graduation (in June) is looming ever closer.  That makes it sound a little bit like the edge of a cliff or something, but it’s actually quite a good analogy – after Graduation, my life is currently this great big empty void.  I have no idea where I will be or what I will be doing after June.  I know where I’d like to be, and what I’d like to be doing, but unfortunately, that’s not really quite the same thing.  If I don’t come out with a good degree classification, or don’t get into the courses that I’m currently applying for, there is a back-up plan.  Sort of.  It’s perhaps more of a Plan Z.

Here it is: Kat, Craig (of G&Ts-in-the-library fame) and I are going to open a bistro, ‘Allo ‘Allo! style.  (If you’ve never watched/heard of ‘Allo ‘Allo!, it’s a BBC television series, a bit of an institution, based around a café in Occupied France during WWII.  It’s totally inappropriate and relies on ridiculous accents and a lot of heavy stereotyping, but it’s truly hilarious.)  We’re all hoping that this never actually comes to fruition (though it would be kind of amazing), since that would mean we’d probably failed, but that hasn’t stopped us coming up with lots of ideas…  One of which is Zoosday Tuesday – every Tuesday, bake something animal-themed.  Genius!  (Perhaps I should mention that we’re all Biologists, and “green” Biologists at that.)

Now, I think that this is just too much of a brilliant idea to restrict to our (currently) imaginary bistro, so I’ve decided to make it a regular feature on my blog.  I hereby declare that the first Tuesday of every month shall be named Zoosday Tuesday, and I will post something animal-themed.  So for the first installment, I present to you…  Lion icebox cookies (presumably thus named because they chill in the fridge before being baked).  Perfect for Biologists.  And small children.  Ha ha…

Chocolate & custard icebox lion cookies

Makes about 24 cookies
Recipe from Diamonds for Dessert

This is an easy recipe to follow, though I found it a little time-consuming.  This is probably mostly because I’d never made icebox cookies before, so spent a lot of time re-reading and checking the instructions and just generally faffing around.  Obviously they don’t have to be lion cookies, you can make them any pattern you like (but why wouldn’t you want lion cookies?!)  Making the lions’ faces took a deceptively long time.  The results are so worth the time though – they are just so cute!  (I’m easily amused…)

Ingredients

For the cookies:
225g butter
170g caster sugar
65g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
290g flour
30g custard powder
30g cocoa powder (at least 70%)

For the decoration:
A few squares white chocolate
Custard powder
A few squares dark chocolate (at least 70%)

Directions

1.  Cream together the butter and both sugars.  Mix in the egg yolks one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract.  Split the mixture in half and set aside.

2.  Sift 145g of flour and the custard powder into a large bowl and mix well.  Add one half of the butter mixture to it and mix until a dough forms (I used my hand whisk, and the mixture went all crumbly before coming together – I ended up kneading the dough with my hands a little right at the end).  Place the custard dough on a piece of cling film and roll into a log of about 4-4.5cm diameter.

3.  Sift the other 145g of flour and the cocoa powder into another large bowl and mix well.  Add the other half of the butter mixture to it and mix it until a dough forms.  Place the chocolate dough between two sheets of cling film and roll it out into a rectangle of the same length as the custard dough roll and wide enough to wrap around it (this is actually rather more difficult than it sounds – probably because rolling things into designated shapes isn’t really my strong point).

4.  Wrap the chocolate dough around the custard dough, smoothing the join over with your fingers.  Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 15mins.

5.  Line two baking sheets with baking paper and preheat the oven to 170°C.  Once the dough is firm, remove the log from the fridge, and slice it into slices of about 8mm thickness.  Place the slices onto the baking sheets (leave enough space between them so that they can spread out a little bit in the oven) and refrigerate for a further 10 minutes.

6.  Bake the cookies for 12-15mins.  Leave the cookies on the baking sheets for 3mins before removing to a wire rack to cool fully before decorating.

To decorate:
7.  Melt a few squares of white chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Mix in a little bit of custard powder until the chocolate has reached a colour similar to the custard dough part of the cookies.  Use a toothpick (or possibly a piping bag with a very fine tip, though there is not a lot of chocolate so this might be difficult) to draw the lions’ ears onto the fully-cooled cookies.

8.  Melt a few squares of dark chocolate in another small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Use a toothpick (or possibly a piping bag) to draw the eyes, the noses and the mouths.

9.  Allow the chocolate decorations to set completely before piling the cookies onto a serving plate or into an airtight box for storage.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Ramblings, Recipes, Student Life, Sweet Foods