Tag Archives: Muffins

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins

The lab was a glum place to be on Thursday after that last gutting America’s Cup race.  Actually, NZ was a glum place to be.  Except, presumably, the place in Warkworth where most of the Oracle USA boat was built.  So Team NZ was beaten by a boat largely built and designed in NZ…  Totally not awkward at all, nope.  Anyway.  It’s depressing, so let’s not dwell on it too much.  My actual point is, we were all feeling a bit sulky.  And the solution to that is… cake.  Obviously.  Come on, this is a food blog.  Food is always the answer.

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins 1

Random RecipesI wasn’t sure what I wanted to bake.  Luckily though, Dom has set the theme of puddings, cakes and bakes for this month’s Random Recipes, so that conveniently bypassed the whole issue of indecision.  I randomly picked out A Treasury of NZ Baking, and randomly opened it at page 78: crunchy lemon muffins.  Oh hello…  After coming down with a cold over the weekend and being given lemons by several lovely people, I have plenty to use up.  Inspired by all the hot toddies that I’ve been making with said lemons, I added some ginger to the muffins.  I considered adding whisky, too, but decided to save that experiment for another time (I totally didn’t get distracted and forget).

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins 2

They didn’t come out very crunchy.  As in, they didn’t come out crunchy at all.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I’m guessing it’s something to do with the glaze, which certainly made them sticky – perhaps too much of the sugar dissolved in the lemon juice or our house is too humid and the crunch was lost.  Despite that, they were utterly delicious and lemony, which I love, with a hint of ginger poking through.  So I’ll definitely be making them again.  Especially since they’re also super quick to prepare – start to finish only took about 40 minutes.  Amazing or what?

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins 3

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins

Makes 15 muffins
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Avoid using muffin liners as I think they’ll just go soggy from the glaze – silicone moulds or directly baking in the muffin holes are the way forward.  These are best eaten within two days, either warm or room temperature.

Ingredients

For the muffins:
75g unsalted butter
250g all-purpose flour
175g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
250ml milk
1 egg
Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons

For the glaze:
60ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
60g caster sugar

Directions

To make the muffins:
1.  Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan oven 200°C.  Set out 15 silicon moulds or butter 15 holes in muffin tins.

2.  Melt the butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

3.  Meanwhile, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger and salt together into a large bowl and whisk together with a fork.

4.  Add the milk, egg and lemon zest to the bowl of butter and whisk together with a fork.  Add to the bowl of dry ingredients and fold through with a metal spoon until just combined (you don’t want the mixture to be super smooth and traces of flour is good).  Add a heaped spoonful of batter to each muffin mould or hole.  Bake for about 12 mins until lightly browned and the tops spring back when lightly pressed.

To make the glaze:
5.  Whilst they are baking, add the lemon juice and caster sugar to a small bowl.  Don’t mix.

6.  Once the muffins are out of the oven, brush the tops with the glaze using a pastry brush.  Try not to stir the glaze to minimise the sugar dissolving.  Repeat until all the glaze is used up.  Allow the muffins to sit in their moulds/tin for 5 mins before lifting them out onto a wire rack to cool.  Serve warm or cooled to room temperature.

Enjoy!

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Banana & walnut muffins

To put it mildly, our freezer is rather chock-a-block.  To the point where something inevitably comes cascading out whenever you open it, which is mildly annoying when all you want are a couple of ice-cubes for your G&T.  I mean, uhm, water.  Several weeks ago, I decided to start playing “freezer roulette” – open the freezer, and use up whatever comes tumbling out (as long as it belongs to me – actually nobody quite remembers precisely what belongs to whom, which is a whole other issue, so the game also requires some detective work).

Banana & walnut muffins

After several bananas came shooting out at me a few weekends ago, I decided that banana & walnut muffins were on the cards for breakfast.  I enthusiastically set about whipping them up, not thinking about what I was going to do with a dozen muffins – I obviously wasn’t going to be eating them all by myself, even spread over two breakfasts.  Excellent planning, right there.  Since it was a Saturday, my usual tactic of taking surplus baking into the lab wasn’t going to work, so banana & walnut muffins were forced upon kindly offered to anybody who had the misfortune of stopping by the house that weekend.

Luckily, the muffins turned out rather scrumptious – filling without being heavy, full of banana and walnut flavour and with a lovely slight crunch on top (although this softens up if left overnight).  I’d wanted to add extra walnuts to the topping but ran out, so that would add a further delicious crunch.  Nobody complained about being effectively force-fed muffins.  And they make a fabulous breakfast by the way, especially since they don’t take too long to throw together.

Freezer roulette anyone?

Banana & walnut muffins

Makes 12 muffins
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

These make great breakfast muffins as they’re easy to throw together.  If you’re using frozen bananas, remember to take them out far enough in advance to defrost (you can leave them out overnight if making these for breakfast).  Toasting the walnuts is optional, but I find it really does enhance the flavour and really doesn’t take long.  If you’re a big walnut fan, feel free to add some to the topping as well (I would have, but I’d run out).  Muffins are best eaten the same day, but they will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container – the topping will just go a bit soft.

Ingredients

For the muffins:
200g all-purpose flour (190g)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 very ripe bananas (defrosted frozen ones are fine)
100g caster sugar
50g light brown sugar
80 ml rapeseed oil (canola oil)
1 egg
1½ tsp vanilla extract
75g walnut halves or pieces

For the topping:
50g light brown sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
15g unsalted butter

Directions

To prepare the muffins:
1.  Roughly chop the walnuts halves or pieces and toast in a frying pan until fragrant (watch they don’t burn).  Set aside to cool whilst preparing the muffins.

2.  Line a muffin tin with liners or set out 12 silicone muffin moulds on a baking tray.  Preheat the oven to 210°C/fan 190°C.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl and stir together.

4.  In a medium-sized bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.  Add the sugars, egg, oil and vanilla extract and whisk together (either by hand or by electric whisk).

5.  Fold the banana mixture into the flour mixture using a metal spoon until just combined (there should still be a few small streaks of flour in the mixture).  Fold in the toasted walnuts and spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin or moulds, not filling them more than ¾ full.

To prepare the topping:
6.  In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Rub in the butter, until crumbly in texture.  Sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.

7.  Bake for 18-20 mins, until risen and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Either eat them warm or remove from the tin/moulds to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Since these muffins are made from scratch, I’m submitting them to this week’s Made with Love Mondays hosted by Javelin Warrior.  One of the guiding principles is to avoid using frozen produce when you can use fresh, and whilst I did use frozen bananas, this recipe works perfectly whether using fresh or frozen bananas, so I’m sure that’ll be acceptable.  Plus the bananas only ended up in the freezer because we had a deluge of overripe fresh bananas in the first place.

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior

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Feijoa & hazelnut muffins

One of the things that I love most about moving to a new country is discovering new fruit and vegetables.  I’ve spent the last six weeks enthusiastically discovering the feijoa, a fruit which is completely new to me.  Feijoas aren’t actually native to New Zealand – they originate from Brazil* – but they seem to grow very well here and are very popular and many people seem to have feijoa trees in their gardens.  I read somewhere that they are known as pineapple guavas in the rest of the world, but I’m not sure what parts of the world that would be, since I’ve never seen them anywhere else.  And nor have any of the other international students in the lab, including the South Americans.  Have you ever come across them before?

Feijoas fall off the tree when they are ready to eat – how convenient is that?  The flesh is quite firm, with a texture that reminds me a little of a grainy pear, but more pleasant, and the pulp bit in the middle is well… rather pulpy.  I’m terrible at descriptions (in case you hadn’t realised), and I’ve been struggling to describe the flavour, but I’ll do my best.  It’s like a slightly sweeter version of an apple, but with a subtle hint of strawberry.  Which I realise sounds a little odd, but I think that’s the closest that I can get (I would make such an appalling oenologist).  They’re utterly delicious.  To eat them, you cut them in half and scoop out the flesh and pulp, leaving the skin.  You can also bake and cook with them, so I borrowed a feijoa cookbook from the library (because I’m super cool like that) and decided to make muffins.

The only problem with feijoas is that they’re only in season from the beginning of April until the end of May, so you have to make the most of them whilst you can!  I actually made these muffins with the very last feijoas of the season, as I’ve been too busy concentrating on eating them fresh for the last six weeks.  Luckily, feijoas are supposed to freeze very well, so I’ve got some in the freezer to bake with over winter.  Perhaps that’s the best tactic – eat them fresh whilst you can, then bake with the frozen ones when you can no longer eat them fresh!  As feijoa season is only just coming to a close, I’m submitting these feijoa and hazelnut muffins to the Simple and in Season blog event for May, which is celebrating its first birthday this month!  The blog event was started by Ren at Fabulicious Food and is being hosted by Urvashi over at The Botanical Baker this month.

The muffins have a surprise dollop of cream cheese in the middle, similar in concept to the pumpkin and cream cheese muffins that I made a while ago, but the cream cheese didn’t hold its shape and sort of melted into the muffin, leaving a small cavity in the middle of the muffin (see the photo at the bottom of the post).  I’m not sure why it happened – perhaps the cream cheese here is different, or perhaps the oven was too hot – and whilst they were very tasty with the tartness of the cream cheese perfectly cutting through the sweetness of the feijoa, it looks a bit odd when you bite into the muffins and there’s a hole in the middle.  I made a couple without the cream cheese in the middle and they were just as delicious, so I’d say that the cream cheese centre is optional (though recommended if you can deal with them being slightly less presentable).  The flavour of the feijoas really permeates the muffins, which I love – you can taste their subtle sweetness, but it’s not overwhelming – and I also love the slightly crunchy topping.  I’m totally into hazelnuts at the moment, so I substituted them in for the walnuts that were in the original recipe, and the flavours worked wonderfully together.  So if you ever happen across some feijoas and aren’t sure what to do with them, I’d strongly suggest tasting one and then baking these muffins!

Feijoa & hazelnut muffins

Makes 13-14 muffins
Adapted from The Feijoa Recipe Book

To toast the hazelnuts, spread them out on a baking tray, place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for 10 min, until they smell toasty (be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).  Rub the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove most of the skins, and allow to cool fully before using.  The cream cheese filling is optional, though I do recommend it if you can deal with having a little cavity in the middle of your muffins.  Frozen feijoas would work well for this recipe, although thaw them out before using.

Ingredients

350g feijoas
230g all-purpose flour
100g caster sugar
3 rounded tsp baking powder
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter
1 egg
185ml milk
½ tsp vanilla extract

Cream cheese filling (optional):
120g cream cheese
40g icing sugar

Topping:
40g toasted hazelnuts
60g soft brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

1.  Line a muffin tin with 14 liners or set out 14 silicone liners on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to fan 190°C.

2.  Prepare the cream cheese filling in a small bowl by whisking the cream cheese with the icing sugar until smooth.  Set aside.

3.  Peel the feijoas and finely chop them (the pulp can make this a bit fiddly.  They don’t have to look presentable though, so don’t worry too much as long as they’re in small pieces).  Set aside.

4.  Sift the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl.  Stir together.

5.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat or in the microwave.  Lightly beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the milk and vanilla extract and mix well.

6.  Add the wet ingredients and the melted butter to the dry ingredients and fold together with a large metal spoon until just combined (the batter should still be a bit lumpy, with some flour still visible).  Gently fold in the chopped feijoas.

7.  Transfer about half a tablespoon of batter to each muffin liner or mould (make sure that the batter covers the bottom, but that there is still enough left to cover the cream cheese layer).  Add a dollop of the cream cheese mixture in each liner on top of the feijoa layer.  Split the remaining feijoa batter between the liners, making sure to completely cover the cream cheese layer.  For the topping, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a ramekin.  Roughly chop the hazelnuts and sprinkle over the muffins, followed by the cinnamon sugar.

8.  Bake for 20-25 mins until golden and well risen.  Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

* I have also read that feijoas originate in Chile.  But since the Chilean in our lab says she’s never heard of or seen them in Chile, I’m rather more inclined to believe that they’re from Brazil.  The word “feijoa” also looks more Portuguese than Spanish to me (though I am neither a linguist nor an etymologist).

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Buy a mint plant, get a free surprise caterpillar

This month’s We Should Cocoa was hosted by Chele over at Chocolate Teapot, and she chose the theme “something green“, which I think is pretty self-explanatory.  The very first thing that popped into my head when I first read the theme was a delicious recipe for mint chocolate chip muffins from Mad About Muffins, my go-to book for muffin recipes.  A few days later, I realised that the only copy of the recipe that I have is in the actual book in my shipment which was being rifled through waiting for clearance by NZ Customs.  Minor issue there.  I also figured that mint and chocolate was probably going to be a fairly popular combination for the challenge, so perhaps I should do something else…

I mentioned this to Kat over a Skype chat (thank goodness for Skype), and it turns out that she happened to have a copy of the recipe, from when she’d stayed with me over the summer of 2010 – the summer which I think really cemented our friendship, and during which we spent a large amount of time baking together (gin and wine may have featured pretty heavily, too, which are always great for cementing friendships).  So I knew that I just had to make the muffins, in honour of that, and all the fun we had in St Andrews, because I baked these up several times for various parties, and they always went down really well.  And also because the only bakeware that I have with me are my muffin moulds.  Well, that’s not strictly true – all my stuff arrived yesterday (hurrah!!!), but it’s still being unpacked, so it’s not exactly readily accessible to bake with yet.  It makes me sad that I won’t be able to share this batch with Kat though.

At the Farmers’ Market last weekend I bought a few basic herb plants (basil, parsley, thyme and mint), so I decided to add some of the fresh mint to the muffins, just because I could.  After noticing a few rather sizeable chunks missing from several of the leaves that had most definitely been intact last Saturday, I discovered that the mint plant had come with a free caterpillar.  Said caterpillar didn’t touch any of the other herbs, only the mint, so I don’t think it’ll be suffering from halitosis any time soon (total anthropomorphism, I know, shhhh!).  I realise that this isn’t exactly a disaster, but I’m bad enough at keeping plants in good condition (I am very much not green-fingered) in the first place, without throwing something that eats them into the mix.  So between the caterpillar and the leaves I used for this recipe, the plant is looking a little sorry for itself now…  Hopefully it’ll grow back pretty quickly.  I had hoped that the mint leaves would make darker flecks of green through the light green of the muffin, but that didn’t happen – perhaps if I’d used far more it would have been more visible.  They still tasted delicious though – wonderfully moist, with a good minty flavour, balanced out by the chocolate.  I should add that the muffins also came out slightly darker on top than usual because I’m still getting used to having an oven that actually works properly.

Mint chocolate chip muffins

Makes 14 muffins
Recipe adapted from Mad About Muffins

The green food colouring is obviously optional, but it adds a fun touch.  This time I used a smidgeon of “leaf green” gel colouring, but I’ve used standard green liquid colouring in the past, and it works perfectly, too, so just use what you have.  The original recipe doesn’t use any crème de menthe, but it helps with the colour and the flavour – if you don’t want to use any, just use a total of 190ml of milk.  These muffins are delicious warm, but I do also love them cold with a glass of milk for breakfast.  As with most muffins, these won’t keep for very long, but can be stored overnight in an air-tight container.

Ingredients

340g all-purpose flour
130g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Handful of fresh mint leaves
100g unsalted butter
2 eggs
150ml milk
40ml crème de menthe
¾ tsp natural peppermint extract
½ tsp liquid green food colouring (or a smidgeon of gel colouring)
200g dark chocolate chips

Directions

1.  Line a muffin tray with 14 liners or set out silicone moulds on a baking sheet.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

2.  Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and mix together.  Rinse the mint leaves, pat them dry, chop them (somewhere between finely chopped and roughly chopped is good) and stir into the dry ingredients.

3.  Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave or in a small saucepan.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, lightly beat the two eggs with a fork.  Add the milk, crème de menthe, peppermint extract and green food colouring and lightly beat together (if using gel colouring, make sure that it doesn’t fall into a little lump at the bottom of the bowl).

4.  Add the wet ingredients and the melted butter to the dry ingredients and stir with a large metal spoon until just combined (the batter should be a bit lumpy with some flour still visible).

5.  Gently fold about 150g of the chocolate chips into the batter.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin liners, and sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips.

6.  Bake for 18-22 mins until well risen and the tops spring back when gently pressed down (don’t press down on a chocolate chip though – they get really hot!).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little before eating.

Enjoy!

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Baking muffins, the impractical way…

In my last post I declared that I was going to be blogging more regularly again, but that clearly hasn’t really happened…  I may have forgotten to factor in the fact that I don’t have internet at home yet.  A minor oversight there.  But, as I also mentioned in my last post, I have moved into my new flat!  Which means that I have a kitchen again, hurrah!  Unfortunately, the crockery and cookware that were supposed to come with the flat haven’t actually made it into the flat yet…  The estate agent was supposed to drop it all off the evening that I moved in, then the next day, then it transpired that the estate agent didn’t actually have any of it yet, so she ordered it online to be delivered to the flat.  Luckily, I came to NZ vaguely prepared: I brought a vegetable knife, a measuring cup, my oven gloves, my apron and my silicone muffin moulds with me in my suitcase.  I’m not kidding (don’t judge me).  My rather resourcefully-assembled breakfast on my first morning in my new flat looked something like this:

I have since managed to borrow a knife, fork, spoon, bowl and saucepan from somebody to tide me over. I missed the delivery on Wednesday because I had to go in to uni to do some really important stuff, like sitting an English test.  Yes, really.  I had to sit a compulsory English test.  Which showed that my “language skills are appropriate for university.”  I’d have thought that would be fairly obvious considering that I was recently awarded an undergraduate degree (which involved writing a dissertation) by a generally well-regarded English-speaking university, but I’ve now sat a slightly pointless computerised test to prove it.  Anyway, I digress.  I’ve been wanting to bake since I moved in, but I’m obviously a little bit limited at the moment.  Any sensible person would have waited until the delivery of all the kitchen stuff today…

But I do love a challenge.  I saw some beautiful mangoes a couple of days ago and decided that I absolutely wanted to bake with them.  Once I have an idea, I tend to want to try it out as soon as possible, so in the absence of any baking tins, my options were limited to using my silicone muffin moulds.  I decided to attempt mango and chocolate muffins.  I had originally intended to include nuts, too, but couldn’t find the ones I wanted.  When I’ve figured out where to get those from, I’ll try my original idea.  In the mean time, I’ll be munching on these, which came out totally delicious, somewhat against the odds.  They aren’t the most perfect-looking muffins I’ve ever made, but considering that it’s the first time that I’ve used my new oven (which seems to heat better than I was expecting) and I made up a large proportion of the recipe as I went along, I’m really pleased with how they came out… I also couldn’t sift the dry ingredients (I don’t have a sieve yet), so they were a little less fluffy than I’m used to, but they taste so fruity and wonderful.  I got much more flesh from the mango than I was expecting, so they’re actually about 40% mango, which makes the muffins wonderfully moist and adds a hint of juicy sweetness which is perfectly counter-balanced by the slightly bitter dark chocolate chips.  I can’t wait to make these again!  (I have another mango in the fridge, I’m seriously tempted…)

The sign in the shop where I got the mangoes from said they were from NZ, but I wasn’t aware that mangoes were grown in NZ and I have a suspicion that they’re actually from Peru…  So I’m not sure if they’re actually local or not, but they are definitely in season, so I’m submitting these to Fabulicious Food‘s Simple and in Season blog challenge, which I’ve missed for the last couple of months.

I’m also submitting these muffins to a new blog challenge that was started last month by Caroline Makes and The More Than Occasional Baker: Alphabakes.  The host randomly picks a letter of the alphabet, and participants have to come up with something which either features a main ingredient or is a type of baked good beginning with that letter.  This month’s host is Caroline Makes, and she has chosen the letter “M“.  Which is obviously an excellent choice of letter.  Not that I’m biased towards the letter of my first name or anything…  These mango and chocolate muffins satisfy both options – do I get bonus points?  Anyway, I shall stop rambling on – the above-mentioned English test obviously didn’t test my ability to be concise, because I’d clearly have failed it.

Mango & chocolate muffins

Makes 10-12 muffins
Adapted from Mad About Muffins

As mentioned above, this is the first time I’ve used this oven, and I had to eye-ball quite a few of the ingredients, so whilst the muffins turned out wonderfully for me, do bear that in mind!  As I don’t have any scales at the moment, I can’t tell you the weight of mango flesh that I used, but just play it by eye.  I had thought of roughly mashing about half the mango and leaving the other half diced, but I forgot about that when I was actually making them.  As with most muffins, these are best eaten within a day of baking.  They make great snacks, but also an excellent breakfast.

Ingredients

1 smallish mango
175g all-purpose flour
¾ tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
75g light muscovado sugar
100g unsalted butter
1 egg
125ml yoghurt
5 tbsp milk
75g chocolate chips

Directions

1.  Line 10-12 muffins tin sections with paper liners or set out silicone moulds on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

2.  Peel the mango and remove as much flesh as possible, dice the mango flesh and set aside.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl (you may need to push the sugar through with the back of a spoon).  Stir together.

4.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave.  Meanwhile, lightly beat the egg in a small bowl with a fork, then add the yoghurt and milk and mix together.

5.  Add all the wet ingredients, including the butter, to the dry ingredients and stir with a large metal spoon until just combined (don’t overmix – it’s perfect if you can still see a bit of flour).  Gently fold in the diced mango and chocolate chips.

6.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin sections.  Bake for 18-22 mins until well risen and golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed (don’t press down on a chocolate chip though – they get really hot!).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little before eating.

Enjoy!

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I’m a Dragon, hear me ramble! I mean, hear me roar!

Today is the first day of the Chinese Year of the Dragon!  So Happy Chinese New Year!  Or xīn nián kuài lè (I totally didn’t just dig out my old Mandarin book just for that), or if we’re going to be really fancy… 新年快樂!  Doesn’t Chinese look rather awesome?  Anyway, I digress.  So it’s the year of the Dragon, isn’t that exciting?  The correct answer is yes by the way, because I am a Dragon!  As in, I was born in the year of the Dragon, I’m not actually a real dragon (in case you hadn’t guessed).  I’m glad we’ve got that straight.  I believe that 2012 is the Water Dragon, and in an incredible (mostly accidental) moment of forward-planning, here’s a (not very good) photo taken six and a half years ago in a shrine in Hong Kong:

So, this rambling roaring Dragon right here decided that she should post something Chinese New Year-related today, because although it’s not exactly part of my cultural heritage, I have several friends who celebrate it, and I did take Mandarin lessons at school for a while (because I missed learning a language, though I don’t remember a great deal – frustrating!), and did I mention it’s the year of the Dragon?

There’s one minor flaw in my plan.  Whilst I enjoy eating Chinese food, I’m not at all familiar with cooking it.  Six and a half years ago, my mum and I visited one of her friends in Hong Kong and she’d signed us up to a baking class.  I think we made mooncakes and possibly something else, but the only thing I can remember clearly about the entire class was that the woman who was assigned to help us was called Cactus Poo.  Now I don’t know if she chose Cactus as her English name, or if her parents randomly picked a word out of an English dictionary without reading the definition, but either way, she was about as friendly as a Cactus, so the name definitely suited her.  I’m fully aware that laughing at somebody’s name makes me a bad person, but I did spend several hours working very hard at keeping a straight face, which is no mean feat, particularly when you’re 16 and super immature (I’m still super immature).  I hope you’re not expecting a mooncake recipe at the bottom of this post.

Now, of course, I could easily just search the internet for recipes, but as I announced yesterday, I’m moving to the other side of the world in a couple of weeks, so I didn’t really want to buy any special ingredients that I won’t use up between now and then.  And I have one tried-and-tested vaguely Chinese recipe which my mum has been making since I was little, in the form of honey and lemon chicken.  It doesn’t require any special ingredients, so I decided that I would make it yesterday to feature on my blog today…  I had to abandon the plan pretty quickly when it turned out that we didn’t have any chicken.  Minor detail.  So I looked at what ingredients I actually had available and realised that I could make muffins.  Because muffins are just so Chinese, obviously.  Ahem.

I made honey muffins several months ago, and they were delicious, so I decided to adapt them into Chinese-inspired muffins for Chinese New Year.  They were going to be just simple honey and lemon muffins, but then I noticed half a packet of chocolate chips that needed using up, so I decided to throw them in too (because I need to use up as many of my baking supplies as possible).  Now, I realise that adding chocolate chips sort of negates the whole Chinese-themed thing, but well, they’re muffins, so it was already a pretty tenuous link.  Plus by adding chocolate chips, I can submit these to this month’s We Should Cocoa, being hosted by Chele at Chocolate Teapot, who chose the theme of “health conscious“.  Now, these might not sound all that healthy, but I reduced the added sugar by half and used rapeseed oil instead of butter, and honey is a natural sugar, so to me they sound pretty healthy (can you tell I’m not a health freak?).  I could have used wholegrain flour if I wanted to go the whole hog, but since the flavours in these are very subtle, I was worried that it would affect the taste somehow.  They came out perfectly delicious though, and the chocolate chips didn’t over-power the subtle flavours at all, which I was slightly worried might happen.  I’ll definitely be making these again…

Honey, lemon & chocolate muffins

Adapted from CaffeIna
Makes 12 muffins

These are lovely and light, and the flavours blend together subtly.  If you want to eat them on their own, they’re tastiest whilst still warm, served with a cup of tea, but when cooled, they’re delicious when sliced in half and spread with some butter or marmalade or lemon curd for breakfast.  Don’t be tempted to add more than ¼ tsp of lemon extract as it will easily over-power the other flavours.

Ingredients

250g all-purpose flour
50g golden caster sugar
3 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 large lemon
50g dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)
1 egg
240 ml milk
60 ml organic rapeseed oil (make sure it’s an oil with very little taste)
85g honey
¼ tsp lemon extract

Directions

1.  Line a muffin tine with 12 muffin liners or set out 12 silicone liners.  Pre-heat the oven to 205°C.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.  Stir in the lemon zest and chocolate chips.

3.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, then whisk in the milk, oil, honey and lemon extract.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (slightly lumpy is fine).

4.  Bake for 15-18 mins until the tops are golden and springy or a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Allow to cool slightly on a wire rack.

Happy Chinese New Year!!

PS – Apologies to any Chinese food connoisseurs or actual Chinese people for completely bulldozing your culinary traditions and flavour combinations!!  Here’s a cute panda from Hong Kong Zoo to make up for it (everybody say “awwwww”):

PPS – The photos in this post that don’t involve food were all scanned in, hence the slightly dubious quality!

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Getting into the festive spirit with pear, date, walnut & Stilton muffins

It’s December now, which means one thing…  Well, two things.  Firstly, uhm, how is it already the last month of 2011?!  Seriously, when did that happen?  Let’s ignore it and move on swiftly (and with style) to the next thing: December means getting all festive!!  Now, leading up to December, I am a complete and utter scrooge and I detest everything to do with Christmas.  In any month other than December, I could probably give Scrooge a run for his money.  Possibly even Scrooge and the Grinch combined.  Then, as soon as it’s December, you could flick a switch and suddenly I get all enthusiastic about it.  Well, about the festive spirit.  Not the overly-commercialised you-must-buy-as-many-hideous-and-useless-presents-as-possible aspect to it (which is a rant for another day.  I’m sure you’re looking forward to it already…).  But let’s all give a huzzah for the festive spirit!  And for mulled wine!  (Although that’s acceptable from Bonfire Night.  Or as soon as it starts getting cold really.)  And mince pies – I love mince pies!

You know what else makes me think of Christmas?  Dates.  Of the edible variety (as opposed to the going-for-dinner variety).  Every year my mum makes dates stuffed with home-made marzipan, and I could easily hoover up enough of them to feed a small army in approximately ten seconds.  I have a recipe for pear, date, walnut and Stilton muffins which to me just sounds like such a Christmassy combination, and that I’ve been meaning to try out for over a year, but I completely forgot about it at Christmastime last year.  When I eventually remembered about it in April it was neither Christmas nor pear season.  So I bookmarked the recipe with a giant hot pink post-it note so that when Christmas rolled around again, I would be more likely to remember.  And guess what?  I did!  (Which is an achievement in itself.)

I should probably add the caveat that if you really detest blue cheese, these probably aren’t the muffins for you, but if you’re a bit on the fence about blue cheese, maybe give them a try – the Stilton really doesn’t come through as much as you might expect so it really doesn’t over-power the muffin, and the sweetness of the dates combined with the subtle pear flavour counter-balance it really well.  Even though they’ve got both sweet and savoury elements, I’ve categorised these muffins as savoury because they work really well as a light lunch or snack.  They could possibly even work as an informal alternative to a cheese board.  However you decide to eat them, they’re definitely deliciously seasonal!  Here’s to getting into the festive spirit!

Pear, date, walnut & Stilton muffins

Makes 13 muffins
Adapted from Mad About Muffins

The pear is quite a subtle flavour, so I made sure not to mash it up completely so that there were still a few chunks to give little explosions of flavour.  I used Stilton, but I’m sure that most blue cheeses would work.  The Stilton doesn’t come through as much as you might expect it to, so don’t worry if you’re not too keen on blue cheese.  As with most muffins, these won’t keep all that long, but they will store well in an air-tight container for a couple of days.  These are delicious both warm out of the oven or fully cooled.

Ingredients

355g all-pupose flour
160g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
250g pears (just use the weight as a rough guideline)
100g organic rapeseed oil
2 eggs
60g pitted ready-to-eat dates
100g Stilton
100g walnut halves

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.  Butter or line 13 muffins pan sections or set out 13 silicon muffin moulds on a baking sheet.

2.  Roughly chop the walnut halves.  Chop the dates and crumble the Stilton (don’t crumble it too finely – little chunks are good).  Set aside.

3.  Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and mix together.

4.  Peel and core the pear and add to a clean bowl.  Mash roughly with a potato masher (make sure there are still some little rough chunks left).  Add the oil and eggs and gently beat together with a fork.

5.  Fold the pear mixture into the dry ingredients with a large metal spoon, until just combined (it’s fine if there’s still a little bit of flour visible).  Carefully fold the dates, Stilton and half of the walnuts into the mixture before spooning into the prepared muffin pans or moulds.  Sprinkle the remaining walnuts evenly over the tops of the muffins.

6.  Bake for 22-25 mins, until the muffins are golden and well risen.  The tops should spring back when lightly prodded.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little before eating.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Savoury Foods

Ask, and you shall receive…

Even though I’ve been blogging for nearly a year now, I still find the whole concept a little odd.  Well, not odd exactly, but… I can’t really think of a better word (and my thesaurus hasn’t come to my rescue).  Actually, I think “strangely fascinating” might be the description I’m going for.  I spend most of my posts rambling on about various fairly uninteresting happenings in my life, and I find it astounding that people actually read them.  If I’m honest, they probably skip most of it and scroll down to the recipe (were you just about to do that?  Don’t worry, I’ll just cry myself to sleep tonight I won’t be offended), but it’s gratifying to think that people from all over the world actually read what I write.  I find it doubly astounding that people actually subscribe to Sharky Oven Gloves – 42 of you have chosen to read my rants and rambles on a regular basis.  And, at least for the 38 of you whom I don’t actually know (hello there!!  Thanks for subscribing!), you’ve chosen to do so of your own free will.  Maybe I don’t sound quite as boring or borderline crazy as I think.  Or perhaps you all just skip through to the recipes…

It’s always exciting when my site stats are higher than usual, but what I really love is when people leave comments (that’s not a hint, but feel free to take it as one…).  Sometimes, a genial comment can make my day.  My site stats show me the number of times that a post has been read, but they don’t tell me whether somebody enjoyed reading the post or hated it, so it’s always great to know if somebody enjoyed reading a post.  Or if somebody tried the recipe, and what they thought of it.  I’m sure that other bloggers will agree that the interaction with people who could be almost anywhere in the world really makes blogging interesting and worthwhile.  Comments are also helpful to gauge what people enjoy (or don’t enjoy) and would like to see more of – though rest assured that I have no intention of changing what or how I write to cater to a wider audience or anything, though I am working on trying to be more concise (it’s not going very well).  It’s just good to know if there are things that you, my dear 42 regular readers (could Sharky Oven Gloves be the meaning of life?), would like to read about or particular recipe requests.  A few weeks ago, somebody left me a lovely comment asking if I’d posted the recipe for the muffins that feature in the header on my home page, because they “look seriously yummy.”

Well, I can assure you that they are seriously yummy.  I’ve baked quite a few batches of them for parties because most people like lemon, and most people like almonds, and it’s blatantly obvious that they contain nuts, so anybody who is allergic to nuts is unlikely to eat one without realising (and if they can’t work it out from the flaked almonds on top, well…  They’re probably already on their way to a Darwin Award).  I actually feel a bit cheeky – these lemon and almond muffins have featured on my home page header since I started my blog and yet it’s taken me nearly a year to share the recipe?  Shocking!  Thanks to SH’s comment though, I decided to sort that out.  So, my dear readers, the moral of the story is: ask, and you shall receive…  Maybe.  If you ask nicely.  (And if it’s a reasonable request.)  SH, wherever you are, here’s that recipe, just for you!  I hope you enjoy it!!

Lemon & almond muffins

Makes 14 muffins
Adapted from Mad About Muffins

The flaked almonds on top give a lovely crunch to the muffin, and whilst the ground almond makes the muffins a little heavier, the lemon flavour really comes through and adds a lovely freshness to the muffins. These are delicious both warm or cold.  As with most muffins, these won’t keep very well for very long, but they can be stored overnight in an air-tight box.

Ingredients

235g all-purpose flour
150g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
100g ground almonds
100g unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
Zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
Approx 70 ml milk
50g flaked almonds

Directions

1.  Line a muffin tin with 14 liners, or set out silicone muffin moulds on a baking sheet.  Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan oven 180°C.

2.  Sift the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, salt and ground almonds into a large bowl.  You might need to push the ground almond through the sieve with the back of a spoon.  Add the zest, and stir all the dry ingredients together.

3.  Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan.  In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with the almond extract. Pour the lemon juice into measuring jug and top it up to 170 ml with milk (I got about 100 ml of juice from two lemons, so needed about 70 ml of milk) before mixing into the egg mixture (don’t worry if the milk separates).

4.  Add the wet ingredients and the melted butter to the dry ingredients and fold together with a large metal spoon until just combined (the batter should still be a bit lumpy, with some flour still visible).  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin liners.  Sprinkle the tops evenly with the flaked almonds.

5.  Bake for 20-23 mins, until golden and will risen and the tops spring back when lightly pressed.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little before eating.

Enjoy!

PS – The crying-myself-thing-to-sleep thing was a joke by the way.  Eating muffins is a much better coping mechanism.  Sniff.

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Pumpkin & cream cheese muffins

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve taken part in the Breakfast Club blog challenge.  There’s no particular reason for this – I can hardly say that I’ve been too busy, and I’ve certainly not stopped eating breakfast or anything ridiculous like that.  Perhaps I’ve just been lacking in inspiration a bit…  Whatever the reason, I decided to get my act together and get back into the challenge, because it’s always good to keep breakfast interesting!  The current challenge is being hosted by Sarah at A little bit of heaven on a plate…, and she has chosen “Stars and Stripes” as the theme.

Now I’d say that the US is pretty big on breakfast, so I felt rather spoilt for choice.  To me, the most utterly American breakfast just has to be blueberry pancakes – they just scream USA.  But it’s not exactly blueberry season, so I had to come up with something else…  We lived in the US for four years when I was little, and for some reason, I always associate pumpkins with the US.  Something to do with the whole pumpkin-carving tradition at Halloween perhaps, and enforced by the almost constant presence of pumpkin pie between Halloween and Thanksgiving?  Who knows why I associate anything pumpkin-related with the US, but I do.  So I thought about making pumpkin pancakes for breakfast.  Of course, if I was going to go all-out American, the obvious thing to do would be to use tinned pumpkin (Libby’s, of course), but aside from not having any, I decided that I’d feel a bit silly using tinned pumpkin when it’s actually pumpkin season.  I do try to use seasonal ingredients as much as possible, so fresh pumpkin was really the only option.  This also means that I could submit this recipe to the Simple and in Season blog event over at Fabulicious Food.  So I acquired an adorable little pumpkin and set about roasting it, ready to use in some pumpkin pancakes

Now, you’ve probably noticed that the photos in this post are quite clearly not pancakes.  Not even pancakes gone horribly, horribly wrong.  And you’d be correct, because you see, whilst planning my pancakes, I may have gotten ever so slightly distracted by a muffin recipe…  A rather delicious-sounding recipe for pumpkin muffins with a surprise layer of cream cheese hidden inside.  Luckily, I also consider muffins to be a totally American thing to have for breakfast (although I feel they should be jumbo muffins – unfortunately I don’t have any large muffin moulds or tins, so I just had to make normal-sized ones), so I scrapped the pancake plan and made pumpkin and cream cheese muffins instead.  How did they turn out?  Delicious!  They’re wonderfully moist and have a strong pumpkin flavour which goes beautifully with the surprise cream cheese layer.  Basically, they taste like pumpkin pie, but in a muffin.  Being muffins, they’re also easy to eat whilst travelling, and I had several of these for breakfast whilst on the bus to St Andrews on Friday morning.  They made an excellent start to a wonderful little two-day trip!

Pumpkin & cream cheese muffins

Makes 6-7 muffins
Adapted from Eat Good 4 Life

I used homemade pumpkin purée by mashing-up some pumpkin that I roasted the other day, but tinned pumpkin would probably work just as well.  The chopped pecans sprinkled over the top are completely optional, but add a lovely crunch to the muffin – the original recipe called for pumpkin seeds which I’m sure would also work really well.  As with all muffins, these don’t store all that well, but they’ll be perfectly fine for breakfast if made the evening before and stored in an airtight box.

Ingredients

For the muffins:
60g cream cheese
20g icing sugar
90g whole wheat bread flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
130g pumpkin purée
1 egg
65g unrefined granulated sugar
30 ml milk
60 ml olive oil
¼ tsp vanilla essence

For the topping:
A few pecan halves (optional)
2 tbsp unrefined granulated sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

1.  Line a muffin tin with liners or set out silicon liners on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and icing sugar, and set aside.

3.  Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices together into a bowl, and mix together.

4.  In a separate bowl, beat together the pumpkin purée, egg, sugar, milk, olive oil and vanilla essence.  Once the wet ingredients are well mixed together, stir in the dry ingredients using a metal spoon until just combined.

5.  Add about half a tablespoon of pumpkin mixture to each muffin liner (make sure that the mixture covers the bottom but that there is enough left to cover the cream cheese layer).  Add a dollop of cream cheese in each liner on top of the pumpkin layer.  Split the remaining pumpkin mixture between the liners, making sure to completely cover the cream cheese layer.  For the topping, mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small ramekin.  Roughly chop the pecans and sprinkle evenly over the muffins, followed by the cinnamon sugar.

6.  Bake for 20-25 mins, until golden.  Allow to cool in the tin for a few mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

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Random Recipe #7: Fig & almond muffins

This month for the Random Recipe challenge, Dom asked us to go “back to basics” and follow the original rules as set out for the very first challenge – randomly choose a cookbook and then randomly choose a recipe from it.  This was quite exciting because I only joined the challenge in its second month, so I missed the very first totally random choice of recipe.  So out came my trusty calculator and its random number generator (I’d probably cheat if I had to shuffle all my cookery books on the floor) and the chosen book was Baking – 100 everyday recipes, a lovely little book that was part of my Graduation present from Craig.  I was actually quite excited by this choice because it’s full of recipes that look really good but that I haven’t had the occasion to try out yet.  My calculator directed me to page 74, a recipe for fig and almond muffins, which I’ve actually been meaning to test since I got the book.  What an excellent coincidence!  I was sure I had all the ingredients and yesterday, having mostly recovered from my very annoying bout of tonsillitis, I desperately wanted to bake something so I decided to give them a go…

The odd thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t contain any eggs.  Not that I have anything against recipes that don’t contain egg, it’s just that I’ve never made muffins without eggs before.  Actually, that’s a lie – Kat and I unintentionally made muffins without egg once (for some reason, we just totally forgot the egg…  Woops.) and well, they didn’t turn out all that great (Craig still talks about them with a slight look of polite horror on his face).  Then, having started weighing out the dry ingredients, I realised that I didn’t actually have any almonds, which only happen to be one of the main ingredients.  Uhm, woops.  Luckily, I seem to stockpile ground almonds (presumably in case I have to make 100 million macarons as an emergency or something.  You never know, it could happen.  Maybe.), so a little bit of substitution was clearly in order.

I must admit that as I popped the muffins in the oven, I really wasn’t expecting a great deal from them.  I wasn’t convinced that water and two tablespoons of oil would be enough moisture to make up for the lack of egg and milk or yoghurt.  They looked more similar to a gloopy mess than to any muffin mixture I’ve made before.  Against my expectations though, they rose perfectly and came out looking beautifully presentable.  They also turned out to be rather delicious, though perhaps a bit too much on the sweet side (I’ve reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe), and although there was obviously no crunch from the chopped almonds that weren’t there, the little seeds of the dried figs are nice and crunchy and give a good texture.  We ended up having some as a mid-afternoon snack yesterday and spread with some butter for breakfast today.  Delicious!

Fig & almond muffins

Makes 12
Adapted from Baking – 100 everyday recipes

These muffins are remarkably easy and quick to throw together – the most time-consuming step is chopping up the dried figs, and that hardly takes very long!  The muffins are delicious both warm out of the oven or cold, and both as a snack or for breakfast.  The original recipe suggests sprinkling about 2 tbsp flaked or chopped almonds over the top of the muffins before baking.  I didn’t have any so I obviously didn’t do that, but they’d be a pretty addition to the muffins.

Ingredients

200g all-purpose flour
100g ground almonds
175g golden caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
95g dried figs
2 tbsp organic rapeseed oil
1 tbsp almond essence
220ml water

Directions

1.  Line a tin muffin tin with 12 muffin cups or set out 12 silicone muffin moulds on a baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.

2.  Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.  Add the ground almond and stir together well.

3.  Finely chop the dried figs and add them to a medium-sized bowl.  Add the oil, almond essence and water and mix well.  Stir the fig mixture into the dry ingredients, taking care to not to over-mix (it’s fine if the mixture is a bit lumpy).

4.  Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups and bake for 25-30 mins, until risen and golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

5.  Serve warm or allow to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

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