Tag Archives: caster sugar

Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry-Muffins-(6541)A very good friend of mine always asks me for more muffin recipes. I get this. Unlike cakes, my personal preference if I were to choose (I don’t think so), muffins are charming little things. Even though I may have a muffin with my coffee when out running errands, I prefer homemade ones. Somehow shop-bought ones seem too big, too out there if you know what I mean.

Sometime ago I was invited to a YSL event at a local store. In one corner the ladies prepared a spread of pretty little cupcakes, which seem to be all the rage nowadays. To me they looked more inviting than all the expensive stuff in the shop. They were good, a bit on the small side, but good nonetheless. One would argue that you cannot look sophisticated while devouring a large chunk of cake! I went home and I wanted to bake something in between.

Homebaked muffins will be smaller than the huge things you might get at the store but don’t let that deter you. You can make the mixture in five minutes flat and they are so convenient when you have people round for afternoon tea. All you need is coffee! Blueberries are great here, but you can use whatever you want…strawberries, raspberries, or perhaps a mixture of both. Makes 12.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened almost melted
  • 120g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100ml milk, preferably full-fat
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 180g blueberries

Line a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin cases and preheat the oven to 190ºC.

In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

In another bowl, beat the butter together with the sugar, eggs, milk, lemon zest and juice till everything is just combined.

Fold in the flour mixture gently into the wet ingredients preferably with a spatula. Tip in the blueberries, and don’t overmix. A lumpy batter is exactly what you want here!

Using an ice-cream scoop, distribute the mixture evenly in the tray and bake for approximately 15 to 18 minutes. They should be ready by then but always check by inserting a skewer in the middle of one muffin just to be sure.

Place them on a cookie rack to cool, and eat them when they are slightly warm on the same day. They should keep in an airtight container until the next day – good excuse to invite a good friend for tea. Enjoy!

Rob x

(Adapted from River Cottage Handbook No. 8: Cakes, Pam Corbin, Bloomsbury, 2011.)

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J’s recipe for Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine (6691)

Spring has not quite arrived in the UK. I’m not going to say anything else about this – I’m really afraid I might jinx it, but I must post this before the weather becomes warmer. Two weeks ago it snowed here. OK. Stop. But in case you’re wondering, that’s why we’re still drinking mulled wine in April.

In general I think it’s best to go for a fruity full-bodied red, but this depends on personal taste. If you like to drink the wine you choose on its own, then you will like it when it’s mulled. This is J’s simple recipe which always worked for us. The roles were reversed this time: he was by the stove, I was taking the photos. Except the one with the glasses. (Was going to forget that! He wouldn’t have minded but I said it for the sake of completeness.) I don’t really need to say this but If you’re in Malta, forget about this until December!

Preparing Mulled Wine (6684)

We started to use this recipe with these quantities while in Michigan; that’s why I have also given cup measures. The equivalent ml measures are an approximation, but still valid. A slight variation will not make much of a difference here.

  • 2 cups/500ml water
  • ½ cup/100g caster sugar
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 2 small star anise
  • 2 large oranges, cut in slices
  • 1 bottle of red wine

Place the water, caster sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and star anise in a deep pot, on medium heat, bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat. Steep the sliced oranges into the syrup mixture for around 15 minutes. Pour in 1 bottle of red wine (the deeper, the better).

Reheat the wine and fruity syrup mixture, but do not boil. Strain the wine, using a sieve and serve hot.

Preparing Mulled Wine (6686)

Preparing Mulled Wine (6689)

The recipe is here, ready for the cold weather, whenever that hits you! You guys in Oz – are you next? Enjoy.

Rob x

Anything-you-want-to-add-to Cake!

Cranberry-Cake-(5957)

Pretty weird as a title I know, but that’s how I felt when I baked this little beauty. My chocolate bakes which I have promised you will be posted soon, but today I thought about writing about a simple Madeira style cake which I love to prepare when I’m really up against it. I can never *not* have anything good to eat in this house, and neither should you – not that you must listen to everything I tell you but it’s nice to be prepared! Also there’s no need to remind my lovely readers that J eats for four, e di più!

I have been meaning to post this recipe for quite a while (I think I made this for the first time in the beginning of summer) but never came round to writing about it. Here it is today though. My inspiration comes from a recipe which you can find in Nigella’s HTBADG for Cherry Almond Loaf Cake. It’s a fantastic cake because you can replace the dried cherries with any other dried fruit you fancy. It’s as simple as that really. I love it because it’s easy and good for those days when chocolate won’t do either – a rarity, but it can happen. I used cranberries which worked really well. They are my favourites! One thing I will say is that since this cake is very moist, it has a tendency to take a bit longer than usual to bake completely. And it might remain moist in the middle, especially if you accidentally pierce a berry, but on the whole, a skewer or knife should come out clean. OK, here we go:

  • 200g dried cranberries
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 225g soft butter
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 6 x 15ml tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 3. Grease and line a loaf tin.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar till they become creamy and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs slowly, then the vanilla extract.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and slowly fold them into the egg mixture, with the ground almonds.

Fold the dried cranberries and the milk and pour this cake batter into the prepared loaf tin. Don’t worry if the mixture seems thick. It’s supposed to be that way.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, but most importantly when a skewer comes out totally clean. Leave in the tin on a wire rack until the cake cools completely.

Enjoy!

Rob x

Spice Cake

Apple-Spice-Cake-(6150)

Honestly, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like cake…well…come to think of it, I do, but let’s not go into that. It hasn’t been *that* hot in Surrey but we had some summer weather lately so I wasn’t doing much baking. I made this cake quite a while ago and I loved it. I cannot take call the credit for it because it came to me via the National Trust, with little changes (found on their Teatime Baking Book). The story behind why I like this recipe so much is simple: I am always on the lookout for a good winter cake which resembles a Christmas cake but without the extra richness and without the extra faff. Faff here means making it 3 weeks before, putting extra booze every few days, and because of that the blessed thing usually lasts until July. Don’t get me wrong, you know that I *have* found the best ever fruit cake for Christmas, but this is a good alternative. Try it if you can and tell me what you think.

  • 450g plain flour, sifted
  • 4 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 225g white shortening, softened at room temperature (I used Trex)
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 175g sultanas
  • 175g currants
  • 1 small apple, grated
  • 300ml milk
  • 2 teaspoons water (or milk)
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons demerara sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and grease and line a square cake tin, preferably a 20cm one, but I made this in a 23cm one and it worked well.
  2. In a large bowl mix the flour, spice and rub in the shortening. Add the dried fruit, sugar, grated apple and mix very very well.
  3. Now add all the milk, the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. When the dough is fairly wet, pour into the prepared cake tin and make the top smooth. Sprinkle with the demerara sugar and bake for around 45 minutes. Every oven is different so the baking time may vary. Insert a skewer or knife in the middle. If it comes out clean, your cake is done.

Perfect with tea on a cold autumn day. Enjoy!

Rob x