Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Muffins 101

“Did you know you can make cupcakes out of anything?”

I’ve probably seen The Cat in The Hat (the Mike Myers version) more times than anybody on the face of the planet  (let’s just say my Gorgeous Boy likes what he likes), but I really love the scene where Cat’s giving cupcakes the infomercial treatment. Who wouldn't like a Kupkake-inator of their very own?

Anyway, point is, the same can be said of muffins. And there’s really not much nicer than a basket of warm, fragrant, moist, crumbly muffins for the breakfast table – possibly accompanied by some nice homemade smoothies. They only take about 10 minutes to get to put-in-the-oven stage, too.*

(I should state right at the outset that I’m talking about muffins, here, not those over-sized, over-sweetened cakey things sweating in plastic bags in the cafe at the leisure centre.)

The basic principle is this: take a bowl of dry ingredients (basically flour, baking powder, sugar and a pinch of salt) and add another bowl of wet ingredients (which would usually include egg, milk and a small amount of fat such as melted butter or vegetable oil). Mix until just combined – but only just.** Put into greased muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes. Take out. Wait until they’re cool enough to handle. Eat.

So that’s the basic idea, and once you’ve got that down you can modify the recipe according to your whim. Add oats, dried fruits, spices, nuts or seeds to the dry ingredients, mashed bananas, grated apples or carrots to the wet. You could use buttermilk or yoghurt instead of milk, hell, you could probably use leftover custard (actually, you probably really could. Note to self: try that next time I have leftover custard in the fridge).

Anyway here’s a riff on the muffin theme that makes a great breakfast. See what you think and drop me a comment.

Breakfast muffins

Makes 12

In the ‘dry’ bowl:
180g wholemeal flour
50g plain flour
50g rolled oats
pinch of salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, etc)
2 tbsp raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a few brazil (or other) nuts, chopped, if you like

In the ‘wet’ bowl
225ml milk
1 egg
55g melted butter or vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 apple, grated

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and lightly oil a 12-hole muffin tin.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stir until just combined and divide between the holes of the muffin tin. Sprinkle a few oats on the top, if you like. Put into the oven for 20 minutes, or until pale brown and risen. Let them cool for a few moments in the tin before loosening with a knife and turning out onto a serving plate – definitely best eaten warm and fresh from the oven.

Family-friendliness rating: My kids don’t like these. I’m determined to convert them, though, and it’s probably just a question of finding the right combination of ingredients. Chocolate will probably help. Mmm…. Banana and chocolate with just a (barely perceptible) hint of goody-two-shoes rolled oats. Watch this space.

Cleanup rating: Not too bad. I hate washing up muffin tins, though. And the dishwasher never seems to get them properly clean.

Can you freeze it? Yes. I always freeze the leftovers and re-heat them in the microwave, wrapped in a dampened paper towel.

*Of course, this doesn’t include the time you’ll need to unload the dishwasher, load it up with last night’s dishes, get rid of the takeaway cartons and put out the empties for recycling.

**You’re not supposed to ‘over-mix’ muffins. I don’t know what happens if you do. Seven years’ bad luck? A prison stretch? Bad vibes? 

STOP PRESS!!! I made a batch of these this afternoon just to test the recipe (yes! This is a fully-tested recipe) and thought "what the heck? I'll take these to school to give the kids for their snack" (because, trust me, life is barely worth living if I show up to school without something to eat...) and they DEVOURED two each. Hurrah!

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