Marvellous Moreish Muffins

I haven’t actually been in the kitchen very much of late as my lovely hubby has been cooking up a succession of delicious curries and Thai dishes for us, I’m hoping he’ll guest spot here one day with his fabulous spicy pork salad but up till now he can’t be persuaded.

That said I have been allowed in to make the odd dessert or two and I have found one of the simplest and most reliable muffin recipe I’ve ever used. And this is what I’m going to share today. This is a quick bake too- no more than 30 minutes start to finish.

This is so simple and delicious that it’s great for novice bakers, kids and old hands alike, and the variety of flavours are as limitless as your imagination!

I will start by giving the plain muffin mix recipe and method then go through a few variations after. These ingredients are enough for 6 large muffins. If you happen to have run out of muffin cases then it works just as well in cupcake cases and you will get 10 ( guess how I found that out!)

Marvellous Moreish Muffins.

In a Bowl

150g Plain Flour
1tsp baking powder

In a large Jug

1 egg
60g sugar
2tbsp oil
100ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
ingredients (Now for the chocoholics amongst us if you want to make chocolate sponge as well, simply replace 25g of your flour with cocoa powder)
Mix the egg,milk, oil and sugar together in the jug.

Pour the egg mixture into the bowl gradually and mix until combined *
IMG_3232
Spoon mixture into cake cases and put the tray in the oven at 160C for 20 until set and cracked at the top if not quite set put back in for a further 5-10 mins
So the plain muffins are delicious, but they are well, plain so let’s have some fun!

*Just before you spoon the mixture into the cups is a great time to start being creative. You can add just about anything here, chunks of fruit, chocolate, nuts or combinations of all 3 of those things. I have found that around 100g of ‘extras’ is about right, but if you are adding things like oats or desiccated coconut you may need a tiny bit more milk as they will absorb some of the moisture in your mix.
IMG_3233
(Now for the chocoholics amongst us if you want to make chocolate sponge as well, simply replace 25g of your flour with cocoa powder)

Here are a few flavours I’ve already tried;
Oatmeal honey and raisin
Apple and cinnamon
Chocolate chunk
Chocolate cranberry and coconut.
Marvellous Moreish Muffins
I’m quite sure I’ll be making more, I’m already tempted for a chocolate and orange, but do let me know what flavours are your favourite.

A Bientôt

Cinnamince PIes

Cinnamince Pie

Mmmmmm Mince Pies

I’m just putting it out there; I LOVE mince pies.

One of the best things for me about the build up to Christmas is the smell of mincemeat gently bubbling inside a crispy pastry shell. Oh just thinking about it makes me want to sing carols and stuff my face with pies – not at the same time obviously, that would be gross.

For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about,  the humble mince pie is a singularly British concoction that starts to appear around mid-November, hangs around for the festive season then disappears for the rest of the year. It is a small sweet pastry shell filled,  not with minced-meat, but with mincemeat. I hope that’s cleared that up.

I’ve been making my own mincemeat filling for a few years now, as it tastes so much better than shop bought,  and of course you can monkey around with it till it tastes just how you like it .Home-made mincemeat is VERY easy to make, but rather time consuming so its best to prepare it reasonably well in advance. The joy of this is that when it comes to actually making the pies, it takes a matter of seconds to fill the pastry cases.

You also get to monkey around with the pastry shell. Some people favour puff pastry, but my preference is definitely shortcrust and of all the different types I’ve tried out, my absolute favourite for mince pies is sweet cinnamon pastry.

This is my favourite mince pie combination to date, I hope you enjoy.

Mincemeat
(can be made up to 3 months in advance… definitely jar it and  leave it overnight before baking. This recipe makes around 1kg.)

200g Apples ( peeled cored and finely diced)
100g shredded suet
175g raisins

100g sultanas

100g currants

175g Brown sugar

1 Orange ( rind and Juice)

1 Lemon ( rind and juice)

2 tsp mixed spice

½tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

4 tsp Armagnac

4tsp Amaretto

add juice to fruit and nutsSimply put all of the ingredients, except the brandy and amaretto, into a large bowl, mix well and leave covered with a cloth for at least 12 hours.

place in an ovenproof dish and bakeStir the mixture well and place in a large dish and bake at 120 degrees for 2- 2&1/2 hours ( dont let it get too dry).

Take it out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

jar and top with greasproof paperOnce cooled stir in the brandy and amaretto and spoon into sterilised jars. Top with greaseproof paper and seal jars.

Cinnamon pastry

200g Flour
100g Butter (diced)
50g Cinnamon sugar*
1 Egg (beaten)
Icing sugar to roll out pastry and dust finished pies. .
(* if you don’t have any cinnamon sugar there is a method here, or you can add 1/4tsp ground cinnamon to regular granulated sugar)

ingredientsCut together the butter and flour until there are no large lumps left. I have this nifty little pastry blender gadget, but a knife works just as well, but a bit slower. Finish by rubbing the flour and butter through your fingers until the mixture looks like sand.

blend pasrtyAdd the sugar and mix well.

Gradually add the beaten egg and bring together with a fork. You only really need a few spoonfuls of the egg as you don’t want your pastry too wet. When it starts to go sticky on your fork use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball. If its too dry add a little more egg, if it’s too wet add a little more flour. (reserve the remaining egg to brush the pastry).

gradually add egg

Kneed well until smooth and crack free, place in a polythene bag and refrigerate for at least half an hour before rolling.

ball pasrty dough, then refrigerateWhen your Pastry is cold and a little stiff, sprinkle your work surface with icing sugar and roll out to desired thickness ( I like about 1/4cm). Cut a large circle and a star for each pie.

roll and cut pastryGrease and flour your baking tin ( I prefer to use a deep tin as this tends to minimise spillage from over boiling in the oven), lightly place your pastry circle into the tin then spoonabout 1&1/2 to 2 tsp of mincemeat into each case. Gently place your star on top and brush with beaten egg.

fill and top piescook  in a 200 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brow. Remove to a wire tray and allow to cool for 5 to 10  minutes.

Cinnamince PiesWhen still warm, dust with icing sugar and eat immediately. You’ve waited long enough 🙂

You can serve with cream or crémé fraîche and i can assure you that they are just as tasty cold ( if they make it that far)

A Bientôt.

Apples apples and more apples.

As I mentioned in the last post we haven’t had much luck with the garden this year. Last year our old apple tree yielded around 150 to 200 kg of fruit, much more than we could ever use, but this year we had a total of 6. Not 6 kilos, 6 apples, barely enough for a crumble. So when my friend asked me if I could use ‘a few’ from her garden I was understandably keen. Her definition of ‘a few’ equals slightly more than mine.

APPLES!

So 3 crates of apples and no freezer…. I managed to offload ‘a few’ to my neighbours within minutes of arriving home decreasing the crate count to 2, but that’s still quite a lot of apples to be getting on with. So let’s  do just that shall we?

A quick forage in the cupboards and everything was gathered and ready for a spot of  jamming.

Apple pie jam

300g sultanas
100 ml pumpkin jelly*
100 ml water

Gently heat the water and and jelly until the jelly has dissolved then take off the heat and add the sultanas. Soak the sultanas in the liquid while you are peeling the apples to plump them up nicely. *If you don’t happen to have any pumpkin jelly in your fridge then apricot jelly or jam is perfectly sufficient.

Now pull up a chair, put something interesting on the telly, get yourself a cuppa and settle down for the decidedly boring task of peeling, coring and dicing apples…

2 kg of peeled and diced apples
200g finely chopped crystallised ginger**
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 kg sugar.

** if you do not have crystallised ginger then use finely chopped ginger root and add 100g of sugar to the overall amount.

Usually for jam you would use a kilo of sugar for each kilo of fruit, but because of the extra sugar in the crystallised Ginger and the Pumpkin Jelly used to soak the sultanas, I reduced the amount to 1 kg.
Once the apples are ready, add them to the pan with the sultanas, ginger, cinnamon and sugar and heat gently, stirring until the mixture begins to boil. Simmer the mixture for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

just keep stirring
After 30 minutes of simmering the apple pieces should be soft and spongy and full of flavour, and now is the time to turn up the heat. Boil furiously for 10 to 15 minutes until the liquid is sticky and thick. Take off the heat and pot up into sterilised jars. Screw the lids on tightly and allow to cool for several hours. These quantities will make around 5 standard sized pots of jam, or 6 or 7 pots if you have a collection of higgledy piggledy jars like I do.

higgledy piggledy jars
This is a chunky thick jam with a strong flavour and is fantastic dolloped onto warm scones or freshly buttered toast, it also makes a delicious filling for jam tarts.

Well that’s 1/2 a crate of apples gone, now what to do with the rest?

A Bientôt.