My choir had an intensive workshop last Saturday, so I took along some blueberry muffins to share with everyone. They were very well received (that means they were all eaten), and people asked me for the recipe. The only problem is…. I don’t actually have a recipe. I’ve used various recipes for blueberry muffins in the past, but found them all a bit stodgy and cakey, so for the past few months I’ve been trying to develop my own. I think I’ve almost gotten it right now, or at least, right enough to share.
First of all, preheat your oven to 200 degrees, or maybe just a bit more. Then prepare the blueberries. In my case, this means getting them out of the freezer and defrosting them. They need to be thoroughly defrosted. Then drain them, so that you don’t have lots of extra fluid going into the mix. I use about 1 and 2/3 cup of frozen berries, which yields about a cup of defrosted and drained berries.
I use a basic muffin base of 1 and 1/2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar. You could use 1 and 1/2 cups of self raising flour and omit the rising agents, or you could use 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder instead of using baking soda and cream of tartar. I tend to use the baking soda and cream of tartar mix for fruity muffins, and baking powder for chocolatey or savoury muffins.
Sift the flour and rising agents and add 1/2 cup of sugar.
Set the dry ingredients aside, and prepare the wet ingredients. First melt 50grams of butter, and set it aside to cool a little. Then beat together 1 egg, 1 cup of plain yoghurt, and 1/2 cup of milk.
Next, prepare the grated rind of one lemon, and set it ready for use.
At this stage, you should have a bowl of dry ingredients, and the wet ingredients, including the blueberries, all ready for use. The last thing to do is to prepare your muffin pans. Use a standard 12 cup muffin pan. I used to use paper muffin pan liners, but eventually I decided that they made the muffins too moist, so these days I use my metal pans, thoroughly greased. I use a canola cooking spray to grease them, but butter smeared over each cup works just as well.
From now on, you will want to work very quickly. Beat the lemon rind through the yoghurt and egg mix, and then pour it into the dry ingredients. Mix it through, but while you still have flour showing, add the melted butter, and mix again. Then just before the last bits of dry flour disappear, sprinkle the blueberries over the top, and fold them through. The trick for getting a lovely light muffin is not to mix too much. If you overmix them, they get chewy. This is where your mix will go awry if the blueberries are still a bit icy. The cold will make mixing difficult, so you will need to do more of it, and your muffins will be so chewy that they will bounce back at you if you drop them on the floor (this is the voice of bitter experience speaking here). I also find that blueberries are quite fragile, so they break apart and turn into a smudgey mess if you mix them too much (also the voice of experience).
Spoon the batter into the muffin pans, and put them into the oven for 12 minutes.
While the muffins are baking, prepare the lemon glaze. Juice the lemon you have used for lemon rind, and put the lemon juice into a cup with 6tsp of sugar (extra). Leave the cup sitting on the bench while you wait for the muffins to cook.
The muffins will take about 12 or 13 minutes to cook. They should feel springy on top when they are done. Take them out of the oven, and let them rest for a minute. Then lever them out carefully. Because these are fruity muffins, they can come apart easily if you have ended up with several large chunks of fruit touching the metal of the pan. However I find that I can usually get them out intact if I take it slowly.
Put the muffins on a drying rack. Then straightaway, while they are still hot, glaze them with the lemon and sugar mix. Put a teaspoon of mix onto the top of each muffin, using the back of the spoon to spread the mix. The juice will run off the sides, so it pays to put something underneath the drying rack to collect the drips. I use a very old metal baking pan. Then leave the muffins to dry.
This muffin mix is very light. I think that you could add another 1/4 cup of flour (add more rising agents: 1/4 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp more cream of tarter, or 1/4 tsp more baking powder should do the trick). Or you could cut the milk down a little, to 1/3 of a cup.
You could also use this base for other fruity muffins. I’ve been experimenting with rhubarb recently. When I’ve got that recipe about right, I’ll share it too.
First of all, you buy a packet or two of Choco-ade biscuits.
Then you select one.
(Description: round biscuit with fluted shortcake edges, topped with chocolate)
You nibble away the shortcake edges, so that just the bottom layer of shortcake is left under the topping.
(Description: base of Choco-ade biscuit, showing shortcake, hints of jam under it, and edges of chocolate topping)
Then you lick off the jammy filling, and eat the circle of chocolate.
(Description: round of chocolate with bits of jam on it)
I can’t show you the eaten biscuit, because, well, it’s eaten.
The last step: you think carefully about whether or not you should eat another one. You need to be careful about this, because eating two at once is really half a Choco-ade too much, as you know from previous experience.
You haven’t been able to go through this process for twenty years! But thanks to Griffin’s and one woman who campaigned for the return of Choco-ades, now you can. Amber Johnson, I am very grateful to you.
Griffin’s has done a stunning job on the relaunch of Choco-ade biscuits. There were big stories in the major daily newspapers on Monday morning, and a segment on a popular news show on TV3 on Monday evening. The first batch of the biscuits is being auctioned on Trade-Me (NZ’s on-line auction site), with the proceeds going to Amber Johnson’s chosen charity, Plunket. The biscuits weren’t in my local supermarket on Monday, but they were there by Tuesday, and apparently they are available all over the country now, so Griffin’s got the logistics right too. It’s all very well done feel good stuff. Also, the biscuits taste delicious.
But buried in the story in the NZ Herald is a clue about what’s really going on.
Mrs Johnson has been involved in the production, flying up to Auckland to take part in a taste test at Griffin’s Papakura factory.
She was keen to make sure the new biscuit is as close to the original as possible, especially as they are now manufactured by machines, not handmade as they were in the 1980s.
They were dropped because they were too expensive to make, and now they’re back because they can be made by machine. No doubt Amber Johnson’s campaign came along at the right time, and helped to persuade Griffin’s that there was a market for the biscuits. But ultimately, it was about the economics of making them.
And the price? At my supermarket, $5.29 for a pack of 12. Ouch.
Friends came to dinner recently, and brought us a large bag of limes from their prolific tree.
(Description: a dozen or so limes in a decorative colander)
Yes, these look like lemons, but I assure you that they are limes.
So, what to do with a dozen limes? I thought of lime cordial, and lime marmalade, but then I realised that the easiest thing to make would be lime curd, otherwise known as lemon honey, but made with limes.
My first step was to wash and dry and sterilise some jars and lids. This sounds complicated and drawn out, but all it involved was ransacking my store of jars and lids, and putting them through the dishwasher. I routinely keep jam jars and olive jars and sauce jars, and their lids, and woe betide any husband who throws them out. Once the jars were washed and dried, I put them on a baking tray in the oven, which I heated to 100 degrees. Ordinarily I would aim to heat the jars for about 20 minutes, but given that lemon honey and lime curd are ordinarily stored in the refrigerator, I wasn’t quite so concerned about being ultra sterile.
My lemon honey recipe advises using four large juicy lemons. I figured that about 6 to 8 limes would be about right. These limes are comparatively large, and juicy, so I used 6. I grated the lime skins with a very fine grater and then juiced them. I ended up with about 2 tablespoons of grated lime zest, and about a cup of juice.
The zest and juice went into a small saucepan together with 100 grams of butter, chopped into small cubes, 2 cups of sugar, and 4 beaten eggs. I stirred the mix over a low temperature until the sugar had dissolved and the butter melted, and then I increased the temperature a little and kept stirring until the mix thickened up. It took about four or five minutes for the mix to thicken to the stage where it felt heavy on the wooden spoon.
Once the mix was thick enough, I removed it from the heat, and took the tray of jars out of the oven. I poured the curd into a pre-warmed pyrex jug, and from there into the jars.
(Description: curd in jug, being poured into small glass jar)
As you can see from the picture, the curd is very pourable, but it is thickish – thicker than say, pouring cream, but thinner than say, mayonnaise. The ingredients yielded just under four cups of lime curd, which filled three jars full, and another jar about four fifths full. I put the lids on, and once the jars cooled down, they went into the fridge, where the curd thickened up some more.
(Description: four jars of gloriously yellow lime curd)
A couple of those jars are destined for our neighbours on either side, but the others are for us. I had some on toast for breakfast this morning: it was lusciously smooth, and sweet, and tart.
We’ve been in transit for what seems like months and months and months now, ‘though in reality, it’s only six weeks. The last couple of weeks in a motel in GreenhillsTown have been the most tedious of all, not helped at all by severely limited cooking facilities.
Two small electric elements, plus a microwave, but no oven. The elements are controlled by two small, unmarked dials under the bench. It took a certain amount of experimenting before we knew which dial related to which element, and which direction to turn them in to heat them up. In addition, the dials rub together, so turning one element on means that the other one will start up too. We were not impressed. We could have created a fuss and asked our removal manager to arrange something better, but that would have meant moving again, and taking custom away from the moteliers here, who have been very kind.
So we decided to buy one of these, which I have been coveting for quite some time.
An electric frypan. Excellent for pikelets, steak, fish, even cooking up roasts. Such as a simple roast rack of lamb. I got two small racks of lamb, and coated the top sides with seedy mustard. Then I put them in the pan at a moderate heat for about 35 minutes, just enough time to cook up some Jersey Benne potatoes (oh, bliss!), and prepare some broccoli.
Once the lamb was done, I let it rest for a few minutes, and then sliced each rack into small chops. A few on each person’s plate, and some taties and broccoli, and there it is – a bog standard meal of meat and two veg. The Jersey Bennes were tossed in a tiny amount of butter, and I drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the broccoli.
Yes, this is a small serving. But my little bees are not big eaters.
Cooking in the electric frying pan is very much like cooking in a camp oven, save that in a camp oven, you can get good all-round heat by heaping embers on top of the oven. I’ve never cooked in a camp oven myself, but my mother is expert, as is my friend Melissa. A challenge for camping next summer, perhaps.
We’re moving into a rental house tomorrow. It has a proper oven and an excellent hob. Thank goodness.
Oh yummy, yummy, yummy!
I’ve been making some lovely chocolate muffins for a few years now. It’s a quick and easy mix, and so plain that I usually dress it up a little, with some chocolate chips stirred through the mix, or perhaps a chocolate button in the middle. But a couple of weeks ago, I realised that I might be able to make them with a spoonful of caramel in the middle. So I did, with the assistance of my girls. They are truly divine. You should race out and buy the ingredients now, and have a go at them yourself. Actually, you’re likely to have most ingredients on hand already, but you may need to get some sweetened condensed milk.
Start by making a small amount of caramel sauce. On our first attempt, the girls and I mixed together 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. The result was so-so: nice enough, but not quite there. Next time, we tried 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 large tablespoon of golden syrup, and 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. The flavour was better – there was a bit of an edge to the caramel, a fuller flavour. The measures are approximate, but the proportions are about right. Opt for more (well-rounded tablespoons) rather than less, so you get more caramel mix.
Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Use one with a heavy base, if possible. Stir over a low heat until all the ingredients have melted and combined, then bring them to a simmer. Reduce the heat, and let the mix cook for about four minutes, stirring every now and then, to make sure that it doesn’t catch. The mix should thicken up quite a bit. It will need to cool and thicken some more before you use it in the muffins, so once the four minutes is up, set the saucepan aside while you prepare the muffins.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius (that’s about 390 – 400 Fahrenheit), and grease your muffin pans (I use spray on canola oil).
The muffin mix itself is a basic one. You can use it for almost any muffin, with variations.
First of all, melt 100gms of butter in a large bowl or jug, and set it aside to cool a little.
Next, sift into a large bowl, 1 and 1/2 cups of flour and 1 and 1/2 tsp of baking powder (or just use 1 and 1/2 cups of self-raising flour), and for chocolate muffins, 2 tablespoons of cocoa.
Stir in 3/4 cup of sugar, and mix well. At this stage, if you were making say, chocolate chip chocolate muffins, you would stir in the chocolate chips (plenty, of course), or the poppy seeds, or any chippy chunky dry ingredients that you thought might enhance the end product. But I’d go with the chocolate version, if I were you.
That’s the dry ingredients done. One of the tricks to successful muffin making is to minimise beating, so next, get all the wet ingredients ready, so you can mix them quickly.
Break one egg into the melted butter, and mix well with a fork. The mix will thicken up a bit. Then add 1 cup of milk to the butter and egg, and mix some more.
Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the butter-egg-milk mix, and stir until the dry ingredients are mixed through. (At this stage, you would add blueberries, or stewed apple, or chunks of peach, or whatever wet variation you fancied, if you were experimenting with the basic mix.)
Using a 12-cup muffin pan, fill each cup about 1/3 to 1/2 full with the mix. A rounded soupspoon is probably about right. Make sure you leave enough mix to cover up the caramel. Using a teaspoon, make a small hollow in the centre of each raw muffin. Then, get the caramel mix, and using a couple of spoons, one to scrape the mix off the other, put about 1/2 teaspoon, or maybe a bit more, of caramel in each hollow. Then use the remaining muffin mix to cover the caramel.
Put the muffins in the oven, and cook for about 12 minutes, until they feel springy to the touch. While they are cooking, scrape the remaining caramel mix onto teaspoons, summon the children, and give them one each. Use a dessertspoon for yourself.
Once the muffins are cooked, let them cool in the pan for a couple of minutes, then put them on a rack. Cool for a few more minutes, and then, enjoy!
It turns out that if you are under a certain age,** you can poke your finger into the caramel and lick it off, or just stick your tongue directly into it, which will definitely enhance the muffin eating experience.
If you are a busy parent, or just plain busy, you may not have time to make the caramel. It turns out that these Cadbury Caramel Buttons do very nicely. I put two into each muffin. Then I eat the rest, all by myself.
* Why, yes! These are inspired by Stef’s excellent Lemon Surprise Cupcakes.
** Probably about 120.