Cake – a quest for an everyday muffin

I’ve been in denial, but now I need to accept that I have a problem and address it. I like cake.

I make cake at home, I share it with friends. I bake birthday cakes for people. I think most of the cakes I make are better than those that I buy.

And yet, I buy far too many expensive, mediocre cakes and biscuits during the week at work.

THIS HAS GOT TO STOP.

You see, the problem is that I tell myself I don’t need cake in the week, that it’s just for dessert and occasional weekend treats. But this is not true. I eat some form of cake, biscuit or pastry every day, often twice a day. So what I should really do is make my own cakes, try and make them as healthy as I can, with whole grains and fruit in, and take them with me to work, so that I won’t buy the Paul Pain au Chocolat, the Eat Banana cake or the Pret Flapjack thing. (I might have to stick with the Leon Lemon and Ginger cake for a while, just until I figure out the recipe).

The first step then, was to bake some muffins, which freeze very happily, are very accommodating of modification, and fill that mid-morning gap perfectly.

Gordon Ramsay has a nice recipe for blueberry muffins in his ‘Healthy Appetite’ book, which uses wholemeal flour and mashed bananas, so that seemed like  a good place to start.

And then, I was reading Eggbeater, and came across this description by shuna of a muffin she had made for the weekend pastry basket at 10 Downing Street (the New York restaurant where she works):

” buckwheat-banana-walnut-coffee-candied ginger muffin”

Doesn’t that sound amazing? I knew I had to give it a go.

So I started with the Gordon Ramsay recipe and modified it. Unfortunately my modifications weren’t bold enough the first time. The coffee made the dough convincingly brown, but didn’t contribute much to the flavour. The ginger appeared when you got a nugget of candied ginger, but otherwise was quiet. So I tried again, and increased the quantities of flavouring, adding the ginger syrup, and more coffee. I ended up with a great flavourful muffin. The bitter flavours of the coffee and walnuts balance the sugar and bananas to make a not-to-sweet breakfast muffin. The walnuts and demerara give crunch and the bananas keep the whole thing moist. And I get to tell myself that its entirely healthful, so I can tuck in every day of the week.

Ginger coffee walnut banana muffins

Introduction

Based on a single line from Shuna Fish Lydon: buckwheat-banana-walnut-coffee-candied ginger muffin”.

The recipe is adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe for blueberry muffins in ‘Healthy Appetite’.

This is a great breakfast muffin, because the bitter flavours of the coffee and walnuts balance the bananas and sugar to make sure it is not too sweet.

Tips

You can freeze bananas when they are ripe, even all brown, for baking with later. They will go very squashy, but that doesn’t matter if you’re going to mash them up anyway.

Flour develops gluten when it comes into contact with liquid – the protein that makes bread strong and elastic. If this develops in muffins, it makes them seem tough and chewy, so minimise the gluten by keeping the dry and wet ingredients separate until the last minute, and by then mixing gently together until they are just combined.

Ingredients

  • 2 large ripe bananas

  • 200g wholemeal self-raising flour and 100g rye flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • pinch of salt

  • 100g light brown muscovado sugar

  • 1 tsp ground ginger

  • 2 tbsp of instant espresso powder dissolved in 3 tbsp of just-boiled water, or a double shot of espresso

  • 180g yoghurt and 40ml semi-skimmed milk (or 220ml buttermilk)

  • 1 egg

  • 75ml vegetable oil

  • 150g walnuts, toasted and chopped

  • 50g candied stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped (about 3 balls), plus 1 tbsp of the syrup

  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar –> to sprinkle on the top

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.

  • Mash the bananas.

  • Put the flours, baking powder, bicarb, salt, sugar and ground ginger into a large bowl and combine with a whisk, to make sure the leavening is evening mixed through the flour.

  • Add the yoghurt, milk, bananas, egg, coffee, ginger syrup and oil and stir gently until just combined, but still with a couple of floury streaks.

  • Add the chopped nuts and ginger and fold in until fairly evenly distributed. Mix gently, and don’t overmix or the texture will become tough as the gluten in the flour develops.

  • Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases in a muffin tin. Sprinkle the top of each muffin generously with demerara sugar.

  • Bake for about 20 minutes or until the tops are brown and crusted, and the top springs back. If you are unsure, test with a toothpick or skewer to check there is no liquid mixture in the centre.

  • Cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then remove the cases to a cooling rack until completely cold. Eat immediately while warm, or freeze on the same day. You can take out a frozen muffin to take to work, and it should thaw during the day (or you can help it along with a quick burst in a microwave).

Published by

louise-marston

I’m Louise, and I’m a compulsive baker, cookbook hoarder and a bit of a food geek. I learnt to cook at home, and later at Tante Marie’s cooking school in San Francisco. With a science degree and a background in IT analysis, I like to understand why a recipe works, not just how to do it. Why the rules are there and when they can be broken.

3 thoughts on “Cake – a quest for an everyday muffin

  1. As well as being healthier and cheaper homemade cake is undoubtedly so much better. My downfall are the biscuits at work – there’s always some on the go in the office – full of cheap unhealthy ingredients as they are I still manage to consume a fair number!

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