This is the second in my series of Lent posts on simple baking. After pancakes we move on to muffins, and the first item that is actually baked.
The word muffins is used for all sorts of things, including split and toasted English muffins, made with yeast, and those cakey things sold in plastic wrappers with a spookily long shelf life. We’re not talking about either of those here. What we’re aiming for is a not-too-sweet bun, with some pieces of nuts or fruit adding texture, that’s moist and quite good with breakfast or a cup of tea. The classic would be a blueberry muffin, the firm berries providing little pockets of purple juice, but in this case, I’m doing raspberries, because that’s what I had in the freezer. And I like raspberries better.
The logic for moving from pancakes to muffins is that the mixture is made in a similar way: you mix dry ingredients, including flour and baking powder, and add wet ingredients, including milk and egg, and mix together very briefly. This is a thicker mix, so it is baked in a muffin tin in the oven instead of being cooked in a pan.
My preferred recipe for muffins uses mashed bananas as part of the wet ingredients. I think this gives a great flavour, and it helps to use up the over ripe bananas that I always seem to have. However, I’m trying to make these recipes as straightforward as possible, and you don’t always have bananas just lying around. So this is a plain version. But if you find yourself with bananas on the turn, I urge you to try one of the recipes in the Variations section below.
This version can be used with other berries instead – blueberries would work very well (it’s originally adapted from Nigella Lawson’s blueberry muffin recipe). Frozen berries can be easier to work with, as they don’t smush when you stir them in. Or you can use other fruit, chopped nuts, citrus zest or chocolate chips as the flavouring instead. As these muffins are quite plain, it’s also nice to add something crunchy to the top – crunchy sugar, and chopped nuts or flaked almonds are good. But all these things are optional and flexible. Start with something straightforward and go from there.
In addition to scales and measuring cups:
- Wooden spoon / silicone spatula
- Jug or small bowl for wet ingredients
- Muffin tin (can be pretty cheap, doesn’t need to be non stick if you’re using cases)
- Muffin paper cases
- Spring-loaded ice cream scoop (entirely optional, but really good for dividing muffin batter into cases. If you get addicted to muffins, get one).
- 100ml/g milk (as before, milliliters and grams are the same thing for milk and water)
- 100g yoghurt
- 1 large egg
- 75ml vegetable oil (near enough 75g)
- 200g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- pinch of salt
- 75g caster sugar
- 200g raspberries – fresh or frozen
- flaked almonds
- demerara sugar – a couple of tablespoons of each
Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C if it’s a fan oven.
Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Use a whisk to combine them, and make sure the baking powder and bicarbonate are distributed through the flour.
Measure the wet ingredients into a large jug or a small bowl. Use a whisk or a fork to break up the egg and combine it all together.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix the two together gently. Once they are most of the way combined, but still with dry patches, add the raspberries. Frozen berries are easier to mix in, but fresh are good too.
Divide the mixture between the muffin cases. Sprinkle a few flaked almonds and half a teaspoon of sugar onto each muffin. Bake for 20 minutes at 180C.
Once they are golden brown on top, and they spring back if you press the top gently with your finger. Leave the muffins to cool for five minutes in the tin, then lift them out using the cases and set to cool on a wire rack (a grill pan will also work).
Muffins are best eaten on the same day, or the day after. If you want to keep them longer, the best thing to do is put them in a plastic box or a ziplock bag and freeze soon after baking.
Dan Lepard has a recipe for mocha fig muffins that are both dairy and egg free.
Marmalade makes a good muffin – it adds moisture from the pectin in the marmalade.