Blueberry muffins

I’ve been neglecting my blog – I think I do this every year about this time and I suspect others do too. Journalists call this the silly season: there’s so little news (and so few journalists about to report it) during the summer that there is a trend towards fluffy, odd little pieces of news. I imagine this year, though there is plenty of people taking leave, that there is enough ‘non-fluffy’ news to report on. We’ve managed a wet week in Cornwall ourselves, and for the rest of our two weeks’ leave I have just not been able to face sitting at the makeshift, uncomfortable ‘desk’ until i’d had some clear time away from it, so the blog has been a casualty.

I know you’re thinking why on earth do a blueberry muffin recipe; there’s plenty about? I’ve seen a few appear over the past couple of months and they’ve struck me as basically recipes for large fairy cakes (cup cakes). Not muffins: cake. Muffins need some element of sour dairy in their ingredients. Here I’ve developed one which uses milk + lemon juice, rather than buttercream (which is more traditional, but not always easy to get a hold of).

By adding a sour element, it helps the baking powder chemical reaction to work and gives both a tang and a really springy texture to the muffin.

Notes

  • You can substitute any in-season fruit. I tested this recipe twice with blueberries and once with picked hedgerow blackberries. I can imagine it’d be perfectly adaptable to raspberries, chopped up plums/nectarines/peaches/apples, slightly stewed rhubarb, gooseberries and more.
  • Do put the baking powder in last. Any chemical leavener starts its reaction immediately but due to the amount of lemon juice and fruit in this recipe, the chemical reaction will be quick and vigorous and needs to happen in the oven, not while you’re still mixing! For further information please see my Chemical leaveners / raising agents post.
  • Makes 8 large muffins or 10 smaller ones (using fairy cake cases).
  • If you don’t have pearl sugar, you can substitute a large granulated sugar instead.
  • Takes about 45 minutes – 20 minutes prep, 25 minutes bake time

Equipment

  • One large bowl
  • One small bowl
  • Bun tin with 12 bun cavities (or two x 6-cavity trays)
  • Muffin cases (or large fairy/cup cake cases)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Flexible spatula
  • Large spoon and a fork
  • For measuring: scales, teaspoon, tablespoon and small liquid measuring jug

Ingredients

  • 1 small yellow or slightly browning banana (or half a large banana)
  • 30 ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 medium eggs (approx 125g weight including shells)
  • 70g caster sugar
  • 55g demerara sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 135g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g blueberries

plus:

  • 1 tablespoon of pearl sugar (sometimes also called nibbed sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons of flaked almonds

Method

  1. Turn on your oven to warm: 170 C for a fan oven or 190 C for a conventional oven
  2. Place your muffin cases in the bun tin(s) – this makes 8 large or 10 regular size muffins
  3. In the small bowl, mash the banana with the back of a fork with the lemon juice and the milk. Leave to one side
  4. In the large bowl cream the sugars and the butter together
  5. Break in the eggs and add the flour (do NOT add the baking powder yet). Mix until thoroughly combined
  6. Mix in the banana mixture and then add the baking powder and give a thorough, quick stir
  7. Add in about three quarters (approx 75g) of the blueberries into the mixture and stir gently in (no need to weigh, this can be a best guess!)
  8. Portion out the mixture between the cases. You should fill each case to just under level with the case edge – that is, they should be pretty full
  9. Portion out the remaining blueberries equally on top of each of the filled muffin cases and just slightly push each blueberry down a little into the batter. Don’t fully submerge them. This is so that the blueberries are nicely distributed through each muffin as you bite into them
  10. Now sprinkle over the flaked almonds and the pearl sugar
  11. Place straight into the middle of the oven
  12. Bake for 25 minutes and leave to cool before eating
Blueberry muffin recipe - inksugarspice website

Blueberry and mascarpone loaf cake

IMG_0447While I was trying to get my gnashers round a giant, but highly delicious, doorstop sandwich filled with brie, honey, walnuts and figs and he a salt beef panini in a deli caff this summer my husband had already mentally moved on to desserts and was eyeing up the sweet treats. There sat a gorgeous looking mascarpone and blueberry loaf cake.

We didn’t succumb at the time (how disciplined was that? And how unlike me…!). However, I just had to try to recreate a similar cake it as it sounded like a fabulous combination of flavours. I don’t know what the original tasted like, nor could I find out the recipe from the staff at the time, but what I’ve come up with is a lovely cake indeed.

I’ve ‘pimped’ it up considerably from the benign but delicious title, placing honey and Cointreau in it too.

A little note: I’m currently off work nursing a recovering left hand, having had a minor op. As such, I can barely dress myself, let alone bake and cook. I knew I would be like this for a while as I had the same operation on my right hand last year. So, I stockpiled some recipes, photos and posts this summer in anticipation of being out of order for a few weeks and this recipe was actually prepared and written in mid September, just before I was operated on and has been scheduled for posting. I should be back to full capability (and back to the day job too!) before the end of October (2018).

IMG_0438

Notes

  • It’s moist, spongy and bursting with oozy blueberries
  • The batter is very thick for this cake – rather more like a Madeira or pound cake than a typical sponge
  • it will crack slight on top – I happen to think it looks really nice this way

Equipment

  • Bowl
  • Electric whisk or stand mixer (as the batter is thick it’d be rather heavy going with a balloon whisk)
  • Spatula (a silicone one is best)
  • Loaf tin (roughly 19cm x 10 cm)
  • Baking parchment or greaseproof paper

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter (room temperature) – 80g
  • Soft brown caster sugar – 75g (plus an extra tablespoonful for scattering)
  • Runny honey – 2 tablespoons
  • Large eggs, whole – 2
  • Plain flour (I used 00 Italian flour, but any decent plain will do) – 230g
  • Mascarpone – 210g
  • Cointreau or triple sec (or any orange liqueur) – 25ml
  • Milk – 25ml
  • Lime juice – juice of half a lime
  • Baking powder – 2 tablespoons
  • Blueberries – a small punnet (about 130g)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan / 200°C conventional
  2. Grease then line your loaf tin
  3. Cream the butter, caster sugar and honey together in a bowl until fluffed up a little and turned paler in colour
  4. Add the eggs, flour, mascarpone, Cointreau, milk, baking powder and lime juice and whisk in
  5. Gently mix in the fruit (it doesn’t matter if you burst a few, this gives a nice contrast in the cake)
  6. Fill the prepared tin with the mixture and level off as best as possible
  7. Sprinkle over the additional soft brown caster sugar
  8. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 55 minutes, testing with a skewer to see if it’s done (the skewer will come out clean when it’s ready)
  9. leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes then carefull transfer to a wire rack (the cake is very moist and may split if you are not careful with it – when fully cold it is more rigid)
  10. Enjoy like any normal cake, but also works as a dessert with ice cream, custard or additional fruit

IMG_0436

Blueberry and thyme muffins

image1(2)What is it about muffins? I can’t quite put my finger on how to describe their taste and texture, it being quite similar yet oh-still-so different from a fairy cake. The flour used, even when a high white plain, goes a nutty, wholemeal-ish taste and the density of the sponge is so different, almost wet. It’s the precise ratios of ingredients, the use of both baking powder and extra bicarbonate that make these subtle changes.

These muffins are not quite as sickly sweet as those you might pick up with your cup o’ mocha-chocka-chai-latte-grande. I’ve purposely reduced the sugar, replacing much of it with honey too, so it is a more acceptable level of sweet while still keeping enough sugar back to create the baked-on crunch topping. I’ve also introduced some thyme leaves to give the cakes a little twist and to keep their taste fresh, and these use yogurt not the usual cream, extra milk or extra butter.

Notes

These make 12 muffins, but do use a deep bun tin if you have one rather than a traditional shallow fairy cake/bun tin.

I created my own muffin cases, by cutting out 15cm X 15cm squares of baking paper. Take a glass or beaker with a bottom which fits into the base of one of the bun tins. Squash a square of baking paper into a bun tin with the glass, turn the glass and paper over and then smooth the baking paper square firmly down the sides of the glass. This will create a perfectly usable case. I’ll try to create a video of how to do this and include it here soon.

Equipment

  • Deep bun tins (this makes twelve so you need at least this amount of cavities)
  • Paper cases – either bought or create your own (see above)
  • Large bowl and smaller heatproof bowl
  • Spatula and spoon

Ingredients

  • Plain flour – 300g
  • Bicarbonate of soda – 1 teaspoon
  • Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Soft brown sugar – 80g (please do use soft brown or Demerara – the muffins really are very different if you use white caster or granulated)
  • Fine salt – a pinch
  • Honey – 2 tablespoons
  • Unsalted butter – 105g – this butter should be quite soft but not melted
  • Eggs, large – 2
  • Plain yogurt – 110g
  • Blueberries, fresh – 150g
  • Freshly picked thyme leaves – about 2 heaped teaspoons
  • Extra sugar (Demerara, granulated or pearl sugar) for a crust – about 2 tablespoons

Method

  1. Turn your oven on to 190°C fan, 210°C conventional
  2. Prepare the bun tins by filling with the paper cases, you don’t need to grease them or use release spray
  3. Pick your fresh thyme – and strip off the leaves, discarding the stalks
  4. Put all of the dry ingredients (flour, bicarb, baking powder, sugar and salt) in the large bowl, sifting them together with your fingers or giving them a light stir
  5. Make sure your butter is really soft, but not melted
  6. Give the two eggs a light whisk in a separate bowl
  7. Mix in the butter, yogurt, honey and eggs into the dry ingredients until thoroughly mixed
  8. Now gently mix in the blueberries and thyme
  9. Divide the mix equally between the 12 cases
  10. Sprinkle over the extra pearl sugar (or other sugar that you’re using)
  11. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes
  12. Check them after about 12 minutes and turn the trays round if they’re already getting brown on one side
  13. Leave to cool and then enjoy 🙂