Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Making it Easy

Muffins are probably one of the easiest to for a learner cook to make. Often I put the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet into a jug, then leave them overnight to throw together the next morning. They do not want over-mixing, so simple enough for children to try. Best eaten the day they are made, they can be savoury as well as sweet and so easy to add different flavours to the basic mix. Here are some suggestions:
Basic Muffin Mix: makes 6 - 8
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
half tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 oz (50g) caster sugar*
4 fl.oz (120ml) milk
1 oz (25g) butter, melted**
1 egg, beaten
Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into one bowl. Put the milk, butter and egg in a jug (** 1 fl.oz sunflower oil could be used instead of butter. Use this if preparing overnight as the butter would congeal again). Fold together using a metal spoon, including remaining ingredients (see below). Spoon the mixture into greased muffin tins (or line with paper muffin cases) and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Leave in the tin for a few minutes, then remove to a cake airer. Serve warm or cold.
Note: paper cases tend to stick to the muffins when warm, but peel off cleanly when cool.
* the sugar can be granulated, demerara, soft light sugar, or dark muscovado according to the flavour you wish and the other ingredients.

sweet muffins:
choc-chip: melt 2 oz (50g) plain chocolate and stir this into the flour at the same time as the wet ingredients, then stir in 2 oz (50g) white or dark chocolate chips before baking.
lemon and sultana: to the basic mix add the grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, then fold in 2 oz (50g) sultanas.
banana and walnut: to the basic dry mix add 1 tsp ground cinnamon, and add 1 ripe mashed banana when folding in the wet ingredients, and 2 oz (50g) chopped walnut pieces at the end.
summer fruits: add a tsp vanilla essence to the liquids, and after mixing wet with dry, fold in 4 oz (100g) berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries etc). Sprinkle a little demerara sugar on top before baking.

savoury muffins:
bacon and onion: fry 4 streaky bacon rashers until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and crumble into small pieces. Omit the sugar from the basic mix, add the bacon to the dry ingredients and stir in 3 oz (75g) garlic and herb flavoured philly-type cheese, slackened with a little of the liquid.
cheese and courgette: omit the sugar from the basic mix, add 1 tsp dry mustard, 1 oz (25g) finely grated Parmesan cheese, a good pinch of black pepper, and add an extra egg to the liquids. Grate one courgette, and press into a sieve to extract as much liquid as possible. Make up the muffin mix, stirring in the courgette at the end. Sprinkle a little more Parmesan over the tops of the muffins before baking.

Remember those Knickerbocker Glories? Tall glasses full of layers of jelly, fruit, ice-cream, cream. We should let the children assemble these again. Give them a bowl of set jelly (red always looks good - and preferably made with fresh fruit juice), a bag of mini-marshmallows, some tubs of fruit yogurt, a few chocolate muffins (to be broken up into chunks), an aerosol can of 'squirty' cream, and some grated chocolate. Add to these some fresh summer berries, maybe a sliced banana and let them start assembling. If you haven't the tall long glasses (and long-handles spoon to go with), then let them pile it all up in one large bowl in any order they like, just finishing off with squirts of cream and the grated chocolate on top. Guaranteed to be eaten right down to scraping the dish.