Eating it, cooking it, thinking about it

Either eating it, cooking it or plotting it

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Muffin to worry about

Muffins. Stroppy.
A couple of years back, I read A Fact which made me smile ( I think I read it in Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery) - that an old ladies tea party used to be called a Muffin Worry. How could that not make you smile ? I'm fairly sure it was in reference to english muffins, the round yeasted dough bread ( not the belly bulge over hang on tight trouser - I guess thats what young ladies worry about at tea parties. Because they're always at tea parties these young folk) and not the the American/ Canadian cake bread style ones. Anyhoo, description read and thought nothing of until yesterday, as I was baking some of the American style ones for the coffee shop, some lemon and poppy seed and something that I've done a hundred times over. Mix made as usual, carefully spooned ( well, I use an ice cream scoop) into the cases, left to bake for 20 mins and out they came...(cake drama ! cake drama!) ...half the size they normally do, with flat smooth tops. They came out the size of cupcakes (where I strive constantly for said flat smooth top, all the better to thickly ice), and were still springy, moist and perfectly edible, just....well, not mighty and tall and splendid. Puzzled it out for a bit, consulted sources, questioned equipment , peered into oven accusingly ( incidently, I always use oven thermometers as I've learnt to be distrustful of manufacturers over the years. I'm not saying they lie, but they are very much mistaken) and drew blanks. Drank a coffee and calmly made another batch, and whaddya know ? Out they came, mighty and tall and splendid. I am looking you beseechingly in the eye and telling you, I did nothing different. Muffin Worry ! Muffin Drama ! Still a bit non plussed by it, except to say that I'm very sure that every now and again, food just likes to be mischevious and won't be taken for granted. At the risk of coming over a bit Prince Charles, I already (albeit silently) entreat cakes to please please bake agreeably, but I guess we all get stroppy sometimes. Recipe as below. Show it who's boss. Muffin Worries aside, its been a week of autumnal eating, roasting of potato, parsnip and chicken (note - cold roast chicken - v good smeared with last weeks chilli jam) and baking of pears , a determination to cook Something Proper everyday. The cooler weather always gets me this way. Actually, the baked pears were one of the most low effort high reward things I've eaten in a long while, so I'll post that recipe too. I think, in the sweetly 1950's language that some food magazines drift into, that the pears might also be 'smart' enough to serve at a dinner party. Perhaps those young folk will serve them at one of their tea parties.

Lemon & Poppyseed Muffins.

Makes 12 large

3 eggs
150g caster sugar
360 ml milk
150ml veg oil
350g plain flour
3 and a half tsp baking powder
1 and a half tsp bicarb of soda
half tsp salt
zest of 3 lemons, chopped finely
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 - 2 tbsp poppy seeds

Oven at 200 degrees. In one bowl, sift the flour, then mix with lemon zest, salt, baking powder, bicarb,poppy seeds and sugar. In another bowl , mix the wet ingredients - beat the egg, then add the oil, milk and lemon juice. Combine the 2 mixes ( I use a large metal spoon. I think its supposed to be a salad server..) and scoop or pour carefully into cases - they should be full. Bake for 20 mins, till risen ( ........) and springy. Take out of the tin as soon as your brave little fingers allow - don't let them steam/ keeping cooking on in the tin if you can help it. I make a lemon drizzle topping to spoon over while they are still warm - combine juice of 1 - 2 lemon with approx 85 - 100g caster sugar. Thats it.

Autumnal pears - for 2 people

Think of this as more refined pears in custard. Bananas would work also I think.

Oven at 180

2 - 3 ripe pears, peeled and cored ( or use tinned)
150 ml double cream
scant half tsp cinnamon
2 tablespoons caster sugar
tsp of vanilla extract
3 -4 ginger biscuits, smashed up into jaggedy crumbs

Butter a small baking dish, tuck the pears in ( I placed them in top to tail style). Whisk the cream lightly with the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and pour over the pears. Bake for 20 mins til the cream is thickened and started to brown and bubble. Smash up the ginger biscuits, crumble over the cream. Seriously, seriously, transportingly good. Don't speak while you eat it, commune with it.

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