November 19, 2011

Mettlesome Muffins

Robin, 18 June 2011, ‘Really Ratbaggy Weather and Suitable Distractions’

1 egg

3 T butter

¾ c strong tea

1/3 to ½ c honey:  this is going to vary both with how sweet you want your muffins and how runny your honey is.  I’m always going on in my recipes about how individual ingredients vary.  Honey more so than most.  Honey is actually fairly tricky to bake with, but muffins are pretty accommodating.

Melt the butter, let cool;  beat the egg, add the honey, then the tea, then the melted butter.

1-2 c wholemeal/wholewheat flour.  You want about 1 ½ c flour total, but if you want to use some white flour to lighten it, use up to ½ c.

½ c (dry) oatmeal

1 T baking powder

If you like cinnamon (I often put cinnamon in my tea), you can add 1 tsp ground

Mix all this dry stuff together, then stir in quickly to the wet.  I recommend using a whisk.  It’s true that lumps will (probably) bake out, but they make me nervous.†††

Plop in about 12 muffin cups, which you’ve either buttered first or put paper muffin cups in.  About 20 minutes at 400°F.  They should puff up beautifully, and the tops should be pretty hard.  And if you wanted to brush them, when they come out of the oven, with a little honey thinned with a little water, that would be good too.  If you want to you can run them back in the oven again for just about a minute more, to get a nice crackly effect from the honey wash.

††† I personally think the whole ‘don’t overbeat your muffin batter’ is kind of a bugbear.  But it’s true you beat only minimally, unlike a cake batter, say, where you want to see the batter change colour.

Cherry (Almond) Ice Cream

Robin, 12 July 2011, ‘Summer Fruit and Squishiness’

2/3 c milk

1 egg plus one extra yolk

½ c granulated sugar

¼ tsp vanilla

1 lb sweet cherries

1 ounce slivered almonds

2/3 c whipping cream

Scald milk, set aside to cool.  Mix the egg and the yolk in the top of a double boiler/bain marie with the sugar and beat like mad, till it turns pale and ribbons off the spoon.  (Your electric mixer is your friend.)    Pour on the slightly cooled milk;  place over gently simmering water and stir till thick.  Stir in the vanilla and leave to cool.

Stone your cherries.  Ugh.  This is the worst bit.  You will need more than a pound, of course, because you’ll eat some of them to sustain morale.  I’m not sure how to allow for this, since the original weight includes the stones, which you are discarding.  Make your best guess.  The original recipe tells you to put the stoned bits in a food processor and buzz them to puree, but I think this is unsporting.  I just kind of rip them up some in the stoning process.  You do want enough pulp to turn your ice cream red, but I don’t think you can avoid this with dark expoding-sweet high-summer cherries.  Stir them, in whatever form, into the custard.  Whip the cream till it forms soft peaks.  Fold into the cherry mixture.  Pour the lot into your ice cream maker and do what it tells you to do to produce ice cream.

While your custard is becoming ice cream, toast your almonds.  The original recipe tells you to fold them into the finished ice cream, but unless you’re going to eat it all in one go, I wouldn’t;  the almonds will go soft.  I sprinkle them on per serving.  This will, I admit, probably mean that you need more almonds, but hey.

Red Velvet Cake

Robin, 9 Oct 2011, ‘Geography and Chocolate’

½ c soft butter

1 ½ c golden sugar:  the raw, low-refined kind that isn’t the pure white of standard granulated.  It doesn’t have as much flavour as brown, but more than white, and it’s mellower than dark brown (and more interesting than light brown.  Say I).

2 large eggs

1 tsp REAL vanilla

2 c flour, or maybe a little more

¼ c unsweetened non-Dutch-process ‘natural’ cocoa powder

pinch salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 c buttermilk, or 1 c milk minus 1T, plus 1T vinegar to sour it.  I’ve been told many times this is cheating, but it’s a lot easier than finding buttermilk and then figuring out something to do with the rest of it.  Theoretically, I think, if you’re using vinegar, it should be skim or low-fat milk—‘butter’ milk is a misnomer—but I always used to use whole/full fat because that’s what I drank, and it worked fine.  Most of that soured-milk stuff works semi-interchangeably in baking—I always thought—you get a slightly different taste and texture if it’s sour cream or yogurt, say, but if your ingredients, especially your chocolate, are good quality it’ll all be silky—or velvety—and damnably excellent.

Standard cake deal:  cream butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Sift dry and add alternately with sour milk.  Beat hard, but don’t hang about either:  as soon as the vinegar hits the baking soda your batter starts expanding.  Turn into 2 8” or 9” round pans with removable bottoms which have first been buttered and floured with great enthusiasm and thoroughness.  (A greased and floured cut-out of parchment paper works just as well if you don’t have push-out-bottom pans.)  350°F about half an hour:  the layers should rise in the middle, and the edges start to pull away from the pan walls.  Let cool at least ten or fifteen minutes before you try and get them out of the pans.  I tend to think soured-milk cakes are more fragile than others, but that may just be my karma.

Frost when cool.  I recommend vanilla buttercream, myself, but as you like.

Baked ground-seed somewhat breadlike substance

Robin, 10 Nov 2011, ‘Bleeeech con’t, day two’

Start with an egg.  Beat it up.

Add ¼ c oil or melted butter.   Groundnut (peanut) oil is good.  If you like the flavour, olive oil is also good.  Beat together thoroughly.

Probably about 2c ground seed.  This is what Penelope used, and what I’ve used since:  http://www.linwoodshealthfoods.com/productdetails/36/milled_organic_flaxseed_sunflower_pumpkin_seeds.aspx And yes, it’s eye-openingly expensive—but your nonbread will be more filling than your average mere floury object too, and you can get away with thinking of it more as a vegetarian main course.  But stir in enough to make a softish but not runny batter—gooeyness more or less what you’d expect out of an ordinary tea or quick-bread batter.

You may want a little salt.  I like a little tamari.

When you’re happy with the texture, sprinkle or sift one or two (measuring) teaspoons of baking powder and one or two (measuring) teaspoons of dried herbs to your taste over your batter, and beat that in.

If you’d rather use fresh herbs, chop them up and add them before you add the baking powder because chances are they’ll dampen the batter a little more and you’ll have to adjust.  A big handful of parsley or coriander is good.  I don’t think fresh basil bakes all that well:  if you want basil, I’d use the dried.

Pour it into a round 8” pan.  I haven’t cared to find out just how sticky ground seed is, so I butter and flour the pan and put a circle of parchment paper in the bottom and butter and flour that too.

350°F for about half an hour.  It won’t rise, but the baking powder and the beaten egg seem to stop it from turning into a brick.  Bake till the edges are turning brown, and the middle is firm to a light touch.