I’ve been unwell now for a couple of weeks: I have pleurisy, which is an important (almost Dickensian) sounding name for a chest infection.
I had a busy Easter with things to do and stuff on my mind. I was feeling a little under the weather. I staved it off with prayers and pills and the kind of adrenaline rush that only comes from teaching bottom set RE last period in the afternoon. Then I ended up in bed with flu followed by pleurisy.
So I’ve slept a little, read a little, knitted a little and told myself, ‘be kind to yourself’ and two weeks later its getting hard because I really should be better by now and I’m not.
A friend from work texted me saying, “no baking for you then'” as if a lack of cupcakes was the most important thing here. As if cakes were more important than health! He’s quite right though, I can’t even make it to the kitchen to sieve a little flour, melt some butter and whip up a pan of muffins. But I can type so I thought I’d share my muffin recipe and some thoughts on the pleasures of baking.
People think I’m good at baking, but really I’m not.
I just have a few very forgiving recipes. By this I mean recipes that show me mercy in every circumstance. They don’t flinch if the scales are a few ounces out or if I have to substitute an ingredients. They still show up for me if one of the kids leans on the cooker during baking and accidently turns the temperature down and if I use plain flour instead of self raising or forget the baking powder: the texture will be different but the confection still ultimately delicious.
A muffin is a much more forgiving cake than a cupcake or a sponge. It thrives on rough handling, inaccurate weighing and postiviely hates to be combined too thoroughly. If you don’t have fancy baking paraphernalia (like muffin cases) your little cake will sit very happily swaddle in a piece of baking paper, it really does not need pleats and bows (though you will need a 12 hole muffin tin).
A muffin is also a serious cake and it is a sensible cake. It’s like, cereal, fruit or wholemeal bread. A muffin takes us back to nature and the good things of the soil, rain and sun: it is a milk and honey, fat-of the land kind of a cake. It is fruitful: a cornucopia overflowing with almond, walnuts, pecans, whole-grains, seeds, berries, and orchard fruits.
So, stir up a batch of muffins, take them from the oven and cool them on a wire tray. Put the kettle on and make yourself a cup of tea (in the pot now – no scrimping). Quickly tidy round the sitting room and clear your favourite chair of pyjamas, reading books, knitting, teddies or whatever debris is currently concealing it.
You will need a really good book and little piece of quiet, then you can sit down with a nice brew and a homemade cake.
The recipe is an eclectic blend of every muffin recipe I ever investigated, on page, screen or by word of mouth. If I threw all the muffin recipes I have ever used up into the air and collected up the piece where they landed this is the recipe that would result. You can replace the cranberries and almonds in this recipe with any combination of dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, seed, or chocolate of your choice.
It is impossible to go wrong with this recipe.
Cranberry and Almond Muffins
9oz/250g SR flour
4-5oz/100-150g castor sugar
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
2oz/50g dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon of almond essence (optional)
4-5fl oz/100-150ml milk or butter milk
3oz/75g melted butter
2oz/50g flaked almonds
Preheat the oven, 160 or gas mark 3
Combine all the dry ingredients, apart from the flaked almonds, in a bowl
Lightly beat the eggs then, combine all the wet ingredients in a second bowl
Combine the dry and the wet ingredients, being careful not to mix them too thoroughly
Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases in a muffin pan
Sprinkle the top of the mixture with flaked almonds
Bake until the muffins are well risen and lightly browned, 20-25 minutes
Cool on a wire tray