No Fail Muffins

This muffin recipe was given to me when I worked as a teaching assistant in a secondary school ‘food technology’ department. The head of department told me she’d tried lots of different muffin recipes and this one had never let her down. I have to agree with her, it’s never let me down either. I’ve made it many, many times and in many different flavours, usually in a hurry. It has no fancy ingredients and you can jazz it up with whatever you have around. When I was teaching antenatal yoga, this was what I used to give to the attendees after class. I’m sure quite a few of my clients only kept coming for the cake at the end.

Muffins are one of the easiest things you can bake. There is no creaming of butter and sugar; no gradually adding egg, being careful to avoid curdling; no gently folding in flour. Muffins are straightforward: Mix your dry ingredients, mix your wet ingredients, mix both wet and dry together until sloppy, plop into paper cases and bake. That’s it.

This is what you need according to my original basic recipe:

275g self raising flour

100g caster sugar

125ml vegetable/sunflower oil/melted margarine or butter

175ml milk

1 egg, beaten

Flavouring: 2 apples or bananas, chopped or 125g blueberries or other berries such as raspberries or 100g of chocolate chips, vanilla essence. Really the possibilities are endless here. You don’t have to be too fastidious about the quantities either.

Here is how I made  Spiced Cranberry and Orange Muffins, the method is the same for any other flavours:

Preheat your oven to between 160 degrees C (fan) to 180 degrees C (conventional)

Prepare your muffin tray or small cake tray by adding the paper cases. This will make 12 standard fairy cake size cakes or 9-10 muffin size cakes.

Sieve 275g of SR flour into a large bowl, add 50g of caster sugar, 50g of soft dark brown sugar and two teaspoons of mixed spice.

Add about 100g sweetened, dried cranberries and mix everything up (I must confess, I didn’t weigh these, it’s not critical). The picture below shows them in a cereal bowl. I would have weighed them for you now but my scales have just gone on the blink. This would also be nice with juicy mixed fruit such as sultanas and raisins, just like a Christmas cake.

Mmmmmm, shall we take a closer look (turns on macro setting on camera)…

Measure 125ml of oil or butter into a jug.

Zest an orange or two and add the zest to the dry mixture. Squeeze the juice from one orange and add it to the jug with the oil.

Top up the liquid in the jug with milk until it reaches 300ml. I still love how oil and water mixtures separate. This is a good opportunity for a kitchen science lesson if you are baking with children. Of course you all know that they separate because of their different densities, oil being less dense than milk or orange juice.

Whisk an egg and add it to the jug with the milk, orange juice and oil. Okay, Okay, I whisked after I’d plopped it into the wet mixture, it really doesn’t matter unless you get unlucky and crack a rotten egg into your lovely oily/milky/juicy jug.

Give your jug of wet ingredients one more good mix up and then slosh it into the bowl of dry ingredients. More science coming up – look how you have now formed an emulsion by mixing the oil, milk and juice together. The oil is now in little droplets throughout the mixture.

Start mixing straight away.

Mix some more.

Keep mixing until all the wet and dry ingredients are mixed into a batter that is fairly sloppy, as below.

Fill up your paper cases. You can be pretty generous with how you fill them. The original recipe said fill them to the top. I probably would if I was using standard size fairy cake cases but I leave a little gap with muffin cases. As I said, it usually makes 9 to 10 muffins, depending on how chunky your flavouring is.

Bake for 15 minutes for smaller paper cases 20 to 25 minutes for muffins. In any case, they are done when risen, nicely browned and springy to touch.

Cool on a wire rack.

That’s it – now eat. You must eat them when they are fresh. They really do not keep well at all.

Oh yes, and don’t forget to ask the children if the baking causes a chemical or physical change to occur (little hint in the italics if you’re not sure). For littlies, just ask them if it is a reversible or non-reversible change, though perhaps you need language a bit more simple than that. You know, “Could we change the cakes back into the starting ingredients?”. “Not without a time machine” they may reply…..

Now – a topping. When I made them for the teachers I was running out of time and ingredients. I made a little icing by mixing a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar with a small drizzle of orange juice. You need to add the orange juice just a teeny tiny bit at a time or you will get a mixture that is WAY too runny. I decided to drizzle mine across in lines so it needed to be a bit more runny than I would usually make it.

They were finished off with a cranberry, a piece of dried, candied peel and a silver ball.

Now I’m wondering about some sort of orangey, buttery type of topping? I’ll let you know if I come up with anything.

Happy baking. Happy Science. Happy Eating. Happy Christmas



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