Tag Archives: cakes

Royal Baby: Petits Fours

Hurrah, after all that waiting, the royal baby has arrived! Even if you were not following the event closely, the atmosphere in London was exciting – one of the hottest days of the year, giving way to excitement in the warm evening as the news emerged. The media went into meltdown, getting more and more excited as we got to see the first pictures, then the news and the newborn was to be called HRH Prince George.

Never one to shy away from a bit of baking in honour of a national event, I’ve made a batch of little cakes with a suitably regal theme. Little blue petits fours flavoured with almond and topped with silver.

petitsfours5

petitsfours7

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that I made these little cakes just ahead of the birth, and hedged my bets by decorating some of them blue and others pink. I had planned to post the right colour on the day, but in the end I think they all look rather sweet so you get to benefit from the blue and silver look, as well as pink and gold.

For some reason, I had it most firmly in my mind that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would be having a girl. I even took a £5 hit on our office sweepstake where I went for the name Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Frances…maybe next time!

PetitsFours1

petitsfours4

Petits fours are one of those things that can seem like a lot of work, and I agree they are hardly the sort of thing that you can whip up in less than an hour. However, I think there is something quite satisfying about tackling something a little more complex when you have a few hours to spare. All the more so when you are in the middle of a heatwave – after each stage, you can pop out into the garden to bask in a little sunshine, which allows you to make sure you do not get too much exposure to the sun in one go.

If you’re keen to try making these, you’ve got two choices. I used a recipe from Martha Stewart to make thin layers of almond sponge, then sandwiched them together to make the cakes. However, there is a simpler way – get any sort of dense cake (like pound cake), then trim off the darker crusts and cut into cubes (or go crazy – use round or heart-shaped cutters to get creative). In all honesty, this latter option is a lot easier and ideal if you want to try making these little cakes with children. They tend to want to minimise the time between cake-making and cake-eating. You could still go for a fancy effect by using a marble cake as your foundation.

When it comes to the filling, this is entirely up to you. Jam would be traditional, with raspberry providing a slightly tart contrast to the sweet icing. Otherwise, try a firmer fruit jelly made with pectin if you want thicker layers of summery sweetness. However, I happened to have a pot of almond jam from Mallorca lurking at the back of the cupboard, and it was just perfect here (and fittingly – I bought it the week before the Royal Wedding in 2011). The flavour was nutty rather than sweet, with a dash of cinnamon and citrus to round out the flavour. To keep the almond theme going, I added a little marzipan square on top of each cake.

When it comes to icing, again Martha came to the rescue. I’ve tried simple water icings in the past, but they tend to be too thin, take too long to set and don’t give a great finish. The perfect – and traditional – option is to make sugar fondant, then melt it using sugar syrup. However, this is a bit of a faff, and I tend not to have an amazing hit rate when it comes to working with sugar syrup and getting things to set. The third way seemed like something I would work with – fill a large bowl with icing sugar, add liquid glucose (the nearest thing we have in the UK to corn syrup), water and any colouring, then warm in a bain marie until smooth. This went on like a dream and set fairly quickly.

So there you have it – pretty little petits fours which I might dare to suggest are fit for a prince. I would just make sure he has access to enough outdoor space to run around after all that icing!

For the cake recipe, see Martha’s recipe here. This was a great simple almond sponge so recommended whenever you need a thin layer sponge.

If you fancy making a pound cake, my butter-rich version is here.

Martha’s icing recipe is here, and there is a great video showing the technique here. It’s worth checking it out before having a go yourself! When I was making this, I found I needed to add a little water from time to time to keep the icing at the right texture. If it gets too thin, just pop back over the bain marie to warm and it should sort it out.

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Snow and Salt

Last week I got to enjoy a rare luxury. Not the actual maracons themselves, but the luxury of free time. My year at work has been rather fraught (in the understated British sense, which means absolutely manic) and thus no easy dates on which to take leave. Sure, I had a mega-trip in the US in November, but I’ve still ended up with way too much leave to carry over to next year. As a result, I’ve been enjoying the bonus of a few long weekends. As I’m the only one around on these random Mondays and Fridays, I’ve foregone the idea of foreign jaunts, and instead I’m able to enjoy a slower pace of life in my own big city. I can go to some of my favourite cafés and just walk in and get a table. No waiting, no sharing. I can go to galleries and enjoy them peacefully, standing in front of the same picture for ages without being jostled or moved along. I can also engage in small talk with some interesting people who are equally unhurried. Bliss.

However, last week was another story altogether. Those first hints of spring from a couple of weeks ago had gone, like some sort of Phoney Spring, and were  replaced with snow. Lots and lots of snow. On Monday, the new cats and I just did not fancy leaving the house, so I was left with a little time to fill. After spending an hour getting the cats to chase a piece of string (their joint favourite thing, along with clawing the sofa), I decided to hit the kitchen and have a go at my kitchen nemesis – French macarons.

I know there are some people out there that have “the gift”, who can just knock up a batch at a moment’s notice without a second thought. I, however, am not one of those people. I’ve grappled with them on numerous occasions with varying levels of success. True, I’ve made them successfully on occasions, but I think my hit rate is about one in four at best. So for every batch of picture-perfect delicacies with their smooth domes, frilly feet and perfect symmetry, I’ve ended up with three batches of cracked almond meringue biscuits.

Well finally, finally, I think I’ve nailed it. I think my mistakes can be put down not to faulty technique as such, but the fact that many of my attempts were small batches. The smaller the batch, the more precise the measurements need to be, and I fear that trying to make macarons with just one egg white was pushing things too far. You need to be bold and think big. Large batches are the way to go! And as you can see below, the results look pretty darned good! There is still some irregularity there, but I find it hard to put into words just how utterly thrilled I was to remove the tray from the oven and find perfect macaron shells with no cracks. Yay!

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I opted for the salted caramel flavour as it’s actually delicious when made well, and the filling is a doddle to make. However, the one thing that I didn’t go to town on was the colour the shells. I know some people like shocking colours, and that salted caramel is often some sort of day-glow orange. However, I wanted something more subtle.There are two reasons. First, I am not that happy about using colouring that is highly artificial – if it only takes a few drops to turn something bright yellow, vivid red or electric blue, then you have to wonder just what it is doing to your insides. Second, on a purely aesthetic level, I find the intense colours of some commercially-available macarons rather lurid! Instead, I just used a few drops of some natural vegetable dyes in the sugar syrup to provide a light caramel colour to boost the colour of muscovado sugar, which I think looks rather pretty.

When it comes to the filling itself, it can only be described as filthy. The base is a simple caramel made from white sugar. Throw in some salted butter, cream and a few drops of vanilla, then whip once cooled with even more lovely butter. The result is a silky-smooth salted caramel cream which can be easily piped into the macaron shells, but which does not leak out (which pure caramel, delicious as it is, is apt to do). You’ll end up with quite a bit of the filling left over, and you’ll probably just want to eat it with a spoon. As I said – filthy, and irresistible.

One final trick – these are worth making ahead of time. If you can, leave the assembled macarons overnight in the fridge, and be sure to leave them to come up to room temperature before serving. This will help make the inside of the shells lightly chewy and the creamy filling with be delightfully soft and fluffy. Things to make you go wow.

So what’s your baking nemesis? Have you managed to beat it?

To make salted caramel macarons (makes 25-30):

For the shells:

• 175g icing sugar
• 175 ground almonds
• 130g egg whites (about 4 eggs), at room temperature
• 175g light muscovado or brown sugar
• 75ml water

• caramel food colouring

For the filling:

• 150g white sugar
• 50ml water

• 180g salted butter (divide into 30g and 150g)
• 150ml double cream

• vanilla extract
• salt, very finely ground

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Line two large baking trays with greaseproof paper.

2. Mix the icing sugar and ground almonds, and put into a food processor or spice mill. Grind until fine. Put into a large bowl.

3. Divide the egg whites into two portions (2 x 65g). Add one half to the almond/icing sugar mixture and mix until you have a smooth, thick paste.

4. Next, make an Italian meringue. Put the water and muscovado or brown sugar into a saucepan. Add caramel/brown colouring as desired (I used enough to enhance the brown tint from the sugar, probably 20 drops of water-based colour). Heat to 114°C (237°F). In the meantime, whisk the rest of the eggs whites until frothy. Acting quickly, pour the hot syrup into the frothy eggs and beat the living daylights out of them! The mixture should quickly start to turn pale and fluffy, and increase in volume. Whisk for 5 minutes until the mixture is stiff and glossy – it should easily hold its shape.

5. Take one-third of the meringue mixture, and fold into the almond paste mixture to lighten it. Fold in the next third, then fold in the final third. Try to do this gently, and don’t mix too vigorously or for too long.

6. Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm hole nozzle. Pipe out the macarons, leaving a few centimetres between each. Leave to dry at room temperature for around 20 minutes.

7. Bake the macaron shells for around 12-15 minutes until the shells have developed little feet but they are not browned. You might want to open the door briefly during baking to let any steam escape. When baked, remove from the oven, allow to cool, then peel from the baking sheet. Arrange on a cooling tray and prepare the filling.

To make the filling:

8. Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan. Place on a medium heat until the mixture turns into a medium golden caramel (don’t be tempted to stir it at any point – it will turn into a crystallised mess!). The colour should be rich but without any burnt or acrid smell.

9. Remove the saucepan with the caramel from the heat, add the butter and stir well. It will sizzle, so watch out! Add the cream and vanilla to taste (just a drop or two) and stir until smooth. Put the pan back on the heat, and cook until it reaches 108°C (225°F). Remove from the heat and leave until almost cooled.

10. Put the cooled caramel and soft butter into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until perfectly smooth. It might seem like the mixture has curdled at one point, but keep going and it will come good. You should end up with a very smooth cream. Add a dash of powdered salt (to taste, but go a little at a time).

11. Fill a piping bag with the salted caramel cream and use to fill the macarons.

12. Leave the macarons in the fridge for 24 hours, and remove from the fridge a couple of hours before serving.

Worth making? A complete faff, but the results are superb so it’s worth trying when you’ve got a few hours to yourself.

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Diamond Jubilee: Queen Cakes

Today’s regal bake-fest involves dainty little morsels called Queen Cakes. In spite of their very grand-sounding name, they are actually rather simple, and they are the perfect addition to an afternoon tea spread or to serve at a street party. However, I must confess that I don’t know the origin on the name – some suggest they were created for a queen consent, others suggest they were seen as the height of refinement (the “queen of cakes”) or that this was just a generic name for small, individual cakes before the rise of the cupcake.

These are simple small sponge fairy cakes that have been livened up with some sultanas or other dried vine fruit. No glaze, no icing, no mountains of fluffy pink buttercream. If you want to make them look fancy, just dust very lightly with icing sugar. I suppose you could think of them as the dignified understated and queenly addition to the tea-table in comparison to the cupcake’s gaudy courtesan or the scheming French court ambassadress as typified by the macaron.

I was pleased as I started to make these cakes that the eggs I had bought had decided add a crown stamp to the shells. A nice touch, yes?

The recipe here is very similar to Victoria sponge and would traditionally have required a large bowl, strong arms and a fearsome command of the hand whisk. Baking powder is a relatively recent invention, so the cook in olden days had to rely on getting lots and lots of air incorporated into the mixture. Fortunately, we can rely on creaming the butter and sugar, then adding the eggs and flour, but letting the baking powder in the self-raising flour take the strain. Whew!

These cakes would, in the past, have been baked in special pans, and if a heart shape was used, they were called heart cakes. Luckily, we live in a more modern world, and the convenience of the paper case makes these cakes a breeze, but I think they would still be rather nice if you can find some appropriately shaped silicone moulds.

As I mentioned, this is quite a straightforward recipe that does not need much adornment. However, if you want to make these cakes a little more fancy, I would suggest adding a dash of spice (nutmeg or mace would hint at the Regency kitchen), or soak the sultanas overnight in rum. Alternatively, you could prepare a simple water icing and brush over the warm cakes. Anything more might be a bit too flashy, and that would never do, would it?

As you can see, the finished results look rather nice when piled up high on the tea-table. These are what I’ll be contributing to a Jubilee weekend picnic, along with a couple of pitchers of Pimm’s punch. Cheers!

To make Queen Cakes (makes 16):

• 110g butter
• 110g caster sugar
• 2 eggs
• pinch of salt
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 110g self-raising flour
• 50g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a muffin tray with small paper cases.

Put the butter and sugar into a bowl. Mix well (best to use an electric beater) until light and fluffy.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs, then add, a little at a time, to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Add the salt and vanilla. Fold in the flour, then stir in the sultanas.

Divide the batter between the cake cases and bake for around 15 minutes, until golden and risen, and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool, then finish with a dusting of icing sugar.

Worth making? These are lovely little cakes, and make a change from very fancy, rich cupcakes. Great with a cup of tea mid-afternoon.

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Welsh Cakes

I realised recently that I don’t know many recipes that originate in Wales. I’ve done English, Scottish, Irish…even Icelandic. But no Wales, as yet. So here you go – Welsh Cakes!

In the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that I’m not really sure what makes the perfect Welsh Cake. I can express an opinion on scones, and I know my stuff when it comes to a Victoria Sponge, but with Welsh Cakes, I’m not really sure what they taste like when bought, freshly made, from a little old bakery in the Rhondda Valley.

However, for a first attempt, I am frankly delighted with how they have turned out. These are little griddle cakes, made with quite a lot of butter and a good amount of currants and a dash of nutmeg. They are made with self-raising flour, so they puff up a little bit during cooking (not baking) to they become lighter, and they take on a rather attractive golden brown colour. Once cooked, they are rolled in caster sugar, and they taste best while still warm, so they are pretty easy to run off at short notice.

For my recipe, I did a little digging, and there is a bit of variety out there. Some use currants, some don’t. Some add nutmeg, others avoid it. But what I did see it that the common ratios  seem to be 8-4-3-3-1 (flour, butter, sugar, currants and an egg). I’ve stuck with those proportions (remarkably for me, I even measured in ounces for a change!) but I’ve put the amounts in grammes as well for our metric cousins. I also took the lead from Angharad at Eating For England, who thinks currants are an absolute must – and I agree – you need those little bursts of juicy sweetness. You can also read her lovely post about rediscovering a family recipe for Welsh Cakes here.

I’ve seen various shapes when making Welsh Cakes, but I think the fluted look if pretty nifty. Nifty, and an excuse to use a cutter set I acquired before Christmas. But I reckon that round is probably more authentic.

So here they are! Little Welsh Cakes, filled with plump currants, aromatic nutmeg, rolled in sugar and delicious while still warm with a cup of tea.

To make Welsh cakes (makes 18):

• 8oz (225g) self-raising flour
• 4oz (115g) salted butter
• 3oz (85g) caster sugar
• 3oz (85g) currants
• 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1 egg
• splash of milk

Combine flour and butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the currants, sugar and nutmeg. Add the egg and knead until the mixture comes together as a soft dough – add a tiny splash of milk if too dry. You won’t need much.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface, roll to just over 1/2 cm thick, and cut out circles (use a scalloped cutter if you have one, it looks nice, but a round cutter is just fine).

Put a griddle or frying pan onto a medium heat. Grease very lightly with a little butter, then reduce to low-medium heat. Put 4-5 cakes in the pan at the same time, and cook for a couple of minutes, then flip over. Make sure the pan is not too hot – you don’t want to end up with burnt outsides and uncooked middles!

Worth making? I really recommend these cakes. Quick and easy to make, and very tasty.

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Rock On!

If you grew up in Britain, then you surely remember rock buns?

This is a recipe that I remember from years ago. It’s got a bit of a retro feel to it, but that fits right in to all the traditional baking that we are (supposedly) doing these days. You can’t go out for a cup of tea in the afternoon these days without (metaphorically) tripping over flapjacks, coffee walnut cake, scones and the famous Victoria sponge. Rock buns are similarly traditional, straightforward, simple to make and rather comforting.

Rock buns are great for a number of reasons. Chances are that you’ve got all the ingredients in your store cupboard right now. Even if you don’t have them exactly, you can chop-and-change to some extent, using different types of sugar and different dried fruit. They are also an absolute doddle to make – you can do it all in 5 minutes, and they can be eaten warm from the oven or left to cool – perfect if you have guests coming at short notice. Also, if you like things spicy, you can add a dash of whatever takes your fancy – cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon or mixed spice (like this).

In terms of texture, they are a bit like a scone, although they have a lot more butter and less milk, so the texture is richer and crumbly. Great on their own, or spread with a little butter and jam while still warm.

The only thing you need to worry about is how they look. They are called rock buns for a reason – we are not aiming for a smooth surface. It should look rough, which is usually pretty easy to achieve. The look is further achieved by sprinkling with a little granulated sugar, so they sparkle a little bit like granite. Alright, this last stage might be stretching things a little bit far, but it does add a nice bit of extra crunch.

To make rock buns (makes 8):

• 200g self-raising flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• pinch of spice
• 100g butter
• 75g white caster sugar or soft brown sugar(*)
• 1 egg
• 2-3 tablespoons milk
• 75g sultanas (or other dried fruit)
• granulated sugar (to sprinkle)

Preheat the oven to 190°C (370°F). Grease a baking sheet.

In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and spice. Rub in the butter using your fingers. Add the sugar and mix well.

Add the egg plus enough milk to make a soft dough. It should be soft and a bit sticky, but not in any way runny. Finish by mixing in the fruit.

Form the dough into 8 buns, making sure they look rough enough (**). Place on the baking sheet and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes. The buns are ready when they are golden, and an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean. Enjoy warm or cold.

(*) I used 25g white caster sugar and 50g soft brown sugar.

(**) Form the buns using your hands or tablespoons. However, you can also use in ice cream scoop (the sort with the button and the “bit” at the back of the scoop – this gives you equal measures, and the resulting buns look satisfyingly “rocky”.

Worth making? These are super-quick and very easy to make, and taste great, like a cross between cake and a scone. Good to have in the back pocket when you need to produce something for guests, and a nice recipe for kids that don’t want to wait too long to tuck in to their hard work.

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Marvposteier (Norwegian Almond Tarts)

Hey hey, it’s almost the 17th May – and that’s Norwegian National Day. It’s on this day that the people of Norway like to let you know that they are very, very proud of being Norwegian, rather than Swedish or Danish. So that means lots of flags, parades, drinking and food.

So if you’re in the mood to celebrate, here are two options. If you’re inclined to the savoury, try making lefse (potato flatbreads), but if you prefer sweet, then try marvposteier. These are little almond cakes in a pastry case and topped off with a cross. Something like this:

This was my first time making them, so I am not sure that I can hold myself out as any sort of authority (given…I’m not remotely Norwegian), but they were pretty straightforward. They remind me a little of macaroon tarts, which have a similar almond filling, but with a bit of jam in the bottom. I wonder if they might be related?…

The process is easy, so you actually end up with a pretty impressive result for minimal effort. It’s just a basic butter pastry, filled with an almond paste, and then if you’ve got the nerve and patience, finished with pastry crosses. In my opinion, it’s worth adding the crosses.

I was happy with how these looked and tasted. The filling is just sugar, egg white and almonds (which I enhanced with a couple of drops of almond extract), so after baking they  are pleasantly soft and marzipan-like. All in all – kjempegod (as they might say in Oslo).

So to the Norwegians out there – hope you’re having a great day!

To make Marvposteier (around 25):

For the pastry:

• 250g plain flour
• 200g butter
• 50g (3 tablespoons) caster sugar
• 1 egg yolk
• 3 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

• 200g ground almonds
• 250g icing sugar
• 4 egg whites, lightly beaten (about 130g)
• 1/4 teaspoon almond essence (optional)

Start with the pastry: put the flour, sugar and butter in a bowl. Rub together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and a spoonful of water. Use your hands to mix, adding more water if needed until you have a soft, smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Grease a couple of muffin pans with some butter.

Roll the pastry out very thinly. Cut out circles with a cutter, and use to line the muffin pans(*). Keep any scraps of pastry.

Next, make the filling. Put the almonds, icing sugar, egg whites and almond essence (if using) in a bowl and mix will into a smooth paste. Fill each tart with a teaspoon of the filling, then shake the muffin pans lightly so the filling evens out.

Roll out the scraps of pastry and cut into thin strips. Use the strips to form an X on top of each tart, and make sure you press the ends into the pastry cases. Brush the X with a little egg white (use your fingers for this) (**)

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled.

(*) You want these pastry “shells” to be about 1.5cm (2/3 inch) deep.

(**) Handy hint – rather than use another egg here, just check the bowl you used to beat the egg whites – there should be just enough left in the bottom to glaze the X on each tart.

Wroth making? These tarts were really rather easy to make and still very tasty. The can also easily be made in a gluten-free version by replacing the plain flour with a gluten-free alternative. You can also customise them by using other ground nuts (such as hazelnuts) or adding a little jam to the bottom of each tart before covering with the filling.

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Cardamom, Lemon and Olive Oil Madeleines

It’s the latter part of February, but we still sit under those leaden skies and cold light. All quite conducive to staying in and potting around a nice warm house!

This is a recipe that I came up with on a quiet afternoon. It’s based on a few signature ingredients that I thought would complement each other. Simple as that. The cakes themselves are a combination of traditional madeleines and olive oil magdelenas.

I also added the cardamom as I thought its citrus resin flavour  would work well with the fresh lemon and the spiciness of the olive oil. The result? Well, very happy to report  – they taste just great! Now, I fully accept that these are a bit far away from “proper”madeleines, but a little creativity in the kitchen from time to time surely  cannot be a bad thing?

To make 18 madeleines:

• 2 eggs
• 80g grams white caster sugar
• zest of one lemon
• 2 large pinches of cardamom, finely ground
• pinch salt
• 110g grams plain flour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 85 grams olive oil

Put the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, cardamom and salt in a bowl. Whip for 5 minutes until the mixture becomes light and thick (an electric beater is easiest!).

In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and sift. Add the flour mixture to the eggs and stir lightly with a spatula until combined.

Add the olive oil and incorporate using a spatula. Let the batter rest in the fridge for 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Place spoonfuls of the batter into madeleine moulds and bake for 15 minutes, until the “bumps” have appeared and the cakes are golden.

Once cooked, remove from the oven. When the silicone tray is cool enough to work with, press each madeleine out of the tray and move to a cooking rack. Just before serving, dust the shell side with icing sugar.

Worth making? I was very pleased with how these turned out. The freshness of the lemon and the cardamom work well together, and the olive oil keeps them very moist. What I did notice is that these cakes were actually at their best the day after baking – so once they are cool, leave overnight in a sealed container (with a slice of bread if you find them a little dry on the outside). The next day, they will be soft and fragrant when you come to eat them.

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Blueberry Cinnamon Muffins

We’ve summer, and it was great. I found myself free to enjoy the warm days that we were fortunate enough to have, but now, the sunny days have passed and there is a noticeable chill in the morning and evening air. We are being treated to some amazing sunsets at the moment in the early evening, and while occasionally you feel the sun on your face and enjoy the warmth, there is no doubt about it – autumn is here. There are apples on the trees in the park, and we’ve got a couple of months of falling leaves ahead of us, before we find ourselves huddled around real log fires and eating our own weight in festive biscuits.

At this time of year, I like to start cooking with warmer flavours like late season fruits and spices – Think plums, brambles, blueberries(*), and cloves, nutmeg, and my favourite, cinnamon. . Enjoy all of this, because you know that your organic vegetable box will soon lose all the summer goodies, to be replaced with week after week after week of root vegetables…I’m seeing more than a few root vegetable-cheese sauce oven bakes over the next months.

Today’s recipe is a classic, which combines two of my very favourite ingredients. I like to use lots of blueberries in these muffins, and just a little dash of cinnamon. I want a whisper, a suggestion of the spice. These are dreamy little cakes – not as crumbly as cupcakes or Victoria sponge, as the dough has a very slight chewiness to it, which is what you want from a muffin. Also not too sweet, so you do taste the blueberries, and the cinnamon dances across your tongue. In short: they taste great and I love them. I’ve been taking one to work each day as my mid-afternoon snack, attracting some envy from colleagues.

Fortunately, this is also a very easy recipe, using the simple three-step muffin process. Step one: mix the dry ingredients. Step two: mix all the wet ingredients. Step three: mix wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined, and stir in the blueberries. In the oven, they  puff up in a very pleasing way. Of my sixteen muffins, fourteen formed perfect voluminous domed tops, and the other two went a little bit squint. They also cracked on top in quite a pretty way, revealing a saucy little peek of the deep purple inside. Such a vivid but natural purple. I was very pleased with how these turned out.

For the fruit, you can, in my experience, use fresh or frozen with equal ease. Fresh berries will not colour the mixture before cooking, if that worries you, but other than that, I’ve made this successful with both types. I mean, these are blueberry muffins. Warm from the oven, you just know they will taste fantastic whichever way you make them.

To make 16 blueberry cinnamon muffins:

• 350g plain flour
• 2 generous teaspoons baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 115g soft brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 eggs
• 300ml milk
• 115g butter, melted or 120 ml corn/grapeseed oil
• 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
• 180g fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a muffin tin with paper cups.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon. Sieve well, and put to one side.

Place the eggs, butter/oil, milk and vanilla essence in another bowl, and whisk until well combined.

Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, and combine with a metal spoon until just combined. Some small lumps are fine. Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin. Fill until just below the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until risen and golden.

Worth making? These muffins are utterly delicious. Be sure to use lots of blueberries, so that you get lots of fruit in each cake, as well as the amazing deep purple colour from the juice. I’ve tried different versions – sultanas, raspberries, cranberries – but this recipe, in my view, stands out.

(*) Or blaeberries as I called as I grew up. I still instinctively think of fruits and vegetables by the names we called them in Scotland when I was a child, hence to me blackberries are brambles, and blueberries are blaeberries. And what my English friends call swede, I call turnip, and what they call turnip, I call white turnip. Food and culture, eh?

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