Showing posts with label #MuffinMonday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #MuffinMonday. Show all posts

Monday, April 14, 2014

Easter Simnel Marzipan Muffins for #MuffinMonday

Simnel cake with marzipan baked inside is a British spring or Easter tradition that dates back a few centuries, with a much debated history. Whatever its origins, it is made of a rich batter, full of dried fruit and candied peel, topped with yet more rolled marzipan. Additionally, it is traditional to decorate simnel cakes with small balls of marzipan to represent the apostles, sometimes only 11 because Judas is excluded, or 12 to represent the apostles and Jesus. These are often browned in the oven before serving. 

I’ve written before in this space about trying to pass on my own American traditions to our daughters. What I may not have mentioned, because it’s really his own story to tell, is that my husband also grew up as an expat, a third culture kid. I am sure his mother and father did their best to impart some British traditions to him and his brothers but they went to American curriculum schools and never lived in the United Kingdom so, truth be told, his knowledge of British culture has huge gaps. Many times I have felt it incumbent upon me to shore up that side of our daughters education as well. Mainly because I've been an Anglophile since starting school in the British system. Rather secondarily, perhaps, because their father is British. Problem is, I’ve never lived in Great Britain either, so my information has been gleaned from those three years of schooling and what I learned reading ancient Anglo-Saxon literature as well as Enid Blyton, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, historical novels, English Renaissance and Romantic period poets, countless biographies of Queen Victoria (I have kind of thing about her.), not to mention The Secret Garden. Oh, yes, and watching Thomas the Tank Engine, Rosie and Jim and Wallace and Grommit. So, as you can imagine, I have many cultural gaps as well. Simnel cake is one of them. I’ve certainly heard of it and knew pretty much what it was supposed to look like, down to the typical ingredients. But when my friend, Nicky, suggested Simnel muffins for Easter, I’d never made one before.  Fortunately the internet is a knowledgeable place and I have mixed and matched several cake recipes to come to this delicious muffin conclusion. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Even if Simnel muffins aren’t traditional. 

Ingredients
1.1 lb or 500g marzipan, divided (You may not use quite all of it.)
3/4 cup or 110g whole raw almonds
1 cup or 160g mixed dried fruits (Mine had currants, sultanas, raisins, cranberries and tart cherries)
1/4 cup or 60g mixed candied peel (orange and lemon)
1/2 cup or 120ml orange juice
2 tablespoons dark rum – optional but recommended – sub more juice if not using.
1 3/4 cups or 220g flour
3/4 cup or 170g sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 cup or 120g butter, melted then cooled
2 eggs
1/3 cup or 75ml milk

Method
Divide your marzipan into thirds and wrap two thirds in cling film and refrigerate. 

Cut the last third into 12 reasonably equal pieces. Roll them into little balls and then flatten then into disks that are smaller than your muffin cups. Set aside.



Prepare your 12-cup muffin pan by greasing it with butter or non-stick spray, or lining the cups with paper liners.

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and put your almonds on a baking sheet in the oven while it preheats. Shake the baking sheet to move the almonds around every few minutes and take them out when you can smell that they are toasting. This will take anywhere from 7-18 minutes, depending on how long your oven takes to preheat. Mine takes at least 15 minutes so my nuts are usually in the whole time. Do not let the almonds scorch! 

Meanwhile, heat your orange juice and rum in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove until they are just starting to boil and pour them over your dried fruit and peel. Leave to steep. 



When the almonds are toasted, remove the pan from the oven and set them aside to cool. When they are cool, chop them in the food processor until they are in small pieces but not ground too finely. 


In a large mixing bowl, combine your flour, sugar, baking powder, mixed spice, salt and chopped almonds.


In a small bowl, whisk together your eggs, milk and melted butter. 


Pour your egg mixture and your mixed fruit, along with the soaking liquid, into the dry ingredients and fold until just combined.



Spoon half of the batter into the prepared muffin cups. 

Press one disk of marzipan gently into the top of the batter. 



Top with the balance of the batter, making sure that the disks of marzipan are completely covered. 


Bake for 20-25 minutes in your preheated oven or until golden brown on top. The toothpick checking trick will give you a false underdone reading because the marzipan in the middle comes out sticky, so you’ll have to trust that, if your oven has been at the proper temperature, after 25 minutes, they are done. 

While the muffins are baking, take the remaining marzipan out of the refrigerator and cut about one quarter off and set that aside. You may need it later when we are making apostles. 

Cover your clean work surface with cling film and put the bigger piece of marzipan in the middle. Top with another piece of cling film. 

Use a rolling pin to flatten the marzipan out until it’s less than a 1/8 in or about 3mm thick. 



When the muffins are done, remove them from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then put them on a wire rack.



Lift the top bit of cling film off of the rolled out marzipan and cut out circles with a cookie cutter.  


Put your hand under the second piece of cling film and raise the marzipan slightly to help peel it off cleanly. 



While they are still a bit warm, top each muffin with a circle of marzipan. The heat will warm the marzipan and help it stick to the muffin tops. 


Now we are going to make the traditional 12 marzipan balls. Scoop up all of your marzipan scraps and roll them into a small log. If there is not much left, add some from the reserved marzipan you cut off earlier. I managed to use just the scraps but you may need more, depending on how thick you rolled out the batch for topping. You want 12 balls of about 3/4 in or 19mm. Or make smaller balls. Anyway, the extra marzipan is there, if you need it. Top each muffin with an apostle or Jesus marzipan ball. 


Happy Easter! 



Enjoy! 





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Monday, April 7, 2014

Passion Fruit Muffins with Passion Fruit Glaze #MuffinMonday

Many passion fruit recipes suggest that you strain out the seeds but I happen to like the pop and crunch they add to a dish, dessert or baked good. I am delighted to share that they are also reported to be a nutritious addition, adding fiber, antioxidants and magnesium to a healthy diet.  

Although I spent some time in tropical climes when I was a child, passion fruit only reached my consciousness when I moved to Brazil as an adult. There it is called maracujá and features in many desserts, especially the local favorite, ubiquitous at every restaurant and house party, mousse de maracujá. It occurs to me that I’ve never posted that recipe here and perhaps I need to rectify that. But meanwhile, since my local grocery stores are filled with passion fruit at reasonable prices, and since it is Muffin Monday, I put them in beautiful, flavorful muffins. I think they would be great for the upcoming Holy Week, the week before Easter, which commemorates the passion of Christ. Maybe I can start a new worldwide tradition of baking passion fruit muffins in addition to hot cross buns. Anybody else game to join me?

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups or 190g flour
1/2 cup or 115g sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup or 180ml milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup or 60g butter, melted then cooled
1/2 cup or 120g passion fruit pulp, including the seeds

Optional glaze – passion fruit pulp from two small passion fruit (1/8 cup or 30g) plus an equal amount of powdered sugar (1/4 cup or 30g) and small pinch of salt.

Method
Preheat your oven to 350F° or 180°C and prepare your 12-cup muffin pan by greasing or lining with paper muffin cups.

In a large bowl mix together your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.



In a smaller bowl, whisk your milk, eggs and melted butter, along with the passion fruit pulp.



Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and stir until just combined.



Evenly distribute the batter among the muffin cups.



Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

Meanwhile, make the glaze, if using. Mix all three ingredients together in a small bowl, until all the sugar has dissolved.




Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.


Remove the muffins from the muffin pan and finish cooling on a rack.


When the muffins are completely cooled, carefully spoon the glaze over the tops. It will soak in and make the muffins even more moist.



Enjoy!



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Monday, March 31, 2014

Pesto Feta Muffins for #MuffinMonday


These tasty savory muffins are a great use of leftover pesto if you have such a thing. I always seem to have a half jar kicking around the refrigerator. Use any cheese you have to keep the pesto company but I can highly recommend feta.

As you read this, I’ll be back on an Emirates 777, winging my way from chilly New England to already-summer-in-March Dubai with high temperatures reaching 90°F or 32°C. How blessed we are to live in the age of flight, even with the occasional tragic airplane crash. Before I left home on this trip to spend time with my daughters, I expressed this to a friend who completely agreed. In the old days of expatriate assignments, folks had minimum two-year contracts and the most efficient method of travel was a ship that might take weeks to get home again so home leaves were undertaken only when the work contract was up. The new non-stop Emirates Boston-Dubai flight takes about 13 hours. You eat, you sleep, you watch movies, you try desperately to sleep some more (There may possibly be some serious drinking of red wine in order to help the sleeping. Or maybe that's just me.) and you are there. See you all on the other side!

Ingredients
2 cups or 250g flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 cup or 60ml pesto (homemade or store-bought – I used Whole Foods brand 365)
1/4 cup or 60g butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup or 180ml milk
1/2 cup or 3 oz  or 85g crumbled feta

Method
Preheat the oven to 350°F or 180°C and either grease your 12-cup muffin tin or line it with paper liners.

In one big mixing bowl, add your dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.


In small mixing bowl, whisk the melted butter, milk and pesto with your eggs.



Fold the liquids to the dry mixture, stopping when they are just mixed.


Fold in the feta.


Divide the batter between your prepared muffins cups.


Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.



Remove from the muffin tin and finish cooling on a rack.



Enjoy!



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Monday, March 24, 2014

Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins for #MuffinMonday

Who can resist the sweet and sour combination of lemon and mandarin orange that created the hybrid Meyer lemon? Meyer lemons and lemon yogurt make a beautiful rich batter for poppy seed muffins.

Last year when I was here in Providence visiting my daughters for spring break, I baked a beautiful (if I do say so myself – but you can go and judge for yourself) sweet bread loaf with lemons and poppy seeds. The weather was warmer at this time a year ago but the fresh, bright flavor of lemons is always cheerful and warming. Especially Meyer lemons. Weather reports are promising a chance of snow for the next two days– that’s right, snow again at the end of March, after the supposed start of spring! – so I baked muffins with the same flavors as last year’s bread. And added a lemony glaze, which makes them extra cheerful. If we can’t be warm and sunshiny outside, at least we can be inside. Snow, pfft. I laugh in your face.

Ingredients
2 cups or 250g flour
2/3 cup or 130g sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons poppy seeds (plus a couple of pinches more for decorating if desired)
Grated zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon (Mine were small so one yielded only 1 1/2 tablespoons juice.)
3/4 cup or 185g lemon yogurt
1/4 cup or 60ml milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup or 115g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Optional glaze – juice of one small Meyer lemon
About 4-5 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar

To decorate, if desired:
The glaze
Extra poppy seeds
Zest of one Meyer Lemon

Method
Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.  Butter your muffin tin or line it with paper liners.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, poppy seeds and salt to a large mixing bowl.



Grate in the Meyer lemon zest and mix. Juice your lemon.


In another smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, yogurt, juice and melted butter.


Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir until just mixed through.



Divide the mixture between the muffin cups in the pan.



Bake in your preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes then remove the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.  I don’t have a wire rack in the house where I’m staying so I just used the top of the gas range. Worked perfectly.



If you want to add glaze, zest your second Meyer lemon and squeeze out the juice.  Add powdered sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time and stir well, until the glaze is a good drizzling consistency.


When your muffins are cool, drizzle on the glaze and sprinkle the muffins with a little lemon zest and a few poppy seeds each.


Enjoy










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