Blueberry Shortbread Crumble Muffins

Buns and Breads, Cakes

Joe,

Long-time, no cake. Writing to you about cake, that is. Not saying anything about my consumption of cake. I eat a lot of the stuff.

I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by life of late. Lol, what a start.

There’s something about the beginnings of spring that has this effect I’ve noticed. The moment that cold sun comes out to play and everyone suddenly carries tote bags instead of rucksacks. Makes people feel carefree I think – Just gives me a sore shoulder.

My kitchen window looks over the carpark of a big car sales warehouse. It’s where the people that work at the warehouse like to go, to feel like they aren’t at work. A couple weeks back, when it was cold and snowing, I saw a man, I’d say late 40’s, in his car sales uniform, stretch out his arms and run in figures of 8 around the carpark, pretending to be an aeroplane. That same week, I saw two guys, younger this time, in their uniforms, play a game of one a side football – haha not a thing – with a snowball for a football. It was brilliant.

It was brilliant because they were playing, despite the snow, the cold and the dark. In sun, everyone is out, everyone plays all the time. In sun, the world is oversaturated with moments like the man pretending to be an aeroplane. I find it sets me a bit adrift. It’s like there are too many special moments for me to catch. Like I can’t keep up.  

Maybe this makes me sound bloody miserable. I hope not. As it goes, I don’t think I have a lot of misery in me. I really love life, I find a lot of joy in it. But when big change is happening, at first, I feel a bit disconnected from the world. A bit overwhelmed by it. Honestly, a bit frightened of it. Frightened of its oversaturated new-ness. I think maybe you feel this sometimes too?

When this happens, I turn to what I know I can make good – butter, flour, sugar and eggs. I start with a thing I want to make. Next, I decide on the texture I want the thing to have. Then I look at every book I can get my hands on with a recipe for the thing. I compare the recipes, work out what each ingredient does. After that, I bake. And bake again, and then again. Until I have what I’m after. Some people would call this an obsession. Lol that’s exactly what it is, but when I’ve cracked it, when I’ve worked it out, it’s a feeling like none other. I don’t feel quite so overwhelmed by life, because I’ve cracked my perfect muffin and I can give it to people I love.

I believe, Joe, that you’d call this process a version of ‘retaining my soul’. That’s exactly what it is.

I wanted a not too sweet, buttery muffin with a structural integrity that borders on denseness but doesn’t feel like you’re eating a brick. Back up with them dry, dense muffins that would struggle to bounce if you dropped it on a trampoline. Haha. There’s a large quantity of blueberries too, and for a bit of sweet somethin, a thick and crumbly shortbread topping.

Bake these muffins and retain your soul, Joe. You have my fave soul, a soul in a millimuffin. 

This will either make 8 large muffins or 14 regular sized muffins. If you only have one 6 or 12-hole muffin tray, like me, you can reserve the leftover batter in the fridge and bake them once your first batch is out.

Ingredients

For the Shortbread Crumble Topping

  • 25g sugar
  • 40g butter – cubed and a little cold
  • 60g plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Muffin Batter

  • 120g butter
  • 250g blueberries
  • 340g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 130g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs – 100g, if you want to weigh it
  • 250g sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 scant tablespoons milk

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180 / 160 fan. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases, or with butter and strips of greaseproof paper.

Make the shortbread topping by rubbing all the ingredients together between your fingertips. The mixture will come together in clumps. Once done put in the fridge or freezer while you make the muffin batter.

Melt the butter in the microwave and set aside to cool.

Squash about a third of the blueberries with the back of a folk, you don’t want to turn them into a pulp, just burst them a bit. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and sugar.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract, milk and melted butter.

Add the wet mix to the dry, followed the by the squashed and not squashed blueberries. Fold to combine, careful not to overmix – about 15 folds of a spatula will do it. There might be a few small dry patches of flour, that’s ok! Better that than an overworked batter.  

Distribute the batter between the muffin tins and top each with shortbread crumble until all used up. Bake for 24 mins (or 29 mins if making 8 large muffins), or until very lightly golden and a knife inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Apple and Blackcurrent Bakewell Tart

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Hey Joe,

It’s been a little while hasn’t it, sorry about that. But I’ve created my own take on a Bakewell tart and it’s really good. The flavor combination is inspired by Mum. We have one jar left of the blackcurrant jam she made a while ago – and it is beautiful. Sweet and sour. But not like the sweet and sour chicken Grandad gets in every buffet he has ever been to… it’s fruity, sharp and sweet. Tastes really peng with the sweet almost frangipane. Funny word, I know, frangipane. Pretty much, frangipane is a sweet almond cake paste that you bake into tarts, it comes out of the oven really soft. The apple element in the tart comes from the draw in the freezer that mum has filled with apples. Mum is an apple hoarder. A hoarder of apples. Not from Sainsbury’s though. From apples that have fallen off apple trees. I don’t think she actually likes apples that much. I think she just gets excited at the idea of free food or she feels sad that no one is eating all theses apples. So. She takes them all.

This recipe took me two tries, mainly because of my relationship with pastry. In some sweet pastry you can bind the flour, butter and sugar with an egg. It makes a more glossy, firmer pastry case. I’m not a fan. The pastry case that I like is light, flaky and barely there. This is the kind of pastry that goes so well with the soft, chewy frangipane. (WOW food column in the Guardian – come get me).

For this recipe you will need pastry and an apple. Great! Put the apple in a pastry case and bake!….I am JOKING.

Variations: you can fill this tart with any kind of jam and any kind of fruit. Raspberries and raspberry jam, apricots and damson jam, rhubarb and marmalade…? The tart is your oyster.

This recipe can be used for a 18 – 20cm tart dish, flan tin or removable base round cake tin.

Ingredients

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

  • 90g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon cold water plus one teaspoon

Frangipane and Filling

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g plain flour
  • 80g ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100g apples, pealed, cored and sliced
  • 1 heaped tablespoon blackcurrant jam
  • 2 tablespoons of flaked almonds

Method

Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the butter. Using your finger tips, rub into the flour and sugar mix. You want to create a bread crumb consistency.

Once the flour, sugar, salt and butter have been crumbed add in the tablespoon of cold water. Use a knife (the kind you use to eat your dinner with) to ‘cut’ into the mixture. Literally use cutting, crossing motions with the knife pointing down, to allow the mixture to start clumping together. Don’t worry if it looks like nothing is changing, it is, just subtly. If it looks like there is still some dry flour in the bowl, add the teaspoon of water (and no more!)

Once the water has been added and I have used a knife to cut through the mixture

Once the water is incorporated and some clumps have formed bring the mixture together with your hands. Handle the dough as little as possible here. Once you have a ball of dough, wrap it in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for 30 mins.

look at this lil g

While the pastry is chilling lightly butter your tin and sprinkle with some flour. Shake and pat the tin over the sink, covering it with a very light dusting of flour.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly flour surface, your aiming for no thicker than 5mm. Please don’t measure it. This is sad. Just roll it out until you feel and then roll it a bit more. Then it will be ready. Line your tin with the pastry, making sure there is about an inch of pastry hanging over the edge of the tin (pastry shrinks when you bake it). This is how I do it:

Roll…
…roll…
…roll…
…lift!…Unroll…
…unroll…
…gently fold in…
…gently fold in…
…gently fold out…
…make some Visual Art…
…Used a ball of pastry to gently push into the corners and sides of the case…Done!

Chill the pastry case in the fridge for another 30 mins and pre-heat your oven to 180.

Once the pastry is chilled you need to ‘blind’ bake the pastry case before you add the filling. This just means your partly cooking the pastry. Cover the chilled pastry case with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Weigh the greaseproof paper down with uncooked lentils or rice (I’m using dried mung beans, Anna gave me them a year ago and they’ve been used as baking beans ever since). Bake this for 12-15 mins until the pastry appears dry, under the greaseproof paper. Remove the greaseproof paper and lentils/rice and let the case bake for another 5 minuets, until lightly golden.

Once the pastry case is out of the oven and cooled slightly, use a knife to trim the excess pastry hanging over the edge of the tin.

Leaving your oven on, make the frangipane filling. Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.

Before adding your eggs, measure out your flour and ground almonds. Beat in your eggs one at a time to the butter mixture, adding a tablespoon of the flour and ground almonds with each egg addition to stop the mixture curdling.

Fold in the remaining flour and ground almonds.

Now assemble the tart. Layer jam, then half the frangipane, then the apples, the the rest of the frangipane.

Bake for 10 mins then sprinkle over the flaked almonds. Return the tart to the oven for another 15 – 20 mins or until golden brown. This doesn’t behave the same way as a cooked cake, so don’t press it to see if it springs back! You will have a finger print tart….mmm delicious.

Enjoy the bakewell! Caitlin xxx

I started eating the off cuts of the pastry with jam while the tart was cooking… would recommend

Making Buns, Hun – Hot Cross Buns

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Happy Easter Joe!!

I made hot cross buns. I won’t lie to you they take a long time to make haha but it’s worth it. These are my one and only buns. Mum gave me an old baking book yesterday (the inside page – ‘To Daddy, looking forward to some parties, love Joe’ in mum’s hand writing). In the book it said before the Reformation all dough was sliced with a cross before it went in the oven to ward off any evil spirits that might stop the dough rising… fact of the day for you.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 300ml full-fat or semi skimmed milk
  • 50g butter
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 7g sachet yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 75g sultanas
  • 50g raisins
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

The Cross

  • 75g plain flour
  • 5 tablespoons water

The Glaze

The glaze is normally made from warmed apricot jam but there was none in the cupboard so I made a new glaze

  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 3/4 tablespoons boiling water

Method

Bring the milk to the boil then take off the heat and add the butter, swirl the pan to let the butter melt. Leave it to cool down to a comfortable warm temp (so you can put your finger in the mixture).

Visual art
some more Visual Art

Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour the milk/butter mixture into the well, mix with a wooden spoon. Then bring everything together with your hands.

flour and butter: about 30 mins entertainment…

Tip the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and have at it for 8 mins until the dough is smooth and elastic. It’s a sweet dough so you need to work it quite well because the sugar and milk and butter make it hard for the yeast to do it’s ting – ward off those evil spirits with your kneading! Once you’ve kneaded it put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover the bowl with oiled cling film. Leave the bowl in a warm place for the dough to prove for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

hello lil dough of egg

Once the dough has had its first prove add the sultanas, raisins, orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg. Knead these into the dough. Leave the dough to prove again for an hour or until doubled in size (with more oiled cling film over the bowl).

After the second prove divide the dough into 15 even pieces (you can eye ball this – I ended up with some lil buns and some big buns – variety in your life is they way to go). Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured work surface. Put the buns on baking trays that have been lined with greaseproof paper. Make sure you leave enough space between the buns to let them rise. Cover (but don’t wrap) the trays with olied cling film or with a tea towel. Set the buns aside for an hour for the final prove (almost there lol).

About 20 mins before the buns have finished their third and final prove, preheat the oven to 220. Mix the flour with the water to make the paste for the cross. Add one tablespoon of water at a time, you might not use all of the water. You want a flour paste that you can pipe, not flour water. Spoon the paste into a piping bag with a small nozzle (or sandwich bag, cut the tip off the bag once it has been filled with the paste and you will have a piping bag). Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to make the crosses.

Bake the buns for 20 mins.

lil Top gs out the oven

When the buns are out the oven mix together the boiling water (again one table spoon at a time to get the right consistency), icing sugar and golden syrup. Brush this over the buns while they are still warm, or you can use your fingers as a pastry bush.

That’s it!! Enjoy your peng peng buns, Caitlin XXX

Black Treacle Ginger Cake

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Yo Joe

The ginger cake that I make was found by fifteen year old me in a baking book by Sainsbury’s. Sainsbury’s is a blessed place without the addition of a baking book but I think this book took Sainsbury’s to new heights. This is the only ginger cake I will ever make because it is the best ginger cake. I know you know how good it is, but our readers may want to hear some reviwes – ‘Outstanding’ (dad), ‘Top cake’ (dad), ‘Really good’ (mum), ‘Leng’ (You (Joe)). Anna and Kanhai are fans too. I think its safe to say this is a cake that I will pass onto my kids, grandchildren, cats. I reckon I could make this cake with my eyes closed, a good thing because the pages of the recipe are stuck together with 6 years worth of cake batter splatter, drips of black treacle and smears of butter. A sign of a good recipe.

Yep. I am a photographer

Ingredients

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g unsalted butter, from the fridge
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 100g black treacle. For the syrups 100g is about 3 and a half tablespoons
  • 100g light brown soft sugar
  • 50g diced stem ginger plus 2 tablespoons of ginger syrup from the jar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 100g icing sugar

Method

Preheat your oven to 180. Grease your cake tin with butter (I used a 22cm ring tin. This cake also works in a 20cm squar tin or a 20 x 10cm loaf tin). This is a sticky cake so shake a light coating of flour around the inside of your tin to help the cake come out.

Using the tips of your fingers rub together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and butter until it resembles bread crumbes. You can also do this by putting theses ingredients in a food processor. Set this mixture aside.

In a saucepan, put the black treacle, golden syrup, sugar and diced stem ginger. Heat gently until all the sugar has disolved (the mixture isnt grainy anymore), then cook for a further minuet on high heat and remove. The syrup will bubble up, don’t worry about this, it takes a long time to burn this mixture so no risk of that. Set the pan aside.

Beat together the eggs and milk then pour into the flour mixture. Give this a little stir before adding the syrup mixture that has had time to cool a bit. Combine all the mixtures together quite quickly to avoid the syrup mixture hardening too much (I always get a bit of hard caramel on the bottom of my bowl). This batter does well with as little mixing as possible to avoid it sinking in the oven so once everything is combine get it in the tin.

Bake for 45 mins.

Once out of the oven allow the cake to cool for 10 mins in the tin while you make the syrup. Sive the icing sugar into a bowl and stir in the ginger syrup and 2 tablespoons of boiling water.

Take the cake out of the tin and put on a wier rack or plate. Peirce the cake all over with a skewer and pour over the syrup…mmmm nice.

have a sweet sweet cake, Caitlin xxxx

Garlic Rosemary Focaccia Botany and Hello!

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Dear Joe

Wheeeyy Cake On My Face is published!! This is a lil bit of an experiment, I’ve never written a blog before so lets see how this goes. Thought I would write it to you, Joe, because it feels very strange not knowing who you’re writing to, could be one person or could be 100…wow.

Yesterday I made Focaccia.

My focaccia garden boii

I love Mum’s fascination with weeds growing out of cracks in pavements, walls and at the side of ring roads. It’s also pretty amazing that she seems to know the name of all the weeds she finds. Yesterday we were on a walk together, I was ahead, I heard ‘Caito. Come try this’, mum handed me a small green leaf she had just picked, ‘what is it?’, ‘Garlic Mustard’. We walked on, eating some leaves that really did taste of garlic and mustard. She still uses that flower encyclopedia we got her for Christmas a couple years ago when she doesn’t know the name of a plant she finds. I’m not great at matching up names of plants with what they look like but I still love looking at weeds and flowers, their colour, smell and texture.

In tribute to mum’s impressive knowladge of flowers and my impressive ability to eat bread I decided to make a focaccia garden. I’d never made focaccia before but it’s my new fav bread, it’s one of the fastest breads to make and has been hailed ‘the most delicious bread’ by Celestine. You can top it with any flavour and any design so you can use this recipe to make your own focaccia creation…garden…allotment…jungle?

Ingredients

Dough

  • 400 g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100 g wholemeal bread flour, fine ground semolina or strong white bread flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 7 g dried yeast
  • 1/2 tablespoon golden caster sugar
  • 300 ml lukewarm water
  • olive oil (as much as you want to put on your bread)

Topping

You can use whatever veg and herbs you have in your kitchen, but you need garlic. Here is what I used:

  • 1 red onion
  • 2 peppers, one red, one yellow
  • 1 handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 spring onions
  • handful of parsley
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • black sesame seeds

Method

Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle like you are about to make pancakes. In a seperate bowl add the yeast and sugar into the lukewarm water and mix with a fork. Leave the yeast and water for a few mins until it sarts to foam. When you can see some foam on top of the water slowly pour it into the well you made in the flour mixture. Mix this with a fork.

Once the mixture comes together tip it onto a worksurface and get your hands involved. Knead vigorously for about 8 mins. You might want to add a little bit of flour onto the worksurface so the dough doesn’t stick, but try to use as little as possible. You want to end up with a smooth, springy dough.

Lightly oil a large bowl and pop the dough in it. Dust the top of the dough with flour and cover with a tea towel. Leave the bowl in a warm place (like in the 25 degree sun were having at the min) to prove for about half a hour. You want your dough to have doubled in size.

I’m loving my dough
With a lil bit of work…
Your dough can look like a boiled egg too

While the dough proves preheat the oven to 220 and prep your toppings.

Once the dough has risen, punch it to deflate the dough then spread it out onto a baking tray. Press your fingers down in the dough like your playing the piano to make lots of dips and wells in the dough. Arrange your toppings on the dough. Scatter some chopped garlic and rosemary, sprinkle some salt and drizzle a good amount of olive oil on the dough to finish.

Lay a tea towel over the dough and prove for another 20 mins. Then, bake for 20 mins or until golden on top and soft in the middle. If you can’t tell if the bread is done, tap it, if it sounds hollow its ready to come out.

Enjoy your focaccia and the sun, Caitlin xxxxxx