Proper Old School Blueberry Muffins

Muffins are without doubt a delightful and tasty small cake that compliments a light lunch or even a mid meal snack to keep hunger pangs at bay. They are small, take anywhere delights and a firm favourite of many people… myself included.

But wait, something has gone terribly wrong with the whole concept of the humble muffin in my humble opinion. I find more often than not, when I make a purchase and eagerly open the packaging to sample my muffin, that all is not perfect in muffin world. I tend to find that the muffin of this high tech processed food world to be substandard to what I recall as the perfect muffin.

Maybe my memory has put on some rose tinted glasses and the muffin I crave never really existed but I believe they do. The muffin of today tends to be a super sugary and very moist ball of dough that when you eat turns into a single flavoured paste in your mouth. This defeats the purpose of eating a proper muffin. With a proper muffin you are meant to have a light fluffy cake and only when you bite into the fruit of the muffin do you get a burst of sweetness and flavour. A muffin should be a multi levelled experience, and that’s what I miss.

Until now!

I am making a stand; I am going to take control of my muffin again. I know I can do better myself and so I am going to do it and here is how…

Let us start with the most popular muffin on the market, the blueberry muffin. I consulted my range of baking books and settled on my stalwart go to book the Leiths Baking Bible. I have waxed lyrical about this range of books before and with good reason, they do it properly.

Let’s bake some proper old school blueberry muffins!

My Proper Old School Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

For the muffins:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp of ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of salt
  • 115g of melted butter
  • 115g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1tsp grated lemon zest
  • 140g soured cream
  • 200g of fresh blueberries

For the topping:

  • 85g plain flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 55g of butter
  • 55g of caster sugar

Method:

Make the topping first by sifting the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour and then with only your finger tips rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, now stir in the sugar and pop into the fridge to chill.

Pop the oven on and set it to 190C or 375F. Line a 12 holes muffin tin with paper or silicon muffin cases and set aside for the moment.

For the muffins themselves, sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt into a large mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan slowly melt the butter removing from the heat just before fully melted and allow to cool slightly for a couple of minutes. Add the lemon zest, sugar and soured cream and stir well. Add the beaten eggs slowly whilst still stirring to stop them curdling or lumping from the heat of the melted butter.

Now the most important part of the whole process, add the wet ingredients to the dry and pop in the blueberries. Remember, you are not allowed to use more than 20 folds to combine them as over stirring will cause the final muffins to be tough. Try and do it with as few folds as possible; I tend to do around 14, so the challenge is set 🙂

Now divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin cases.

Last thing, remove the topping from the fridge and sprinkle over the muffin mixture, I tend to find I have too much so don’t overdo it, it’s alright to have some spare.

Now bake in the middle of your preheated oven for around 20 minutes or until well risen and golden brown, you will have to adjust if you have a convection oven by lowering the target temperature by 10 degrees and reducing baking time by 5 minutes. You will just have to keep an eye on the little fellas. As a final test a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of one muffin should come out clean and dry.

Remove the muffins from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

What's Baking - Proper Old School Blueberry MuffinsProper Old School Blueberry Muffins

Do you enjoy the muffins of today or do you crave the way they used to be?

What is your favourite muffin?

Yum

The mystery of the humble bagel discovered – Sesame Seed Bagels

Sesame Seed Bagels

I have grown used to wonders coming from the kitchen, delightful morsels of heavenly sustenance that I look forward to whenever I hear loud music from the kitchen (the tell tell sign that Mark is creating). Well, a few days ago I was left standing in a blissful state of happiness as I chewed through a fresh baked bagel with some cream cheese and chives, OMG you should have been there it was a standout moment.

Now, I love bagels, always have done but have always bought them from the bakers or supermarket as we both thought that in some way they where a magical creation that need specialist equipment or techniques to make. In other words leave it to the professionals. With this in mind you can imagine my guarded joy when I was informed that Mark was going to recreate some in our very own humble kitchen. Oh how quick was I to judge and then to have to internally have to eat humble pie when it turned out to be such a showstopper.

Bagel recipes are not often found in cook books, maybe more of an American thing I don’t know but that is our experience. This changed recently when Mark added another cookbook to his collection, he is collecting all the books by Leith’s in their bible series that he absolutely raves about for their excellent mixture of well written recipes in addition to the wealth of informative additional information that will help you become a better cook. Well tucked in the “Baking Bible” book was the rare but legendary bagel recipe, and Mark having studied it decided to was achievable. Having tasted the results I begged him to share with me how he did it so I could in turn share it with you. You may not know it yet but today you are about to have an awesome day, read on…

The only specialist equipment you need is a plant spray bottle, or something that can turn water into a spray mist. Additionally for an even more authentic bagel a pizza stone in the oven is helpful, but not essential.

You will need the following ingredients:

  • 450g strong white bread flour (organic and unbleached if possible)
  • 1½tsp salt
  • 15g yeast (fresh if possible)
  • 225ml mix or water and milk at room temperature in a jug
  • 1tsp of caster sugar
  • 1tsp malt extract or molasses
  • 1oz melted butter that’s cooled
  • 1 medium egg lightly whisked
  • Handful of sesame seeds (not essential but desirable)

Method:

Sift your flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Whisk the yeast into the milk/water mixture and then add the sugar and malt extract. I found that it was helpful to add a couple of spoonfuls of the above mix to the melted butter and stirring to make the butter runnier. The main reason for this is that you reduce the risk of the melted butter hitting the colder ingredients and seizing up into chilled lumps. Now add the butter and whisked egg to the liquid mix and give a final good whisk to make sure it’s all mixed with no lumps and everything is dissolved. Now pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and add the salt. Now, depending if you’re a mechanical person or a physical person you need to either knead by hand for 10 minutes or in a food mixer with a dough hook for around 6 minutes. Either way you should end up with a smooth elastic ball of bread dough that you now need to lightly coat with olive oil and place into a clean lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and then a couple of tea towels and place somewhere out of drafts for an hour or two till it’s at least double in size.

You need two baking sheets that have been lightly oiled for our bagels to grow on.

The mystery of the humble Bagel discovered – Sesame Seed Bagels

Through this next stage try and use as little extra flour as possible on the dough as it will make the finished product heavier and tougher. Remove the dough from the bowl and knock back (punch it) and then knead it for no more than 30 seconds to get the air out. Divide the dough into 10-12 equal sized portions and roll them into balls. Take a ball and squash gently between your palms and then poke a finger through the middle to make a ring shape. The dough will naturally tend to try and shrink the hole as it contracts so you need to either stretch it gently and evenly so keep the hole around 4-5cms wide or stick it on your finger and spin it so centrifugal forces do the job for you (this is a skill that takes some practice!) Now place the newly formed baby bagel on your oiled baking sheet and then grab the next ball of dough, repeat this step till they are all done. Finally cover them with another sheet of lightly oiled clingfilm and set aside somewhere warm and draft free for 20-30 minutes till they are all big and fluffy and soft bagel looking.

You want to cook your bagels near the top of the oven so in your cold oven place two shelves one in the top 1/3rd of the oven and one just below. Place your pizza stone on the top shelf and on the lower shelf place an empty roasting tin, close the door and allow to heat up to 220C or 425F.

Whilst you’re waiting we can set up the poaching bath. For this you need a large saucepan ¾ filled with water. Add 1 tablespoon of malt extract and then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly so that you have bubbles rising to the surface every few seconds. It is essentially that it is not boiling to energetically as the bagels want a relaxed bath or they will lose some of their puffy wonderfulness that you have so patiently cultivated.

Fill a kettle up and boil it.

The mystery of the humble Bagel discovered - Sesame Seed Bagels

When all is ready take a single bagel and gently lift it from the baking tray and place in the water, after 10 seconds and not a second longer flip the bagel upside down, after another 10 seconds gently remove with a slotted spoon and return to the baking tray to drain a bit, sprinkle your sesame seeds over the top.

Top tip if the bagels come out of the water flat and deflated to much then you have left them in too long and need to reduce the time spent poaching, you can’t help but lose some of the air in a kitchen environment but we want to minimise the lose.

Once you have finished poaching them all that’s left to do is the baking part. Now depending on how confident you are about handling the uncooked bagels without “popping” them you can either pick them up and place directly on the pizza stone in your oven or you can do what we did and just put the entire baking tray straight into the oven, again on top of the pizza stone. Take your boiling kettle and pour into the empty roasting tin below the pizza stone. Finally give the bagels a good spray of water from your plant mister bottle and shut the oven door.

Set your timer for 15 minutes. Now another quick note, a normal oven is best for cooking the bagels, if however you have a fan assisted convection oven then reduce the oven temp by 10 degrees and the cooking time by a couple of minutes.

The mystery of the humble Bagel discovered – Sesame Seed Bagel

Every minute for the first 5 minutes quickly open the oven door and spray the bagels with a light mist. After five minutes you can stop with the spraying. After 15 minutes check on your creations, if they are all puffed up and golden brown open the door and tap one, it should sound hollow. If any of these conditions are not met then cook for a few more minutes. When you happy they are done remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.

When cold, cut in half and toast, butter and spread with some cream cheese, welsh rarebit or if your posh smoked salmon and dill and let your taste buds flood your brain with gratitude.

Home Baked Sesame Seed Bagels

Shop bought bagels will never taste the same…