Spiced apple and raisin muffins (and some early morning runs)

The house smelled all cinnamon-y and delicious!

Under the current semi lockdown situation we have been avoiding going to the supermarket and trying to use local shops and deliveries as much as possible. Some businesses have been very creative and enterprising in adapting to what’s happening. A fruit and veg company in New Covent Garden, which in normal times supplies hotels and restaurants, has turned to delivering great quality fresh products, including milk, bread and eggs if required. It’s a random selection, and it’s actually quite fun planning meals around 4 giant onions and a swede! We got lots of apples this week, plus pears and bananas. I decided to use some of the apples to make muffins.

Scooping the mixture in to these funky cases!

Yesterday I made muffins using this recipe from the BBC GoodFood website. The recipe is quite good, although not brilliantly written as it fails to mention in the method the topping (sugar) that is supposed to go on before you bake them. I probably wouldn’t have used any anyway. I adapted the recipe to use what I had in the cupboard. So instead of sultanas I used a mixture of raisins and dates. I used half the quantity of sugar. They were very good. Softening the apples by cooking them a bit first with the dried fruit, sugar and spices is definitely a good idea.

I like recipes like this because they are very versatile and can be tweaked quite a lot depending on what you have in the cupboard. Whole meal flour could be substituted for part of the plain. You could use different fruits or spices, and light brown sugar, or white, instead of golden caster sugar. You could use firm pears too I should think, with a little ginger as flavouring.

In other news (in other words Running News) – I have still been going out early (6-7am) to walk or run. It is very peaceful at that time in the morning, with few people around. I am hoping that the government will still allow us to exercise outdoors, although I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime soon restrictions become tighter.

Today I ran 10km locally. I do seem to be getting slower and slower, which is slightly concerning! I think it’s because I’m not particularly training for anything so I am just jogging along. And I do stop quite frequently to look at things. Today I saw: a pair of jays in the trees by the river; a heron sitting high up in a very tall tree surveying the landscape; a rat darting into the undergrowth by the path; a blackbird singing in a ash tree; several robins defending their territory. Sadly I also saw a lot of litter. Why oh why are some people so lazy that they cannot just take their crisp packets and plastic drinks bottles home with them, or find a bin? And why are they sitting on a bench socialising and having a mini picnic right now anyway? But I did also see a lovely man in Pitshanger Park picking litter as he went for a walk. Hurray! The helpful people always outnumber the antisocial ones.

Very early run on Tuesday this week – sparkling frost on the grass
I saw the jays near here. It’s the river Brent near Perivale Park.

I hope that wherever you are you are staying safe, and managing to do some kind of exercise whether that’s inside or out. The weather in the UK today has been beautifully warm and sunny, and we are very lucky to have a garden.

Thick with flowers, so beautiful against the blue sky

Chocolate-malt birthday cupcakes

It is lovely Georgia-in-Paris’s birthday very soon. Today her Dad and her Not-Dad are travelling to France to deliver her cake! Really! 😉 Well not exactly. That’s not the actual reason for the journey to be honest. But it seemed a good opportunity/excuse to make cake. I did in fact make this recipe a couple of years ago for Georgia so I hope she still likes it. It is an adaptation of a great recipe in The Best of Better Baking.com.

The original recipe is called Moist and Mellow Yellow Birthday Cake or Cupcakes, and I have made it as is and it was very good. This version was inspired by Maltesers. Apparently in the US they are called Whoppers. The flavour is malted chocolate. I really love this flavour. Last time I was in New York we went to a great luncheonette – Lexington Candy Shop – and I had a chocolate malted milk shake which was The Best! If you are ever in this neighbourhood make sure you check this place out – it is so cool!

I love Maltesers in a box. It reminds me of going to the cinema or the theatre. Anyone else?

The recipe turns out a moist cake with a good texture, light but not too fluffy. I think this is partly the milk, and partly the addition of cornflour.

I made 6 giant cupcakes and 8 smaller regular sized ones. You could get 24 cupcakes or one 20cm (8 inch) cake. A cake for any occasion really.
The original version

Recipe (my version):

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups caster sugar

3/4 cup (6 oz or 170g) softened butter

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup (125 ml) warm water

1/2 cup (125 ml) warm milk

2 tbsp malt extract, stirred into the milk/water mixture

2 1/4 cups plain flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 tbsp cornflour

1 tbsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

Method (my way!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or Gas Mark 4. Get your tins ready – 2 x 8” or 9” pans; or a 9” x 13” pan; or 2 dozen muffin cups; or a combination. Grease or line with baking parchment or paper muffin liners, or whatever you usually do to stop the cake sticking in the pan.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.

In a jug combine the milk, water, malt extract and vanilla.

Mix the wet ingredients into the creamed mixture.

In another bowl sieve together all the dry ingredients.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring until mixed together really well.

Put the cake batter into whatever tins and pans etc you are using.

Bake for: round cakes 25-35 minutes; large cake 35-45 minutes; cupcakes for 18-25 minutes. The tops should spring back when gently pressed.

Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. When cool ice with your chosen icing/ frosting. For these cupcakes I used a simple chocolate ganache – a bar of dark chocolate (180g) chopped and melted into 3/4 cup or about 200ml of double cream brought to a simmer and removed from the heat. Stir until melted, leave to cool then whisk. When it’s spreading consistency use to cover the tops of the cakes. And finally – decorate with Maltesers!

These are the giant cupcakes that went over to Paris.
Happy Early Birthday Georgia!
These are the regular size cupcakes that stayed in London. 🙂
I sprinkled these with a few gold flakes.

If you try this recipe I would love to know how it turned out. Either the original vanilla or the chocolate or maybe something else! It’s going to be another stormy weekend in the UK – stay in and bake!

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Yay! It’s Friday! To celebrate I’m writing today about some muffins I made earlier in the week. Muffins are quick and easy. They are always best on the day they are made, preferably almost as soon as they are cool. My recipe is from a great American cook book called The Joy of Cooking. (I have had a copy of this American classic for many years. The original edition I had told you how to skin and cook a squirrel!)

Lemon poppy seed muffins

I don’t know where this classic combo of citrus and seeds came from – but it’s delicious. Tangy lemon and subtle crunch of poppy seeds. It’s found in cakes and muffins, bars and biscuits.

Here’s the muffin recipe:

Put paper cases in a 12 hole muffin tray. preheat the oven to Mark 6.

Ingredients:

WET – in a bowl whisk the following together:

2 large eggs

1 cup milk/cream/yogurt – or a combination

2/3 cup sugar (or a bit less for a lower sugar version)

4-8 tbsp melted unsalted butter or veg oil (I used a light olive oil)

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp grated lemon rind (I used 1 lemon)

DRY – in a large bowl whisk the following together:

2 cups plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds

Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing lightly until the flour mixture is just moistened. Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake for 12-15 minutes until a tester/toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool in the tin for a couple of minutes before removing to a wire rack.

EAT! (any left over can be reheated briefly in the microwave – literally 5 seconds – to refresh. But try not have any left over…)

Have a great weekend! Are you baking? Are you running? Have fun whatever you do.

Sweet Potato Muffin Bites – super healthy!

The amazingly nutritious sweet potato in its raw, unpeeled state

Sweet potatoes in baking? Well why not? I hadn’t ever thought about baking with sweet potatoes but I have often used carrots, bananas or apple sauce in cakes and muffins. So why not sweet potatoes. I was inspired to start looking for recipes by a friend of my husband, Jonathan, who has diabetes and tries to eat sweet potatoes, pumpkin or squash daily to help regulate blood glucose. Interesting…I just had to find out more!

The orange colour is from the beta carotene – converted to Vitamin A in the body

What is a sweet potato? It’s not a potato – or not in the sense of the usual ‘white’ potato which is in the nightshade family. Sweet potatoes, a sweet, starchy root vegetable, are in the bindweed family. The are often orange but you can get purple and white varieties.

So what exactly are the “super food” qualities of the sweet potato? A quick internet search reveals lots of reliable evidence on the great nutritional benefits of the sweet potato.

I found the following information on the website www.healthline.com and copied it straight:

“One cup (200 grams) of baked sweet potato with skin provides:

  • Calories: 180
  • Carbs: 41.4 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 0.3 grams
  • Fiber: 6.6 grams
  • Vitamin A: 769% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin C: 65% of the DV
  • Manganese: 50% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 29% of the DV
  • Potassium: 27% of the DV
  • Pantothenic acid: 18% of the DV
  • Copper: 16% of the DV
  • Niacin: 15% of the DV “

They are also high in antioxidants that protect from inflammation and chronic disease. Look at the amazing Vit A content! Vitamin A (beta carotene) protects your eyesight and may help prevent certain types of cancer. Sweet potato also been found to help maintain a healthy gut, and support the immune system. The high potassium content is helpful for regulating blood pressure. Sweet potatoes have a low glycaemic index, which means they can help to regulate and control blood sugars in people with diabetes, because they don’t cause sudden spikes in blood glucose, which play havoc with insulin levels.


This recipe used mashed sweet potato. They can be cooked in many ways – boiled, steamed, baked, roasted, depending on the recipe and what they’re being used for.

I have found some promising recipes on Pinterest (I’m on there!) and tried one on Saturday. Feeling that I should try the ‘healthy’ recipe first I went for this one at MidLifeMamas.com .

I had never even heard of hemp hearts before – that’s what the shelled hemp seeds are, hiding behind the oats.

It’s vegan, and stuffed not only with sweet potatoes, but bananas (more potassium!), flax and hemp seed (protein packed!) and oats (reduce cholesterol! help your heart!).

Random picture of the silicone moulds – just because I really like them!

But would they taste good?

They don’t look all that promising do they?!
🙂
But actually they were very tasty.

The recipe is easy to follow and straightforward. They do taste good! I made 30 rather than 24 because I made them in my little pink silicone moulds. (That’s why I’m calling mine muffin bites – they are quite small.) Each one is about 15 g of carbohydrate, and just over 100 kcal. They definitely taste like a healthy snack rather than an indulgent treat. That’s ok though – sometimes that’s what we want. They are a bit like a baked version of an energy ball – see here for an example. They freeze well apparently so I will freeze most of these and then they are handy for taking to work as a little snack. They might even work on a run?!

Talking of which – next Sunday 12th May is my next run in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside. It is 26 km long – further than a half marathon – and in the hills! To say I am nervous is an understatement. I have never done anything like this, and fully expect to be last one back! Watch this space for a race report. And if you would like to sponsor me for encouragement you can click here. Thanks for reading! Have a great May day Bank Holiday if you are in the UK. (I will be going for a run.)