Friday 4 August 2017

My All -Purpose Use-What-You-Have Muffin and Tea Cake Recipe

We classify what we eat, those who cook what we eat, and the way our food is prepared in so many different ways: Fruitatarian, Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Locavore, Omnivore, Wholesome Food, Organic Food, Health Food, Peasant Food, Local Food, Junk Food,  Plain Cook, Bush Cook, Home Cook, Traditional Cook, Professional Cook, Chef, Regional Cuisine, Peasant Cuisine, Nouvelle Cuisine, and Haute Cuisine. to name but a few! 

Here's another way to classify cooks that perhaps occurs to us less often:  Those who choose a recipe they like, shop for the ingredients, then prepare the dish, and those who look at the ingredients they have on hand, figure out what they can make with them, then cook a meal.  

If you're on a tight food budget, I'm willing to wager that you find yourself in the use-what-you-have group most of the time, and that's a good thing.  Using what you have on hand promotes creativity and it reduces food waste: it's kinder to both your budget and the planet.

This simple recipe is a great way to treat yourself to a little something sweet while making use of what you have on hand.  I came across it when I was a college student - so far back in the mists of time that I can't remember where I found it  ;) - and over time I've adapted it to best suit my baking habits.  

To make this recipe, you'll need:

  • 1-1/2 cups flour  (If you want to, you can substitute up to 1/2 cup of finely ground nuts for an equivalent amount of the flour )
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (If you're using citrus juice or tea for you liquid in this recipe, use 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda instead)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • spices if you want them
  • up to 1 cup of other stuff:  Fresh or dried fruit, chopped nuts, coconut, or seeds (optional)
  • 1/3 cup oil or melted butter or melted margarine (You can substitute applesauce or other fruit puree here but doing so will your finished product a little less tender.)
  • 1/2 cup liquid (Milk, almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, buttermilk, fruit juice, coffee, or tea will work. Use the baking powder/baking soda amounts listed in parentheses above when using buttermilk, fruit juice or tea.)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar, brown sugar, or maple syrup. (You can substitute up to 1/4 cup of sugar with mild molasses but, if you do, be sure to use the baking powder/baking soda amounts listed in parentheses above.)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (optional)
  • Grated citrus zest (optional)

To make the batter:
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda (if you're using it), salt, and spices (if you're using them) and stir them together with a fork until well combined.
  • If you're adding fresh or dried fruit, chopped nuts, coconut, or seeds, add them to the flour mixture and stir to distribute them evenly. 
  • In a separate bowl, combine the liquid, sugar, beaten egg, and grated zest (if you're using it) and whisk them together until well combined.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.  Stir the two together until just combined.  Everything should be moistened, but lumpy batter is okay.
  • Portion the batter into greased muffin cups, 2 small loaf pans, or a bundt pan.
  • For muffins, bake at 375F for about 25 minutes or until the center of one of the muffins in the middle of the pan springs back lightly when touched.
  • If baking loaves or using a bundt pan, bake at 350F until a skewer inserted in the centre of the loaf or cake comes out clean.* 

The muffins pictured above were made with a combination of fresh blueberries, frozen cranberries, the zest and juice of one orange and enough milk added to the orange juice to make up the quantity of liquid required.  Today I'm baking loaves with grapefruit zest and juice, brown sugar, and poppy seeds.

Have fun with this recipe and be creative.  I've made countless versions of it over the years and they've turned out well every time.

*Because of the sugar in the batter and longer baking times required, loaves and bundt cakes may get quite brown on the outside.  If they're getting darker than you'd like them to be, you can cover the pans loosely with aluminum foil for the last part of the bake or - if they're nearly done - turn the oven off and let them finish in the residual heat.

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