Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Carrot Apple Pecan Muffins

One major US export to the UK has to be muffins. When I was a girl, muffin translated as a flat-ish buttery, rich bread, fairly plain, that went equally wonderfully with lashings of jam (I'm trying to live up to the British stereotype and use words like lashings. Makes me feel all Swallows and Amazons. Love it) as with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Absolutely delicious – neither sweet nor savory and I shall forever have fond memories of Sunday supper with the family, sitting in the living room with a pot of tea, a stack of toasted muffins and watching the BBC adaptation of the Chronicles of Narnia.

American muffins could not bring to mind a more different picture. I always think of blueberry muffins, maple syrup, brunch and a typical US dinner, full of booths and shiny metal. American muffins are rarely basic. They come in a huge variety of flavours – the only limit to what hasn’t been included in a muffin is the kitchen sink. Not to do them a disservice, for I very much enjoy the American muffin, but often times home made versions have lots of flavour but the underlying texture is just not right at all. Too heavy or dry or just a bit cloyingly sweet.

These are those muffins which stopped one step short of said kitchen sink, but dry or cloyingly sweet they are not. They’re packed with yummy ingredients and flavours, plus you don’t feel horribly unhealthy eating them as the bulk of the mix is made up of grated carrots and apples. Must count for at least a couple of your 5 a day, right??! The crumble element does add a fair amount of sweetness though, so depending on how you like your muffins, omit or include as you see fit. Works well either way!

Carrot Apple Pecan Muffins

Adapted from The Ottolenghi Cookbook
Makes about 12 muffins (very generously!)

300g Plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 eggs
160ml Sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
280g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla
220g peeled carrot, grated
200g bramley apple, grated (or Granny Smiths - any tart apple)
100g Pecans, roughly chopped
100g Sultanas
50g flaked coconut (the recipe calls for flaked, I used desiccated)

Crumble Topping:
50g Unsalted butter, cut into cubes
75g Plain flour
25g brown sugar
50g rolled oats
15g sunflower seeds
25g pumpkin seeds
1 tsp water
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 1/2 tbsp honey

First, make the crumble topping. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar with your fingertips until its in nice small pieces, like breadcrumbs. Then mix in the oats and seeds and then the water, oil and honey. It should resemble wet sand in texture. Pop to one side while you make the muffins.

Preheat the oven  to 170C/340F/Gas Mark 3. Line a muffin tin with paper cases.

The method for making the muffins is the classic mix the wet together and the dry together and then very carefully fold the dry into the wet. So...

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla essence together. Stir in the apples and carrots, then mix in the pecans, sultanas and coconut. Then gently fold the flour into the wet ingredients, only mixing JUST enough. Gluten, which makes the muffins chewy, is developed through over working of the batter. So mix as little as possible and they'll be just yummy!

Spoon them into the paper cases, filling to the top so you get the classic muffin tops. Crumble over the topping generously and bake for 25 mins. They're ready when they're springy on top and a skewer comes out clean. I made them a week or so ago so I can't remember exactly how long mine took to cook, but I have a feeling that they took a touch more than 25 minutes... Anyway, they actually taste better when they're left to sit for a couple of hours to let the flavours develop.

Normally, the WORST thing about home baked American muffins is their shelf life – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a muffin which lasted beyond a day. But these are oh so different. I think it must be the carrots and apples again because they improve in flavour after a few hours of sitting and were just delicious several days after baking. Would be perfect for a brunch as they're wholesome, hearty, and taste just as great the next day.

Rosy xx

1 comment:

  1. I like muffins for breakfast, so do you want to pass me one over - Yum.