Bootylicious Berry Muffins

Have you seen Beyonce’s new video? It’s not really my cup of tea and nor is the song, but Beyonce’s legs are surely up there with the seven wonders of the world (even if she looks like Jennifer Lopez on crack in some of the shots).
I’ve been thinking about Beyonce because on Saturday I made some muffins to a recipe supposedly adored by the mighty woman herself when she was in New Zealand late last year. These muffins – light, buttery, eggy delights – are delicious, but I’m not sure they will give you thighs of steel unless you run about 10km for every bite. Then again, perhaps that’s how B gets the energy to dance so energetically through her music videos.

Bootylicious Berry Muffins
These muffins were made by the cook at Auckland’s Mollie’s hotel when Beyonce and Jay-Z stayed there last year. Their light, buttery texture reminded me of friands – does anyone remember the great friand craze of a few years ago? – making them more of a morning tea treat than something to grab for breakfast.

2 cups self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup melted butter, cooled
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 cups berries (Beyonce favours blueberries, apparently, but because she wasn’t here I used a mixture of mostly thawed frozen berries)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease or line the holes of a 12-cup muffin tin.
Sift the flour and baking powder together into a large bowl, then add the sugar. Combine the wet ingredients – butter, eggs and milk – in another bowl, then add to the flour along with the berries. Fold together gently. Spoon into the waiting muffin tins and bake for 15 minutes (a little longer if your berries are frozen). Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Forever Nigella #5: Ginger Fruit Salad

The salad days have more or less come to an end in the southern hemisphere – the salad greens in our garden are either as tall as I am or buried beneath agressive weeds – but that wasn’t going to keep me from the challenge of whipping up a salad-ish entry for Forever Nigella #5.

I feel a bit nervous whenever someone mentions fruit salad, thanks to the dire stuff we had at school. The cooks would open vast tins of budget fruit cocktail – that bleached, tasteless collection of mystery fruits and the requisite one ‘cherry’ per tin – add slices of mushy bananas and serve it with luridly coloured jelly. I think we ate it out of hunger and boredom more than anything else, especially on the nights when dinner was curried sausages or suspiciously green-tinged ham steaks. This one, inspired by a recipe in Forever Summer (one of my favourite and most-used books, whatever the season), is something else entirely.

Gingery Fruit Salad
Nigella’s original recipe has melons, fresh lychees, peaches and pomegranate, but mine is more seasonally appropriate (for the southern hemisphere, anyway). She makes a special syrup to drizzle over hers – I’ve gone the express, no mess, no waste route and used the syrup from the lychee tin instead.

1 tin lychees in syrup
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced into thick coins
2 golden kiwifruit
2 persimmons
2 passionfruit
1 lime, juice and zest

Drain the lychees into a serving bowl and pour their syrup into a small saucepan. Set this over gentle heat and add the sliced ginger. Let simmer gently for five minutes, then take off the heat and set aside.
Peel and slice the kiwifruit and persimmon and add to the lychees. When the syrup has cooled, drizzle it over the fruit. You won’t need all of it – save the rest in a lidded jar in the fridge and add to gin and tonics or pretend champagne (or soda water).
Zest the lime over the fruit, then squeeze in the juice. Scoop the passionfruit pulp out and stir through the fruit. Serve immediately or cover and keep in the fridge for a few hours. Serves four.

Sweet charity: Fruit Crumble

Is there anything more comforting than a crumble? I don’t think so, which is why I made two on Saturday night for the families staying at Ronald McDonald House. I’m not telling you this to make myself look like a saint, but because I was really pleased to be able to do something tangible – even though it was small – for people with sick children who have had their lives turned upside down. I can’t imagine how dreadful they must feel, but I do know how comforting it is to have someone else cook you dinner in times of stress. The rest of the meal was provided by the Boy Wonder’s workmates, who bonded together to cook and clean up for these families on a cold, wet, night.

Fruit Crumble
I made this with feijoas and apples, but you could use almost anything. Rhubarb and pineapple (even out of a tin, gasp!) is my next favourite combination, followed by berries and apples. This makes enough crumble topping for two 23cm pie plates, but you could always freeze whatever you don’t use for another occasion.

1 cup flour (I used gluten-free, but use ordinary if you like)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 cup coconut
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp cinnamon
125g cold butter

Fruit of your choice – enough to two-thirds fill a pie plate (or two). Soft fruit is fine to use raw, but apples and rhubarb should be lightly cooked first.

Preheat oven to 180C and grease a pie plate or two. Tip in the fruit, then sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of water if it’s raw, soft fruit.
Put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl, then grate in the butter. Rub it in with your fingertips or a fork until it’s a nice, crumbly consistency. Sprinkle over the fruit, then bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden and the fruit is cooked. If you’re making this for someone else, cook it at home first and then wrap it in a clean teatowel so they only have to reheat it. Leftovers are delicious for breakfast.

Bread of milk and honey

In my dream life, breakfast is a leisurely, relaxed affair. In my real life, it is rather different. There is tea (half-drunk), the paper (unread) and porridge, but the rest of the experience involves UN-level negotiations involving the Small Girl. We have gotten past Milk and Watergate (the tipping over of milk or water onto the floor), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a million more ways to drive Mummy mad before 8am.

She occasionally turns up her nose at porridge, but her love of any kind of toast is still all-abiding. I loved Holly’s post about making an adventurous walnut loaf that her toddler son liked and decided to try a variation. Holly’s original recipe is here – mine makes a bigger loaf (because we are greedy) and uses honey and sunflower seeds (because the Boy Wonder cannot abide walnuts). Oh well, at least he’s good at sitting down to eat his breakfast.

Sunflower Honey Bread
This makes absolutely incredible toast, the sort you should linger over with a pot of tea and the weekend papers or a shiny new magazine. I think any leftovers would make superlative bread and butter pudding, but we never seem to have any left over…

750g strong white flour
1Tbsp dried yeast
2tsp salt
375ml milk
8Tbsp water
90g butter
90g honey
90g sunflower seeds

Heat the milk until blood heat, then pour into a large jug. Wash out the pot, the use it to melt the butter. Let bubble away until brown and foamy, then pour into the jug with the milk. Add the water and honey. Stir well, then let cool until it’s comfortably lukewarm. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for a couple of minutes.
Tip this into the bowl of a mixer with a dough hook (or just a large bowl) and add half the flour. Stir well to mix, then add the rest of the flour and the salt. Turn the mixer on and let it run at low speed for about five minutes, until it’s smooth and elastic-y. Turn it out of the bowl and knead in the sunflower seeds, then grease the bowl and put the dough back in. Cover the bowl with plastic and leave in a warm place until doubled (about an hour or so).
Turn the dough out onto the bench, and flatten out gently, then fold in each side to make a puffy lump. Form this into a round and put into a greased 24cm cake tin. Cover again with plastic and leave to rise again for about 45 minutes, or until doubled. Bake at 230C for about 30 minutes, then carefully turn out of the tin and put back in the oven, bottom side up, for another five minutes. Let cool before slicing if you can. 

Daily Bread 2.0

I’ve had a bit of a bread epiphany recently. You know that Stephanie Alexander bread I posted about a while back, the one that’s become our daily bread? I’ve improved it. Or maybe it’s improved me. Anyway, I’ve slightly changed the way I make it, which has made a world of difference. It was good before, but now I’m consistently getting lovely, light, airy loaves that seem to stay fresher for longer (even though we are now eating them quicker).

The original post is here, but this is what I do now:

Daily Bread 2.0
The major changes are that I mix the dough a little differently, use a little less flour and handle it in a more gentle fashion. I’ve recently read Bake! by Nick Malgieri, which has opened my eyes to a whole swag of new (to me) methods. More about him another time…

700g unbleached strong flour (I use half Italian 00 and half ‘high grade’)
200g wholemeal strong flour
1Tbsp instant dried yeast
1Tbsp fine salt
2Tbsp olive oil
600ml lukewarm water
polenta or semolina for baking

Put the lukewarm water into the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook, then sprinkle over the yeast. Leave for a minute or two, then stir in the wholemeal flour and olive oil with a spatula. Add half of the white flour and stir well, then add the rest and the salt. Give it a good stir, then mix on low speed until you have a smooth but not sticky dough (about five minutes). If you don’t have a mixer, prepare to knead for about 15 minutes.
Divide dough in half (I weigh it to be sure) and put each half into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with tea towels and leave until doubled, about one hour.
Knock back by tipping each piece out onto a clean bench and pressing gently into a rectangle. Fold it over itself until you get a little bundle of dough, then shape into a ball again and return to the bowls to let rise again for about 30 minutes, covered with tea towels.
Gently form each piece into a loaf – I do this by tipping the dough out, pressing it into a rectangle shape again (but very gently) and rolling up into a fat cigar – and place on a piece of baking paper sprinkled with semolina or polenta. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C, with a heavy baking tray inside. Carefully lift the baking paper and loaves onto the hot tray and bake for about 20 minutes, then turn over and bake for another five minutes (you can remove the baking paper at this point). The base of each loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

Have you reinvented any of your daily recipes lately? What have you done?