Pear and walnut muffins


I still had a couple of pears left in the fruit bowl after making the pear cake, so decided to make some muffins. I played around with my basic muffins recipe and came up with this one - pears and walnuts are 2 of my favourite things.
I usually make muffins in paper cases, but I've noticed that a lot of crumb gets stuck to these, so this time I decided to make them directly in the muffin tin. Although the tin is non-stick, I greased the holes and dredged over a little flour just to make doubly sure the muffins would pop out easily, which they did.

180ml milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large egg
225g wholewheat flour or white plain flour if you prefer
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
150g demerara sugar
1 large firm but ripe pear
50g coarsely chopped walnuts
1-2 tbsp demerara sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6, and lightly grease and flour a 12 hole muffin tin.

Put the milk, oil and egg in a small mixing bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside.

Remove the cores from the pears, leaving the skin on, then chop the flesh into 1cm pieces. Set aside.

Sieve the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and stir to combine. Now add the chopped pear and walnuts and toss to coat and distribute evenly throughout the mixture.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the egg mixture and stir until just combined. Do not over mix. Divide the mixture between the muffin cups, sprinkle with the extra sugar, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the muffins to cool for ten minutes in the tin before moving them to a cooling rack.

Well, they've cooled off now and I've just tasted one.... The crumb is nice and open, the walnuts give a lovely bit of crunch, and the chunks of pear lend a deliciously sweet and refreshing contrast. I'll certainly make these again. They came out of the tin easily, so I think I'll make them without paper cases in future.


Apple sour cream cake

We love apple cakes, and as there were a few wrinkly apples to use up, I found this recipe in my binder; it's one I've not tried before.
Anything with cinnamon is a winner with me, and if it's easy to make, it's a double winner! The other good thing about this cake is that it freezes well [or so the recipe says].

2 large apples, peeled and cored [ I used 3 Royal Gala]
125g butter or margarine, softened
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tspn vanilla extract
200g plain flour
11/2 tspn baking powder
1 tspn cinnamon
100g sour cream or creme fraiche - I used creme fraiche
1 tbspn apricot jam

Preheat oven 180C/gas4
Grease and line a 23cm tin.

Beat the butter and sugar together till white and fluffy, then beat in the eggs.
Add the baking powder and cinnamon to the flour and fold into the mixture, then add the vanilla and sour cream or creme fraiche. Mix together gently till smooth.
Chop 1 of the apples into chunks and add to the mixture. Slice the other one.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth. Arrange the apple slices on top.
Bake for 35-45 mins till golden.
Cool on a wire rack.
Heat the apricot jam gently then brush onto the cooled cake.

We're having some of this as a dessert tonight, then I'm going to freeze the rest as we're away for the weekend.


Bara Brith

The Welsh name means speckled or mottled bread.  My Gran used to used make it regularly, and we loved it spread with butter.
There are many versions of this recipe, some use yeast and others use baking powder. This is my Gran's recipe which I've tweaked a bit, and it's very easy to make.

450g/1lb dried mixed fruit
250g/9oz brown sugar
300ml/½ pint warm black tea [I used a Breakfast tea]
2 tsp mixed spice
450g/1lb self-raising flour
1 egg beaten.

 In a large bowl soak the fruit and sugar in strained tea and leave overnight.

Next day preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3.
Line a 900g/2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
Mix the remaining ingredients into the fruit mixture and beat well. The mixture will be soft and runny. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 1½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Serve sliced and buttered.


Easter baking

I've been doing some Easter baking with my grandson and thought I'd post the things we've made.
First were some chocolate nest cakes, you know the ones - cornflakes in melted chocolate. Quick, easy and fun. I'd made some chocolate butter icing for another cake, so I piped a bit under the eggs so they wouldn't fall off!

We also made some rabbit biscuits.

 Tom's favourite is the 3rd one from the left in the top row - he pulled the ear straight before we baked them!
We used some silver balls for their eyes and some bits of glace cherries for their noses and mouths. We made 12 biscuits, and after Grandad and I had eaten one each, the rest went home for his brothers and parents. They were greatly appreciated, as were the chocolate nest cakes.

Here's the recipe, which is from an Easter magazine supplement in 1985!

225g plain flour
175g butter or margarine
115g caster sugar
55g currants
1 medium egg yolk

Preheat oven 180C/gas 4
Grease a baking tray.

Put flour in a bowl, add the fat and rub in.
Stir in the sugar and egg yolk and make into a dough.
Roll the dough out and cut out with a rabbit cutter,
Make eyes out of silver balls and a nose and mouth out of pieces of glace cherries.
Put onto the baking tray and bake for about 20 mins till golden.
Cool on a wire rack.

I also made some Hot Cross Buns, making the dough in my breadmaker.

And I must show you a corner of my lovely Easter tablecloth, bought in Germany.


Apricot Kolaches

I've been watching the Hairy Bikers "Bakeation' and have enjoyed seeing the interesting breads and pastries which are made in Europe. I decided that I wanted to try one out, and found this recipe for 'Kolaches' in a cookery book about world cooking. They're Czech pastries and are often eaten at festivals such as Easter, so it's an appropriate time to make them.
In the book there's a choice of 2 fillings for the buns - apricot or cheese. I decided on apricot, as I'd just bought some last weekend.
The recipe uses a breadmaker, but they could, of course, be made by hand. I used my breadmaker the other day to make the dough for Hot Cross Buns, and this recipe has some of the same ingredients.

It makes 16 pastries.

1 egg
120ml milk
60g butter
60g sugar
1/2 tspn salt
250g strong white flour
packet quick yeast
icing sugar to dust

Beat the egg and milk together and pour into the breadmaker pan. Add the sugar, butter and salt and then the flour. Make a well in the flour and add the yeast. Set the dough programme on the breadmaker.

Grease 2 baking trays.
When the dough is ready, take out of the pan and knock down. Cut into 16 equal pieces, roll each piece into a ball and flatten a bit. Put the dough balls about 21/2 cms apart on a baking tray, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 45 mins.

60g dried apricots
90g sugar
2 tbspn apricot or orange liqueur or orange juice

Put the apricots in a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer till the water disappears, then add the sugar and liqueur or orange juice and heat till the sugar is dissolved [about a minute]. Cool then blitz in a food processor.
Preheat oven to 190C/gas 5.
Gently use a finger to make a dent in the top of each dough ball - don't deflate it! Then gently widen the hole with your finger and add a tbspn of the apricot puree.
Bake for 15-20 mins till golden. Sprinkle with icing sugar while warm.

The dough has a soft texture. I think this is a very versatile recipe as you could use many different fruits or nuts or chocolate as the filling - the list is endless. I'm going to make the cheese ones next.

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