6 February 2013

Raspberry and Chocolate Muffins (plus some muffin tips!)

Why hello there! It has been a while I apologise, a fair bit of news but will stick to the essentials and will try my hardest to curb my rambling habit.
Firstly, my partner Pete and I have found ourselves in Paihia, Bay of Islands, in New Zealand's Northern island. It is absolutely stunning here, quite a small town but a major tourist spot in the busy summer season. After buying a campervan in Auckland we traveled up the East coast and decided to stop off here to find work for over the summer period. We were both very lucky in finding jobs, Pete as a barista/waiter in a lounge bar on the wharf, and myself as a pasta cook/waitress in an Italian restaurant. I have learnt an awful lot and it has been amazing so far. I feel so lucky to have landed a cooking job that required no previous professional experience. To begin with I was 100% certain I wasn't going to be able to cope, contemplating bailing after the first few days! But I really am proud of how, after nearly 2 months, I feel confident with my abilities in that kitchen and have even helped train up others. So it has been a big learning curve!

At Pete's work place, tea time treats like muffins are a big seller with the tea and coffee. Every morning a fresh batch of muffins is made, and with a bit of hanging around and hint dropping I have managed to land myself the task of morning muffin maker! :) As I work nights, I have all day free to hang around Pete's work place, helping free of charge but probably just making a nuisance out of myself!

In the past few days I have learnt a LOT about muffins (considering I have very little past experience!) especially how they can be so very easy to make...once you know a few simple tricks :) These are :

1. Do not overmix. This seems to be the number 1 reason you may end up with wonky, funky shaped muffins with rubbish muffin tops. No-one likes rubbish muffin tops. I know it is so tempting to stir just that little bit more to make the batter nice and smooth and even...DON'T! Use a rubber spatula to gently fold together the mixture, an ugly lumpy batter with a few flour blobs here and there is perfect

2. Do not over fill the muffin holes. You may believe that piling in the batter will result in a bigger, more beautiful muffin top. In my experience so far, it doesn't. Fill them, at most, a teeny bit over 3/4 full. If there is not room for the muffin to expand up the side slightly as it cooks, you will probably end up with utterly flat muffin tops

3. Make sure the batter is thick, not runny. This is very important - too runny and the muffin will not rise properly to create that lovely dome. If you have folded in the flour and it still looks fluid, then add some more flour. Simple!

4. Grease the muffin tins thoroughly. This can include on the top of the tin, if your muffin tops over flow a little it will make life a lot easier for you! Nothing is worse than having a gorgeous looking muffin that tries to rip itself apart on the way out of the tin. Grease thoroughly (I use a baking spray) and run a knife around the tin after cooling slightly.

5. Do not open the oven.  Unless utterly necessary, try not to fiddle with that oven door! I still find it painful to not peek, but if you do be warned that you may end up with some funny shaped muffins! If you need to turn the pan around due to an unevenly cooking oven, wait until at least 10 minutes have passed.

6. Room temperature ingredients. As with a lot of baking, using room temperature eggs, fat (butter/oil), milk etc, tend to produce the best goods

7. Bake as soon as the batter is ready. I'm not entirely sure why..but this seems to be a trick worth noting! If I ever have a few muffins that have been waiting on the counter to bake after the main batch, the ones that have been sitting for 20 minutes tend not to have the same lovely shape ie. can look downright strange

You can also make mini-muffins in ramekins if you desire! Although the left one looks a bit..ugly souffle like :)

On to the recipe! This is one that came from a past staff member at Pete's workplace, with absolutely NO instructions, just the ingredients and direction to bake at 170C (which I have since changed to 160C). Research and trial and error have produced the recipe below, which is pretty darn good! I am going to try adding a bit of vanilla extract next time, but they are definitely not flavorless just as they are and are very popular indeed in the coffee shop :)

Raspberry and Chocolate Muffins
Makes 6-7 regular-large muffins

3 cups plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup white sugar
1 cup chocolate chips / buttons (N. 1)
1 cup frozen raspberries (N. 2)
2 eggs (room temperature)
50g melted butter (leave to cool slightly)
1 1/2 cups milk (N. 3)

Preheat the oven to 160C, position a rack in the center of the oven and grease/line 7 deep muffin holes
Sieve together the flour and baking powder in a medium sized bowl
Add the sugar and whisk to combine
Add the chocolate and raspberries, roughly fold in
In a smaller bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Pour and whisk the melted butter into the eggs
Add the milk to the bowl of liquids and lightly whisk together
Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl of dry mix and very gently fold/mix together until most of the flour is incorporated. Do not overmix. The batter should be lumpy and still have a few small patches of flour visible
Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin tins
Bake in the center of the oven for 20 - 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out with no wet batter attached
Let rest in the pan for 5 - 10 minutes, run a knife around each muffin hole if you are not using muffin cases. Ease out and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Best eaten on the same day but will last a few days in an airtight container or keep well frozen. Warm to serve

(1) We use chocolate buttons which are about 2 cm in diameter. Use what you have on hand, be that chips or chopping your own  from bars. Personally, I think white chocolate works the best, yummy :)
(2) I have only tried frozen berries so far, I believe fresh would work just as well. Also have tried frozen blueberries which were gorgeous!
(3) We use whole (full fat) milk, I think reduced fat would also be fine :)

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