School goes back next week, and that means school lunches, and school lunches means muffins. I have made masses of muffins for years and years and years, starting when my elder daughter was a tiny new baby. I would bake a batch, eat some, and put the rest in the freezer so I could grab one quickly when the day had turned to custard, as it does with new babies, and I needed something, anything, to eat. These days, I bake a batch at the start of the week, put three in the school lunches for that day, freeze the rest, and pop them into the lunchboxes later in the week. Full of sugar and fat, of course, but it’s good honest sugar and fat that I have put in myself, so I know that the girls aren’t being filled up on corn syrup or palm oil.
Our current favourites are Apple, Banana and Chocolate Muffins. I first saw a recipe for them in an Alison and Simon Holst recipe book, but for some reason, I just couldn’t get their recipe to work well for me. So I filched the idea, and added apple and chocolate chips to a banana muffin recipe that has been in our family for so long that Mum and I have lost its provenance.
You will need some apples, bananas, and chocolate chips. If I have stewed apple (or as my girls call it, apple stew) in the fridge, then I get about 1/2 cup, drain it, and dice it. You need reasonably firm apple stew for this; if your preference is for apple mush rather than apple stew, then you may want to start with whole apples for the muffins.
About now, turn your oven on to heat up to 200 degrees Celsius (about 400 Fahrenheit).
Peel, core, slice and dice two apples. Put the diced apple into a saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to the boil. Let it simmer gently for a minute or so, then turn it off, and drain the apples and leave to cool while you prepare the rest of the recipe. Alternatively, you could leave the apple skins on, and grate the apples. I’ve tried this occasionally, but I’m not fussed about the result, or as my girls would say, it’s not to my taste.
Melt 50 grams of butter, and set it aside to cool. If you prefer, you could use 50 mls of cooking oil instead (canola is good), but I find that the colour and taste of the muffins is not as good.
Sift 1.5 cups of plain flour, 2 tsp cream of tartar, and 1 tsp baking soda into a large bowl. If you don’t have cream of tartar and baking soda on hand, use 1.5 tsp of baking powder and a pinch of salt, ‘though the result will be cakier than a standard muffin. If you like, add a little ground cinnamon, or grated nutmeg.
Add 1/3 cup sugar. This is on the light side for a muffin recipe, but you get added sweetness with the fruit and chocolate chips, so they get too sweet if you add more sugar.
Mash two bananas in a bowl, ’til they are reasonably smooth. Beat one egg with 1/2 cup of milk. Usually I would add about 3/4 of a cup of milk in a muffin recipe that uses 1.5 cups of flour, but the mashed banana adds a bit of extra liquid to the mix, so the amount of milk is reduced.
Add the mashed banana to the egg and milk mix, and beat some more. You could add some vanilla essence too if you like, but the flavour could be swamped by the cinnamon and nutmeg, so it may not be worth it.
At this stage, before you mix the wet and dry ingedients together, get your muffin pans ready. The recipe makes 12 good sized muffins, so a standard muffin tray should be fine. Grease the muffin pans well with butter paper, or spray them with an oil cooking spray.
Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour the milk and banana mix in. Mix together gently, just enough to combine the ingredients. Then stir in the diced apple, and about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Finally, add the melted butter, and mix ’til smooth.
Although it sounds like you mix this and you mix that and then you mix some more, you should try to minimise the amount of mixing you do. Overmixed muffins can get rubbery. So as you add each wet ingredient, stir the mix just enough to combine the ingredients.
Once everything is mixed together, spoon the mix into the muffin pans, and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes. Take the muffins out of the oven when they are golden brown, and springy to touch. Let them sit in the pans for a moment or two before running a knife around them and easing them out of the pans.
These muffins are most delicious when eaten while they are still warm, but they are not too bad at room temperature. If you decide to freeze some and put them in school lunches, then wrap them in paper towels before you put them in lunch boxes. The paper towels will absorb the moisture as the muffins defrost, so you won’t end up with a horrid sticky mess.
I find this recipe doubles well if you want to make a big batch. Sometimes I make a 1.5 mix, which is a bit tricky when it comes to the eggs. I use 2 eggs, and about 3/5 of a cup of milk, which seems to work out about right.
I’ll be making a batch on Tuesday morning, when the girls go back to school. And sometime in the next week or two, I’ll try the mandarin muffins on Anne’s food blog, Something Else to Eat. They look delicious, and very easy to make.