Friday, 25 July 2008

The heat must be getting to me

It finally actually feels like summer here: glorious days when the sun is so strong that the heat really penetrates your skin. It's wonderful. Now I've raved about it, it can't possibly last. I never used to be a summer person. I always found the heat too much, the sun too bright, the clothes too, well, summery! I used to long for the long dark cozy nights of winter, curled up with hot drinks and huge jumpers, the days when jeans were never too hot to wear and going outside wasn't an option.

Then again, I was carrying a bit of extra weight in those days, and more than a little obsessed with black clothes, black hair, black eyeliner, black lipstick, black anything in fact.

These days I am quite the opposite; I revel in the sunshine, can't wait to get the doors wide open in the mornings and potter in the garden or sit at the table soaking up some vitamin D, and although I have clung on to my love of black clothing (it's not goth, it's classic, elegant and flattering) I'm more likely to be found sporting a light dress or shorts and vest tops these days.

I think the summer heat does make me slightly crazy though. It stops my brain from making rational decisions. Yesterday I pottered down to the fruit and veg stall only intending to try and get a couple of punnets of berries, one to freeze (I am frantically trying to freeze a stock of summer fruits so I can have them in the winter and not have to resort to buying mediocre berries flown halfway across the world with less flavour than a damp rag) and one to make into muffins for N's lunch. However, when faced with the piles of punnets of blueberries, the mounds of Kentish cherries and the sign pointing out the "ripe and ready to eat English plums" I went into autopilot, my brain switched off and the irrational fruit lover in me took over!

I walked away with my rucksack loaded with four punnets of blueberries, 2lbs of cherries and 1lb of plums, and a token bit of root ginger (which will play a part in some posts over the weekend I hope). What was I thinking? We'd had our fruit and veg delivered only the day before and had gorgeous nectarines, apples and melon to get through, how on earth were we going to plough through my stone fruit and berry mountain?

The answer? If in doubt, freeze and bake! I immediately put three of the blueberry punnets on the rack in the top of the freezer so that in a couple of hours they could be boxed and ready for winter. I polished off two of the plums with lunch and they were so unbelievably good that there was no way I was going to bake with them, they can be lunch for the next two days. The cherries were going to be the real problem. When I see ripe cherries I really can't resist them, they really are one of my all time favourite fruits. I decided to bake some in to muffins to accompany the blueberries and to halve the rest and freeze them too. Needless to say we now have a freezer bursting with the delights of summer which ought to keep us going until the very depths of winter, and no doubt it'll be added to during next weeks brain spasm at the fruit stall.

Now, what about the muffins you're asking? Well I used a recipe from a magazine my Nanna saved once and sent to me. It's my basic go-to recipe for muffins because it can be adapted to almost anything and has yet to let me down. I decided to make a full batch of twelve (because I'd be freezing them for N's lunches) and split the batter so half would be spiced blueberry and the others spiced blueberry and cherry. I omitted the butter and used apple puree instead (partly because I like being able to cut the fat down and partly because I was too lazy to go to the shop and get butter!) and used half plain flour and half wholemeal to make them higher in fibre and more like a breakfast muffin. The result? Judge for yourselves:

Don't they look tempting?! The fresh berries burst whilst cooking and made the muffins into little berry volcanoes. The smell was amazing, cinnamon, mixed spice and berries. I can't wait to taste them. I am trying to hold out until this evening and our car journey to Hitchin' I'm not sure if I'll manage it to be honest.

Here's the recipe I used. If you want to bake with butter just exchange it for the apple puree, melt and add to the milk mix. You can chop and change the filling with no problems. I was probably 50g over the suggest weight of berries in the cherry ones and it didn't affect their baking or rising at all. Yes, that's how genius this recipe is!

Volcanic Very Berry Muffins: makes 12 (6 blueberry, 6 mixed - for all mixed up the cherries and down the blueberries)

100g apple puree
150g plain flour
150g wholemeal flour
1tbsp baking powder
150g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
250ml soy milk
1tsp vanilla essence
pinch of cinnamon (mine was a LARGE pinch!)
pinch of mixed spice
200g blueberries (aprox)
50g cherries (aprox - stones and chopped in half or quarters)

Line a muffin pan with twelve cases and put the oven on to preheat to 200C

Put the blueberries in a large bowl and stir in the flours, spices, baking powder and sugar until well combined. Put the apple puree, eggs, milk and vanilla into a jug and beat well until combined. Add to the dry mix and stir until combined, but try not to over mix, lumps are good for muffins. Spoon half the batter into six of the cases to get your blueberry muffins. Then add the cherries to the batter, combine and spoon into the remaining cases. Bake for 20 mins until risen and golden.

Enjoy the volcanic goodness warm, or cold. They should keep for three days in an airtight container, or freeze for up to three months.

1 comment:

  1. I know what you mean about being unable to resist soft fruit. I opened the huge - yes really huge -fridge here this morning and had the greatest difficulty not stealing some soft fruit.....although I was rewarded with a huge bowl of soft fruit at the breakfast bar - two bowls later with bread - home made - to die for and I was set for the day! I could eat one of those muffins right now, though!