Sunday, 23 October 2011


Since moving home to sleepy Suffolk, I have become a bit of a baking fiend. With no real distractions from my now rather domesticated life (the only ‘real’ club in the area resembling a grimy village hall disco for 14
year olds, and the majority of my friends having flown the countryside nest to the brighter lights of London), the kitchen scales have been getting a real bashing over the past few months. Although this, along with my recent discovery of hobbies such as sewing and scrabble, may mean that I have aged another 40 years since leaving University, I am not by any means complaining about the gradual transformation of my wine-fuelled student life into one that would not look out of place in ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ Other than meaning there is very little distraction from my quest to earn enough money to explore the Americas next year, the major increase in baking has meant that my tummy has been a lot happier. And if I am not careful, a whole lot fatter.

However, irrespective of the damage that may be done to my waistline, the delicious smell of a baking wafting through a warm house is simply too much to resist; particularly now the sharp snap of winter has finally fallen upon us. But, of course, I don’t mean that I am simply content with smelling the treats that are turned out from our oven. Even I, a serial shirker of the gym and anything exercise related, am willing to jump up and down a few times to eat a delicious homemade cake or two. I have even started to go to keep fit classes with my Mum, where she embarrassingly puts me to shame in both the fitness and coordination stakes week upon week, all in the name of letting myself eat (alot) of cake.

Living in Sheffield, on a budget that favoured extra-value rich teas over the many components that are needed to knock out cakes in a kitchen that was only ever intended to facilitate the microwaving of baked beans, home baking is a real novelty. Slowly stirring a big bowl of smooth, vanilla rich cake batter is all it takes for me to unwind after a rubbish day at work, whilst licking the spoon is the best way to make the rapidly advancing winter just a little bit cosier. It really must be good for the soul to eat some of what you fancy every once in a while, and surely even better if you know exactly what has gone into making it. That’s what I’ve been telling myself anyway...

Blueberry, chocolate, banana; muffins are true regulars on the shelves of supermarkets and the cake stands of coffee shops. And the good news is, it is almost as easy to whip up a batch of homemade, wholesome beauties, as it is to rip open the packaging of a shop brought, undoubtedly chemical filled ones. And the sense of pride that you get when you present a plate of homemade muffins to a table of hungry people at teatime (or even breakfast time!) makes them taste even more scrumptious.

Apple and blackberry is a truly classic combination that has been a regular feature on our dinner table since a last minute scramble for the remaining black beauties that still bejewel the Suffolk hedgerow stuffed our freezer full. The archetypal  pairing of sharp apple and sweet berry seems to be eternally tied with the word that spells the perfect end to a roast dinner, the pudding that makes me feel most like home; Crumble. What better, then, than to put this tried and tested combination into a muffin? Delicately spiced with cinnamon and crowned with a crunchy almond crumble, these delicious, blackberry speckled beauties are perfect any time of the day. And with this much fruit, they could almost pass as healthy. Almost...

And for breakfast, why not try these delicious oaty marmalade, carrot and walnut muffins? Glazed with sticky marmalade, they are perfect served slightly warm with a generous smearing of salted butter and a steaming cup of tea. Delicious.

But if you are feeling like you need a bit more of a treat, I have included a recipe for absolutely failsafe double chocolate chip muffins at the end of this post. They are about as far away from your five-a-day as it is possible to be, and would certainly require a few more sessions of the dreaded keep fit than the previous fruit and vegetable crammed ones to work off, but they are definitely worth it. I have avoided the temptation of making any of these this time round, but take my word for it, they are very very yummy and almost always come out the oven looking just like they have come out of a shop...

Blackberry and Apple Crumble Muffins, makes 12

300g plain flour
1 ½ tbsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
200g caster sugar
200ml milk
100g butter (melted)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg, beaten
1 large Bramley apple
1 tbsp lemon juice
75g blackberries
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the crumble topping
30g butter
50g plain flour
30g flaked almonds
30g Demerara sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190oc.
Firstly, make the crumble topping. In a small bowl rub the butter into the flour, cinnamon and salt until resembling coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and almonds and put to one side.
Next, cut the apple into small cubes and, in a small bowl, spinkle with the lemon juice to prevent browning.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and sugar.
Mix the melted butter, milk, beaten egg and lemon zest until well combined. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Don’t over mix, it is meant to be lumpy!
Stir in the apples and blackberries, being careful to avoid adding too much spare lemon juice.
Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases and sprinkle with the crumble mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and well risen. Allow to cool and then enjoy!

Oaty Carrot & Marmalade Breakfast Muffins, makes 12.

300g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g oats
125g soft brown sugar
125g butter, melted
125ml milk
350g carrot, finely grated
Zest of 1 orange
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs, beaten
100g walnuts, chopped
200g marmalade, plus some extra for glazing

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. Stir in the oats.
Mix the melted butter, milk, beaten egg and orange zest until well combined. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Don’t over mix, it is meant to be lumpy!
Gently stir in the carrot, walnuts and marmalade until just combined. Divide between muffin cases and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and well risen. Leave to cool.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of marmalade until melted. Brush over the muffins and serve either plain or with lashings of butter!

Naughty Double Chocolate Chip Muffins, makes 12

175g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
100g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
100g chocolate chips
1 egg
250ml milk
120ml oil
½ tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 200oc.
Mix the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips.
In a jug, beat the egg, milk, oil and vanilla together until well mixed.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the egg mixture. Stir until just combined, not worrying about any lumps!
Spoon evenly into muffin cases and bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen and firm.
Cool and eat!


  1. Well done Charlotte, another good blog. Keep them coming.Love Carol

  2. have no idea how you do this.. but you're an absolute genius. this is amazing!

    found the route

  3. Hi Charlotte,

    I know it has been a while since you posted this, but I was wondering if you’d like to enter your Blackberry and Apple Crumble Muffins recipe into our Gourmandize Giveaway recipe competition. This month the theme is apples so it would be perfect, and there are nice prizes to win – let me know what you think: