These probably aren’t going to be the prettiest muffins you will see in the run up to Christmas. If you want pretty – and I’m sure extremely tasty – festive baking, have a look at the world of wonder and fantasy that is Pinterest. I’m crushing on this page in particular. I practically weep at the skill and creativity contained within those rolling pixels of perfection. Maybe I have even wailed and gnashed my teeth over your dainty treats. To restore sanity and a sense of perspective I have recently adopted a habit of going over to Damn You Autocorrect. I find it is just the thing to cheer myself up after going on my increasingly regular Pinterest benders. True.As much as I have in the past attempted to be one of those lucky sods who can pipe a straight line, or dollop excruciatingly exact macarons, I am now not even trying to go there. Sadly my historically poor eyesight and even poorer fine motor coordination early on knocked out any ideas of culinary grandeur that I may have once incubated.
My creative stripes appeared early enough. I was that young girl who would rip apart perfectly good shoes in order to refashion/ruin them using a staple gun and scraps of felt: “A” for creativity but a “D-” for practicality. Perhaps I could have been Lady GaGa’s go-to cobbler if I had stuck at it. On the food front I could hollow a watermelon basket and fill it with vodka soaked fruit kebabs with the best of them (I was slightly older by this point). In point of fact I can do you a decent homemade bread, a more than serviceable cake, even a delectable and more-ish tart. But pretty? I think not. Pretty damn tasty, but definitely not pretty damn pretty.
However, I promise you the rough and tumble exterior of these beastly looking cranberry and pear upside-down muffins belies a tender and delicious heart. So to speak. And it is super easy too. All you do is simmer down the cranberries to a syrupy sticky mess (mess I can do!), pop them in a lined muffin tin, cover with a pear-studded dropping batter of oats, yogurt and honey and, et voila, ugly muffins.
I’m sure in your capable hand they will look like something from an Ottolenghi shop window – tweet me any ones you make and I will RT them with thanks – but even if you are just as much of a decorating duffer as I am I hope you appreciate the fresh and zingy taste. They are a big hit at home and at my cancer nutrition classes, so hopefully you too will like them. Now, do you dare me to put these on Pinterest?!
PS This post is dedicated to Daphne in Helensburgh, who I hear tell is wondering what the deal is with all the kale. No kale here, Daphne. You are safe for today. ;D
Two years ago: A Trio of Kale Recipes – Crisps, Frittata and Pasta
Miss R’s track of the week: Johnny Clegg (joined onstage by Nelson Mandela) – Asimbonanga
These are one of the few lower sugar bakes that I find tastes and ‘feels’ as good on the second day as the day it is baked. I think the secret is the Greek yogurt. All that protein and dense creamy texture gives muffins and cakes a light crumb, and better keeping powers. Greek yogurt is also great in gluten-free baking, giving a fine, light texture. Try it and see.
I used fresh pears in an initial batch – and they were fab – but the pear taste didn’t really come through enough for me. Use diced fresh pears if you like – 2 small ones. No need to adjust the liquid measures unless the pears are dripping with juice.
Fresh cranberries – 140g (1 ½ cups)
Honey, date syrup or maple syrup – 75ml (1/3 cup)
Star anise, 2 – optional
Flour, plain/AP or gluten-free flour – 200g (1.6 cups//7 oz)
Baking powder – 1 ½ tsp
Salt – ½ tsp
Porridge/rolled oats – 75g (¾ cup)
Bicarbonate of soda – 1 tsp
Non-fat Greek yogurt OR non-dairy equivalent – 225g (1 cup)
Egg OR egg replacer, 1 – lightly beaten
Acacia honey, date syrup OR maple syrup – 75ml (scant ¼ cup)
Almond OR dairy milk – 80ml (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp)
Rapeseed/canola oil OR other flavourless oil – 90ml (scant ½ cup)*
Dried pear, chopped – 100g (1/4 cup)
1. Preheat your oven to 190C/375F – lower if you have a fan oven. Line a 12-hole standard-sized muffin tin with two paper cases in each hole and spray lightly with your favourite non-stick spray – or use a silicon tray.
2. Make the cranberry sauce for the upside-down part of the cakes by putting the washed cranberries in a small saucepan with the honey, star anise (if using) and a dash of water. Bring to a slow simmer and stir occasionally, until the cranberries have mostly popped and gone syrupy. Add a little more water if it threatens to stick during simmering but you don’t want the sauce to be wet – more like jam. Spoon a tablespoon of the cranberry sauce into the prepared muffin cases. I sprinkled in some demerara sugar, but it doesn’t need it.
4. In another bowl mix together the oats, bicarbonate of soda and yogurt. Let this sit and absorb for a minute then thoroughly stir in the egg/egg replacer, honey, almond milk and oil.
5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and, using a metal spoon for the most efficient mixing, gently fold in the wet mixture until just combined, adding the chopped pear in with the final few strokes. The whole thing should take about 30 seconds. You don’t want any obvious clumps of flour, but the mixture will be lumpy. Over-stirring will work the gluten in the flour (unless using gluten-free of course) and give a rubbery texture – nasty. American ‘AP’ flours have even more gluten than the equivalent British flours so be very light-handed if you are baking with American flour.
6. Dollop spoonfuls of batter into the prepared tin – about three-quarters full will give a nice shape despite the heavy ingredients. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden, possibly slightly cracked, and an inserted skewer or toothpick comes out clean. My oven is ‘fast’ so I only had mine in for 20 minutes.
7. Cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing the muffins in their cases. Let stand a further few more minutes before removing the papers without fear of most of the muffin staying in the case. These guys are sticky so watch out for hot, sweet-tart cranberries!