Monday, 5 November 2012

MUFFIN MONDAY! Spiced apple, Gingerbread muffins...and a few Welsh Cakes thrown in.

It's MUFFIN MONDAY!  I haven't done one of these for a while...mainly due to all the work going into finishing off the studio which I'm delighted to say I moved back into last week and started work for proper...although there are still a few tweaks and things to tidy off before it's all completed but it's finally a workable space again and I'm loving it...

...anyways, back to the muffins! Today is the annual Macmillan Cake Sale fund raiser event at Clive's work so I was asked to contribute...and of course muffins were the way to go. So, I did the usual batch of always popular spiced apple muffins....plus a flavour I've never baked before - Gingerbread! Oh and I also had a little extra time to make some Welsh Cakes...and those are what I'll share the recipe with you today.
LEFT (back) - Gingerbread muffins with sweet iced topping. RIGHT (back) - Spiced apple muffins with crispy walnut topping. FRONT - Welsh Cakes with mixed fruits.

I have to say, the gingerbread ones were a first for me and the making of them was quite unusual because the inclusion of sticky black treacle makes the mix look and feel quite strange. Although the final baked form is more cake-like, the putting together is done in the way of making a traditional muffin (ie dry ingredients in one bowl, all the wet ingredients mixed together in another bowl, then the whole lot combined in one go) but the mix is much wetter and smoother and slightly thinner....and I don't actually like ginger (I have a strange allergic type reaction when I've eaten it...worse when it's fresh ginger) so I was a little worried whether they'd turned out fine. Luckily Clive was on hand to do a test taste for me and the verdict was good, with a nice subtle ginger flavour and a good dark hit of treacle...PHEW!

Another new one for the Macmillan event, was Welsh Cakes. I haven't made these for a while but had some dried fruit left over from a fruit cake I'd recently made so it was a perfect time to use up those left over bits and pieces.

Here's the recipe, which I've been assured (by Welsh friends) is a good traditional one...and which uses just currants. For the ones I made today, I used mixed dried fruits instead because Clive likes the hit of citrus from the dried peel pieces and the additional moistness from the larger plump raisins helps prevent them drying out too quick.

WELSH CAKES - (makes approx 20)

8oz Plain Flour sifted*
1/2 teaspoon baking powder*
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice*
pinch of salt*
4oz Butter (room temperature and cut into small cubes)
3oz Caster Sugar
2-3oz Currants
1 Egg
a little milk on standby
extra caster sugar for coating

For cooking the cakes the traditional tool to use is a Planc or Welsh Bakestone but I've not got one and have found a frying pan just as good - a good non stick heavy based one or even a griddle (flat one NOT the one with ridges) will do the trick without the need for greasing....but remember that a small pan will only allow you to cook a small batch at a time....so be prepared for a long baking session! You'll also need a round fluted tartlett/cookie cutter and I used a 2.5 inch one which made 20 cakes. These cakes, in name, are a little deceiving...and are actually more like a flat scone and not a sponge...the technique is very much like scone and some pastry/biscuit making where you 'breadcrumb' the dry and butter ingredients before adding the wet to form a soft dough and rolling out. DO NOT, however, allow the dough to rest or place in a fridge - this will make the mix too short and crumbly. Use straight away like with a scone mix.
  1. Sift together the dry ingredients (marked with a *)
  2. Rub the butter into the flour mix to a fine breadcrumb consistency
  3. Stir in the sugar and currants and combine well to make sure there is an even spread of the fruits.
  4. Add the egg and combine to form a soft dough ball. If it looks a little dry or is not forming a dough, add a scant amount of milk but take care not to make it too wet.
  5. Turn out onto a lightly floured worktop and knead VERY gently just a couple of times - take care not to overwork or the dough will become too tough.
  6. Flatten and roll out evenly to approx 8mm thick (see notes below)
  7. Using the round fluted cutter, start cutting out rounds, placing on a tray lined with baking parchment (so they don't stick) ready for cooking.
  8. Preheat up the griddle/frying pan and gently transfer a small batch of the dough rounds to it. Use a flat palette knife or fish slice etc so the round shapes do not get distorted.
  9. Gently cook until the base has a nice golden colour then flip over and gently cook the other side (see notes below)
  10. Transfer cooked cakes to a wire cooling rack and immediately dredge both sides with caster sugar.
NOTES
  • Use the dough immediately - DO NOT allow to rest or place in the fridge because the mix will toughen up and 'shorten' - altering the texture of the cake. It needs to be soft like a traditional English sweet scone.
  • likewise, DO NOT over knead or be too heavy handed rolling out the dough...this will activate the glutens in the flour which will toughen up the mix.
  • Due to the inclusion of Baking Powder, these cakes will rise very slightly during cooking so it's important not to roll out and cut out too think a round or else they will not cook through into the centre. I tend to roll out to the thickness of about a digestive biscuit.
  • These are very simple to make...but do need a little care and thought in the cooking. Do not heat up the pan too hot or else you'll end up burning the outside before the inside is done. A moderate heat and gentle cooking on both sides until you get a good golden to dark colour on them. You can judge when it's cooked by keeping an eye on the sides...you can see the raw dough changing colour and if you still have a raw line in the centre....chances are its uncooked in the centre. I sometimes cook just one piece to start off with, then tear in half to check the inside so I can get a good idea of the level of heat I'm using and how long they take to do each side...before cooking the rest of the batch.
  • The cakes are best served warm and fresh baked. They are nice eaten cold and will keep for a day or so but tend to dry out and go stale quick. If this does happen you can warm up for a few seconds in the microwave and a little spreading of butter on the top adds moisture back into them.
  • I'm on the understanding that the traditional fruit ingredients are currants only...but there's nothing to stop you from creating variations to suite your own tastes - using mixed fruits...even chopped up dried tropical fruits or a few nuts. I personally do not like dried fruit and have on occasion made plain ones using the spices only, although they can be a little dry due to the omission of the fruits (which add extra moisture and sweetness) so are best served fresh baked, warm with a little smearing of butter on the top. Some people even spread jam on theirs!
Enjoy!

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