Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Cupboard of Hoarding: Ginger Muffins

This food adventure starts with cleaning. And with treacle. By no means one of the worst combinations I can think of.

I’ll be graduating this year, which means, in addition to sorting out that terrifying specter haunting most twenty-somethings, the future, that I will have to move out of my student house and ship my life in three suitcases or less back to the other side of the world (yes, moving back in with the parents, how glamorous!) I’ve decided to put off the many stress-inducing aspects of this imminent schlep by focusing on the kitchen. Ah, that shrine of godly splendor wherein I have spent many an hour (and procrastinated before many a deadline)!

Over the two years or so that I’ve been living in this house, I’ve accumulated a lot of tid-bits—various spices, little plastic bags of ground almonds, bonito flakes, and turmeric, bottles of food-coloring, Tabasco, and almond extract. Luxury items for the occasional baking extravaganza, now sitting sad and unused on the top shelf. Most of them were probably more substantial when I bought them, but after a few uses I’m left with an array of uselessly small amounts of clashing ingredients, the makings of a truly terrifying Everything Bagel.

It was while surveying this clutter of packaging and precariously stacked containers that I made a Resolution. Before I leave I will use up every package of food-stuffs that I find tucked away in this Cupboard of Hoarding. Everything. No throwing away, that’s not in the spirit of student-hood, the creed I will still be living by for the next two months. Panicked (and well-stocked with deadlines to procrastinate for) I set off on a frantic cycle of chain baking. Chocolate chip cookies, toasted almond cookies, double chocolate biscuits, devilish fudgy brownies, and a very sexy pumpkin pie (ingredients imported all the way across the pond from America). Whew. It’s addictive! After two years of gradually collecting and hoarding cook’s treats and bakeware, I’d finally caught the bug, two months away from D-Day, the big move.

Well, so much the better. At least this way the Resolution won’t suffer the same fate as all those New Year’s promises (I’m looking at you, “Eat Less”, “Exercise More” and “Be Nicer to People”. Whatever happened to you, eh?) With the Baking Bug, my decision to use up and clear out could become an exciting adventure. Something Fun and Exciting. Resulting in lots of things to force my housemates to eat (or rather, to tempt them with, bribery to gain their affections!)

Pepped up with determination and itchy baking fingers, I resolved to tackle a little tin that had been taunting me since early December, lurking like a little gremlin of sticky seasonal flavoring. Treacle. Now, I am not generally one to be put off by ingredients, nor by the potential for mess (and treacle has a LOT of potential for that). The Treacle Gremlin so intimidated me because it stood as a reminder of the Baking Disaster of December 2011. An attempt to make ginger snaps that went horribly, horribly wrong. A gooey heap of deliciously-gingery scented ooze, seeping clarified butter in a slippery, sliding mess. The part that didn’t end up cemented to the bottom of the oven, that is. For the next few months, despite attempts to scrub, soak, and pry the burnt remains off the over floor, every time someone used the oven to heat up a frozen pizza or chicken fingers, the whole house was filled the Christmas-y fragrance of ginger and treacle. Perhaps not the most unpleasant result but nonetheless a failure.

Armed with resolutions and pep, I decided that the time had come to face the Treacle Gremlin yet again. Coming across my used-but-one-time silicone muffin cups, I decided to resurrect the ginger ghost, this time in muffin form (less opportunity for spillage, more potential for uniformly shaped and sized treats, genius!)

This was the result…

Ginger Muffins
(modified from a recipe found on

113 grams unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
l cup black treacle
3 cups self-raising flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sour milk (add one tsp of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk and let it sit while you mix the other ingredients, it should curdle slightly by the time you’re ready to add it in)
Extra sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 180° C (350° F).

Mix flour, spices and salt and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar until smooth and then add eggs and treacle.
Add flour mixture and milk a bit at a time, alternating between the two. Mix until just combined, not thoroughly blended.

Spoon batter into muffin tins/cups, filling each cup halfway (they rise quite a bit in the oven). If you’re not using paper cups in your tins, be sure to lightly grease them so it’s easier to remove the cooked muffins.

If you want, you can sprinkle a little granulated sugar on the top of each muffin before baking. It gives them a nice little accent when they’re done but isn’t necessary for the taste.

180° Celsius (or 350° Fahrenheit)
16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes away clean (my muffins were quite small, with larger ones you might need a couple extra minutes)

I ended up with 47 (small) muffins.

These aren’t overwhelmingly gingery or treacle-ish but have a delicately spiced flavoring that’s perfect for a little afternoon snack (I like mine with a nice cuppa!)

When they first came out of the oven (after cooling enough to not burn the roof of my mouth!) they had a lovely crunch to their tops and were soft and fluffy on the inside. After cooling completely (and spending a night in a plastic bag) they developed that sticky glaze that muffins often get (which I personally love!)

Apart from being tiny and adorable, these are also pretty flexible. I added a handful of raisins to the final batch (another find from the back of The Cupboard) and it added a lovely extra texture and flavor element. You could definitely experiment with adding various other additions and adjust the spicing for personal tastes. A lovely fluffy, bite-sized template for personal tweaking!

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