Lavender and honey muffins.

Lavender and honey muffins

I promise this is the last muffin post for a while. It just can’t be helped. Being Christmas crazy time, it’s easy to get swept up baking elaborate fruit cakes and nifty edible gifts for others. I feel like it’s probably important to take a break now and then though, drink plenty of tea, and enjoy a muffin.

When I cook, I generally use what’s available, rather than making a special trip to the shops for ingredients. I enjoy the creativity that comes with this, but it’s also always nice to avoid unnecessary errand-running. This time, there was a shortage of sugar and apples in the cupboard, so I used honey and eggs. These muffins are therefore a bit of a deviation from my usual muffin formula, so although they’re not vegan, they could easily be made so with a couple of substitutions.

I’ve never actually used lavender before, but the bush in full flower outside the window was too lovely to ignore. When I was in Paris recently, I had a delightful lavender and apricot cupcake from a little place called Vegan Folie’s, so I knew it could be done. Here’s a little taste of how amazing vegan cupcakes can be: (The lavender one is at the front, and the one in the background is felafel and hummous flavoured… more on this another time.)

vegan folie's cupcakes

With a little help from Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion, I figured out the right quantity of lavender so as not to overpower. Be careful though, some varieties are more suited to cooking than others. “Provence” and English Lavender seem to be a couple of the more preferred varieties.

Now, put the mince pies aside, hunt down a lavender bush and bake some muffins. Quite possibly the best antidote to Christmas mayhem.

Lavender and honey muffins 2

Lavender

Lavender and honey muffins 3

Lavender and honey muffins

Makes approximately 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers (strip flowers off the stem after drying, or dry roast fresh flowers in a pan on the stove to speed up the process)
1/4 cup raw sugar
*2 tablespoons honey
*1 egg
3/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence)

*Vegan alternative:
Replace honey with either agave or another 1/4 cup of raw sugar.
Replace egg with 1/2 cup applesauce.

Preheat oven to 180C, and grease muffin pans.

Combine flours, baking powder and soda and lavender in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, lightly beat egg, then mix in sugar, honey, milk, water and vanilla until well combined.

Add wet ingredients to the dry, then mix until combined. Divide mixture among muffin pans, filling each to roughly 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until slightly golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Serve with cups of tea, warm or cold, alone or with a mildly-flavoured spread of your choosing (eg butter/coconut butter).

Spiced quince and apple pies

Quince time! Maybe the greatest time of year?

I don’t know, it’s a big call. But really, stewed quinces are so great – on cereal, for dessert served with (soy) ice cream. So versatile! It’s times like these I get a little bit sad that our own quince trees are performing a bit less brilliantly than would be ideal. Possibly an alert to add quince tree TLC to the list of gardening jobs?

That aside, my aunty and uncle brought over a bag of quinces the other day, so the kitchen is well stocked, and today was one of those days where you just need to do some baking to cheer someone up. Good combination, I thought.

With a bit of browsing of the internet for inspiration, I decided on pies. Mostly because I have been making way too many cake-type sweets recently, and no one in my house is eating them at a satisfactory rate to allow me to keep baking more. I also remembered spotting a small ball of pastry in the freezer the other day, which, given the super-tight study schedule I have put myself on, I decided would save me a lot of time. (Please note that I am aware writing blogs isn’t exactly exam revision, but you know… sanity break…)

Armed with slightly-old-but-still-passable short crust pastry, I began my pie adventure.
With a little bit more internet inspiration, I decided that following a recipe was way too hard, and to just basically stew fruit with spices and stick it in the pastry. Can’t really get much simpler than that. I did come across an interesting spice combination on my search though, in the form of Chinese Five Spice. Apparently you can get this in supermarkets, and it’s a combination of ground cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise and peppercorns. I didn’t have this, but I used a similar mix of spices because even on a page, they look great together.

I mentioned in a recent post that I recently acquired some honey from my friend’s hives in suburban Adelaide. I can not describe just how awesome this honey tastes. Especially in tea, but also especially just generally. So the honey makes another appearance in this recipe. Veganise it by replacing with sugar.

These are happy pies for my darling sister. She is pretty great. I hope she is feeling better soon.

Spiced quince and apple pies
Makes 6 mini pies (cupcake sized)

If you don’t have any slightly-old-but-still-passable pastry in your freezer, you could buy some or use this recipe.

Short crust pastry:
170g margarine (dairy free) – I used lite nuttelex (but nuttelex is a bit sus, so if you decide butter is more ethical, go with that)
340g plain flour
pinch of salt
cold water

Rub the margarine into the flour, add salt and just enough cold water to bind into a dough. Roll into ball and leave to rest in fridge for 20mins.

Filling: note that spice measurements are approximate – add to taste
2 small quinces, peeled, cored and diced
1 apple, cored and diced
2 heaped tablespoons delicious honey (or sugar or other sweetener)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch fennel seeds, ground
2 stars of anise
water

Make up pastry, and allow to rest in the fridge while you make the pie filling. Preheat oven to 180C and lightly grease a six-cup muffin pan.

Place all filling ingredients in a medium sized saucepan, and add water to about half the level of the fruit. Stir together well, and bring to the boil on medium heat. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally until fruit becomes soft and all liquid is gone. Allow to cool slightly and remove stars of anise from the mixture. (This may take a bit of searching.)

In the mean time, roll out pastry between 2 pieces of baking paper to around 2-3mm thick. Cut circles the appropriate size to fit your muffin pans, and line each cup. Save a little pastry for lids or lattice on top.

Fill each pastry-lined cup with filling, and top each with strips of pastry in a lattice, or whatever other creative design you please. If you have a lot of pastry left, you can make lids for the pies, but remember to puncture some holes in them if you do.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until pastry is golden. Allow to cool slightly in pans before removing. Serve warm alone, or with some kind of vanilla ice cream or dairy-free substitute if that’s how you roll.

Honey-glazed earl grey and persimmon muffins – Sweet Adventures Blog Hop

This is something new for me. The Sweet Adventures Blog Hop (this month hosted by 84th & 3rd), is a monthly dessert link-up, whereby you submit a post relating to the month’s theme, and then become linked up with everyone else who does so in a neat little list, so you can read everyone’s wonderful recipes.

The theme for May is ‘What’s your cup of tea?’ – and if you have a little click on some of those links above, you can see the list of delightful adventures going on around this theme.

I have to admit to getting a little bit experimental with my entry here. Firstly, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a persimmon, let alone cooked with one. It was just one of those times where there were a few pieces of fruit in a bowl in the kitchen, looking a little bit sad, so it made sense to put them out of their misery and turn them into something a bit more appealing.

I can’t say I’ve ever used honey instead of sugar before either. However, I met up with a lovely uni friend today, whose Dad is a newly registered apiarist, and is selling his honey from hives in their suburban Adelaide backyard. How could I resist the sweet calling from happy hives?

And lastly; tea. The magic ingredient that is rather integral to this whole undertaking. I probably need to refine my methods for extracting the tea flavour (because there was some crazy stuff happening in my kitchen this afternoon), but I’ve had a think, and refined it for ease of replication in the recipe below.

These muffins are not too sweet, and the flavours are pretty subtle; probably quite appropriate for breakfast, as they’re quite healthy too (low-fat and egg and dairy-free). You might like to ramp up the tea flavour a bit by making a strong brew, and be careful with the honey on top – if it runs down the edges of the muffins, it makes them hard to get out of the patty pans. This could be a good thing though, if you want an excuse to get every last bit of muffin from the paper… I’m sure some experimentation will work this one out – perhaps just a dollop of honey in the centre. For a first try at an invented recipe though, these muffins are not bad. I mean, I ate two of them when I was supposed to just be ‘tasting’ them, so…

Well here you go. Honey-glazed earl grey and persimmon muffins. My first attempt at entering the world of the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop.

Honey-glazed persimmon muffins

Makes 10 muffins

1/2 cup persimmon flesh, mashed (the persimmon I used was so soft, mashing wasn’t necessary)
1 persimmon, diced
1 persimmon, sliced horizontally (to get the star pattern)
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup boiling water (to make tea)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 earl grey teabags
extra honey to drizzle

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a muffin tin with paper liners.

Brew some strong earl grey using around 3 teabags, and 1/2 cup boiling water. Heat soy milk in a small saucepan with the hot tea-water and tea bags to extract some more flavour.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder to remove any lumps. In a small bowl, mix mashed persimmon, 1/2 cup honey, tea-infused soy milk and water, and vegetable oil. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Carefully fold in diced persimmon pieces, then distribute evenly among muffin pans.

Ensure tops are level, then place one persimmon slice on top of each muffin. Drizzle a small amount of honey on top, preferably in the centre so it doesn’t end up around the muffin instead of on it.

Bake for around 30 minutes, or until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Sweet Adventures Blog Hop

This post is part of the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop. Head over here and scroll down to see the list of other blogs taking part in the hop!