Several weeks ago I was lucky enough to buy a copy of Jo Wheatley’s fabulous book “A Passion For Baking”. I have been an avid follower of Jo’s blog “Jo’s Blue Aga” ever since I watched her in last year’s series of the Great British Bake Off. I loved reading Jo’s posts and looking through the recipes she had included on her blog so I knew that her book would be a real gem. I know that lots of other people have felt the same as I have seen lots of lovely heartfelt comments from her fans who have baked her recipes.
Even though I bake a lot for customers, friends and family, I couldn’t understand why I had only baked one of Jo’s recipes from the book to date. Those were the Smartie Cookies which I made for one of my stalls instead of my usual Smartie cookie recipe. I needed to instantly put that right but at the moment I am trying but I mean trying to cut down on sugary stuff.
On Friday night I had a phone call from a customer who asked for some banana muffins. She needed them for Sunday so I chose to bake them on Sunday morning. I was thrilled to bits, I had seen a recipe for banana muffins in Jo’s recipe book so I could test them out! I love baking banana muffins and thought it was such a shame I had to sell them!
So, on with the recipe. Jo’s recipe calls for buttermilk and also includes pecan nuts and grated orange zest to the mixture. I did not have any buttermilk in so I had to make a quick trip up to Morrisons as soon as it opened to buy some, along with some pecan nuts. I don’t tend to add nuts to my baking unless a customer specifically asks for it. Usually I substitute some dried fruit, such as raisins.
Once I was in Morrisons I whizzed round with a basket, only to find there was no buttermilk to be found in it’s usual place. The recipe needed 300ml buttermilk so I couldn’t leave it out. I wasn’t entirely sure what I could use in it’s place, then I remembered another favourite banana bread recipe I use by Annabel Karmel where it contains natural yoghurt. In the end I bought two small 150g pots of natural yoghurt and hoped that it wouldn’t affect the recipe. Thankfully our local Morrisons is a good, well stocked one so I didn’t have problems with the pecan nuts!
Then it was straight back home! I needed to get cracking straight away but I was furious to find out that while I had been out for 40 minutes my two teenage children had decided to make smoothies and had left a load of mess all over the kitchen work surfaces! I was furious and ordered them to clear it up immediately. After some sulky grunts they had done what they should have done in the first place, so I could finally get on with the job in hand.
Jo’s recipe is different to the banana muffin recipe I have used in the past in that you make a separate crumble type topping for the muffins. In my usual recipe everything is chucked in together, so I was looking forward to creating the crumble topping. I set to making the crumble part first. You rubbed together some plain flour, butter, demerera sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, then added in some chopped pecan nuts.
I enjoy rubbing in and making crumble toppings, I find it very therapeautic and I relaxed as I listened to some music on my Ipod playing in the kitchen . I always find though that someone always phones or knocks on the front door when I’ve got my hands in the mixing bowl. Luckily this didn’t happen today, though our house felt like the M25 on a busy day as I was trying to get on!
I then weighed out the dry ingredients into a bowl: self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and caster sugar. The wet ingredients were weighed out in another bowl; the natural yoghurt, beaten egg and some melted butter. I also mashed two large bananas in yet another bowl.
I was careful not to overwork the mixture as Jo says to take care with this or the muffins will become tough and heavy. I also took care that the flour was carefully folded in with a large metal spoon.
Now the fun bit had arrived where you spoon the mixture into the cake cases. I looked through my stash of muffin and cupcake cases and looked for something that would fit the banana theme, being yellow! I found my Pudsey Bear Children In Need ones, which I always have ready for my fundraising cakes. I thought these would be perfect for the banana muffins and luckily they fitted the mixture beautifully. Finally, once the mixture was in the cases, I sprinkled the crumble topping on top of the muffins ensuring that each muffin got an equal sprinkling.
Then they went into the oven for about 30 minutes. I kept wanting to check on them after about 20 minutes as the smell wafting from the kitchen was heavenly. I absolutely wished I could eat without gaining an ounce of weight so I could have made double!
When, after about 30 minutes I took the tray of muffins out of the oven I was greeted by a beautiful sight. The muffins were a lovely golden colour and had risen up and over the top of the cases like I had expected. The smell was heavenly too and I really enjoyed lapping up the smell as I placed the muffins onto the cooling rack.
Once the muffins were cooled completely, I quickly photographed them on my stand and then placed them into a cardboard box to await collection from my customer. When she saw them she said they smelled gorgeous and looked too good to eat.
Jo mentions in her recipe introduction that the muffins are “lovely and simple to make with children” and I can totally agree with that. I have made muffins before with the children at school in my day job and I am sure this recipe would be a hit with them!