The Daring Bakers Challenge February 2012: Muffins and Other Quick Breads

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

Quick breads is the general term for things like muffins, popovers, fruit loaf or even, I think, Yorkshire puddings – things that use baking powder or soda instead of yeast, and can be whipped up in under 90 minutes. They can be either sweet or savoury, but they’re not cakes – with quick breads, the usual method is to combine your wet and dry ingredients in two separate bowls, then mix them together quickly before baking. You don’t spend a lot of time mixing them, either – it’s usual for a muffin batter to be a bit lumpy, rather than the smooth, pourable batter you get with a cake.

This was the kind of challenge that let us make many variations during the month, much like last month’s scones. Once again, I started the month with what felt like bucketloads of ideas, but in reality I only made three variations. I can save up those other ideas for future projects. One of these months I’ll be on form and have dozens of goes at a challenge, as some of the other DBers do. Until then…

My first quick bread was a courgette, basil and lemon loaf. I’ve never baked with courgette before; in some parts of the world it’s as commonplace as banana bread, but not here – not yet anyway! I found this great recipe on The English Kitchen for courgette loaf, which I modified to make a gluten and dairy free version, with some added flavours…

  • 200g wheat-free plain flour mix
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 175ml basil oil
  • rind and juice of one lemon
  • 60ml soy milk
  • 2 large courgettes, grated

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients (including the courgette) in another. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix with a spatula until you can’t see any streaks of dry flour. Pour into a greased loaf tin (mine is 9″ by 5″). Bake at 150C (yes, a very low oven) for about an hour, until the loaf is risen, golden and springy to the touch. A wooden skewer will come out of the centre of the loaf clean, maybe with crumbs on it but definitely no wet batter. You might need a little extra time depending on your oven.

The thing about wheat free baking is that it can be drier and more crumbly than wheat-ful baking. Adding xanthan gum will help with this – the flour blend I’ve been using lately already has xanthan gum in it, so you don’t need to add extra, but you can buy the stuff separately without too much hassle – Sainsburys stocks it, or you can get it (of course) on Amazon. If you don’t want to add xantham gum, the other thing you can do is just add more liquid to the recipe – use your eye to judge when its at the right consistency, never mind what the recipe says. When this loaf went in the oven it was really liquid, I poured it from the bowl into the loaf tin. I will admit, I was a bit concerned that I’d gone too far… I forged ahead bravely, though, and it turned out that I’d done exactly the right thing. The final texture of the loaf was soft, the colour was pale and made a lovely backdrop for the bright colours of the courgette and lemon rind, and it rose up really tall, which is often another thing that gluten free food struggles to do.

Using basil oil adds flavour and moisture to the final loaf – you can use a plain oil instead, if you’d rather, or for a very subtle basil taste you can use half basil and half plain oil. When you bake with oil, you find that the finished product actually improves after a day or two, if you can wait that long. Usually I can’t.

My second challenge recipe was a savoury muffin, with sundried tomatoes, fresh herbs, garlic and double cheese. I combined two recipes from one of my books to create these, and they were really bursting with flavour, as you might imagine. They were especially good when pulled apart and spread liberally with a soft garlic cheese. MOAR CHEESE! MOAR GARLIC! Here’s the recipe to make 12 muffins:

  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 100g sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150g cream cheese
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 100ml milk
  • 20g grated mature gouda cheese

The method is just the same – mix the dry and wet ingredients separately, only leaving out the parmesan cheese. I put the tomatoes, herbs and garlic in with the dry, though its not a deal breaker if they go in with the wet, instead. The cream cheese will take a bit of whisking to get it to mix with the eggs and milk, persevere! Mix the wet and dry together. It might seem like you’ll never get to the end of the mixing but just keep going. Once combined, divide into muffin cases and sprinkle with the gouda, or any other cheese you fancy. Bake at 200C for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is golden and your kitchen smells like bready heaven.

My last go at this challenge was blueberry muffins with a coconut streusel topping. These were also a combination of two recipes – blueberry muffins from Movita Beaucoup and the idea of a streusel topping from these carrot muffins. Needless to say, I did make a couple of changes to both recipes, so here’s my version, to make 12 small square muffins and 12 mini muffins (or 12 normal sized muffins, probably).

Coconut Streusel Topping

  • 60g buckweat flour
  • 40g dessicated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
  • 25g cold butter, cut into small pieces

For the muffins:

  • 170g golden caster sugar
  • 110g self raising whole wheat flour
  • 110g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • zest 1 orange
  • 80ml olive oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 150ml soy milk
  • 125g blueberries

Make the streusel topping first. Mix all the dry ingredients together and get in amongst it with your fingers to break up the brown sugar. Then add the butter and pinch in to the dry ingredients, as though you were making scones, until the dry ingredients are all rubbed in to the butter. This way, nothing will be too dry and burn in the oven.

Make the muffin mix now – you guessed it, the wet and dry method. So simple. Divide the mix into your chosen cases, then top with a hearty teaspoon of the streusel. Press the streusel into the batter and bake at 200C. The square muffins took 20 minutes, while the mini ones only took ten.

This recipe makes really blueberry-centric muffins, which is exactly the way I like them. What’s the point in a muffin with one sad, lonely, shrivelled blueberry in the middle somewhere? Using fresh blueberries, and lots of them, gives you great bursts of blueberries, almost like fresh, sweet jam all through the sponge. Incredible.

About Rock Salt

Seasoning while rocking out since 1983. View all posts by Rock Salt

30 responses to “The Daring Bakers Challenge February 2012: Muffins and Other Quick Breads

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