Eating Weetabix Muffins for Two
March 27, 2012 § 1 Comment
I know there has been a run of cake posts on Cakesnail of late. I’m not apologizing – the clue is sort of there in the name already – but I will explain. I am pregnant. Knocked up, with child, preggers, up the duff, expecting. However you put it, my belly is swelling, along with my heart, and new life is forming, in the kind of way that completely blows your mind, however long you’ve had to process the idea of the birds and the bees, however many friends you’ve seen go through the same process. And I am hungry: not only for cake (the meat craving is a whole other story) but the cake and the baking thereof is sweeter than ever and I’ve been making the most.
Having a baby fits so smoothly into our life trajectories that it must be hard to from the outside to imagine that it wasn’t planned. 32, married for four years, in the middle of buying an apartment with an oh-so-perfect nursery-shaped third bedroom. But no-one was more surprised than me to see the little plus sign form instantly – decisively – on the plastic stick, even if in garishly clear hindsight all the signs were there to be seen, and not just the voracious baking. As the first week and all the testing passed, disbelief bumped up against relief, which met exhilaration and joy on the way out the door. And then, I thought, I am not ready for this.
When Ollie and I started going out (sorry, our child will be American and we must prepare: dating), we were on the cusp of graduating university (oops, there we go again: college), and in that sweet, surreal spot between the end of exams and the soon to dawn realization that the rest of life wasn’t quite so easy. Almost a full decade ago to the day, we spent our time much like babies: sleeping, making mischief, drinking, only the latter involved less nutritious imbibing than that of milk. Food wasn’t important to us, unless it was in some way an enabler of said drinking, whether by form of social excuse, or stomach-lining. I had discovered that Weetabix, made with hot milk and stirred into a mushy brown goop, was an excellent pre-partying food and my cupboards normally yielded not much more than the yellow box of those wheat biscuits. Thus it happened that one early evening we had over-napped and left ourselves with no time to procure food before the next party commenced. I waved the box at Ollie and asked if he wanted two or three biscuits. “Four!” was the bold response. We ate them, straight from a pan for minimal washing up, and went out on our merry way.
This, reader, is pretty much how I think of us still, underneath all the pretenses of adulthood. How can such people be trusted to sustain a new life? You can read the New Yorker and go to the symphony all you like (not that we’ll doing those things again for a while) but it’s all still one big piece of theatre in which we just happen to have been convincing enough actors that people have given us jobs, and mortgages, and invited us round for dinner parties. Yes, these are the neuroses that whir around in the 3 seconds between being excited and then being excited again, like the little subliminal flashes on a screen. Which is why these Weetabix muffins came into my life at just the right time. I found them in Dan Lepard’s wonderful book, while looking for something to bake that was also at least pretending to be nutritious enough for breakfast. I hadn’t thought of this story or of Weetabix for a long time but the recipe gave me a jolt of nostalgia and I picked up a box of the biscuits at the next possible opportunity. At the first opportunity I ate a couple just like I used to, albeit from a bowl this time, and the hot, malty mush was just as comforting as I remembered. And then came the muffins: a nice simple recipe which you could easily prepare the night before, mixing the dry ingredients into a large bowl and then combining the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl and refrigerating overnight. In the morning, you simply pour the wet mix over the dry, mix sleepily and pour into muffin cases, and stick in the oven before your last dream has even faded. They’re not too sweet, and the slight orange note from the zest and mild tang from the rye flour if you go down that route, makes them a good pairing with a strong, hot, milky cup of English breakfast tea for some reason. For such a playful recipe, they’re a pretty delicate, complex bun. And this is how I knew that something had changed after all. I bake muffins, for chrissake, and think about what kind of advance preparation might enable them to be easier in the morning. I take my Weetabix with tea, or juice, not washed down at 7pm with cartons of Don Simon sangria. And more than anything I’m excited about the idea of baking for three: of messy brunches and birthday cakes in the shape of numbers, and seeing someone else learn how to mix butter into sugar. I guess it’s going to be ok.
Adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet
The original recipe yields 9 muffins. I made a half portion of the recipe and came out with 6 buns, probably a touch smaller than a regular muffin and with a less domed top as a result. It’s your call whether you want to make them on the larger or smaller side: if the former, make sure you fill your cases right up to the top.
75g Weetabix (4 biscuits)
100g/3.5oz plain/all purpose flour
100g/3/5oz wholemeal or rye flour (I used rye)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
100g/3.5oz soft light brown sugar
1 large egg
225g/8oz low fat plain yoghurt (I think I used full fat as that tends to be what I have around)
50ml sunflower oil
50g/2oz golden syrup (I subbed corn syrup here although Lyle’s Golden Syrup would be better if you did have it on hand)
zest of one orange
Heat the oven to 200*C/390*F and line a muffin tray with paper cases (see note above about yield). If you don’t have muffin cases in the house you can improvise by using parchment paper: cut into squares, crumple into a ball so they are more pliable, and then use to line the cases. They won’t quite hold their shape until you add the batter, but otherwise they are a very pretty alternative.
Crumble the Weetabix into a medium to large bowl (enough to hold the full total batter) and add the raisins. Sift or whisk together the flours, baking soda and powder, cinnamon and sugar. Add this to the Weetabix and raisins and mix together.
Beat the egg, yoghurt, milk, oil, syrup and orange zest together. At this point you could leave the wet mix in the fridge, well covered, overnight, and add to the dry mix in the morning for fast breakfast muffins. Otherwise pour the wet mix over the dry ingredients and stir them quickly and evenly together. Pour the batter immediately into the muffin cases, filling to the top if you want a domed muffin.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until they are well risen and golden, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with an odd crumb sticking to it. Cool on a wire rack. The muffins are great warm or at room temperature; once cooled you can also freeze them and keep for 1-2 months.