Muffins, scones, shortcakes & quickbreads

Muffins, scones, shortcakes & quickbreads

By
Margaret Fulton
Contains
36 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742706306
Photographer
Vanessa Levis

Hints & tips

Muffins, scones and shortcakes are all kinds of quickbreads – mixtures in which all the ingredients are quickly combined, and that rely on fast-acting chemical raising agents such as baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. All require light handling to ensure they do not become tough.

Muffins

There are two types of muffins: the flat, bread-like English muffins, which are not dealt with in this book, and the domed American muffins that have a more cake-like texture. These can be sweet or savoury, and are one of America’s nicest gifts to the culinary world.

Muffin tins

Half-cup tins are an ideal size, or there are smaller tins for mini muffins. Tin plate is the cheapest material; its only drawback is that it can corrode. Non-stick teflon tins are more expensive but excellent. Alternatively, line muffin tins with paper cases, or use silicone muffin moulds, which are non-stick. All of these materials respond to heat as quickly as possible, helping the muffins to rise well and cook evenly in all directions.

Muffin tins come in three sizes: mini, standard and large. The size of the tins may be changed if you adjust the baking time. A recipe for 12 standard muffins will make about six large muffins and about 24 mini muffins. In general, bake standard muffins for 15 minutes and mini muffins for about 12 minutes.

Making muffins

Grease the tins well (even non-stick tins should be lightly greased) or line them with paper muffin cases of the right size. It doesn’t matter if the case doesn’t sit right down in the tin; once it is filled, the mixture will anchor it. Or use silicone moulds, which do not need to be greased.

Use fresh ingredients. Baking powder and bicarbonate of soda lose their strength over time, so make sure they are fresh by buying them from a high-turnover outlet. Flour, too, needs to be fresh. If you don’t have self-raising flour you can make your own by adding 2 teaspoons baking powder to 1 cup of plain flour.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a few swift strokes, just enough to moisten the flour – the mixture should still be a little lumpy. If extra ingredients are added, such as berries or nuts, fold them in gently, being careful not to crush berries or overhandle the mixture. Do not overmix; this will produce tough, coarse-textured muffins.

Spoon the mixture into each tin in one large spoonful, pushing it off with the spoon held low, to avoid stretching the elastic gluten strands in the flour. Fill the tins or paper cases about two-thirds full.

Bake immediately or else the raising agents will dissipate and the muffins will not rise. The exceptions are those mixtures, such as Raisin & Bran Muffins, that can be left in the fridge for days or even weeks and a small quantity baked as needed.

Muffins can be prepared in stages if time is short or if you want muffins for breakfast in the quickest time possible. Prepare the liquid ingredients and the dry ingredients the night before and store separately. In the morning, combine the two, spoon into the tins and bake.They’ll be ready by the time you’ve made your morning coffee. Alternatively, make a prepare-ahead batter such as that for Raisin & Bran Muffins and bake only as many muffins as you need at the time.

Test the muffins with a fine skewer a few minutes before the end of the recommended baking time. If it comes out clean, with no crumbs or batter attached, the muffins are cooked. If not, return them to the oven for another couple of minutes, then test again.

To remove muffins from tins run a knife or a small metal spatula around their sides, between muffin and tin. Those cooked in paper cases don’t need to be loosened.

Muffins are best eaten warm If not eating them straight away, allow to cool completely on a wire rack, then store in an airtight container. Muffins freeze very well; thaw at room temperature (or briefly in the microwave) and then refresh in a preheated 180º oven for about 5 minutes.

Scones & shortcakes.

Scones can be mixed and baked in 20 minutes to enjoy with tea or coffee, or to provide hot savoury snacks or even the basis of a casual meal. They require quick but light handling to achieve the desired flaky result.

Shortcake is a luscious dessert consisting of a tender, scone-like cake which is split, filled and topped with fruit and cream, and served warm. Rounds of rich pastry can also be layered with cream and fruit, Lemon Butter or Passionfruit Butter to make a Continental-style shortcake.

Making scones

Rub in the fat with your fingertips or a small palette knife until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the liquid in a slow and steady stream to a well made in the dry ingredients, then mix to a soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and give the dough a few quick turns with floured hands, then pat gently into a thickness of about 2 cm and cut into rounds with a sharp biscuit or scone cutter.

Brush tops with a little milk and bake in a preheated oven for 12–15 minutes or until golden.

Making shortcakes

Mix and handle the dough lightly; see Scones. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to about 1 cm thick then cut into rounds the size you want. Bake in a hot oven. When cool sandwich together with a filling of whipped cream and soft fruit.

Quickbreads

These loaves and cakes are made with little effort and don’t depend on slow-rising yeast. Instead they use quick-acting chemical leaveners such as baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.

Making quickbreads

Grease the tin evenly but sparingly if you are too generous with greasing the loaf may be sticky.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre to pour the liquid into.

If the mixture contains eggs beat them with a fork before adding them to the other liquid ingredients.

Use a fork or wooden spoon to quickly stir all the ingredients together just until the flour mixture is moistened. Some spots of flour may remain and the butter will be lumpy. It’s better to undermix than overmix.

Bake the loaf or cake until it has risen nicely and is golden brown. Test whether it is cooked by inserting a fine skewer or cake tester into the centre; if it comes out with no crumbs or batter attached, the cake is cooked.

Once the loaf is cooked, cool it in the tin for about 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack. Hot loaves do not slice well, so leave it to cool a little more before slicing with a serrated knife. If icing the loaf or cake, leave it to cool completely before you ice it.

Store in an airtight container. Quickbreads in general do not keep well and are best eaten on the day they are made.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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