I haven’t posted here for a while – but I have bona fide excuses. They include: an in-built tendency towards procrastination, terminal idleness, and a pure reluctance to cook because it’s too flipping hot. (I’ve also been doing 1.5 km of laps every day while the pool is still warm enough to swim, as my shorts seem to have inexplicably shrunk during lockdown).
Yesterday I made these muffins, thinking they would slot in as an easy pud for when our friend Linda came over last night and a good thing to stash in the freezer for another day. None of them made it to the freezer, but a couple did leave the house with Linda (I only made half of the quantity in the recipe here, so we only started with seven), and we have one each to look forward to with a cuppa this afternoon. And yes, for those of you paying attention out there, making half of the quantity left me with half of an egg, which was not wasted, but used to seal the blind-baked pastry for an egg custart tart that is coming with us to our friend’s house this evening.
The sticky toffee element of these muffins is provided by dates and sultanas, along with judicious quantities of brown sugar – I had to use Demerara sugar, because that is all we get here, which worked fine in the muffins, but a darker brown sugar would have been better for the glaze. For Turkish cooks out there, I suggest adding a tablespoon of grape or date pekmez to both the muffin mix and the glaze. Do not, under any circumstances, bring evil carob pekmez anywhere near this delicious treat because it is surely the work of the devil and should be left on the shelf in the supermarket by way of protest.
You do need to soak the dates in boiling water for a while before you proceed with the rest of the recipe, so plan accordingly – it doesn’t matter how long you leave the date mixture for, it just needs to be cool when you add it to the muffin batter. So you can get ahead and do it the day before if you prefer, then it’s a simple quick mix and into the oven. Similarly, the glaze needs to be cool (but not fridge cold) before you apply it to the muffins (I say apply, because I couldn’t decide between dipping and spooning. Tried both and ended up with glaze up to my elbow either way, which is probably because I am what my grandfather used to call a ‘mess ant’).
These muffins are very quick to make – the most arduous bit for me was getting the stones out of the dates (and evicting the odd weavil – do dates ever come weavil-free in this country?) but surely those sorts of fiddly jobs are why we are blessed with helpful husbands.
Sticky toffee muffins, salted caramel glaze
For the muffins:
200g chopped dates
300ml boiling water
2 teaspoons baking powder or 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (either is fine)
60g butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
150g brown sugar (dark brown or muscovado are best, or add a tablespoon of pekmez/molasses if you can only get light brown)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g self-raising flour
For the glaze:
100g dark brown sugar (or light brown plus 1 tablespoon pekmez/molasses)
50g butter or margarine
125ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon sea salt crystals
You will need a 12-hole muffin tin, lined with muffin papers
Put the chopped dates, sultanas and the baking powder or bicarb into a small bowl and pour over the boiling water (the raising agent will fizz up – do not be alarmed, this is correct). Stir to combine, then leave until completely cool.
When you are ready to make the muffins, pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
In a mixing bowl, cream or whisk together the brown sugar and butter/margarine (and molasses if using), then whisk in the egg. Pour in the cooled date/sultana mixture, along with the vanilla extract, and stir until combined.
Sieve the flour into the mixture and stir briefly until there are no lumps. Divide the mixture between the muffin cups – it’s fine if they are quite full, they will rise up rather than boil over. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until they feel firm to the touch when pressed.
While the muffins are baking, make the glaze. Put all of the ingredients into a small saucepan over a small flame – I use my Turkish coffee pan, it is a very useful object when for working with small quantities! Once the sugar and butter/margarine have melted, bring the mixture to the boil, then turn the heat down to its lowest setting and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the glaze into a small basin, stir in the sea salt flakes, and leave to cool. Once the glaze has cooled, you can either dip the tops of the muffins into it directly, or use a teaspoon to spread a little of the glaze over each muffin. You may have a little of the glaze left over. Whatever you decide to do with it, I promise you will not be judged.