Really Ratbaggy Weather and Suitable Distractions
It’s more of the sunny blue/falling wall of water business today, and very annoying it is too. We went on what ought to be one of our favourite hurtles this morning and . . . it was raining when we got there so we sat in the car a little longer while the roar of the meteorological tumult drowned out Radio 3, which didn’t disturb the hellhounds so much but didn’t improve my temper any. When we finally started off anyway it was rain = sulky hellhounds. Then steambath sun = sulky hellhounds. Then more rain = sulky hellhounds. More sunny sauna = sulky hellhounds. AAAAAUGH. The weird visuals included sky so black it really looked like Thor or Odin or someone was about to clap the lid over us alternating with a fuzzy white sun about half the size of the sky—plus the ankle-level theatrics. When the rain was coming down in thwacks if you were on a hard surface you were walking through a tiny geyser-garden as the water-balloons of rain hit and burst upward again. When the sun came out everything did promptly start steaming—probably including myself and the hellhounds, but I wasn’t at a good angle to see this—I can vouch for the steaming sheep however, and steaming sheep are . . . bizarre. Plus the dry-ice boa constrictors of murk coming off the road and the trees, including fallen logs. I was starting to worry about barrow-wights. It was totally possible that some of that wreathing smoke drifting off the bigger logs was going to solidify, stand up and come after us. Maybe the hellhounds really had our best interests at heart. They didn’t give the impression of having our best interests at heart. They gave the impression of having gone more or less limp in their harnesses and requiring me to frelling carry them. *
Of course I have been thinking of Ajlr’s bees. I hope the weather has been better where they are and they are not already telling each other the story of their origins in a bright and beautiful place from which they were evicted without warning for displeasing their gods . . . in some manner they wot not of, which is usually the way with displeased gods. Despairingly they wonder, what can they do to regain their gods’ favour? Pssst—make honey. Make lots and lots of honey.
This recipe began life using milk and maple syrup. I stopped using milk a long time ago and then when I moved over here maple syrup became gold dust and the Fountain of Youth**. Which is when I started using tea and honey. Yes, tea. I make it STRONG, but even so you’re getting comparatively little per muffin and unless you’re very susceptible to caffeine I wouldn’t have thought it would buzz you. One of the pleasures, to me, of these muffins is that they’re different every time because both tea and honey vary so immensely. Well, okay, I like messing about with teas of character† . . . and there are teas that are good with honey and teas that, in my capricious opinion, are not. But then I like honey with character too, and when you get two assertive entities together you have to be a little careful. So if you’re going to go down this route, you’re going to want to do your own experimenting. Which is part of the fun. I will point out however, before you decide instead to pop round to the corner shop and buy some doughnuts, that the fact that there’s flour and so on involved in the actual muffins means that the match between the tea and the honey does not have to be perfect.
3 T butter
¾ c strong tea
1/3 to ½ c honey: this is going to vary both with how sweet you want your muffins and how runny your honey is. I’m always going on in my recipes about how individual ingredients vary††. Honey more so than most. Honey is actually fairly tricky to bake with, but muffins are pretty accommodating.
Melt the butter, let cool; beat the egg, add the honey, then the tea, then the melted butter.
1-2 c wholemeal/wholewheat flour. You want about 1 ½ c flour total, but if you want to use some white flour to lighten it, use up to ½ c.
½ c (dry) oatmeal
1 T baking powder
If you like cinnamon (I often put cinnamon in my tea), you can add 1 tsp ground
Mix all this dry stuff together, then stir in quickly to the wet. I recommend using a whisk. It’s true that lumps will (probably) bake out, but they make me nervous.†††
Plop in about 12 muffin cups, which you’ve either buttered first or put paper muffin cups in.‡ About 20 minutes at 400°F. They should puff up beautifully, and the tops should be pretty hard. And if you wanted to brush them, when they come out of the oven, with a little honey thinned with a little water, that would be good too. If you want to you can run them back in the oven again for just about a minute more, to get a nice crackly effect from the honey wash.
And you want a good book to read while you eat your muffins, right? And what more suitable . . . Look what a friend in Cambridge (. . . Massachusetts) sent me‡‡:
* * *
* Speaking of not being at a good angle to see if they were steaming. My eyeballs were probably steaming.
** Yes, all right, you can buy it in the shops here. At £100/thimble. And you can only get the pale polite grade A, not the darker more interesting ones.
*** For example, the following. I’ve been a teaholic for forty years, but the serious fannying around began about twenty years ago when a friend living in Paris came to visit us at the old house bringing several tins from Palais des Thes. Wow. My world changed.
† And let us not forget one of my favourite Wondermarks: http://wondermark.com/557/
†† And that it makes me furious that cookbooks rarely acknowledge this. I wonder how many nascent cooks and bakers had their nerve wrecked early on by recipes that were a disaster despite having been followed exactly, down to the last basilisk eyelash. In the real world there is no exact. There’s only a general principle applied to your basilisk.
††† I personally think the whole ‘don’t overbeat your muffin batter’ is kind of a bugbear. But it’s true you beat only minimally, unlike a cake batter, say, where you want to see the batter change colour.
‡ Hint: I think paper muffin cups are one of the great discoveries of modern science.
‡‡ And yes, if you’re having trouble reading it on your monitor, that does say Harvard Book Store.
Please join the discussion at Robin McKinley's Web Forum.