sticky date muffins
See the caramel peeping out there? That’s the best bit.
To raise much needed social committee funds, I’ve been baking a weekly bunch of muffins for my favourite guinea pigs in the whole wide world: my work colleagues. For every manic Sunday session of baking, I get to observe firsthand what muffins people truly like and for some reason, I find this a very fascinating subject. Maybe it’s too much time with my head in the oven, but just in case you’re curious here’s the research.
Over this time I’ve noticed a few disturbing trends with people’s preferences. For example, people love muffins with a ‘healthy’ connection to fruit or muesli. Even though muffins are one of the least healthy things you can lay your hands on. On that note, chocolate (to my eternal shock and horror) is actually quite unpopular, but combine it with fruit and it’s a winner. Lemon and anything citrus is a perennial favourite. Coffee is not popular during the mornings. Icing sells anything! And finally, dates are universally loved. And so is caramel.
It’s the lumps of dulce de leche within this muffin that throws its back to its pudding cousin. Dulce de leche is super easy to make at home and it’s the sole reason why our pressure cooker exists. Basically, put a can of condensed milk and water into the pressure cooker and out comes yielding, soft, sticky dulce de leche. It’s amazingly good. And for so little effort and maybe a little danger, it’s definitely worth doing.
(All cans come with a ‘do not heat in can’ warning but I have never ever had an explosion with the steps below.)
The dates comes next. They are softened in a bath of bicarb and hot water, becoming a slush that makes the muffins fudgy and sweet. To get light and risen muffins, the trick is not to use self raising flour, but add three teaspoons of baking powder and a cup of water in the oven for maximum lift. And voila, you get sticky date muffins worth every fundraising penny.
Cheat’s Dulce de Leche
395g can of condensed milk, unopened
Line the bottom of the pressure cooker with a steamer basket or tea towel. The can MUST NOT contact the bottom of the cooker. Fill with water to completely submerge the can.
Pressure cook 15 minutes for a spreadable dulce de leche. For harder texture, pressure cook anywhere up to 30 minutes. Allow the can and water to COMPLETELY COOL before opening.
Sticky Date Muffins
For huge, cafe style muffins, pop a heatproof mug of hot water into the oven along with the muffins. The steam softens the crusts, allowing for maximum rise.
Makes 6 jumbo/Texas sized muffins or 8 regular muffins.
125g chopped dates
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100ml hot water
310g all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
50g caster sugar
125ml milk (soured with a little lemon juice or white vinegar)
100g butter, melted
200g dulce de leche (half a can of condensed milk – see above)
icing sugar for dusting, optional
Combine the dates, bicarb and hot water in a jug. Leave to cool.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line muffin tin with muffin cases.
In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar. Stir to combine and make a well in the centre. Pour in the date mixture. Using the same jug, beat together the milk, eggs and oil and add to the flour.
Gently stir just until no streaks of flour are visible.
Scoop into the prepared muffin tin, dolloping lumps of dulce de leche here and there. Cover any exposed dulce de leche with batter as it tends to scorch. Pop into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or when a skewer comes out clean.
Without burning yourself (!) take the muffins immediately out of the tin and cool on a wire rack. (Leaving them to cool in the tin steams the muffins making them tough.) Leave to cool before dusting with icing sugar. Eat up!
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