Muffins, of the American sort, are exquisitely suitable to adaptation. I know this because I spent months baking at a wee café, rotating recipes so that it seemed there was a new muffin every single day. It was easy: I switched out one type of berry for another – blueberry and raspberry being my most regular. Then you go begin to go crazy, and add white chocolate chips or maybe some hazelnuts to the mix. With just those 4 ingredients, there are 15 combinations to try, not including plain old muffins. Few ingredients, loads of different muffins. It’s just maths. Lazy mathematical muffins. But I think it gets genuinely interesting when you start fiddling with the core ingredients – yes, the potential for muffin variety increases exponentially and the recipe possibilities are endless. Some are good, some aren’t.
This recipe is one of the very best and the simplest. Sugar. Caster sugar, the usual muffin choice, is seriously refined. All trace of impurity is removed. From these impurities, treacle is usually made. But if you replace caster with a dark brown sugar like muscovado, the muffins will be transformed into moist, dark, treacly and caramely delights. All it needs is to be drowned in a super-simple caramel sauce and the whole tray is gone in minutes.
First, preheat your oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas 5. Grease a couple of muffin tins with plenty of butter (or line them with cases).
In a large bowl, weigh your flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Rub these together with your fingers, just to combine and to remove any lumps of brown sugar.
Add your egg, milk and oil in on top of your dry ingredients, and stir everything together with a wooden spoon. Don’t overmix – it should only just come together and still be lumpy.
Transfer your mixture to your prepared tins and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until risen and golden brown. To test, press down the top and make sure they spring right back at you.
Remove your muffins and leave them to cool. Whilst they are cooling, make your caramel sauce: into a saucepan, weigh your butter, sugar and syrup. Place on a medium heat and stir until everything has melted. Let come to a simmer, then remove from the heat and stir in your cream and salt. This sauce is now ready to drizzle all over your muffins. Beware that it is both hot and delicious, so be careful not to burn yourself.
Please don’t limit your muffin experimentation to changing the sort of sugar – try adding different flours (spelt makes it lovely and nutty), oils (rapeseed is awesome) and even eggs. Just don’t use quail’s eggs or you’ll have tiny muffins or no money.