Looking ahead to the future can be many things. Exciting, scary, confusing, blissful. And at times it can be downright depressing. I stongly agree with psychologists who say that spending too much time in the future leads to anxiety and that living in the moment tends to bring us the most joy. But sometimes we must ignore that advice and look to the future for practical reasons. Planning is necessary, though it is very appealing at times to let life roll along and do it’s thing. That’s not always a bad thing, however, lately I have had to start considering my options for next year. I was a bit of a basket case after my term at Oxford late last year, so didn’t spend much time contemplating what this year would bring. After all, at that point I was meant to be at Oxford for the next three years and we can see how well that turned out. Planning was the last thing on my mind. But it is now eight months later and things have changed significantly. And unless I want to bum around at home cooking, for the rest of my life (I must admit that is quite appealing) I do need to consider my options for next year.
Through my researching I have happened upon some brilliant opportunities, only to discover that they are barely feasible, unless I win the lottery or marry a millionaire. Neither of which is likely in to happen in the next few months. Eco-gastronomy as a university major? Umm how soon can I apply? What’s that, a $50000 tuition fee per year? No thank you mister. Cue a few days moping around feeling as though the world is being mean. This is where comfort food (such as these cinnamon layer muffins) comes into play. To help you get over those fleeting dreams before you have the chance to even reach for them. I’m of the opinion that there’s almost nothing good food can’t fix (though I don’t advocate ‘feeding your feelings’, i.e. eating every time you feel miserable about something).
I will come out of my one-year cookery course with the qualifications necessary for a chef (apart from industry experience), however I don’t actually want to be a chef. Shoddy hours, stressful environment and a focus on getting food out as quickly as possible. Not my cup of tea at all. Call me lazy if you wish, but I don’t fancy that type of life style. At all. On the other hand, spending an afternoon beating, folding, layering, sprinkling and licking the bowl (of course) is something I could do all day every day. Baking is therapeutic stuff. Particularly, when the result is soft buttery muffins, with one of the best crumbs I have come across – light yet moist and not infuriatingly crumbly. Paired with the aroma of cinnamon wafting through the house, I can’t help but feel happier whipping up a batch of these babies. I made a small batch as I believe comfort food should not turn into a binge session – everything in moderation people – however you can easily double the mixture. They freeze surprisingly well given the streusel topping.
So when something has given you the blues, whether it be the impending future or an incident from yesterday, bake a batch of these muffins as a pick me up. You’ll be feeling chirpier in no time at all.
Cinnamon Layer Muffins
½ cup caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp extra
¼ cup chopped nuts
2 tsp cinnamon
60g butter or margarine, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 ½ tsp lemon juice
1 cup plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bi-carb soda
½ cup light sour cream
Preheat oven to 200C. Grease at least six holes in a twelve-hole 1/3 cup capacity muffin tin. Line with paper cases or squares of baking paper (for that cafe effect).
In a small bowl combine the one tablespoon of caster sugar, the nuts and cinnamon. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, bi-carb soda and salt.
In a medium bowl cream the butter and sugar together until very pale and fluffy. I use an electric hand mixer as it is quite a small amount. Gradually add the egg, beating thoroughly after each addition. Tip in the vanilla essence and lemon juice and beat well to combine.
Fold one third of the flour into the batter until only a few dry patches are left. Now fold in half of the sour cream, then another third of flour, the last half of the sour cream and finish with the final third of flour. Try to fold as little and as possible and tilt the bowl (so that gravity can help you combine the ingredients more efficiently!) You want to trap as much air as you can.
Drop a tablespoon of the mixture into each muffin hole. Sprinkle in some of the cinnamon-nut mix, reserving half of it for the topping. Now divide the rest of the batter between the muffin holes. Sprinkle over the remaining cinnamon-nut mix.
Bake for approximately 18 minutes or until done when an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Place muffin pan on a wire rack and leave to cool for three minutes. Remove muffins from tin and leave to cool completely on the wire rack.
Source: Slightly adapted from Margaret Fulton’s Baking: The Ultimate Collection