So, after the last work Bake Off didn’t go too terribly for me, I decided that I should keep working on my baking skills and join in the next one. The theme of the charity event this time – muffins. Now, as we know I’m no baking expert, and certainly no muffin afficionado, but like anything else, I was willing to give it a go, especially with the help of a recipe. Having said that, there are some pretty keen bakers at my work, so I knew competition would be stiff.
In a moment of optimism, I decided to try two types of muffins and see which worked out best. Now, I know it seems like all I do is eat and eat, but I actually spend a fair bit of my time trying to be healthy. I’m a keen gym-goer, and while it may look like I consume a gazillion calories a day, most of the time I stick to a certain number and also stick to my ‘macros’ (the proportion of protein, carbs and fat I eat, part of something called ‘flexible dieting’ or ‘If It Fits Your Macros’). So, with all this in mind, I decided I might try to bring some healthy eating to the work muffin-fest.
First up, fellow blogger Neil’s Healthy Meals low fat banana and peanut butter muffins (recipe here). Neil’s always posting great healthy alternatives to fatty favourites on his blog, so I decided it was time to give one a go. The recipe is above so I won’t go into it word for word, but it’s basically a case of mixing together mashed bananas, oil, sugar, eggs and reduced fat peanut butter into a thick mixture, then mixing with dry ingredients of flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Once you’ve got your mix, you pop a bit into the bottom of 12 muffins cases, add another blob of reduced fat peanut butter, then put the rest of the mixture on top of each one. Bake until risen and brown then take out and cool on a wire rack. I found I had to cook them for far longer than the suggested time, but used the old-school ‘poke a skewer in and if it comes out clean they’re done’ technique that my good ol’ ma taught me.
The topping is meant to be fat free Quark (for those of you who don’t know, it’s kind of soft cheese, with a texture a bit like fromage frais, but without all the bad stuff. It’s great mixed with protein powder to make a low-fat, high protein dessert – a big fave of flexible dieters). Mix it with icing sugar and lemon juice then dollop on top of each muffin. I had stupidly bought the wrong Quark – vanilla flavoured – so it was all wrong. I improvised and used some low fat soft cheese we had left, mixed with icing sugar to sweeten it up. More on this later.
Second up was another healthy recipe, this one from the Low Carb Healthy Recipes Facebook page. As a savoury alternative, I thought Feta, Cheddar and Spinach muffins sounded great, so this was the second treat in store for my colleagues. Again, I’ll just include a vague outline, because the recipe is written up on the Low Carb Healthy Recipes’ FB page. Basically, melt butter and cook chopped red onion until soft then I added the spinach to wilt it. In the meantime, mix flour, light cheddar (I grated it) and chopped feta in a bowl. Whisk an egg and skimmed milk in another bowl then mix them together. Add the spinach and onion mixture then divide into muffin cases and bake. Again, I needed to give these far more time in the oven – perhaps I need a new one!
So, muffins ready (and not looking too bad in my opinion – especially for a baking novice) I headed into work for the muffin showdown of the century.
There they were, beautifully assembled offerings, from almond crumble-topped white chocolate, yoghurt and blueberry beauties, to full-fat peanut butter delights, adorned with Reese’s peanut buttercups. And that’s not forgetting the showstopping toadstool chocolate muffins, presented like a work of art in a wicker hamper, replete with clematis flowers. Yes, I’m serious. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, you need to visit my office on Bake Off day!
So, before I tell you how my little muffettes did compared to their rivals, I’d best reveal how they tasted. First up, the healthy peanut butter option. I’m sorry Neil, but I think I let you down here. While warm, these were peanutty and rich, but perhaps slightly dense. While I enjoyed the topping, because it wasn’t too sweet, it’s been pointed out to me that for anyone expecting a nice sweet buttercream topping, mine tasted more sour and not what they wanted. Unfortunately, when cooled and topped, I can confirm that these weren’t the light muffin-y delight you’d want, and were a bit heavy and peanut butter laden, with the banana struggling to compete in the taste war. If we’re honest, it’s far more likely to be my baking than Neil’s recipe that caused these problems, but this one has got to go into my baking fail category I’m afraid.
Their savoury siblings fared a lot better. Again, to me they seemed a tiny bit dense, but were phenomenally cheesy, with the spinach adding colour as well as an extra bit of taste. The use of feta is a great call as it has quite a strong flavour, so shines through the muffin mix well. These guys got a great reception from my colleagues, and I have to say, were pretty darn tasty.
So, judging done, we all feasted on a meal of muffins. I have to say, they were all brilliant, from classic blueberry muffins, to another colleague’s savoury offering of two cheese, red pepper and basil muffins. With competitors generously given rankings in a presentation category as well as an overall competition, I’m sure you’re not surprised that the beautiful toadstool muffins took the title.
But guess what? Those feta, cheddar and spinach badboys? SECOND place! Overjoyed is not the word. So, thanks to Low Carb Healthy Recipes, and apologies to Neil’s Healthy Meals. I’ll do better next time, I promise.
God knows what’s next for the work Bake Off, but hey – nothing ventured, nothing gained!