My Life In Muffins

It was a wet, grey afternoon. Mud splashed up my boots as I cycled to school to collect Finley, hoping that he would be in the mood to be led gently home straight away, with no shilly shallying. We invited Spike home to play, so Fin excitedly declared that we would go to his favourite whole food shop and buy flapjacks for them both. Spike was bike-less, so as Fin set off out of the school gates he gamely trotted behind him jumping in all the puddles.

'Hang on!’ I shouted into the wind, 'we're going straight home remember!'

'Nope, we're buying flapjacks!' - looking at Spike for approval, 'flapjacks, flapjacks, flapjacks!’

Of course as Spike is the kind of gentle soul who likes to join in, soon they were both merrily chanting their new mantra as they splashed across the muddy field, 'flapjacks, flapjacks, flapjacks!’

'Wait!' I shouted, loudly enough to turn the heads of a group of mothers chatting under a tree.

Fin and Spike stopped and turned to look at me, the mothers stopped chatting to see what I was going to say. I'd better make this good thought I and cried, 'I'll make muffins!'

To my surprise they changed sides immediately, 'Yay! Muffins, mu-fins, muf-innns, mu-fins' all the way home.

So I got my pinny on and made these.

Date and Hazelnut Muffins (makes 12-14)
These muffins have no refined sugar in them, but dates pack a pretty hefty fructose punch - so treat with respect!

6 oz stoned dried dates
1 cup of water (american cup size)
2 tbs date syrup or honey
6 oz butter
4 large eggs
4 oz ground almonds
2 oz cornflour
2 oz sorghum flour
2 oz whole hazelnuts
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 160C fan assisted or 175C if not. Fill a muffin tray with paper cases.

Chop the dates roughly and cook gently in the cup of water until soft - some lumps are fine. Off the heat add the butter in cubes to the pan and the date syrup too. Leave to melt, stirring occasionally and then add the vanilla extract. Allow to cool until lukewarm and beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth.

While the mixture is cooling, toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan on the stove over a gentle heat, shaking occasionally. When they have taken some colour and the skins are cracking off, grind them in a food processor until they resemble fine bread crumbs.

Sift the cornflour, sorghum, ground almonds, bicarb, cream of tartar and xantham gum into a bowl and tip in the ground hazelnuts. Pour in the date mixture and beat until smooth. Pour into the waiting muffin cases and bake for 20-25 minutes or until they feel slightly springy to the touch. Don't over bake or they will be dry, they continue cooking a little out of the oven too.

When the muffins came out of the oven Fin and Spike jumped up and down excitedly and made Homer Simpson style drooling noises. 'Lemmy-have-one-lemmy-have-one' urged Fin whilst dancing the Tarantella with impatience.

'No Fin, you know the drill - I have to photograph these first'. So Fin was allowed to touch the muffins to ensure they were real and then they waited patiently until I got a good shot.

When I let go the starting pistol with a small nod to Fin, I felt as though I should be holding a red cloak for them to charge at, whilst wearing some uncomfortably tight trousers. They cookie-monstered the first muffin and then retired to the kitchen table to do justice to another. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out!