Scones and muffins are top sellers in New Zealand cafés and coffee shops. However, these old-fashioned delights have evolved since grandma baked her plain scones and bran muffins. Additions such as caramelised onion or blueberries now add interest to scones and bacon and cheese or pumpkin, spinach and sunflower seeds can jazz up muffins.
Scones are more like bread while muffins are more cake-like. Scones need gentle handling and should never be overmixed. If the dough is too crumbly add a little more milk (or buttermilk, if using). If too sticky, dust with a little flour. Flip onto a lightly floured chopping board and pat (not press) out to about 3cm-3.5cm thickness. Keep the dough cool as this will help it rise.
With muffins, mix the liquid ingredients in one bowl and the dry in another. Combine the mixtures until just moistened otherwise they will be tough and tunnels will form inside. Resist the temptation to mix until the ingredients are smooth. Add any additions at the end. If you don't fill all the muffin holes, pour water into them. The evaporation will help the muffins rise and prevent the pans from buckling.
DIVINE DATE SCONES
2 cups pitted dates
3 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1-1 1/2 cups milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
Topping: 1 tablespoon brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the dates in a small saucepan with just enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Cool.
Place the dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the butter in batches, processing until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Tip into a bowl and add enough milk to form a soft — but not too sticky — dough.
On a lightly floured board, pat the dough into a square approximately 24cm. Brush with the beaten egg then cut in half lengthwise. Spread the date mixture on one half. Flip the other half over the top — egg-wash side down — to make a sandwich.
Cut into about 8 pieces. Place on the prepared oven tray. Brush with egg and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Makes 8.
GALA APPLE MUFFINS
Any apple that holds its shape is okay. Can be frozen.
125g butter, melted
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 cups wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon each: baking soda, ground cinnamon
1 1/2 medium apples, cored and diced (about 2 cups)
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 10-12 hole muffin tray with paper cases then lightly brush with oil.
Whisk the butter and brown sugar in a bowl until well combined. Add the milk, egg and vinegar and mix well.
Combine the flour, baking soda and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the apples until just mixed.
Spoon into the muffin cases ensuring there is a little apple showing at the top.
Place in the oven then reduce the temperature to 180°C. Bake for about 20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Makes 10-12 muffins.
CRUSTED LIME MUFFINS
2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
finely grated rind 2 limes
Topping: julienned rind 2 limes
1/4 cup each: lime juice, sugar
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 10-hole muffin tray with paper cases.
Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter and combine with the milk, egg and lime rind. Add to the dry ingredients, stirring, until just combined. Spoon into the muffin cases.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until a skewer is inserted in the centre it comes out clean.
Meanwhile, combine the topping ingredients without dissolving the sugar. Remove the cooked muffins to a wire rack. Spoon the combined topping ingredients over the muffins while still hot. Makes 10.