Ruby bakes with poppy seeds

Th­ese tiny black specks of flavour are a smash hit when com­bined with cit­russy notes, such as in th­ese lemon and basil muffins and this rolled Pol­ish cake

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - By Ruby Tan­doh

Seeds of­ten get pushed to the side­lines in bak­ing, con­demned to health foods and flap­jacks, gar­nishes or whole­some loaves. It’s a shame, be­cause they’re a fine al­ter­na­tive to nuts and grains. Poppy seeds in par­tic­u­lar are a plea­sure to cook with; their in­tense nutty, earthy flavour de­fies their mi­nus­cule size. They have a sat­is­fy­ing crunch – a speck­ling of crisp blue-black seeds in con­trast with a mel­low yel­low crumb. Poppy seeds can be ground, too, into a fine meal that can be stirred into bis­cuits, mar­bled in cake bat­ters or – as in the Pol­ish poppy seed cake be­low – spi­ralled in soft bread dough.

LEMON, BASIL AND POPPY SEED MUFFINS

A lit­tle chopped basil in th­ese muffins adds an aro­matic edge that com­ple­ments the fresh cit­rus notes. Achiev­ing the same great heights and bil­low­ing vol­ume as shop-bought muffins is pretty much im­pos­si­ble (un­less you’re happy to pack yours with ad­di­tives), but a soft, airy tex­ture isn’t out of reach. The trick is a care­ful bal­anc­ing act – a very stiff bat­ter will give the char­ac­ter­is­tic domed top, but a dense, dry crumb; too much liq­uid and the cake will be light but flat-topped.

Makes 12-14

225g un­salted but­ter, soft­ened

225g caster sugar

3 large eggs

2 tbsp milk

Zest of 3 lemons

275g plain flour

3 tsp bak­ing pow­der

¼ tsp salt

60g poppy seeds 2 small hand­fuls of basil leaves, finely chopped

125g ic­ing sugar

30-40ml lemon juice

1 Pre­heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line a 12-hole muf­fin tin with pa­per muf­fin cases.

2 Cream the but­ter with the sugar un­til smooth and light. This will take a few min­utes by hand, but it’s well worth it as the air in­cor­po­rated now will yield lighter, fluffier muffins later. Stir in the eggs one at a time, fol­lowed by the milk and lemon zest. If the mix­ture cur­dles a lit­tle you can rem­edy this with the ad­di­tion of just 1 tbsp or so of the flour.

3 In a sep­a­rate bowl, stir to­gether the flour, bak­ing pow­der, salt, poppy seeds and basil, then add it to the wet mix­ture. Fold the in­gre­di­ents to­gether lightly, but thor­oughly. Divide the bat­ter be­tween the muf­fin cases un­til each is roughly ¾ full. If you un­der-fill the cases, the muffins will fall short of the brim; over­fill and the muf­fin top will spill over – just work with what­ever size pa­per cases you have.

4 Bake for around 20 min­utes, un­til the muffins are well-risen and golden brown. Leave to cool slightly. Whisk to­gether the ic­ing sugar with enough lemon juice to give a smooth ic­ing then brush lib­er­ally over the top of each of the still-warm muffins. Let the muffins cool com­pletely be­fore serv­ing.

Poppy seeds’ in­tense nutty, earthy flavour de­fies their mi­nus­cule size

POL­ISH POPPY SEED CAKE

I’d never dare to call this an au­then­tic makowiec recipe, but it’s true to the orig­i­nal in spirit at least: soft, en­riched dough swirled with a rich poppy seed fill­ing. As it’s not too sweet, this makes an ex­cel­lent al­ter­na­tive to the usual mid-af­ter­noon tea loaf or fruited bread.

Serves 6 125g plain flour 1 tsp in­stant dried yeast ¼ tsp salt 1 large egg yolk 100ml milk 25g un­salted but­ter, soft­ened 50g ic­ing sugar 1-2 tsp or­ange juice

For the fill­ing 75g poppy seeds 75ml milk 40g caster sugar 1 tbsp but­ter 1 tsp vanilla ex­tract Zest of 1 or­ange 40g raisins 25g mixed peel, finely chopped 25g wal­nuts 1 large egg white

1 First, make the fill­ing. Blitz the poppy seeds in a cof­fee grinder or food pro­ces­sor un­til coarsely ground. The seeds needn’t be re­duced to a pow­der, but they should be frac­tured and shat­tered, with few whole seeds left.

2 Com­bine the ground seeds with the milk, caster sugar and but­ter in a small pan and heat gen­tly for a cou­ple of min­utes un­til it’s hot and most of the milk has been ab­sorbed. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla ex­tract, or­ange zest, raisins and peel. Grind the wal­nuts, then add th­ese, too. In a sep­a­rate bowl, whisk the egg white un­til foamy then fold into the poppy seed mix. Cool to room tem­per­a­ture.

3 Com­bine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the egg yolk, milk and but­ter and use your hands to bring the in­gre­di­ents into a dough. If the dough is very dry and there’s ex­cess flour left in the bowl, add a drop more milk. Knead on an un­floured work sur­face for 5-8 min­utes, un­til very smooth, elas­tic and ro­bust. Re­turn the dough to its bowl to rest for 45 min­utes.

4 Once the dough has rested and the fill­ing has cooled, roll the dough into a 20x30cm rec­tan­gle on a lightly floured sur­face. If the dough springs back as you roll it, just let it re­lax for a minute or two be­fore car­ry­ing on. Spread the fill­ing over the dough, leav­ing a bor­der of about 2cm around the edges.

5 Gen­tly roll up the dough from short edge to short edge. Tuck the edges in to pre­vent the fill­ing seep­ing out dur­ing bak­ing and trans­fer to a bak­ing tray. Drape with cling­film and leave to rise at room tem­per­a­ture for 60-90 min­utes, or un­til the roll is spongy to the touch. Mean­while, pre­heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

6 Once risen, bake the roll for 30-35 min­utes. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

7 Stir the ic­ing sugar to­gether with just enough or­ange juice to give a smooth, but not runny, ic­ing. Driz­zle the ic­ing over the cooled poppy seed roll.

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