Alongside the lush new greens growing in my garden are some productive older residents including damson, apple, fig and plum trees. Most of the fruit bounty from the trees is taken care of between eating, passing on to friends and freezing (with just enough sugar). It’s the damsons that need a bit more thought; they are delicious in their own way, but not really all that good eaten au naturel.
The first batch of purple blue damsons were made into a tub of decadent full fat, cream and sugar ice-cream, courtesy of Nigel Slater. The second batch were destined for Madalene’s Bullace and Conference Pear Breakfast Muffins. And so it turned out were the third batch. Now before I get on to talking about the muffins, if you haven’t seen it already you should take a look at Madalene’s blog, The British Larder. Her photography is mouth-watering and her recipes are always inspiring me to try out more traditional British produce such as cobnuts, bullace and greengages.
This recipe produces wholesome, unpretentious muffins – the sort you’d have for breakfast or to tide you over until a late dinner. And there are hidden treasures within the muffins; the damson pieces form little crimson, caramelised nuggets and the cereal flakes become chewy and malty.
My version has a few differences to Madalene’s including vegetable oil (also known as rapeseed or canola oil) for more monounsaturated fats, yogurt with a splash of milk in place of buttermilk (which I can never find to buy), and a touch of allspice (for that autumnal feel). We don’t tend to have bran flakes in stock so my muffins use an unsweetened cereal flake made from a combination of buckwheat and rice. Don’t think you can’t try the recipe without access to a supply of damsons either – I’m confident plums would work in their place.
If you’re in the mood for more baking ideas check out this earlier post on How to Make a Healthier Muffin.
Recipe for Damson, Pear and Walnut Muffins
Makes 12 large muffins
150g unsweetened breakfast flakes (I use buckwheat and rice based flakes)
250g plain flour
150g natural yogurt
1tsp baking powder
125g unrefined or golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
30g vegetable oil
1 large firm pear (or 2 smaller pears)
200g damsons, stones removed and cut into eights
1 tsp allspice
30g chopped walnuts
A pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 200C / 400 F.
Grease the muffin tray (I use a bit of olive oil spread wiped around the cases using baking parchment).
Weigh out and combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl (the cereal flakes, flour, sugar, baking powder, allspice, walnuts and salt).
Combine the yogurt, milk, oil and eggs in a second bowl and mix gently with a fork.
Grate the pear and squeeze out and discard any excess liquid. Add the pear and chopped damsons to the dry ingredients.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine gently with a spoon. The usual advice for muffins is not to over-mix, however dry, floury patches where the mixture hasn’t been mixed sufficiently are also good to avoid.
Divide the mixture equally across the muffin tray cases. Cook for 20 minutes then turn the oven temp down to 180C / 350 F and cook for another 10 minutes.