The ugly duckling. Rough around the edges. As I understand it, cupcakes are pink and frilly, a sweet vehicle for the cream and butterflies on top. Not breakfast food. Muffins are homely, undressed. Like Anne of Green Gables. Plain, with a good imagination.
Unlike for cake or their diminuitive offspring, the method for making muffins is simple : a bowl of dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, spices) and a bowl of liquid ingredients (oil, milk, yoghurt, egg). Mix them together lazily, to a craggy consistency. Scoop into cupcake cases haphazardly and sprinkle over a shower of cinnamon sugar.
Buckwheat flour, or blé noir, is the magic ingredient in those crisp dark Breton crepes – filled with ham and adorned with a shiny fried egg. Here it adds a sandy texure and a interesting savoury quality to these lopsided creatures. Delicate cinnamon and sturdy buckwheat. A barely sweet crumb with a cap of sugar crystals and more cinnamon.
The innocent beige colour and vague healthfulness (wholegrain flour! no butter! no icing!) will beguile you into the inspired addition of a smear of homemade nutella. For breakfast. For lunch. (None left for dinner.) They are best eaten on the first day anyway, or warmed up again for afternoon tea. Also delicious spread with fresh raspberry jam.
Cinnamon buckwheat muffins
makes 18 small or 12 large muffins
125g plain flour
125g buckwheat flour*
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
160g caster sugar
70ml olive oil
For the topping
50g caster/granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180c.
Mix the dry ingredients in one big bowl and the liquids plus egg in another. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the liquid, stirring very gently. Stir until just combined – don’t worry about lumps. In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar. Fill your cupcakes cases about 3/4 full and top with a sprinkle cinnamon-sugar topping.
Bake for about 15 minutes. They will be puffy and golden, just firm to the touch. Leave to cool for barely 10 minutes before attacking.
*Experiment with wholewheat flour – or any other flours with an interesting texture – if you can’t find buckwheat.