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Oh, my giddy aunt.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation that promised ease and simplicity only to spiral, inexorably, into silliness, frustration and the tearing-out of hair? If not, never go near the innocuous-sounding pumpkin muffin, for that way madness lies.
The muffin is a kind of basic bakery item, isn’t it? Even people who don’t bake at all will usually knock together a muffin batch every now and again. Personally, they’ve never grabbed me. I wouldn’t turn one down – don’t be silly: they’re in the same gene pool as cakes – but I find them a bit average. If they’re bigger than mini-muffins, there’s the danger of getting spongy blobs stuck between your teeth in a public place, and if they’ve got frosting on top, there’s always a chance that your teeth will fall out completely.
(I’ve no idea what the technical difference is between a muffin and a cupcake, by the way – the latter, of course, are enjoying a bit of a vogue at the minute – but I tend to avoid cupcakes entirely, as the sickly sweetness is so pronounced as to actually dissolve your tongue.)
Anyway. I decided on muffins this week because I haven’t made them yet, and because I knew my sister-in-law specialised in pumpkin muffins that taste divine, and because they sounded very easy to whizz through on a busy weekend. Ingredients became the first hurdle. We’re not quite the pumpkin devotees found across the pond (a mistake, I think, as pumpkin-flavoured stuff is lovely), so the tin of pureed pumpkin in the recipe took two Waitrose trips to find; only the efforts of a stalwart friend finally secured one. Then, on the evening I’d planned to bake, came the allspice saga. I’d never heard of allspice, and didn’t have any, so popped out to Tesco to track some down. They didn’t have any either, so we drove across town (in rush hour, mind you) to another Tesco. Thankfully, we found it. Taking into account the petrol cost, that spice jar must be the most expensive item in our food cupboard. Still, we felt all triumphant as we headed home, and the muffins were, indeed, quick and easy to make.
I’d decided to use this opportunity to venture into cream cheese frosting, and, in a fit of excitement , bought one of those icing bags with different shaped nozzles attached. I’ve seen these being used by genteel ladies on fancy wedding cakes, and was terribly excited to try them. Well. Are they supposed to be porous? Because mine was: I hadn’t been squeezing for very long before I had sugary stickiness all over my hand. And as for my piping skills: in the end I tried out all the nozzles, just to make myself laugh. I managed to drop one of the larger muffins on its head after frosting it, but this didn’t make a noticeable difference to its appearance.
Not my finest hour, in short. And a fair bit of effort, considering the end result is…muffins.
Deliciousness: The pumpkin works brilliantly with the spices. They’re yummy, although very sweet. I prefer them in their mini-muffin form.
Complexity: Assuming you already have pumpkin, allspice and some degree of familiarity with frosting (or are just happy to slap it on with a spatula, which is what I should’ve done), they’re not hard at all.
Washing-up pile: A hefty sixteen items, though a lot of these were icing nozzles.
Casualties: Every conceivable surface in my kitchen, which is now covered in frosting gloop.