Caera here!

Sugar and spice and all things nice- I cannot seem to steer away from spices when I bake! 
I have to say that ginger is one of my favourite root vegetables. Not only does is serve a great purpose in asiatic dishes, but as a ground spice it is just as significant in baking. It's very common to see ground ginger paired with spices such as allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and the only reason for that is because they are a match made in least in my opinion. Spice adds such a comfort and warmth to food- this is especially so for baking. The combination of these spices, which many would typically relate to christmas celebration biscuit we know as gingerbread, balances out the sweetness of muffins, cakes and cupcakes to provide an awesome edge in flavour. Ginger, especially, gives a slight heat to anything it's cooked with- and this just makes eating food that much more enjoyable. 
I developed this recipe from the fundamentals of the various other recipes I'd read about, so in the end I'd taken a bit of a risk with this one. They may not have risen, the baking ratios may have been off - too sweet, too spicy, or not enough of either- and the change of ingredients may have meddled with the cooking temperature and time. This is what you have to face if you attempt to freestyle anything. Some baking requires such precise measurements and cooking settings that its simply not worth messing around with the recipe. BUT, this is also how new ideas and flavour combinations are discovered- so if you can take the consequences of a few disasters in the kitchen along the way, then by all means, go solo. :) 
I couldn't be happier with the result. I opted for greasing and flouring the muffin holes rather than lining because I was looking for that crust on the outside that gives you a subtle crunch, whilst the center remains meaty. They also rose nicely, and the second lot I cooked were much larger. My ideal muffin has to be big, have that splitting effect on the surface, have a crunchy outside, a meaty, moist center and it cannot be too sweet. These did pretty well according to the criteria. :)

DRIED DATES. GAH. My love for this dried fruit! They're like capsules of solidified, healthy, golden syrup. I cook my oatmeal in the morning with chopped dates because they add so much syrupy sweetness that it amazes me they're still healthy. Plus the flavour of their sweetness beats refined sugar hands down. I snack on them with cheese because they're just as good as quince paste! They're also an amazing addition to trail mixes. 
If you're looking for an energy boost, I'd recommend nibbling on a few of these. They're high in natural sugars like glucose, sucrose and fructose.Their high fiber content aids digestion too. Thumbs UP.  

- 115 g dried dates
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 250 g butter
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 eggs
- 2 tbsp allspice
- 2 tbsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 cup milk
- 100g wheat bran
- 175 g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder


- Preheat your oven to 180˚C Fan or 200˚C. Grease the muffin pan with butter and then coat with a sprinkle of flour. The easiest way to do this is to sprinkle some flour into each hole and over a sink, turn and tap the tin until the flour has coated every spot. You can also switch to more common methods and line the holes with baking cases...

- Place the dates in a bowl and cover in boiling water. Let them sit for 5 minutes and then drain them of the water. This process intensifies the sweetness and flavour of the dates. 

- In a medium bowl, place the dates, golden syrup, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract and salt. Beat until light and fluffy.

- Add the eggs and spices and beat until well combined; about a minute. Mix the baking powder, bran and plain flour in a bowl, and have the milk ready in another. Then, gradually add the flour mixture and milk spoonfuls at a time, switching back and forth from each ingredient, and beating between additions until all is combined. 

- Place the mixture in the prepared muffin tin, about 3/4 of the way full. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Press the tops gently with a finger, and if the muffin springs back, they should be done. 

- Leave to cool and then dust with icing sugar before devouring. 

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