baking/ morning tea + afternoon tea/ quick + easy/ this is life

Chocolate Blackberry Muffins : East Coast / West Coast

odette parisOur little family has just come back from an epic overseas adventure, what many people would call a trip of a lifetime, but what I hope will be just the first of many trips in our lifetime. We have just arrived home after spending three months travelling around Europe, the UK, USA and Canada, with a little stop by in Singapore on the way.

Our holiday was just amazing. Amazing in the sense that we saw so much, that we lived so many different places, and that we learnt so much about how to live as a family. We were in each other’s space non-stop for 13 weeks. And we really loved it.

Before we left home, although we were a loving little family, brothers and sisters would often be a bit annoying after a busy day at school, the week could whip past with only a few snatched conversations here and there whilst on the way to or from, dinner came around all too fast. We knew what was going on in each other’s lives, but life was just quick and busy. Life was whizzing by. As it does.

So while the kids are still young, and life still malleable, we decided to take a term off and just be a family. A family tripping around the globe. Going all those places that you say, imagine if we went to… and seeing what life would be like travelling with two, relatively small, children. We drew up a wish list, and then set about stringing it all together.

paris hausmann rooftopsAfter six months of planning, we set off. And all I can say is that it was so exciting! Fun. Easy! Who knew travelling with kids could feel easy? I really did think it would feel hard, or that at least we would get to a point where we all got cabin fever. And whilst we did have the occasional tetchy moment (yes, we are human), we always sorted it out quickly and learned how to care for each other along the way. My daughter was the one of us who was always as good as gold, and she told me during the trip that she had decided before we left home that she wasn’t going to get cross for the whole trip. Amazing. And she really didn’t.

Now we can all be together in the same room, but be happily doing our own thing. We better know what each person likes, or does not like. We know how to help each other, but also give each other space, even if there isn’t a lot of space! And most of all, we know that we really like being near each other.

We learnt so many things about how to live with little but how to feel abundant. And about how to live together. We got to sample a bunch of different cultures, and live in 16 different homes! There were so many things we liked, and a few things we didn’t. There were some places that we adored straight away, and others that we now know wouldn’t be great for us to live in. And now that we are home, we are trying to translate the favourite things we discovered into our Australian home life and maintain that feeling of connected living that we developed while we were away.

Of course we also had so many great food memories. Gelato memories by the handful (sicilian pistachio by the waterfront in the Cinque Terra, blueberry cheesecake overlooking the Ponte Vecchio, chunky monkey on the beachfront in Kitsilano, Vancouver… we were on holiday after all!), awesome bread and patisserie memories from all over France; the huge bounty of organic produce in Portland, Oregon (I could live my life in New Season’s Market, the friendliest store in town), the crazy towers of goodness from Ottolenghi in London and my home away from home in the Marais, Rose Bakery 2.

ottolenghi counter

We visited countries where fresh produce was king, and where you could buy new potatoes the size of your thumbnail plucked fresh from the ground. And others where you couldn’t even find lettuce that wasn’t pre-shredded in a bag. Places where the cheese had a life of it’s own (and stank out the whole room, or the entire fridge), and others where it looked like it was plastic play food. We had dinner cooked on the side of the road, or from the supermarket cafeteria. We saw, ate and cooked a lot. My favourite and most grounding ritual was discovering where to buy food in the place we had just landed. And little by little, I got to know my way around the different cities and different nations by their attitude towards food and living.

I could spend forever recounting all the memories, and now that we are home I am trying to take the inspiration I felt while we were overseas and make it into something more tangible, something that I can work on now that we are back to reality. Life and living is constantly a work in progress.

Here are some muffins that have been on high rotation since we arrived back home and launched back into real life, into school afternoon playdates and emergency hunger strikes. We have tried a few variations, but our favourite this week is dark chocolate and blackberry.

We had some totally amazing blackberries while we were in New York, bought from the organic store in our neighbourhood in Brooklyn : Back To The Land – if ever you’re in the neighbourhood and wishing for a friendly, well stocked organic store, this is a great place to go.

The mid-summer blackberries were so huge and sweet, unlike any that I have ever tasted here at home. They hardly lasted the walk home from the store, let alone a whole day so I was back and forth daily buying punnet after punnet. Blackberries are super for you, you can just tell how bursting with goodness they are by the way they instantly and completely stain your fingers, keeping them and your lips purple for a good part of the day. Now that we know how good blackberries can taste I decided to plant a blackberry cane in the backyard to see if I can grow some that are anything like the amazing ones we tasted in the States… if you have any growing tips on how to get the best blackberries, I would love to know!

chocolate blackberry muffin sweetpea darlingheart

Dark Chocolate Blackberry Muffins

We got to see glimpses of both the east coast and the west coast of America while we were away, and to me, they felt really different. So these muffins are inspired by both the east coast, via those juicy blackberries we had in New York, and the west, where I could easily find food stores and cafes catering to every health food trend you can imagine – note to family: I am sorry for taking you into the Paleo cafe and making you eat toast made from almond pulp. Really. Next time I will read the signs a little more closely…

These muffins contain a great combo antioxidants with cacao powder, dark chocolate and blackberries, and are great to make with, and feed to kids. They also have some protein and good fats from the almonds and olive oil, which mean they will keep you going until dinner time. They whip up in under ten minutes with one spoon and one bowl, and bake in just 20. They are refined sugar free, and use a combination of stevia and a little maple syrup, stevia providing the bulk of the sweetness and maple syrup just adding some extra depth to the flavour. I use 85% cacao dark chocolate to help keep the sugar content very low and pack a bit more punch, but you could definitely use a lighter chocolate if you are needing a little extra sweetness, or if you don’t like your chocolate quite so bitter and bold. These muffins keep really well for several days, and I think they taste better on the second day, so they are great for lunch boxes. You can also make this recipe in mini-bundt tins if you’re feeling a little fancy.

I used a spoon for spoon Stevia Erythritol blend in this recipe, which is easily found in most supermarkets in Australia. It is not as sweet as pure Stevia, with which you need only use a very small amount. If you are using pure Stevia, add to taste.

To make 12 muffins:

140g wholegrain spelt flour
30g cacao powder
50g almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
100ml milk
100ml olive oil
50ml maple syrup
120g blackberries plus an extra handful for sprinkling on top (fresh or frozen are just fine)
50g dark chocolate, snapped into little pieces

Preheat your oven to 180˚C fan forced and line a 12 hole muffin tin with papers. In a medium bowl, measure all the dry ingredients and give them a stir. Add the egg, milk, olive oil and maple syrup and stir until totally combined. Fold through the blackberries and spoon into the muffin cases, topping each muffin with a few extra berries and a couple of snaps of chocolate. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until risen and a skewer inserted in the middle of one muffin comes out clean.

Enjoy these with your kids, your friends, your loved one or just by yourself, preferably whilst gazing out a window, sipping a cup of tea and musing about life. Or dreaming up your next adventure.

Dark Chocolate Blackberry Muffins

Print Recipe
Serves: 12 Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 140g wholegrain spelt flour
  • 30g cacao powder
  • 50g almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml milk
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 50ml maple syrup
  • 120g blackberries plus an extra handful for sprinkling on top (fresh or frozen are just fine)
  • 50g dark chocolate, snapped into little pieces

Instructions

1

Preheat your oven to 180˚C fan forced and line a 12 hole muffin tin with papers. In a medium bowl, measure all the dry ingredients and give them a stir. Add the egg, milk, olive oil and maple syrup and stir until totally combined. Fold through the blackberries and spoon into the muffin cases, topping each muffin with a few extra berries and a couple of snaps of chocolate. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until risen and a skewer inserted in the middle of one muffin comes out clean.

2

Enjoy these with your kids, your friends, your loved one or just by yourself, preferably whilst gazing out a window, sipping a cup of tea and musing about life. Or dreaming up your next adventure.

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