Berry Cheesecake Muffins

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Diary excerpts:

17/5: vegan magnums are terrific// the gravity of writing my thesis has not fully weighed down on me yet

18/5: so glad to have found a fitness routine that doesn’t require a gym (more walking, running)

23/5: honestly rather sad that I’ve become addicted to the temporary pleasure of something crunchy, something sweet.

2/6: Brown adipose tissue has uncoupling proteins that allow protons to travel form the outside to inside, effectively creating its own energy? A study in mice found that during periods of overeating, the TRIP gene is activated and causes massive inflammation, triggering fat storage.

3/6: fliesen= tiles

4/6: ventouse= suction device applied to baby’s head in childbirth, to assist birth. Wow.

When efforts to bake are stymied, say due to travel or the fear of people who are at your house smelling something even mildly burnt, the itch later on comes on hard. Hard. I’ll try and write an essay or put something into Excel and then I have to physically get up and go to the kitchen to play. This muffin experiment, one extrapolated from a previous one, was borne out of one of those impulsive childish outbursts, and possesses that exact childlike quality. Such a relentless need to do something with my hands is almost childish, and perhaps it would be wise to use my hands for something else, yet this is all I want to do with them, with my time.

It has nothing of the mature notes of dark chocolate somethings, but all of the decadence. It’s much welcome in light of the past week, when a few disappointments came through, but of which were also softened by a recent trip to Vienna, Austria.

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And it’s simply beautiful there. I stayed in the suburbs with a beloved family, away from the bustle of the more touristy centre. There, a different light hits the streets, a soft one which seems to imbue all its residents with the same attitude towards life. It enables a brisk but more serene walk, or perhaps a cycle, to take in the details between cement tiles or patches of grass. It enables you to observe, feel and be. Very unlike what it feels like here, where it seems rather uncommon for people to walk not for the sake of enjoying it, and mealtimes are for sustenance, never pleasure. That light, that feel, has made me want to drown in the impossible (‘unmöglich’ in their language) beauty of everyday life. From our sun-drenched brunches pregnant with pretzels (bretzeln), to cuddling near a thermal bath, to reading (The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf) and swallowing it up easily because my phone notifications are now, permanently, off.

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A soft and gossamer muffin studded with tangy berries and sweet cream cheese.

These berries are like a dense piquant forest, pleasantly tart and just slightly biting, uprooted and plunged into new beige territory. To sleep. To rest without dying, their inborn qualities of tart and fresh and zing there, always there. A cream cheese river cutting through the forest, right in the middle, breaking up the forest and letting it lie nonchalantly on either side.

Quote of the day: “Feelings are important. But they’re important not for the reasons we think they are. We think they’re important because they say something about us, about the world, and about our relationship with it. But they say none of these things. There’s no meaning attached to feelings. Sometimes you hurt for good feelings. Sometimes for a bad reason. And sometimes no reason at all. The hurt itself is neutral. The reason is separate.”

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Berry Cheesecake Muffins (makes 12 medium muffins)

*=vegan substitution

Ingredients

For the muffins:

250g (2 cups) plain flour

2 eggs (*3 vegan eggs, made by mixing 3 tbsp ground flaxseed with 6 tbsp water in a bowl and letting set aside for the timebeing)

210g (slightly less than a cup) sugar

113g (0.5 cup) melted butter (*vegan butter or margarine)

1 tsp baking powder

0.5 tsp baking soda

240ml (1 cup) yoghurt or sour cream (*any plant-based yoghurt)

1 tsp vanilla extract

0.5 tsp salt (leave out if you used salted butter)

around 1 cup of fresh or frozen berries (I used frozen since I always have frozen berries stuffed in my freezer)

 

For the cream cheese filling:

110g cream cheese (*vegan cream cheese)

2.5 tbsp sugar (you can also use icing sugar)

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C. Spray your 12-muffin pan with cooking spray or grease it with some butter, going all over the insides of the pan, including the whole surface on top. This is because the batter will rise and then fall to create the signature muffin top look, so greasing the surface will help you easily get the muffins out. Line your pan with paper liners.

First, in a bowl, make the cream cheese filling by mixing together the cream cheese and sugar. Put this in the fridge while you make the muffin batter. Using a whisk or electrical mixer, whisk the butter and sugar together. Then add the eggs, vanilla, and salt and mix until everything is frothy and well combined. In a separate bowl, briefly mix together the flour, baking powder and baking soda, then tip this into your egg mixture. Lastly, fold in your berries. Make sure your berries are not too big– cut large raspberries or blackberries in half before mixing them in.

Fill each muffin cup halfway with the batter. Then take your cream cheese filling out from the fridge and put teaspoons of this filling into the centre of the muffin tins. Repeat until you’re done with all 12. Finally, fill the muffin cups until the top (or three-quarters full) with the rest of the batter. As a final touch, sprinkle the tops of your muffins with Maldon salt and granulated sugar. Don’t be too liberal though, since the muffins themselves are already rather sweet by themselves.

Bake for 20-22 minutes in your preheated oven. Check with a wooden skewer or knife after 20 minutes– if there are moist crumbs clinging to it, take it out. If the skewer/knife is still obviously wet, leave the muffins in there for another 3-5 minutes. These are best enjoyed warm with some vanilla ice cream or yoghurt, or plain, but can be kept in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

 

Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chip Muffins

This is a special dedication to the one and only Emily Olivia Tapp, AKA the girl I’ve been meaning to see for more than a year…? Or a sister-like figure who’s finally on the same continent as me. Blessings are real.

As we sat in Mildred’s in Soho consuming all sorts of outrageously delicious vegan fare (cue sweet potato fries, roasted cauliflower!!, colourful salads and a pretty memorable apple crumble), it suddenly occurred to me just how long it’s been since I’ve seen her, or since I’ve written her a letter, for that matter.  But next to Em, it felt as if not much time has passed between us. In the middle of a million lectures, lab reports and walking everywhere all the time, Tuesday night was peace. Peace and Happy.

So, pumpkin. With chocolate, granola, and pecans. Everything lovingly encased in a golden batter, speckles of everything in each bite. Not a particularly daring experiment, but armed with a new baking pan, cupcake liners and instinct, I did my best. The rooty, earthy pumpkin marries well with the chocolate, and who doesn’t love gooey hot chocolate pockets in the middle of a warm, fluffy muffin?

Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chip Muffins (makes 6 muffins)

Ingredients

95g (3/4 cup) (95g) plain all-purpose flour

100g (1/2 cup) white sugar

120g (1/2 cup) pumpkin puree

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

30ml (1/8 cup) vegetable oil

1 egg

1 tbsp whole milk

1/4 cup granola or rolled oats

45g (around 1/3 cup) chopped chocolate

30g (around 1/4 cup) chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C. In a medium bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients, except for the last 3 (chocolate, pecans and oats/granola). In a larger bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients– egg, oil, pumpkin, milk and vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients, and just before everything is incorporated, mix in the remaining 3 ingredients. You really only need 2 clean bowls and a wooden spoon for this entire process!

Divide the batter amongst 6 cupcake liners (double the recipe of you want of course), then bake for 25-27 minutes (mine took 25) in the preheated oven. Let cool once finished baking and tuck in. Any uneaten ones can be stored at room temperature for a couple of days, or in the freezer for however long you want.