Saturday 12 January 2008

A winter's afternoon

After a week full of nasty rainy weather the sun is shining brilliantly down on Casa D'Oak Cottage this fine Saturday afternoon. Our hearts are lifted by the sight of it's golden rays and the sky is a brilliant blue, a colour that is never more appreciated than after a weeks worth of dismal windy days full of rain, rain and yes . . . more rain.

Winter in England is often beset by day after day of rain and wind and this week has been quite typical. It can get even the strongest of hearts down and feeling a bit gloomy. At times one wishes that it were snow, for at least that has a magical quality about it and can cheer the heart somewhat.

My first year over here became known as the wettest autumn and winter on record, and I do confess I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into, for it rained indeed every day those long, long months.

In winter the nights are long and the days quite short, but we have noticed, just this past week, that the days are indeed beginning to draw out just that little bit each day, and even those few minutes extra bring a little spring in the step and a bounce in the heart.

Sitting in the sunlight on our kitchen window sill, even Penelope Pig, our old pottery cookie jar, appears to smile at us and bid us a cheery greeting. Jess seems restless as she prances about our cottage kitchen, just begging to be taken for a walk through the orchard, with it's bare branched trees, and then over the wet fields. Wellies are in order.

The leaves of the jade plant look towards the window and almost dance with joy and my cookie cutters beckon to me, willing me to pick them up . . . but I cannot . . . I have a million things to do, and my mind dances here and there with activity and the desire to get it all in before the sun begins to set.

Todd goes out into the garden with Jess, taking advantage of the light and the dry day, and is moving some bulbs around in the garden . . . a chore that he has been putting off for some weeks now because of the gloom and dreary wet days. By the back door little snow drops and crocus are peeking their leaves out of the ground and reaching towards what little sun there is on these days, a later winter harbinger of hope and promise. On my window sill, too, a Christmas Hyacinth reaches towards the light and seems to grow inches as we watch on in wonder.

A lamb hot pot simmers away in the oven, a meal I am cooking for my British blog, Marie Cooks Britain, yet another food blog , and I have some nectarines sitting on the counter just waiting for me to roast them. They will be lovely after our dinner, with dollops of Greek Yoghurt and a drizzle of runny honey gracing their tender sweetness . . . but in the meantime . . . I think a nice hot herbal cuppa and a fresh muffin, still warm from the oven, just to take the edge off, are in order. What can be nicer or make the heart feel warmer . . . all seems right with the world when the sun shines . . . does it not?

*Jam Surprise Muffins*

Makes 8

These muffins are truly lovely. A deliciously moist cake surrounds a hidden surprise of fruit jam in the middle and the whole thing is dipped in melted butter and cinnamon sugar coated while still warm. These yummy babies are so good and delicious you will find yourself wondering however did you ever get through life thus far without them!

½ cup caster sugar
½ cup butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup milk
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
½ cup fruit jam ( I like strawberry or raspberry myself)
½ cup melted butter
½ cup caster sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Pre-heat your oven to 200*C/400*F. Grease a muffin tin that makes larger sized muffins well and set aside. (as you will only be getting 8 muffins from this I suggest you fill the empty holes with water before baking so that you do not burn your pan)

Place the butter into a bowl and cream it with the sugar really well until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the pinch of salt. Add this mixture to the creamed mixture alternatively with the milk. Beginning and ending with the dry mixture.

Spoon half of the batter into the muffins cups. Top each with a teaspoon of fruit jam in the centre, making sure it does not touch the sides. Divide the remaining batter between each of them and top them with it to cover the jam. Don’t worry it if just lays there on top as it will spread when it hit’s the heat of the oven.

Bake in the heated oven for 15 to 18 minutes until well risen and lightly browned, and they spring back when touched very lightly with your fingertips. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing them from the baking tin to cool on a wire rack, to where you can just handle them with your fingers without being burnt.

Put the melted butter into a bowl. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in another bowl. Roll each muffin first in the melted butter and then in the cinnamon sugar. Place them on a wire rack until the coating sets somewhat. Serve warm with your favourite hot bevvie!


  1. Loved this cozy visit at your cottage, Marie...and not least a great new recipe. So wonderful to talk to you yesterday, my sweet friend! Hope that you & Todd have a very good weekend ((HUGS))

  2. For those of us who do not have the privilege of living in a cottage, it appears these muffins could give us city folk a taste of the country.


  3. Those muffins look great Marie. I wish I could come and get one!

  4. These look great Marie. Loved the recipes on your other blogs too. You should post the mini banoffees everywhere!!

  5. reminds me of my stay in UK... something to remember! :)

  6. I don't know how to leave a message on your 'Muses' blog but just wanted to say that I hope Jess gets better very soon.

  7. oooh, they look delicious. I've never made muffins, but after seeing these, I could well be tempted!

  8. What very good news about Jess. I hope she is feeling much better and will soon be fully recovered.

  9. Beautifully worded post Marie. Now I am off to your other blog for English cooking lessons :)

  10. Although it's much colder here in Canada, the slowly lengthening days are very welcomed too.

  11. Wow thats great I have noticed the same things the past couple in, the days being longer, and (when the sun shines) how nice it is...even though today made me want to whizz back in time to find the sun again. oh well. I loved your narrative, I felt like i was a fly on the wall of your oak cottage. love love loved it.

  12. Oh Marie! With the exception of the fact that we do get some snow here in Michgian, your weather sounds quite similar to what we experience here being surrounded on 3 sides by fresh water lakes. Our winters have been much more mild ... with more rain and less snow in the last 10 years. It is so hard to live for so long without the sun under the shroud of gray clouds and damp air. The sun is such a welcome sight ... it instantly lifts the spirits!!! :) I'm so happy you had some sunshine to warm you and cheer you. The muffins sound divine. :) I'm in the process of keeping starters for "Amish Friendship Bread" which will be ready for a baking cycle on Tuesday. :) YUM!

    Keep warm and keep those spirits lifted ... have a wonderful week!!


  13. Hi Marie, thanks for the trouble you take with your blog, I really enjoy reading it.
    I had been hallucinating about these muffins since I read your post so on Saturday, during the first Harry Potter adverts I rushed into the kitchen and got the ingredients ready. Next ads saw me whizz it all together and get them in the oven.
    They were absolutely perfect for afternoon tea during a gloomy, wet Yorkshire weekend!!


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