Hope chest muffins: plum, marzipan and cinnamon

You probably thought that no woman has had a hope chest (or 'glory box' or 'bottom drawer') since the 1950s, right? Well colour me retro, because this modern girl has somehow managed to acquire a freaking dowry over the years.

I’ve always loved collecting 'house stuff'. But I moved to England to do a Masters when I was 24, and as a result haven’t had the opportunity to put a lot of that 'house stuff' to use. It still sits in various rooms and corners of my parents' house, waiting for its day. On top of that, I always seem to be acquiring more, so my burgeoning trousseau now includes art; furniture inherited from my granny that I am planning to reupholster; endless gifts received during the years when I celebrate Christmas in Canada; an assortment of my beloved Wedgwood Drabware; enough cookbooks to stock the cookery section of a small municipal library; plus one heck of a lot of kitchen and baking equipment. Luckily my parents have a big house.

I like to think of all this as 'things for my future Canadian home', which I will get around to having someday. But from time to time I get annoyed that I don’t have that Bundt pan/cookbook/whatever and I make a mental note to cart said item back with me next time I’m in Ottawa. (My sister has previously written in hilariously accurate detail about our family tendency for cross-Atlantic shipping.)

This time the thing I managed to cram into my already-overstuffed suitcase was my trusty jumbo muffin pan. I had been missing the thing because it makes muffins the size of those huge calorie-, fat- and sugar-laden monstrosities you buy in cafes, but made healthier and much more delicious at home. I had also spotted an Ottolenghi muffin with a plum compote topping that I thought would be a real showstopper if made supersized. These are for a special occasion, since the compote means a bit more work than you’d usually expect from a muffin recipe. But the plum compote is lovely and tart against the sweetness of the marzipan, and the compote-topped jumbo muffins are quite a sight to behold.

And one more piece of my trousseau has found its purpose…

Plum, Marzipan and Cinnamon Muffins
From Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

Makes 12 regular or 6 jumbo muffins

Muffins:
480 g plain (all purpose) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
200 g caster sugar
2 large eggs
110 g unsalted butter, melted
280 ml milk
grated zest of 2 oranges
120 g marzipan
icing sugar for dusting

Plum compote:
700 g ripe red plums, stoned and cut into quarters
60 g caster sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick

Make the plum compote first (it can be made in advance if you wish): preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Place the plums in a shallow baking dish, add the sugar and cinnamon and mix together. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the plums are soft and their skin starts to separate from the flesh. (The cooking time will vary significantly depending on the ripeness of the fruit). Set aside to cool or refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the muffins: put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

Put the sugar and eggs in a large bowl and whisk together. Add the milk and melted, cooled butter and whisk to combine. Grate the marzipan on the coarse side of a grater and add this to the batter, along with the orange zest. Now stir in 80 g of the plum compote (both fruit and juices). Set the rest of the compote aside for later.

With a spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet batter until just combined (there may still be a few lumps and bits of flour; that is what you want).

Line the muffin tin with paper cups and fill them nearly up to the top. Bake in the centre of the oven (20 to 22 minutes for regular muffins / 25 to 30 minutes for jumbo muffins) until a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean. When cool enough to handle, remove the muffins from the tin and leave on a wire rack to cool.

Just before serving, dust the tops withicing sugar and top with the reserved plum compote.