Your own sweet time: breakfast muffins. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer
A little chocolate for breakfast. Oh, why not? A small, deep cup of the steaming stuff, perhaps; thick, dark and silky. Or maybe a thin lozenge at the heart of light-as-air pain au chocolat; a dark, nut-encrusted muffin, or just a few squares melting slowly into your porridge. Any would work for me.
Breakfast is different at the weekend. A chance for something more taxing than the usual weekday toast or porridge. I rather enjoy bircher muesli (oats, grated apple, maple syrup and apple juice left overnight), stirring in spoonfuls of sheep’s yogurt on Sunday mornings. A fancy porridge made with barley or spelt flakes, pumpkin seeds and blackberries or, occasionally, a homemade muffin. Strange that I only really enjoy the full English in hotels.
I have been pretty sniffy about muffins in my time, and especially their name. A true muffin, the split, toasted and buttered sort, is a thing of bliss on an autumn afternoon and has nothing to do with the overblown fairycake from other shores. But there is room for both. My recipe differs from the traditional in that I omit the bicarbonate of soda. I simply don’t like the backnote it leaves. The muffins don’t seem to miss it either. So muffins it is, little chocolate ones no bigger than a fairycake, eaten warm so the chocolate within comes in dark, molten pools.
Chocolate and blackberry muffins
I used cupcake cases for these, about 8cm in diameter. The mixture should make 12 small muffins. I expect most people will want 2.
light muscovado sugar 75g
golden caster sugar 75g
plain wholemeal flour 125g
plain white flour 125g
baking powder 2 tsp
cocoa powder 30g
rolled oats 30g
dark chocolate 100g
groundnut oil 80ml
vanilla extract ½ tsp
Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tray.
Put the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract into a bowl and whisk them thoroughly until light and fluffy. Don’t rush this. The process will take a good 4 or 5 minutes with the whisk on moderate to high speed, and the mixture should be fluffy, the colour of butterscotch, before you add anything else.
Sift together the white and wholemeal flours, baking powder and cocoa, then stir in the rolled oats. Roughly chop the chocolate, keeping some of the pieces quite large (about 1cm square) and then chop the walnuts.
Put 12 muffin cases into your muffin tray.
Incorporate the milk and oil into the sugar and egg mixture to give a runny batter, then stop the machine, change from whisk to beater (or stir by hand), and fold in the flour, baking powder, cocoa and rolled oats a little at a time.
Stir in the chopped chocolate and walnuts. You might like to hold back a few oats and walnuts to scatter over the mixture just before baking. Lastly fold in the blackberries, taking care not to crush them.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cases – it should come almost to the top of each paper case. Add any reserved crushed walnuts or oats to the surface. Bake for 18 minutes until well risen. Eat warm, while the chocolate inside is still soft.
Perfect pairings: oat porridge with pears, seeds and chocolate Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer
Oat porridge with pears, seeds and chocolate
Using a nonstick saucepan will make for easier washing up. Barley flakes are worth trying here, too, or perhaps a mixture of the two. Serves 2, satisfyingly.
For the pears:
pears 4, large
sweet Marsala 4 tbsp
caster sugar 3 tbsp
For the porridge:
rolled oats 75g
porridge oats 75g
sunflower seeds 1 tbsp
pumpkin seeds 1 tbsp
crème fraîche 100ml
dark chocolate 50g
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Peel the pears then cut them in half, dropping them into cold water with a squeeze of lemon juice to stop them browning. Put the Marsala, caster sugar and butter into a baking dish, then add the pears. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until they are butter soft. It is essential to baste them once or twice, turning them over in the juices. Set them aside in a warm place.
To make the porridge, put the oats in a saucepan, place over a moderate heat then pour in the water and milk. Bring to the boil, stirring from time to time, then almost constantly as the mixture starts to boil. Lower the heat and let the mixture cook for 5 minutes.
Toast the sunflower seeds in a dry pan until fragrant – they will smell warm and slightly nutty. Then fold half of them into the porridge together with half the pumpkin seeds. Stir in the crème fraîche then divide between two large, warm bowls.
Lastly, break the chocolate into small pieces, divide into the two bowls and stir once or twice, but only to allow the chocolate to melt. Avoid overmixing: you want little pockets of melting chocolate here and there.
Slice each pear in three, then place on the surface of each bowl of porridge. Scatter the remaining pumpkin and toasted sunflower seeds over the surface.