Not a completely broken egg – pretty much all you can do with that is clear it up. But, every now and again, one of our hens lays an egg with a shell that’s just a wee bit softer than it really should be. And, not being the most careful of creatures, she often steps on it or knocks it. If we’re lucky the shell doesn’t break completely to create a sticky, yolky mess in the nesting box. But I’m then left with a delicate egg that I like to use up quickly, because with a cracked shell I reckon it probably won’t keep so well… although I’m happy to be corrected here if anyone knows otherwise.
I’m beginning to suspect that the hen lays these soft eggs on purpose. She knows that when I find one, I’ll worry that her diet is short of calcium, and before long the bowl of kitchen scraps that they get each day will contain some grated cheese or slightly out of date yoghurt – both gourmet foods as far as our hens are concerned. She has access to grit, and the pellets and mash I buy for them say they provide everything a hen could possibly want from her diet (although our hens would definitely argue with that – they like a good helping of fresh greens every day…) So in my view, she has no excuse for producing these substandard eggs, but I’m still new to this hen-keeping business and obviously have a lot to learn.
As well as the odd soft-shelled egg, I’m finding loads of blackberries in the garden at the moment. Every year I say that I’ll cut back the brambles that are growing in far too many places. But then I see the green fruit starting to form, and think I’ll leave it just long enough to ripen. This year there will have to be some sort of bramble control measures taken, the prickly stems have started to take over one of the borders as well as growing along the hedge on one side of the garden… just need to leave them that little bit longer while there are still blackberries to harvest.
So, arriving back in the kitchen with two eggs, one slightly cracked, and a bowlful of freshly picked blackberries I decided to invent blackberry cupcakes. Well, not really invent them… turns out, if you search online they’ve already been invented by lots of people. Still, while a batch of autumnal cupcakes flavoured with a combination of blackberry and almonds might not be entirely new ground, they did taste very good. And that’s one less broken egg to worry about.
While I was writing this post, I was completely oblivious to the fact that this week is National Cupcake Week (to be honest, I didn’t realise there was a National Cupcake Week). I only discovered this fact while I was catching up on Ren Behan’s blog. Even better, I found her three recipes for cupcakes – I’m going to be making the raspberry ripple and basil cakes very soon.
(makes 10 cupcakes)
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g light brown soft sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
Preheat the oven to 190oC, 375oF, gas 5. Line 10 muffin tins with paper muffin cases.
Cream the butter in a large bowl until it’s lovely and soft. Add the sugar and beat this into the butter to get a smooth, creamy mixture. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla essence.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, add the ground almonds and fold the dry ingredients into the buttery mixture. When the flour is almost completely combined, add the blackberries and continue to gently fold everything together.
Fill each muffin case about 2/3 full with the cake mixture and bake for 15-20 minutes in a preheated oven. The cupcakes will be a nice golden brown colour and have a springy top when they are done.
Cool on a wire rack before topping each cupcake off with your favourite icing – I used a lemon buttercream mixture and added a fresh blackberry… oh, and a cup of coffee to serve.