Product Type: Betty Crocker Baking & Ingredients
Newest Review: ... cases and joined in the middle. I would not call this satisfactory advise from Betty Crocker. Further on (in a small font size) it sug... more
There Might Be More Sweaty Knockers For Me
Betty Crocker Blueberry Muffin Mix
Member Name: plipplop
Betty Crocker Blueberry Muffin Mix
Advantages: Quick, easy (even with kids), tasty and simple
Disadvantages: Those trans fats
And so it came to pass that my sister had to go and see her friend in hospital and needed somebody to look after her two itlets, at which point Uncle Plipplop came to the rescue. "What will I do with them?" I asked. "They like baking cakes - and I'll leave all the stuff for you to do - you'll have great fun", she said, and she was right.
The aforementioned 'stuff' was, in fact, a packet mix of Betty Crocker blueberry muffin making kit. Many of you will balk at the idea of making something like this out of a packet, but please be aware that I am not, nor never will be, a baker and despite my reservations around the nasty content of such a mix, I was happy to play along just this once. With two such excited itlets (they'd been telling their friends that Uncle Flip was coming over to bake cakes with them) it was hard not to go with the flow.
Betty Crocker is a leading American manufacturer, renowned for its sweet, home-baked treats, none of which even have a sniff of anything healthy about them, but all of which are consumed in copious amounts by American households. Betty Crocker never actually existed. The surname comes from one of the company's original directors, but the Betty forename was chosen purely because it sounded friendly and wholesome and entirely in keeping with the brand values. We quickly decided that Betty Crocker sounded boring and now (much to my sister's horror) the children now refer to the entire range as Sweaty Knockers. Chortle.
These Betty Crocker cake/muffin mixtures can be found in all your usual supermarkets. I've seen them in Waitrose and Tesco and a cursory look online finds them in Sainsburys too. www.mysupermarket.co.uk says that they're £1.98 everywhere, but I saw them in Waitrose for £2.14, presumably as it was in London. Anyway, for £1.98 you get enough mixture to make 6 good-sized muffins. You are supplied with the six muffin cases, the muffin mixture, and a small can of blueberries. You need to donate your own milk (that sounds unfortunate), some vegetable oil and an egg. It's pretty straightforward stuff. I actually think the fact that one mixture makes six muffins is a really good idea. It doesn't encourage gluttony (that's just over 1 and a bit each for your average family) and it keeps things relatively simple.
I was astounded at how easy these muffins were to make - and also how child-friendly. My nephew is six, his sister is nine and they both helped out without any disasters and felt as though they were contributing too. It was a good team effort!
All you need is a mixing bowl and a spoon. Pour 110ml of milk into the bowl, along with one medium egg and two tablespoons of vegetable oil. (The box doesn't say whether it requires full fat milk or not. We used semi-skimmed and they worked fine). I allowed my niece to put the egg in (it didn't take us THAT long to fish the bits of shell out) and my nephew poured in the milk. I did the oil. I just had visions of it going everywhere. Then the children took it into turns to stir. (It's funny, that's usually my forte, but there you go). The mixture gets very lumpy, very quickly and it took some encouragement to ensure that all the mixture was worked into the dough and then it was mixed well enough. The good thing is that this isn't one of those mixtures that has to be beaten to within an inch of its life, so it's reasonably quick and easy, although too strenuous for the six year-old once the mixture gets very stodgy. Whilst stirring, it's immediately apparent that the mixture is, in itself, flavoured with blueberries, as you can smell it quite strongly as you stir.
Next up you need to get the blueberries out of the can (a grown up job) and then dispense them into a jug where you can rinse them in cold water and then sieve them just to get the blueberries. At this stage, they look a bit like caviar. I'm guessing that you could use fresh blueberries if you wanted to. (Tip: if you use fresh blueberries, freeze them quickly first and tip them into the mixture frozen. They maintain a much better consistency when baked that way.) Next, you need to mix the drained blueberries into the dough mixture. You have to be careful here, as the blueberries are quite fragile and if you stir like a lunatic, you're more likely to squash them into the dough. So it's more a case of folding them into the mixture and ensuring that they're evenly spread.
The next bit is probably the fun bit and that's where you transfer the mixture to the muffin cases. It's not as difficult as a much runnier cake mix, which would drip everywhere. The mixture is reasonably solid and sticks to the spoon though, so we ended up using our fingers to slide the mixture off the spoon. We were rather cautious with this and did it in three rounds, trying to ensure a fairly even amount of mixture in each of the three muffin cases. The cases are folded in half in the box (not entirely sure why) and are therefore a little misshapen but when you drop the mixture in, it sort of oozes outwards and fills the muffin case, enabling it to regain its shape. Now, theoretically, the muffin cases should be placed in a muffin tray or tin, but we didn't have one and just plonked them on a plain baking tray instead. This probably prevented them forming a perfect muffin shape, but they still cooked perfectly and looked pretty good all in. They take around twenty minutes at 200 degrees (180 fan-assisted) and it's very easy to test whether they are baked or not by sticking a skewer in the middle and seeing if it comes out clean. (We didn't have a skewer and used a teaspoon handle, just as effective.) Unsurprisingly, the kids were intent on watching them rise in the oven, less of a spectacle if you sit and watch them without a break, but it kept them quiet for twenty minutes, so who am I to complain? During that time, we also washed up the few bits that had been made dirty, remarking (as you do) that the kitchen was remarkably un-filthy considering that I had just made cakes with two under tens. When cooked, simply allow them to cool and then you can eat them straight away or store them until you are ready to eat them. I think you can imagine which option we took.
So the muffins smell lovely. As the dough is flavoured with blueberry, there's a strong, relatively authentic smell of blueberry, probably best described as a warm, fruity smell. The tops of the muffins go slightly hard, almost crispy, such that the muffins almost have little caps with softer, moister muffin mixture underneath. I find supermarket muffins a little bland and dry. The sponge mixture used is seldom flavoured unless you go for a double chocolate one, and the way the mixture here is flavoured makes them much tastier. The little blueberries add a nice little tang and, provided that you've mixed them up in the right way, there are plenty to go round, so the muffins don't feel light on fruit. They do have a very slight blue tinge all the way through, which is slightly unsettling but kind of funny too.
They stay very soft and moist for quite a while. We all ate one about thirty minutes after they'd baked, and they were really warm and soft, with all that blueberry smell wafting out. The other three made it until teatime, when they had cooled, but still tasted as though they had literally just come out of the oven. The thing that surprised me the most was how different they were to supermarket bakery muffins. They had a much nicer texture, were more flavoursome and made far less mess (because they didn't collapse as soon as you bit into them. They seemed to come clean off the muffin case too, and I have to say that I could easily have eaten all six myself, I think. They weren't *that* filling, in fairness, more like a large cup cake than a big muffin.
Despite the fact that these were easy, quick and great fun to make, it's difficult to disregard the nutritional issues entirely. All things in moderation is a good rule, but I wasn't that impressed at the ingredient list for these babies.
Wheat flour, sugar, blueberries in water, vegetable fat, dextrose, modified corn starch, raising agents (sodium bicarbonate, sodium aluminium phosphate), wheat gluten, salt, emulsifiers (monodiglycerides of fatty acids), flavouring, stabiliser.
It's the monodiglycerides (trans fats) that are the main problem. There are loads of reports of the health issues with trans fats, largely driven by the issue that they're not an essential part of the diet like other types of fat and your body simply doesn't need them. Like most things these days, they are linked to everything from coronary heart disease to diabetes and cancer. Health authorities, however, are generally quite insistent that consumption be limited to a trace, which is probably not the case here. One muffin contains 13% of the recommended daily allowance of fat - and that's based on the fat that is necessary for your diet. The salt content here is quite high too - one muffin also has 13% of your RDA for salt, which is high considering few people would naturally associate a sweet thing with a high salt content. The sugar is even higher of course - 23% of your RDA, and all these percentages are based on adult RDA rather than the child's equivalent.
Clearly these should be nothing more than an occasional treat!
There's no denying that this is quick, convenient, easy and (actually) really good fun for all ages, and I wouldn't begrudge that once in a while, or as a pre-cursor to something a bit more creative (like baking with someone who can really bake, for example) so that you could avoid those trans fats. That aside, the finished product is quite tasty too and I have to say that the kids had a whale of a time - which for two quid, was an easy, cheap and entertaining afternoon.
Things I Liked
* They're very easy to make with very limited kitchen equipment and only a couple of added ingredients.
* They're good fun to make and it's easy for the kids to help and join in.
* They only take half an hour to make from packet to plate.
* They taste moist and fruity when cooked.
* They only make batches of six, so you won't over-indulge.
* They're pretty cheap, at around £2 for the box.
Things I Didn't Like
* The box doesn't explicitly say that it contains the blueberries so you might inadvertently buy fresh ones too.
* The ingredients include trans fats which are bad for your health.
* They're generally pretty unhealthy.
* I guess if you wanted to make quite a few for a party, you'd have to buy lots of boxes.
So recommended as long it's only once in a while.
Summary: Plipplop goes baking bonkers
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