How to stop berries sinking in muffins and cakes

There's a trick to prevent berries sinking.
There's a trick to prevent berries sinking. Photo: William Meppem

How do I stop berries sinking to the bottom of my muffins? K. Dundon

In the past I have recommended dusting the berries in flour. I have since compared batches of blueberry muffins, some with fruit dusted in flour, others not. There was some difference between the two, with fewer scuttled berries in the floured batch. Another and far more effective method, to prevent sunken berries is to spoon a third of the batter into the muffin trays and then fold the berries into the remaining muffin batter. Spoon this on top of the berry-less batter. Try this method and you will no longer have muffins with soggy bottoms.

My sausage roll mixture sticks to my bowls when I put them in the dishwasher. L. McKinley

When preparing any minced meat for any purpose – meatloaves, sausages, rissoles etc – rinse the bowls and utensils in cold water, not hot, before washing. If you use hot water, the protein can set and become harder to remove from cookware.

I was told off by my mother-in-law for using my knife instead of the butter knife to spread butter on my roll. Does anyone else still care about manners? L. Murray

Your mother-in-law is a wise woman. Table manners are the basis of civilised dining. Many are based on hygiene. Traditionally, we changed our clothes before attending the dinner table so we didn't bring dirt and grime from the field or factory to the place where we eat. We always washed our hands before we ate. (I can't tell you how much it irked me in the pre  COVID-19 days when restaurant waiters would try to sit me down before I went and washed my hands.) We use separate serving spoons, forks and tongs to avoid cross-contamination. And we have butter knives, so the butter does not get contaminated with everyone's saliva. It's pretty basic stuff.

I have a grand-daughter with an egg allergy. Can I make meatloaf, meatballs, etc. without egg? J. Peverell

It's the protein in egg that binds meatballs. You can get the protein in meat to do the same thing by working the mince before you make the meatballs or whatever. Season the mince, as the salt will draw moisture out of the muscle, along with its protein. Then knead it with clean hands or mix slowly in an upright mixer. Once the mixture has changed texture from slippery to sticky, you have done your job. Try this method with your hamburgers, homemade sausages and polpette, and you will never have a problem with crumbling mince again.

I find Kewpie brand Japanese mayonnaise bottles infuriating. It is nearly impossible to squeeze all of the ingredients from the bottle for use, therefore relegating them to landfill rather than recycling. But the mayonnaise is so delicious. I'm torn and would respect your advice. J. Sconce

Use a sharp knife, slice the bottle open, remove the remaining mayo. Wash. Recycle.

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