Jun 23, 2011

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

One last cupcake recipe before I leave them for the world of dieting (BOO! HISS!) - my chocolate orange cupcakes. I only have a bad, blurry iPhone photo of these bad boys as they were eaten very, very quickly. Even Kezz had a few and he's not a cake eater usually. Again, the icing can make more than you actually use depending on how thick you lay it on. I currently have a small half jar of it in the fridge that I'm trying not to eat with a spoon...

Makes: 36 mini cupcakes or 12-14 cupcakes (I made 24 minis and 6 normal - yes I know there's only 20 minis in the photo - the other 4 were eaten as they were iced. They're THAT BLOODY GOOD!)

For the cupcake mix
150g/5.5oz unsalted butter, softened
75g/2.75oz plain chocolate
250g/9oz caster sugar
5 large eggs
150g/5.5oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
Grated rind of 2 oranges

For the icing
550g/1lb icing sugar
160g/5.6oz unsalted butter, softened
50ml orange juice
50g/1.75oz cocoa powder
Grated rind of 1 orange


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line an appropiate sized tin with the paper cases of the size cupcakes you wish to make (i.e. muffin tin lined with muffin cases). Melt the chocolate in a heatproof dish set over a simmering pan of water (or in the microwave making sure you don't allow it to burn). Once melted set aside and allow to cool slightly (but not become solid).
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt into the mixture and fold together with a metal spoon.
  3. Fold the orange rind into the mixture. Check that your chocolate has cooled, then add it to your mixture and fold in again.
  4. Divide the batter between the cases, filling each one to about two-thirds full. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes (less if you're making the mini cupcakes) or until risen and springy to the touch (a skewer poked through the middle of one should come out clean). Leave to cool slightly in the tin before removing to a wire rack and allowing to cool fully (this is very important as otherwise the icing will melt and run off them).
  5. While the cakes are cooling you can make the icing. Whisk together the icing sugar, cocoa powder and butter in a clean bowl until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the orange juice and zest and whisk at a high speed for several minutes until light and fluffy (the longer you whisk the fluffier the icing you'll get).
  6. Divide the icing between the cold cupcakes. 

You could decorate the tops with little orange sweets, edible orange glitter, candied orange peel or pieces of Terry's Chocolate Orange if you're really feeling decadent! Mine sadly didn't last long enough to properly decorate and photograph nicely... I will be making them again (for a party or something, not for us to sit down and eat on our own in an evening!) and will decorate them properly then and update the photo!

Cupcakes and Diets

For the last while I have been baking up a storm, making cupcakes every other day; and eating them! Great for the taste buds, not so good for my poor waistline though... I knew I had to make a change when I bought a gorgeous pair of dark cream combat-style pants last week, a size up from my usual one, brought them home and THEY DIDN'T FIT! So I won't be making as many cupcakes as I was, until I've worked out some lower fat versions anyway!

This does give me the chance to explore new recipes though (every cloud has a silver lining) and I've been having fun with the low-fat challenge. Kezz has just started training too (more on that another time) so this couldn't be more timely. We're getting up early in the mornings, he goes running while I do some yoga and already there's a difference. The hardest part is my sweet tooth though, I didn't realise how much chocolate I'd been eating until now. I'm trying to switch over to other sweets for my evening consumption in front of the tv - currently chomping on Panda Natural Blueberry Liquorice - delicious!

The main cause of my weight gain are Earl Grey Tea Cupcakes (see pic at beginning of post). These are from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days, a fabulous book full of far too many scrumptious treats (you'll find a link to it at the end of this paragraph)! These are insanely good, everyone who has tried them goes nuts for them. It's the best of both worlds really, tea, and cake, in a bun! I will add that I usually have quite a bit of frosting left over from this recipe. I tend to pop the leftovers into the fridge and bake another half batch a day or two later to use it up. Or indeed, I have been known to sit down and eat the leftover frosting with a spoon...is it any wonder I've gained weight? I won't divulge their recipe here but I will recommend that you go out and buy this book immediately! Make these, and have a few for me :)

Jun 16, 2011

A New Start, and Some Delicious Seeded Bread

Well hello everyone! Apologies for the lack of activity the last 2 months or so, I've been busy!

So, what have I been up to? Well, I've been making, and eating, lots of cake and other yummy delights (my poor waistline!). I've also been making lots of jewellery and trying to sell it. It's going, eh, okay I guess. Definitely not as much fun as the cooking is though which is why I have decided to turn my energies back here. I'm even looking into going back to college to study culinary arts. Well, 30 is the new 20 after all... So this fresh start down in Co. Cork is going to turn into a fresh start career-wise as well. I have to admit, I'm very, very excited!

In honour of all this new-ness I thought I'd share a brand new recipe with you guys today. Fresh out of my head, not even finished baking it yet! It's a variation on the white bread that I've been making of late. I LOVE bread, I really do. There's so many things you can use it for. I like my breads simple and unfussy. Kezz likes this bread too but he adores seeded bread so I figured I'd go for the best of both worlds and make my favourite bread seeded this time and see how it went.

I don't know about any of you but I for one hate buying bread. I know how simple it is to make so it just seems wrong to purchase it. Standard sliced pans seem too fluffy and insubstantial since I started making my own and I balk at the prices for artisan breads - what I'd pay for a single loaf I could buy the ingredients and make 4 or 5 myself! Plus who can resist the smell of freshly baked bread, or the seemly magic process of watching the dough rise? That's the best part about making bread yourself, you're not just getting the end product but the whole experience. It brings back memories in such a rush too, sitting in either of my grandmother's kitchens, watching the bread some out of the oven, smothering the still-warm slices in butter and home-made jam and then running outside to eat it in the sunshine, shooing away curious bees attracted by the sweet, warm stickiness. Try putting that in a wrapper!

Nothing can evoke memories in quite the same way that scents can. The smell of coconuts will always remind me of holidays in the sun, and of sunburn! Orange blossom always brings me back to the time I spent in Toronto, though I have no idea where that connection was made. Fresh lemons remind me of my Mum making us pancakes for breakfast, tomatoes remind me of one of my aunts and the greenhouse she had in her former home in Dublin. Scent connects us to our past, to moments shared and experiences we'd almost forgotten.

A final word on this dough before I dive into the recipe; it can be used for almost any variation. The standard dough, sans wheat bran and seeds, makes a lovely white bread. Just leave them out and follow the rest of the recipe as it is. It also makes lovely pizza dough, simply roll it out and cover it in the toppings of your choice after the first proving, then pop it in the oven. It makes insanely good toast with a slightly sticky, chewy texture. Sliced and covered in peanut butter and chopped banana it is the super quick anytime of day snack (honestly, try it - peanut butter and jelly be-damned!). I've made it with beer today but you can use water too, I often do and it's just as good. It can also be used as the base for fougasse (basically a french style focaccia). Anyway, on with the recipe!

Makes: 1 large round loaf


500g/14oz strong white bread flour (plus extra for dusting)
300ml/ 1.25 cups hand-hot water/beer/milk
1 handful of wheat bran
1 generous handful mixed seeds of your choice (I've used sesame, sunflower, linseed and pumpkin)
7g sachet easy-blend yeast (available in most supermarkets) or 15g fresh yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (or honey)
2 tbsp olive oil


  1. Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl, there's no need to sift it. For the dried yeast you can just pour it in too. The fresh yeast needs to be crumbled in and rubbed into the flour a little (like you would if making pastry or a crumble). Add the wheat bran, salt and sugar (or honey) now too.
  2. To get your hand-hot liquid I find that it's best to take about one-third of the overall liquid and boil it, then add the cold two-thirds. This ensures it's warm without being too hot (it needs to be warm enough the activate the yeast but not so hot that it actually kills it!). Add the oil to the liquid and give it a quick stir.
  3. Make a well in the centre of your dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid and oil mix in one go. Mix quickly using your hand (or a wooden fork) to make a soft, sticky dough. Make sure you wipe the dough around the bowl to pick up any loose flour.
  4. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour and turn our the dough onto it. Knead the dough by stretching it away from you, and then folding it in half toward you before stretching it away again. Give it a quarter turn and repeat. You'll get into a rhythm after a minute and it's a great way for working out any stress or frustrations!
  5. After a few minutes make a little pocket in the dough and pour your choice of seeds in here. Continue kneading for a few more minutes until you have a nice scattering of seeds throughout and the dough is smooth.
  6. Put the dough back in the mixing bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for an hour. The dough has risen enough when it has doubled in size and springs back when you press it gently with your finger. This is the first proving.
  7. Tip the dough onto a floured surface once more and knead gently for a few seconds to remove air bubbles (knock it back as it's called). Shape into a round and place on a non-stick baking sheet. Make 3 or 4 slashes across the top with a sharp knife. Cover once more and rise for 30 minutes (this is the second proving). While it rises preheat your oven to 240C/475F/Gas Mark 9. Bake for 30-35 minutes until browned and crisp (you'll know it done if you tap the bottom of the loaf and it sounds hollow).
  8. Cool on a wire rack. This bread should keep for 2-3 days but honestly, it's normally all gone by the next morning in this house!
I know looking at this it can seem like a lot of work but honestly it's not. It can be made even easier for you too. Want fresh bread in the morning but don't have 2 hours to play with? No problem! Instead of leaving the bread to sit for one hour to rise at room temperature you can make it up to step 5 above the night before and then pop it in the fridge to rise slowly overnight. Get up the next morning, follow step 6, turn the oven on to heat and then go jump in the shower. By the time you're done the bread will be ready to pop in the oven and you're done! By the time everyone else is up you've fresh bread on the table and you can seem like a kitchen wizard - able to knock out yummy bread in no time!