Sunday, 27 April 2008

showin' some nutella lovin'...decadent nutella banana bread

life without nutella is well....just not worth living in my opinion. nutella is definitely one of those things i cannot live without. i used to work in a school in singapore with a great bunch of girls who were all nutella-addicts. it was so great...when we'd have breaks they'd go around with the nutella jar and a loaf of bread and let everyone get their fix.
so my family are still talking about that amazing banana bread that i've been making recently so i wanted to make some last night to have ready for Sunday morning. and of course, the full nutella jar sitting in the cupboard came to mind...i mean nutella jars are just not meant to be full EVER (except of course when they are on the supermarket shelf!)
so i used the avoca banana bread recipe you can find here except this time just swirled nutella through the batter and then because i had some left, drizzled butterscotch over the top. totally decadent! i mean totally, but gosh, just so good. the nutella was fabulous with that nutty chocolate flavour and completely complemented the bananas and pecans.
it was just such a great start to Sunday morning!

Friday, 25 April 2008

go savoury with cheesy chutney muffins!

so, today was the day to test out my McQuade's Celtic Chutney that i received through Blakemakes and use it in a recipe.

i located a recipe from the Nigella Bites cookbook for cheesy welsh rarebit muffins and modified it to fit what i wanted to do. the cheese used had to be a good one and when a recipe calls for good cheese, i use great cheese - Dubliner vintage irish rocks the favourite cheese ever. anything else just pales in comparison...

followed the recipe with a few substitutions - read how another blogger had replaced the rye flour in the recipe with crushed weetabix. i couldn't find any rye flour in the supermarket so i did the same...perfect...worked like a dream! and here was the end result...

the texture of these was lovely...light and airy - definitely due to my being diligent with not over-mixing. then the chutney that i had mixed into the batter had all softened up inside the muffin and kinda exploded into these little pockets of chutney flavour. the cheese lived up to all expectations and provided that wonderful sharp, mature cheddar taste that only comes with really great cheese. the combination together was brilliant. fantastic as an alternative to bread with a lovely salad.

would definitely make these again...i think they'd be perfect to bring over for a savoury afternoon tea party or even to have at home to pop in lunch boxes to go with salads...but what am i going to do now that i have run out of fabulous chutney??? i shall have to resort to what i can locate locally...i suppose...but this sure was a fun challenge. loved getting the jar, loved baking with it, certainly loved sampling it. i'm just having too much fun all round!

now for the recipe...

Welsh Rarebit Muffins Recipe
adapted from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson


* 1-1/2 cups self-rising flour

* 1/3 cup rye flour (i used 2 crushed weetabix)

* 1 teaspoon baking powder

* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

* 1 teaspoon salt

* Generous 1/2 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

* 6 Tablespoons vegetable oil

* 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons plain whole-milk yogurt

* 1/2 cup whole milk

* 1 egg

* 4 generous Tablespoons of McQuade's Celtic Chutney

1. Mix the wet ingredients in a jug
2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl
3. Add the wet to the dry, mix quickly with a fork until just combined
4. Divide between 12 muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

a chutney-licious special delivery for moi!

'ding-dong' there was a goodie-laden ring at the door yesterday morning by the postman, who reluctantly handed over my jar of chutney (he knew so because it was written on the box - seems like i needed to worry less about the garden leprechauns and more about him!) which comes to me courtesy of McQuade's and Blake Makes

i enjoyed the sight of it nicely packaged up in the box, before i took the plunge and delved in to discover what lay within...

and there it all it's fabulous jar of chutney and you can't imagine how thrilled i was because basically this stuff is not available on our little plot of the planet and so to be able to get my hands on some...well....suuuuu-weet!

the ingredients listed on the jar were dried fig, cider vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, raisins, apples, lemon zest, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, chilies and cayenne...mouthwatering...

i opened it up and took a peek inside...LOVED the look of the chutney at first's big, bold and very organic looking...just the way i like my chutney (and we are big on chutney on this plot of the planet) not all pulverised down to baby food consistency but chunky, meaty and so you can see what actually went into it. the smell was very tantalising...a great aroma that seemed to capture all the flavours listed on the jar...i was smitten...

so there is only ONE way to first and foremost test a chutney and that is the good ol'-fashioned way...some home-made bread, mature cheddar cheese and the chutney on top...add to this a sprinkle of sunshine and just doesn't get any simpler and better than this...

i absolutely loved it! it was so tasty...i particularly enjoyed the sweetness of the fig contrasting with the tang of the ginger and the acidic taste of the cider vinegar. it perfectly complemented the maturity of the cheese and the homemade tomato bread. fabulous! the problem now is finding a decent hiding place to store it until i can bake it into a cupcake...i live in a household of serious cheese and chutney fans (our favourite flavour of crisps is...Walkers Sensations Vintage Cheddar and Red Onion Chutney). so need i say more...

now what did i say i was going to make with this again?...oh ya...the next weeks supply of mature cheddar cheese and chutney sandwiches, right? RIGHT? oh so tempting...but no...i've got to decide between my sweet ricotta chutney cupcakes or savoury goat's cheese (or mature cheddar) chutney what do you think? maybe you can help me decide...

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

chocolate orange cupcakes - a humble tribute to the great Terry!

oh Terry, Terry, wherefore art thou, Terry? you are always there when i need you, through thick and thin, in celebrations and commiserations in good moods and bad and so, in humble tribute, i offer you the chocolate orange cupcake, in thanks for all those moments when i have taken pleasure from your delicious chocolate orange...

for those of you already acquainted with Terry, well then, you will COMPLETELY understand the need to pay tribute to such a fabulous creation as the chocolate orange. for those of you not yet acquainted with dear Terry, well, let me just say that once tasted never forgotten. you will become rather dependant on Terry. Terry will be there to see you through many a difficult moment in your life!

so of course, with such a history together, i set about today making a cupcake in tribute to the very yummy, and very more-ish, Terry's Chocolate Orange. it is a clever creation, because it comes wrapped up in foil like an orange, packaged nicely in a box. when you take the chocolate orange out of the box, you are met with the instruction to 'whack and unwrap' - which of course you do with delight (or frustration depending on ones mood) and when you unwrap, each little chocolate orange segment delicately falls away and nestles on the foil waiting to be devoured. so perfect - no peeling, no seeds - just delightful chocolate orange!

so what did i come up with...well, i started with a chocolate orange cupcake that incorporated delicious dark couverture chocolate as well as orange juice and rind. this was then topped with a hint of orange buttercream icing and topped with a lovely segment of chocolate orange! final good. there was a nice richness to the cupcake and the hint of orange buttercream was just enough so as not to overpower the overall taste of the cupcake...and the chocolate orange segment, well one is left in a quandry as to whether to eat it first or save it last. such are the tough decisions of the day!

and what might Terry say? can only hope he feels honoured and pleased and continues to grace our planet with his little chocolate orange delights!

the recipe....

Chocolate Orange Cupcake

2½ oz semi sweet chocolate - coarsely chopped
1 tsp orange rind, grated
2/3 c. orange juice
3½ oz butter - softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2/3 c. self raising flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/3 c. almond meal

1 Pre-heat the oven.
2 Line a 12 cupcake pan, with cupcake papers.
3 Place the chocolate, orange rind and juice in a small saucepan.
4 Stir over a low heat until melted and smooth.
5 Put the butter, sugar and eggs in a bowl and beat with electric beaters until fluffy.
6 Sift the flour and cocoa into the butter mix. Add the almond meal and chocolate mix.
7 Mix until just combined.
8 Divide the mixture evenly between the cake cases.
9 Bake for about 25 minutes - until firm to touch.
10 Allow to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
Makes 12 cakes.

A hint of orange buttercream icing

4 oz butter
2 c. icing sugar
¼ c. orange juice

cream butter until light and fluffy.
slowly add icing sugar, alternating with orange juice until preferred consistency is reached.
colour accordingly.
pipe and decorate.

Friday, 18 April 2008

a delicious combination of flavours...palm sugar cupcakes with vanilla rice pudding

so there has been this bag of palm sugar sitting in our cupboard for ages (because i think hubby bought it to use in an asian dish and just never did) and every time i open the cupboard i see it looking like little bee hives sitting in there patiently waiting to be turned into something scrumptious! it just also happened that i discovered that the Sugar High Friday food event was having Asian Sweet Invasion as their theme so it seemed right to do something with palm sugar.

what is palm sugar i hear you ask? well according to the great wikipedia...

Palm sugar was originally made from the sugary sap of the Palmyra palm or the date palm. Now it is also made from the sap of the sago and coconut palms and may be sold as "coconut sugar." The sugar is a golden brown paste, sold in tubes, blocks or tin cans. It may be light-coloured or dark, soft and gooey or hard. As a lightly-processed product of cottage industry, it varies greatly from batch to batch.

so, i searched around trying to find a recipe out there already for palm sugar cupcakes. but couldn't find one to my liking. got my baking cap on and thought about how i wanted it all to fit together. so basically, what i did was i just replaced my usual amount of sugar with palm sugar and added coconut milk instead of regular milk to enhance the 'asian' flavour of this combination. it seemed to work pretty well, because they smelled great when they came out of the oven and had this lovely golden brown colour to them that i had been hoping for.

then i needed to think about what to put on top? i felt like a change from regular icing and had seen this packet of arborio rice lying at the bottom of another cupboard (i swear that my mum's kitchen is like this treasure trove of undiscovered ingredients. one only has to seek and they shall discover a plethora of goodies to inspire baking hands!) so i thought that it might be interesting to make a vanilla rice pudding with the rice and put it on top of the cupcakes. the arborio rice was really easy to cook with. first you had to boil it in water until all liquid had been absorbed...

then, add the cooked rice to a saucepan of milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. the recipe i found did say vanilla extract but i found (yet again!) a vanilla pod lurking with intent and thought...that's going to make it taste SO much better!

after boiling it until almost all liquid was absorbed, i left it to cool and then began the filling up of each and every glorious cupcake! when each one had been 'stuffed' i sprinkled with some nutmeg (my grandma ALWAYS put nutmeg in her baked rice pudding and for me rice pudding just isn't the same without it!)

then came the moment of truth...the TASTE test! yes, i always allow myself one cupcake of every batch i make because i need to be able to judge the taste, consistency, texture, etc. otherwise how can i compare? well, this one i think is probably one of my favourites in the taste department. the flavours went so well together i was so pleased. there was this lovely almost burnt sugar taste of the cupcake that palm sugar often gives off (that's not a great description but hopefully you get what i mean here!) that contrasted so well with the sweet, creaminess of the vanilla rice pudding. i really couldn't have asked for anything better. just adored it! this would be a perfect choice for an asian dinner party because the flavours are not too strong of ginger or cardamom but still exotic and a joy to eat with the different textures of the spongey cupcake and the creamy rice pudding. i am, of course, seriously considering another one of these!

and the recipe...

Palm Sugar Cupcakes

1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
200 g palm sugar, grated
2 eggs
1/2 c. butter
2/3 c. coconut milk
1 t. vanilla extract

preheat your oven to usual temperature. line your cupcake pan.
in a mixer, beat butter and palm sugar until light and fluffy (note : this will not be the same texture as when you use regular sugar)
add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
combine coconut milk and vanilla together.
sift flour, baking soda and salt together and add to the batter alternating with coconut milk mixture until fully incorporate.
spoon batter into cupcake cases and bake for 20 mins. cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla Rice Pudding

1 c. water
pinch of salt
1/2 T. butter
1/2 c. arborio rice
2 c. milk
4 T. sugar
1 t. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod
few dashes of ground cinnamon

bring water, salt and butter to the boil in a saucepan. add rice and return to the boil. reduce heat and using the lowest setting, cook the rice until rice has absorbed the water but is still al dente - about 15 mins.
bring milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon to a simmer in a separate saucepan. add cooked rice and simmer over medium-low heat until rice absorbs most of the milk and mixture starts to get thick and silky - about 15 mins.
transfer to a bowl to cool.


using the cone method cut out a section from each cupcake, scooping out more cake if necessary. trim the top. fill each hole with the rice pudding and replace the top or put to one side. sprinkle with nutmeg.

i'm also going top enter this for Master Baker's event this month - where the special ingredient is vanilla. perfect!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

cheeky chocolate cupcakes!

so what DO you make with cheeky chocolate sauce? CHEEKY CHOCOLATE cupcakes, of course! this were a whizz to make (i seem to be on a bit of an easy-baking trip after all that banana bread!) i used the magnolia bakery vanilla cupcake recipe (but any favourite vanilla cupcake recipe will do) and after i had spooned the batter into the cupcake cases i then just swirled on the top a tablespoon of cheeky chocolate sauce! this could be replaced with your own favourite chocolate spread/sauce of course!
the result was really pretty darn good. some of the chocolate sauce had seeped through the cupcake batter and formed a layer of chocolate on the bottom of some of the cupcakes. this was a nice surprise (note : when i made something similar to this with nutella, the nutella stayed only on top so it would depend on the density of your sauce!) the cheeky chocolate sauce was everything i could have hoped, flavour-full and was like baked on icing on the top of this cupcake! i liked the effect on the top of the cupcake...they looked marbled. again when i made these with nutella, it was easier to swirl the batter/nutella together and it stayed like that when baked. for this sauce because the consistency was runnier, the sauce and batter mixed together a little more and i lost the lovely swirly look. not to worry. it's all about the taste for these cupcakes and the taste was definitely there. so when you're feeling cheeky, make some of these cheeky chocolate cupcakes...what ya waiting for?

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

i think i'm going banana-nanas!

can you imagine?...i was ordered last night to make ANOTHER banana bread and believe you me, i am never one who is very good at orders...but it was that good and disappeared that fast that some of the unhappy population of the household felt that they would like some more. of course, me being me, i couldn't make it exactly the same as the day before (i really couldn't...i had no more of those honey roasted pecans!) so i thought i would experiment with something else i picked up at the market on sunday...some bewitching butterscotch sauce! i just had to get a jar of this (along with another one called 'cheeky chocolate'!) because not only did the packaging look so cute, but they had open jars for tasting and i was able to experience first hand the lovely buttery toffee flavour...scrumptious...

i especially liked the little warning on the side of the jar...

so, being the huge glutton that i am (well, at least i admit it!) i decided to make the basic recipe same as yesterday with just regular pecans but this time swirl some of the butterscotch sauce through the batter once it was in the mould. then of course, being the even bigger glutton that i am, i thought how lovely it would be to drizzle some (lots!) over the chopped pecans on TOP of the banana bread. so i did...and when it came out of the oven last night it was so shiny and glistening from where the butterscotch had heated up and attached the pecans very stickily to the top.

ONCE AGAIN, i was driven near mad to cut the bread before it had properly cooled (younger brothers, huh! who'd have them?) and he gobbled down two slices with a nice tall cold glass of milk. i thought i would refrain and have a nice piece for breakfast in the morning, when it had set properly and i sure am glad i did. this was lovely...bananas and you really need to ask for anything more after that? i shall be back to pick up more of that butterscotch sauce for sure and perhaps some others i spied there including a passionfruit spread!

for the recipe please see below...i really am going bananas and think i have probably had my Recommended Yearly Allowance of bananas in the past 2 days! blame it on the Banana Bread Bakeoff, that's what i say!

Monday, 14 April 2008

cupcakes take a back seat while Banana Bread rides up front to the Banana Bread Bakeoff!

ok, so i'm ALWAYS up for a foodie event and when i encouraged my friend in blogdom, Not Quite Nigella to host a Banana Bread Bakeoff...well i couldn't very well NOT participate. so the event was for Banana Bread and to be honest, i've never made it before in the loaf form...i've made banana cupcakes but it didn't really feel like the same thing. there is something so wholesome and good about slicing up a loaf of bread. so i hid the cupcake cases away and dusted off a silicone loaf mould that i found abandoned and long since unused at the bottom of one of the cupboards. i also thought about what recipe i wanted to use. i searched the internet and found many, many to choose? then i thought about looking for a recipe from closer to home. one of my favourite places to eat in Ireland is at the Avoca Cafes. there are a whole string of them around our island and the food is just so good and homely (you might remember that i posted about the one in Powerscourt which i visited on my birthday) so i figured their recipe in the Avoca Cafe Cookbook has got to be good.
so i located their banana bread recipe and set to work. the recipe was SUPER easy to follow and mixer, nothing...just a little bit of arm work and then again, not much of that either. i must admit though that i started to freak out a bit when i saw the consistency of the was so...THICK! this serves me right for being a cupcake addict...i have obviously forgotten that one consistency does not suit all! i had this moment of 'oh no, my banana bread is going to be a banana brick...heavy and dense!' but was i ever wrong? the recipe called for pecans and i was lucky that while at the market (buying up the fudge store) i also spied the nut stall and bought some honey roasted pecans which really were to die for. they were crunchy, sweet and just perfect for putting in banana bread. you might just be able to make them out in the second row, extreme right of the photo.

the pecans were so good that as well as putting them in the batter i also sprinkled them on top of the banana bread before baking. the result when the bread came out of the oven was lovely!

then came the taste test...(it is so hard to leave anything to cool properly in my parents house, because there is a horde of hungry feasters who are always just dying to dig into the lastest creation!) i think i probably could have left it to cool longer, but as mentioned, there were tongues hanging out (after the amazing aroma that filled the house) waiting in anticipation. when i sliced in, the bread was still very soft and warm but very moist and again the aroma was fabulous. a rich banana smell twinged with cinnamon, take a peek-a-boo inside...

the taste was really really good. my brother demanded a second piece straight away! the amount of banana was perfect (i mean c'mon, i want my banana bread to taste of banana!) and with that bit of cinnamon, it gave you such a warm feeling. the honey roasted pecans were perfect! they made the outside of the bread crunchy and provided a lovely little crunch throughout the bread as well as a fantastic flavour. i'm guessing you could do these yourself in the oven, but i'm imagining mess and goo and everything else that usually comes with honey! i didn't mash up the bananas to the point of baby food, so there were still some obvious bits of banana throughout the bread. i like that! to me it feels more wholesome. i will DEFINITELY get that silicone mould out again to bake this because it was so good. i mean, really, anything that was baked by 9pm last night and was gone by 10 am this morning must be good. i'm also going to go back to the nut stall and experiment with some other varieties and maybe try some white chocolate chips in there too. oh, it could be so much fun! the possibilities are endless!

and now for the recipe...

Avoca Cafe Banana Bread

80z plain flour
1 t. salt
1 heaped t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
4oz sugar
1 egg
3 oz butter, melted
few drops of vanilla essence
2 1/2 oz pecan nuts, chopped
4 medium bananas, mashed

preheat your oven to whatever usually works best for you.
sift flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl, stir in sugar.
mix in egg, butter and vanilla essence, but do not beat.
fold in pecans and mashed bananas, using a fork. again do not beat.
spoon into loaf tin and bake for 50-60 mins. leave for 10 mins in the tin and then cool on a wire rack.

it doesn't get much easier than that! devour shamelessly!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

a-fudge-tasting we will go!

woke up this morning to a lovely spring day, with blue skies and bright (not warm though!) sunshine. hubby said he wanted to treat me to brunch so we headed out to one of my favourite local lunch spots - the country market in howth. after i was well-fed and content, i naturally wanted to make my way down to the local market that runs there every sunday. it's a great little market with lots of homegrown produced goods and for me, i always believe that it is good to support local producers.

anyway, let me get to what this post is really about...FUDGE, FUDGE GLORIOUS FUDGE! now, many of you might not be that familiar with fudge. but according to wikipedia...

Fudge is a type of candy, usually extremely rich and sometimes flavored with cocoa. It is made by mixing sugar, butter, and milk and heating it to the soft-ball stage at 240 °F (116 °C), and then beating the mixture while it cools so that it acquires a smooth, creamy consistency.

sounds good, right? well, at our local market there is a stall there every week called Man of Aran Fudge and i have been eyeing it for some time because the fudge looks amazing...more like bars of fragrant soap than fudge. i guess i have grown up thinking of fudge in the traditional sense with that creamy brown colour so to see it like this is a real wonder and stimulation for the senses!
peppermint & choc chip fudge

cappucino fudge

strawberries and cream and banana chocolate twirl fudge

maple nut, nutty choc fudge and vanilla rum raisin

so i took the plunge today and bought a box. you get a box for 9.50 euros and you get to choose 4 different flavours to fill the box up with. it's a real tough decision...REAL tough as there is so much that catches your eye that you just constantly seem to get distracted. because we were buying it as a gift for my mum, i went with flavours that i felt she would enjoy and eventually settled on - banoffi fudge, cappucino fudge, bailey's fudge and maltesers fudge. the pieces were sliced up and fit perfectly in the box.

then came the taste test. it was hard to choose which one to try first because they all looked so creamy and delicious...but we went for the malteser fudge first...

this was quite sweet, but definitely had a distinct malteser taste off it. the fudge was very luscious and creamy and had a delightful melt-in-your mouth quality to it. this was my favourite. we then moved on to the cappucino fudge...

this was my mum's favourite. she loves cappucinos and will always have one when we are out and she felt that this had a lovely strong taste of cappucino. we both also really liked the way it an actual cup of cappucino! next came the banoffi fudge...

this looked delightful with the caramel coloured swirls in the yellow fudge. when you tasted it, initially you received an overwhelming taste of banana...i mean, i like banana and all, but when the taste is really overpowering sometimes i find it a bit too much. but then as the fudge started to melt, you tasted the toffee flavour coming through. i would have preferred to taste more of the toffee though because that's the part i really like about banoffi! finally we moved on to the bailey's fudge....

this was perhaps the least interesting taste-wise out of all the fudge. the baileys flavour definitely could have been stronger. to me it tasted rather bland and as if there wasn't much baileys in there which was kinda disappointing when that is the flavour it's being sold as.

all in all, the fudge was very enjoyable. however, i don't think i could eat heaps and heaps of it at a time because it is sweet and luscious. a box like this would probably last me awhile and i could enjoy a cube with a cup of tea or coffee. or maybe i might try chop some up in a there's a thought :)