Friday, 27 June 2008

salted chocolate chip rosemary loaf cake - sweet and salty come together for a perfect contrast!

every time i've opened my baking cupboard this past week, i've seen the bright blue wrapper of the dark chocolate with sea salt peeping out at me, begging to be used.

so today, i capitulated. i wanted to make something that would really bring out the salty element of the chocolate but yet contrast it with something sweet so there would be that nice sweet/salty taste in every bite. and then i remembered the delicious loaf cake of posts past. the batter has a delicious sweet vanilla flavour to it and with the sprinkling of sugar on the crust making it a little more sweeter, i felt the dark salty chocolate and the added savoury aroma of the rosemary would be a perfect complement.

and it was! i just chopped up the chocolate bar into nice chunky sized chips and popped it into the usual batter. again that aroma from the oven is enough to just make you imagine you are sitting on the porch at grandma's (that statement is obviously heavily influenced by Hollywood as in Ireland my grandma neither had a porch nor do we ever even have the weather that would encourage sitting outside on anything - porch, footpath, hammock or whatever!) it's just really good...since baking cakes with rosemary, i think it has become one of my favourite herbs. i never really experimented with it much before apart from pairing it with lamb so it is so refreshing to discover how good it is in sweet foods.

and again it didn't fail to satisfy, it was perfect in this loaf cake. each bite was a delicious combination of sweet, salty and savoury. the dark chocolate was perfect - the taste rich and smooth, the vanilla cake sweet and moist and the rosemary warm and aromatic. this loaf cake is really the perfect recipe to experiment and have fun with and so far every time i have made it the result has been delightful!

Monday, 23 June 2008

tennis anyone? how about strawberry, champagne & cream cupcakes instead?

so today is the first day of my favourite tennis tournament...Wimbledon. for me, Wimbledon has got class. everything is so old school there...the white outfits, the lack of advertising invasion and that lovely green grass. it inspired me to think of a cupcake that would be perfectly at home there amongst the lords and ladies...and so instantly strawberries and cream come to mind as that is what is rumoured to be eaten there and champagne of course...nothing like a tipple of the ol' bubbly dah-ling to enhance watching the gentleman's game!

so when i took out the strawberries, and listened carefully to them...they seemed to be crying out to be blanketed in something delicious, something sinful and who am i not to grant such a humble wish. so i dipped them in chocolate...don't they look content now?

so what did i do? well for the cupcakes, i pulled out the strawberry & champagne jam that i bought at Avoca recently and remembered that some time ago, i made marmalade cupcakes where i just put the marmalade into the batter. so i thought that instead of using the cone method and cutting a disc out of each cupcake, inserting the jam and so on, i'd use the exact same recipe and just add the strawberry champagne jam straight into the batter and see how that worked out. the batter seemed to support the jam pretty well and yet was light and airy enough that i figured it wouldn't collapse into a sticky mess when baked. the batter was a lovely pale pink when it was being scooped into the cupcake cases but this was lost in the baking. the aroma when in the oven was really reminded me of the smell of rice pudding baking (not sure why?) and even smelled like that when it came out too. it was such a warm, homely smell...maybe the smell of jam being baked? who knows why these things pan out the way they do and why our olfactory senses react the way they do...i love though the way certain smells evoke such strong memories for us.
then for the icing, i settled on a vanilla mascarpone cream icing which basically consisted of mascarpone cheese, icing sugar, vanilla extract and fresh cream all whizzed together in the whizzer and piped on top. it was so delightful! sweet, creamy and light. this recipe was the same as the one used for the rose tiramisu cupcakes icing.

in case you haven't noticed at the moment...i am a bit obsessed with photographing my food in sunlight. it could be a passing fad...or it could be just that sunlight falling on food casts these amazing shadows and lights up the food in a way that seems to make it look very appetizing(to me!). or it could be that in this country we are generally very sun-deprived and, so when the sun does come out simply everything has to soak it up...including my cupcakes!
anyway, then the taste-test. the whole cupcake came together very nicely. for starters, that chocolate-coated strawberry set you up for a real pleasure to the palate. then came a bite of vanilla mascarpone cream and soft strawberry champagne sponge...a delightful contrast! the sponge had a slight stickiness to it that also made it incredibly moist. this really is the Wimbledon of cupcakes - game, set and match-made in heaven!

Saturday, 21 June 2008

REAL gourmet burgers to satisfy a REAL serious craving!

ok shoot me, ya! when i'm not stuffing myself with cupcakes i generally eat quite healthy but when i heard from a friend about the REAL gourmet burger cafe in Dun Laoghaire i simply had to go and check it out and eat a nice healthy burger (well that's what i convincingly tell myself all the way to the restaurant - i mean how can a gourmet burger be anything but healthy!) when we arrived it was early evening and although there were a few busy tables generally the place was quiet and we were able to choose a table in the outdoor section and bathe in the rays of sun. my mouth seriously started to water when we were handed the menu - there were beef, lamb, venison and chicken burgers on offer and under each different kind of meat there were very interesting varieties. i decided on a 'holy moly' which was a beef burger with swiss cheese, red peppers, chilli and jalapenos...and hubby settled for an 'oriental' which was a chicken burger with chilli, ginger and lemongrass sauce. we ordered a portion of chips with rosemary salt and a chilli relish for dipping and while hubby selected the safe choice of coke for his drink i decided on an apple and raspberry soda...

and it was pink! i love pink drinks and this was very refreshing...definitely tangy, perhaps could have been a tad sweeter but still drinkable.
after a short while the food came and it didn't fail to disappoint...

the 'holy moly' was very nicely stacked up on the plate - so much so that at first i couldn't figure out how i was going to get my mouth around it (i managed's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it!) and it was delicious! the beef burger itself was soft and succulent and the combination of cheese, red pepper, spicy chilli, hot jalapenos and crunchy lettuce with the succulent beef just gave such an array of flavours and textures in the mouth that one had to stop oneself from madly devouring it and instead focus on enjoying the gastronomic experience held in your hand! i loved every inch of it!

the 'oriental' which was a chicken burger seemed to pale a little in size when compared to the 'holy moly' and although hubby said he enjoyed it, he didn't seem as enraptured as yours truly. he should have gone with a beef burger. for me chicken burgers are never going to match up to their rather beefy brother counterparts!

the chips were delightful - homemade style with the skins still on the potatoes but thinly cut. the rosemary salt was a fantastic discovery and added such a lovely aromatic flavour to the chips. the rosemary had been fried with the chips and the texture of it was light and crisp so that it kinda melted in your mouth as you ate the chip. fabulous!

the chilli relish was rich and red...a lovely complement to the chips and although it had a 'kick'...well after 18 years of living in Asia and eating 'sambal' irish chilli is EVER going to match up! sorry guys...

and finally a nice bowl (handle-less mug?) of cappuccino to finish off the meal - nice and frothy and smooth coffee. total bill came to a little over 30 euros. well? what do you expect for gourmet, dahling? but in my opinion money well spent on the satisying of a craving for a REAL burger.

Real Dun Laoghaire, The Pavilion, Dun Laoghaire. tel : 01 284 6568

Thursday, 19 June 2008

dark chocolate and sea salt...did i hear correctly??

so this morning i received a most welcome package in the post...because let's face it whenever i receive anything in the post these days that doesn't resemble a bill, it is most welcome. i knew this wasn't a bill because it was a padded envelope...chubby and fat with goodies inside...

and what were those might ask? can it really be what is mentioned in the title of this post...dark chocolate and sea why would anyone send me a bar of chocolate and a packet of sea salt? well of course they wouldn't...this is chocolate with sea salt in it! amazing right! the whole idea of the flavour just tickles me pink. it's so kooky and cool. and yes, you heard correct dark chocolate and SEA SALT! here's a close up to prove it!

and the story behind this wondrous delivery is in part due to my down right cheekiness! yup, you've seen chocolate like this before on my blog...if you scroll back to the rose tiramisu cupcakes i made a while ago you'll see that i topped them off with some very delicious rose and pistachio chocolate squares made by this very same company. so in a moment of...cheekiness, i emailed the company and told them how much i loved the chocolate and to just let them know what some of us crazy bakers get up to with a bar of chocolate and well, they offered me some of the dark chocolate and sea salt bars! hooray for me! so this post is hugely due to Emily at Cocoa Bean Chocolates a big chocolate-y smudged thank you to her for the chocolate that i have promised to bake into something fabulous!

and don't you just love it when people are thought-full. i mean not only does she send TWO big ol' bars for me to bake with, but she also sent me a little one for tasting too! which i did already and loved it! the chocolate is lovely and rich and the sea salt provides a hint of saltiness that just sets off the whole experience into something quite wonderful. and i must say that i do love the mix of sweet and salty together.

so now it's decisions, decisions,, not what to bake, but whether i just eat it all now myself or actually use it for baking? with this now being the second bar i have tried i can honestly say that i am quite smitten. the rose and pistachio whicked me away to somewhere exotic and this...has brought me back to the salty shores of ireland.

Monday, 16 June 2008

get passionate about brownies - brownie cupcakes with passion fruit topping!

well by now, most of you who read this blog will know that i am a HUGE chocolate fan...i just adore the stuff and one of my favourite ways to enjoy chocolate is in the shape and taste of the humble brownie...

A chocolate brownie, also known as a brownie, Bangor brownie or Boston brownie, is a small, rich, chocolate baked cake-slice, named after its brown colour.

crikey - what rocket scientist decided to name brownies brownies after its brown colour!!!! here i was hoping for some great story to go with my post and instead i'm left with this...well let's move on to the creation itself...

i was at the sunday market...again...(well it is one of my favourite haunts to pick up delicious delicacies for my cupcake creations) and spied that passion fruit curd made by the same company whose sauces i used for my cheeky chocolate cupcakes and in my butterscotch bananan bread. they have sample jars of all the sauces open on the stall with crackers in a bowl so you can try before buy...and it works a dream. the passion fruit curd just kinda melted in my mouth. honestly i could just eat the curd out of the need for anything's that good!

so i snapped it up and brought it home and figured it would be the perfect complement to some brownie cupcakes that i've been dreaming of making for awhile now.

i'm sure you'd agree that the lovely yellow of the curd with the deep brown of the chocolate topping is almost too good to resist...almost but of course, i had to have my taste-test. LOVED these. the brownie was yummy. dense and fudge-y. i just topped these with melted chocolate...added nothing...i like my chocolate to remain as chocolate! and then the spoon of passion fruit curd and a cranberry. i like's kinda like a lovely exotic accessory to the brownie!

take a peek outside and inside...i just love the way the chocolate topping has set and kept its lovely cupcake shape!

so the recipe...

Brownie Cupcake

4 oz dark chocolate ( i like to use 70%)
1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 c. plain flour
1/8 t. salt

melt the chocolate in a double boiler with the butter until combined.
remove from heat and leave to cool.
whisk in sugar until incorporated then add vanilla extract.
add the eggs one by one, beating each one before adding.
add flour and salt a few tablespoons at a time until fully combined.
batter will be runny and quite difficult to navigate into cupcake cases!
bake for 20 mins at your usual baking temperature.


a bar of baking chocolate

melt chocolate, leave to cool then spoon onto cupcakes and leave to cool and set. pop a teaspoon of passion fruit curd (if you're lucky enough to have it!) on top and a cranberry. yummy!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

la vie en rose with rose tiramisu cupcakes!

so what could possibly be better than seeing life through rose-coloured glasses? taking it one step further of course and enjoying it with rose-flavoured tiramisu cupcakes, of course!
i'm off to a friend's house later to help her celebrate her birthday and what better than something slightly pink, pretty and rose-flavoured? as you know i have been dying to use that new rose syrup i just bought and the thought of light, delicate tiramisu tickled with the delicious heady aroma of rose...well it seems to me a perfect summer birthday treat.

and for toppings well...when you read the back of this chocolate wrapper how could you not let it adorn a rose-flavoured tiramisu cupcake...i mean, the words themselves had me seriously salivating!

i had to have a sneaky taste of the chocolate on its own and it really was lovely...subtly rose-flavoured (and let's face it...that's the way you have to go when using rose...otherwise i think you might running the risk of inebriating's just so heady...yeah, i know i keep saying that but i can't think of any other word to aptly describe the effect of roses). the pistachios offered a subtle crunch...will definitely buy this again just for the pure eating enjoyment!

so now for the recipe...this is similar to the tiramisu i made before a long time ago and of course the only real alterations were the substitution of rose syrup for vanilla essence or anything else that seemed a flavouring. i contemplated whether to use the coffee syrup to flavour the sponge but then thought that it would give a nice contrast...the bitterness of the strong coffee and the aroma of the rose. it did! was really happy with the final result. there was a strong enough hint of rose and yet the cupcake remained light and airy and delightfully delicious!


6 eggs, separated
3/4 t. cream of tartar
1 c. sugar, divided into 2
3 T. water
3 t. rose syrup
1/8 t. salt
1 c. sifted plain flour

in a mixing bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy.
using 1/2 cup of the sugar add the sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, beating the egg whites constantly until glossy and they stand in peaks.
in a small bowl, beat egg yolks until thick (about 3-5 mins)beat in remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, water, rose syrup and salt.
sprinkle sifted flour over whites and fold in gently.
add beaten egg yolk mixture and fold in.
fill cupcake cases 2/3 full and bake in a preheated oven for 15 mins.

Coffee Syrup

1/2 c. icing sugar
1/2 c. water
5 t. coffee powder

in a saucepan, combine water, icing sugar and coffee powder.white stirring, bring to the boil, then remove from heat.
allow to cool.


2 c. mascarpone cheese
1 c. icing sugar
3/4 c. double cream

beat together the mascarpone and icing sugar until well combined.
add cream and beat until fluffy.


poke holes into cooled cupcakes...i find a fork doesn't make big enough holes.
the syrup has trouble seeping through so i use a knitting needle!
spoon 3 teaspoons of coffee syrup over each cupcake...allowing syrup to soak through.
ice with mascarpone cheese icing and drizzle with rose syrup.
top with chocolate bits, shavings, sprinkles or whatever takes your fancy!

for those of you interested in finding out more or ordering the chocolate used in this recipe, you can go check them out at Skelligs Chocolate Company - check out their other amazing flavours too!

Monday, 9 June 2008

thirst-quenchingly delicious lavender, lemon & mint ice tea!

so what DOES one do on a sunshine-y summery day when one is forced to exchange spatulas for paint brushes and help paint the house exterior??? (apart from be over-protective of one's hands and complain non-stop about the untold damage that this job is doing to fingers that should be insured for millions, like Fred Astaire's legs, simply because of the delectable delights they are capable of creating!)

well, when site foreman (aka dad) is not looking, quickly nip off to the kitchen, reach into cupboard for newly bought and much treasured lavender syrup, find a jug, pop in two tea bags, pour in hot water add 2 tablespoons of honey, let sit for a few minutes (while trying to pretend that you're looking for some painting gizmo or other!), then add mint leaves, sliced lemon, lots of ice and enough cold water to fill up the jug add 3 tablespoons of lavender syrup. stir not too vigorously and pour yourself a giant glass full. decorate with real lavender sprigs plucked from the garden, find a nice cosy spot (away from site foreman!) and enjoy the lovely sweet aromatic coolness in peace.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

fanciful flavours to tantalise the taste buds...

so it was a lovely sunny summer's day this morning and decided to pack a picnic and head to the Powerscourt Waterfall in Co. Wicklow. just spectacular! anyway after full bellies and copious sun-kisses enjoyed by the side of a babbling brook, i just simply had to arrange a stop off at Powerscourt House to check out the Avoca is a must because it is always stocked with such amazing delights. every time i go i always feel like there is never enough time to properly explore...there's really THAT much stuff in the shop. and today, it did not here i am to tantalise your taste buds with a hint of future flavours of cupcakes...

lavender...syrup and divine...and i have been aching to make some lavender cupcakes since just about ever...i love the relaxing aroma of soothing and calming

and from one fragrant flower to another...yes, with summer in the air, everything IS coming up roses, as we have been blessed with beaming sunshine these past few weeks and it just puts you in the mood for all things flower-y and flour-y! rose cupcakes...hmmm...scent-a-liciously divine!

and this final jar of goodness...strawberry and champagne jam...sounds almost too good to be true and with Wimbledon tennis tournament just around the corner, these sound like the perfect ingredient for another heady summer treat.

stay tuned, my friends and you know you won't be disappointed!

(now where do i hide all this stuff so it is not sneakily devoured by a hungry brother on a midnight snack hunt...?)

Saturday, 7 June 2008

variation on a loaf cake in cranberry, macadamia and white chocolate minor!

ok so you're probably figuring by now that the rosemary loaf cake went down a treat. in fact it went down such a treat that most of it disappeared shortly after it was made...i tried to swat off grabbing hands while it was still cooling as long as i could, otherwise it would have just crumbled away while knives were shamelessly used to (what i can only describe as) hack it apart. hungry stomachs often have no thought for the gentle procedure of slicing a cake and no concern whatsoever for the mess of cake crumbs and chunks they leave behind!
anyway, always one to experiment with something new, when i remade the recipe today, i wanted to try adding something different. so i left out the rosemary and instead added cranberries, macadamia nuts and white chocolate. i like that combination and have used it before in cupcakes. again it was super easy to make and with just the different ingredient being added at the end. smelled lovely in the oven and when it came out. took a bit longer than the rosemary loaf and i think i ended up leaving it in there for about an hour and 15 minutes.
the taste was fabulous...a charming melody of melted white chocolate, tangy cranberries and lovely crunchy macadamias. it all went together harmoniously with the moist vanilla flavour of the cake. this is definitely a recipe to experiment with more and try out some different combinations...i can feel the urge to make a nutella swirled one coming on...let the next symphony begin...

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

more rosemary goodness with a rosemary loaf cake!

so what does one do when it appears that the rosemary growing in the garden is going to completely conquer all other plant life? use it up of course! so there is this rosemary loaf cake recipe by nigella lawson that i have been eyeing for awhile in my recipe book and thought with all that fresh rosemary i really should try it...

the recipe was really simple to follow, as i find most nigella recipes to be...she doesn't beat around the bush and i like that. it stated to use 2 teaspoons of rosemary, to be honest i didn't measure. i just chopped up however much was on the sprigs i cut and popped it in. another reason i wanted to try this was because the lemon rosemary cupcakes i made were very lemon-y and although i could mildly get the aroma of the rosemary, this recipe appealed to me because apart from the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, the rosemary was the strongest flavour to the cake and i thought this would really give me an opportunity to taste the essence of it.

so the final step of the recipe called for sugar to be sprinkled on the top of the loaf. and the result of this can be seen formed this beautiful crust on top that cracked and just looked so fabulous and earthy as the cake came out of the oven. i loved it!

final step after cooling, was the taste-test. eager family members were hovering with intent around the loaf, looking for a sample so, i think once i started cutting almost half of it was gone (they're big into 'doorstep-sized' slices in this house!) the test was lovely - the rosemary was the dominant flavour and provided a lovely almost musky aroma and taste to the cake that also combined so well with the mild vanilla flavouring in the cake. i really enjoyed the moistness and texture of the cake. i think a slice would be lovely smothered with butter too or even an apple jam.

Rosemary Loaf Cake

250 g soft unsalted butter
200 g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
210 g self raising flour
90g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
needles from a 10cm stalk of rosemary chopped small, but not too fine (about 2 teaspoons)
4 tablespoons milk
1-2 tablespoons rosemary sugar or caster sugar
loaf tin

cream the butter, adding the sugar when it’s really soft, and creaming both together till pale and smooth and light.
beat in the eggs one at a time, folding in a spoonful of the flour after each addition, then add the vanilla.
fold in the rest of the flour and finally add the rosemary.
thin the batter with the milk - you’re after a soft, dropping consistency - and pour into the waiting tin.
sprinkle the top with a little sugar before putting it in the oven, and cook for 1 hour, or until a cake-tester comes out clean.
leave to cool on a wire rack in its tin, unmould and devour shamelessly!

from How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

anyone for a cuppa cupcake?

today i got a precious little came in a delightful cylindrical box with...yup, you guessed it...cupcakes all over it!

so me thinks you might be wondering...what mysteries might this charming little box hold within...

ah ha!...a little clue on the lid might hint at the contents...

yes! a mug...but not just any old mug...oh no! that would never do for a cupcake lover such as yours truly...

but a CUPCAKE mug...look at all those darling little treats all over it! just perfect! almost too perfect to use, but i am sure deep down i shall be tempted to make myself a cuppa in it...

the little words written on the inside of the mug say 'hundreds and thousands' and 'with a cherry on top' and that's just the way i like my cupcakes!

available for all cupcake lovers from debenhams