Chocolate orange carrot muffins

Chocolate orange carrot muffins
It’s been hot, hasn’t it? Some of the last few days have definitely been too hot for any kind of baking activity, but luckily for me, I was able to knock out these chocolate orange carrot muffins last Sunday, when it wasn’t as sweltering as it has been.

I was feeling inspired by the lovely mini carrot cakes I had at Luis Troyano’s afternoon tea the previous week and wanted to make something carrot-y. So, I found a recipe for carrot and orange muffins online and adapted it to add the chocolate.

Chocolate orange carrot muffins
All I really did was add a bit of cocoa powder and some milk chocolate chunks that needed using up – but that definitely did the trick! The resulting muffins were incredibly light (thanks to the carrot) and flavoursome (thanks to the cocoa and the zest of two oranges).

Chocolate orange carrot muffins
What I really like about these muffins is that you can see the grated carrot within them – and they could easily be mistaken for shreds of orange zest! I left in the cinnamon from the original recipe, and I’m glad I did, because it added an extra dimension to the flavours.

Chocolate orange carrot muffins
We finished these off in around 3 days and I didn’t feel particularly guilty about it – I reckon these were around 200 calories each. Definitely not as decadent as my usual triple/quadruple chocolate chunk muffins, but just as delicious!

Chocolate orange carrot muffins
Chocolate orange carrot muffins recipe

Adapted from this recipe on the Olive magazine website.

Makes 12 muffins

  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 75g milk or dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • finely grated zest of 2 oranges
  • juice of 2 oranges
  • 100g carrots, peeled and grated
  • 75g butter, melted

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190c/fan 170c/gas 5. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with muffin cases or squares of baking paper.
  2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, cocoa powder, chocolate and salt in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, zest, juice, carrots and butter.
  4. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined, being careful not to overmix.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until risen.

Afternoon tea with GBBO’s Luis Troyano

Luis Troyano afternoon tea
You might know from some of my previous posts that I’m a massive fan of Great British Bake Off – and that I was a particular fan of finalist Luis Troyano in last year’s series.

I absolutely loved his attention to both visual detail and flavour (check out my attempt at one of his recipes), and was ever so slightly disappointed that he didn’t win. However, he’s still baking and has a book, Bake It Great, coming out in August.

I was rather delighted when he announced that he would be holding a special afternoon at the Stockport Plaza (a beautiful old cinema conveniently close to my area) to promote the book. Of course, I just had to get a ticket!

The cinema really was a lovely setting. The afternoon tea was held in an Art Deco cafe/restaurant decorated in a tasteful yet simple style – very much like what you’d expect a classy tearoom would have looked like in the 1930s.

There were quite a few people already tucking into their cakes when we got there, but it was all very relaxed and friendly. We were shown to a table, and tea and three tiers of food loveliness appeared soon after we sat down. You can’t see them in the photo above, but the bottom tier had lots of finger sandwiches – egg, cucumber and salmon.

However, it was the sweet treats we were most interested in, and which Luis himself had made in their entirety. As well as the compulsory scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, there were chocolate brownies, Bakewell cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes, and blueberry cheesecake eclairs. YUM.

Carrot cake cupcake
After polishing off the sandwiches, we started with the scones, which were perfect – substantial yet extremely light. Then I moved on to the carrot cake cupcake, which was bursting with zesty orange and fruity sultanas and topped with a fantastic mascarpone buttercream. I’m so glad it was proper buttercream and not the overly sugary icing you usually get on cupcakes!

Blueberry cheesecake eclair
Then it was on to the blueberry cheesecake eclairs – choux pastry sandwiched with a cheesecake-y filling and fresh blueberries. This was so inspired – I’ve never thought of using cheesecake as a filling for eclairs, but it’s such a fantastic idea! The choux was very nicely made and not too heavy. Perfect.

Bakewell cupcake
Next, the star of the show – Bakewell cupcakes. My, these were so good! They looked pretty unassuming, but they were actually filled with delicious jam. The sponge itself was delightfully almond-y. So very good.

Bakewell cupcake
The recipe for these cupcakes will feature in Luis’s book – I know what I’m going to make as soon as I get my hands on it!

Chocolate brownie
Finally, it was time for the chocolate brownie (apologies for the blurry photo, but I was concentrating more on eating than on taking pictures!).

I was a bit worried I might not have room for everything, but going for a long run that morning seemed to increase my appetite quite a lot! I savoured every bite of this brownie – it was very chocolatey indeed, but balanced nicely against vanilla and salt, so it wasn’t too sweet and was scarily addictive.

As we ate, Luis made his way through the room and stopped to speak to everyone and answer questions, which I thought was nice of him. I asked him what was in the brownies, and my boyfriend fiancé praised the eclairs.

Luis then revealed his secret to making the perfect choux, which I can’t actually remember in its entirety now (it’ll be in his book, hopefully), but involved keeping it in the oven for as long as possible without opening the door before you’re supposed to, as that affects the bake. It was lovely talking to Luis, and nice to know that he’s every bit as approachable and kind as he seemed in the show.

All in all, we had a fantastic time and enjoyed all of the food immensely. I’m now hoping that Luis’s fellow GBBO contestant Chetna Makan has the same idea and decides to hold an event near me too…!

Chocolate, coconut and cardamom cookies

Chocolate, coconut and cardamom cookies
I had a hankering for cookies yesterday, so I opened a few of my recipe books for inspiration. I came across a few cookies recipes that I quite liked the sound of, but weren’t quite what I was looking for, so I decided to combine them to create these chocolate, coconut and cardamom cookies.

Chocolate, coconut and cardamom cookies
I used my usual basic cookie recipe and pretty much just made up the rest as I went along, adding freshly ground cardamom seeds, dessicated coconut, white chocolate and a little dark chocolate that needed using up. Then it was time to bake them and keep my fingers crossed.

The result was delicious, if not quite what I expected! My experience of baking with cardamom is that a little goes a very long way, as it can be quite a pungent flavour, so I was surprised that the cardamom wasn’t quite as strong as I thought it would be.

Chocolate, coconut and cardamom cookies
However, that’s no bad thing, as it was still in the background and didn’t overpower the chocolate and coconut. As always, I thought the cookies could have been a bit more coconutty, but they’re lovely as they are.

I think this recipe would work well with any type of chocolate, really – you just need to be careful to adjust the amount of sugar you put in accordingly, depending on whether you go for all white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate, or a combination of these.

My recipe below lists the quantities that I used, with suggestions for adjusting these depending on which flavour you most like. If you’re looking for a cookie recipe with a difference, this could be it!

Chocolate, coconut and cardamom cookies
Chocolate, coconut and cardamom cookies recipe

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 30g caster sugar (use around 20g more if using all dark chocolate; 10g less for all white chocolate. Keep the same for milk chocolate)
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 5 cardamom pods (use more for a stronger flavour)
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 30g dessicated coconut (use more for a stronger flavour)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 125g white chocolate, roughly chopped (or use any chocolate you like)
  • 50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (or use any chocolate you like)

 

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan 160C. Line some baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Release the seeds from the cardamom pods and grind them to a powder in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
  3. Add the butter, sugars and cardamom to a large bowl and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Stir in the flour, coconut and milk, and mix well to create a loose cookie dough.
  5. Stir in the chocolate, ensuring it’s evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
  6. Take spoonfuls of the dough and roll them into balls, flattening them slightly as you place them on the trays. Space them out to allow for spreading (I usually place no more than nine dough balls on my medium-sized trays).
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until you can see the edges browning but the middles still look a little soft. Take the cookies out of the oven and leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes, before transferring them a wire rack to cool completely.

Strawberry yoghurt cake with lemon drizzle icing

Strawberry yogurt cake with lemon drizzle icing
This is my first post about something I’ve baked in well over a month… crazy! I got back on to the baking wagon in fine style the other week with this strawberry yoghurt cake with lemon drizzle icing, which I decided to make thanks to some leftover strawberries that were practically begging me to bake with them.

Strawberry yogurt cake with lemon drizzle icing

I decided to use this recipe because I’m a sucker for a cake recipe that has that something extra to create a lovely, rich texture – it was yoghurt in this case, but buttermilk and soured cream are just as fantastic. I made sure to use full-fat yoghurt here, as low-fat yoghurt lacks the richness that makes a cake truly special.

Strawberry yogurt cake with lemon drizzle icing

The cake was brilliantly easy to make, although I did have to leave it in the oven for a bit longer than the recipe said. I also added a little lemon zest to the cake mix to add some extra tang. And you can never have too much lemon!

Strawberry yogurt cake with lemon drizzle icing

The texture of this cake was BEAUTIFUL – soft, moist and oh so addictive. I’m slightly ashamed to say that two of us demolished the cake in just two days (although I only had a quarter of it!). We just couldn’t stop eating it.

I’d highly recommend making this cake if you want a teatime treat that makes the most of our wonderful British strawberries while they’re in season. You won’t regret it!

The recipe

Can be found on Cider With Rosie here: http://www.ciderwithrosie.com/2014/05/fresh-strawberry-yoghurt-cake-with-lemon-glaze/

Review: William Curley Chocolate Club – April 2015

William Curley Chocolate Club box - April 2015
I promise to put up a proper baking post next time, but for now, I wanted to complete my trio of William Curley Chocolate Club reviews (see the February box review here and March here). I received the last box of my subscription in April, but didn’t actually polish it off until a couple of weeks ago – shocking, I know!

My slowness in finishing it off had nothing to do with the contents being horrible or anything like that – in fact, I was so sad it was the last box that I was determined to make it last for as long as possible.

Without further ado, the contents of the April box were:

  • A selection of 4 flavoured chocolates
  • Orange teacake
  • Grapefruit (grapefruit jelly covered in chocolate)
  • Fruit financiers
  • Almond and orange caramel mou

William Curley fruit financiers

William Curley fruit financiers
I started with the mini fruit financiers, as they had to be eaten by the looming best before date. I was a little surprised (but not disappointed) to receive these, as they had no chocolate in them at all, but they were exceedingly delicious!

I can’t remember the exact flavours now, but you can see from the ingredients label that each cake was a mixture of fruit and nuts. I do remember that the pistachio financier was particularly divine.

William Curley selection box
Next up was the selection box. I received one of these in my first box and absolutely loved it, so I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any way to tell what was in these chocolates (apart from my own woefully lacking sense of taste), as it didn’t come with a ‘menu’ and I didn’t have the one that came with my first box.

Cue some scribbling of notes as I tasted each chocolate… I think one of them was some sort of salted caramel and another was strawberry, but the other two flummoxed me a bit (my notes: “fruit jelly – cherry?” and “fruity caramel?”. Whatever they were, they were all delicious!

William Curley orange teacake
Then it was on to the orange teacake – teacake as in Tunnock’s, not the fruity bready type. This was a bit of a taste sensation – a substantial shortbread-type biscuit with a generous blob of orange jelly on top, all covered in a thick layer of chocolate. Lovely!

William Curley grapefruit
I was a bit puzzled by the Grapefruit offering at first. Were these preserved grapefruit segments covered in chocolate? Or wedges of grapefruit-flavoured chocolate? Neither, as it turned out. They were slivers of grapefruit jelly covered in lots and lots of chocolate – quite similar in concept to the Orangette from my first box. Again, this was delicious and definitely a little bit different.

William Curley almond and orange caramel mou
My last treat to try was the almond and orange caramel mou, which was basically a pair of chocolate bars filled with almonds and orange-flavoured caramel. I knew I would love this, and it didn’t disappoint. I would be seriously tempted to buy this again if I ever get the chance to!

So, there ends my Curley Chocolate Club experience. It was a fantastic experience all in all, and I have to commend my former colleagues for choosing such a brilliant gift for me! Everything I received over the last three months was of an exceptional quality, and there was nothing I didn’t like.

I’ve said it before, but I would most certainly recommend a subscription if you’re looking for a special present for the chocoholic in your life – or if you’re the said chocoholic and fancy treating yourself. Do it!

A cake I didn’t make + some news

The chocolatiest birthday cake in the world
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? And then I come back with a post about something I didn’t even bake. Sorry. But it’s been a pretty amazing few weeks!

I’ve been fairly busy balancing my (relatively) new job with freelancing on the side, plus I was trying veeerrry hard to be healthy and lose a few pounds ahead of a holiday in the Lake District, so I haven’t really baked much. And then I went on holiday, ate all the food and just so happened to get engaged, which I’m extremely ecstatic about!

It was also my birthday a few days ago, so my boyfriend fiancé made the most fantastic cake to stop me making my own: The Chocolatiest Cake In The World.

The chocolatiest birthday cake in the world
This beauty of a cake is basically the sponge from Felicity Cloake’s perfect chocolate cake recipe sandwiched with chocolate buttercream and covered with ALL the chocolate. I believe there are Galaxy Minstrels, Galaxy Counters and Galaxy Caramel buttons plus chopped up Crunchie, Galaxy Caramel and Double Decker bars on top. AND melted chocolate to finish.

Words cannot describe how good this cake is. It’s so very, very chocolatey! Unfortunately, the richness of the cake means I can only eat it a slice at a time without getting way too full. Fortunately, this means the cake is going to last me a while! Unfortunately, I need to get healthy again after it’s gone.

The chocolatiest birthday cake in the world
Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get back into the swing of baking and blogging. Please don’t expect anything too decadent for my next post, though…!

Passion fruit layer cake

Passion fruit layer cake
I’ve never done anything with passion fruit before, apart from enjoy its juice in a fancy cocktail made by someone else. But I was very taken with this passion fruit layer cake recipe when I came across it on Pinterest, so I made a spur of the moment decision to make it.

Passion fruits are odd things. They’re filled with seeds that you can eat, but the best bit is the orange flesh that produces the aforementioned juice, which is capable of transporting you to a tropical island lapped by turquoise waters with a single sip… mentally, that is.

Passion fruit layer cake
The passion fruits I got were a bit under-ripe, so there wasn’t that much flesh to enjoy. Luckily, they produced just enough juice for this recipe.

The juice goes into the buttercream, which combines with the butter and icing sugar to create a real taste sensation. I couldn’t stop licking the bowl I made the icing in! Some of the juice is also brushed on to the sponges themselves, which is a nice touch.

The sponges came out wonderfully; they were just the right texture for a cake like this. Dense but not heavy, buttery but not too rich – absolutely perfect.

Passion fruit layer cake
Three of us managed to devour two-thirds of this cake within a day, which says everything you need to know about how good this cake is. I managed to somehow part with the rest to give it to my boyfriend’s sister, whose favourite fruit is passion fruit (and who is also a superb baker), and she gave it the thumbs up too.

Passion fruit layer cake
All in all, this is one of those cakes you simply have to make, especially if you’re planning a lovely afternoon tea for when the weather gets a bit nicer and you can sit outside with tea, scones and a centrepiece cake. Do it!

The recipe

Can be found on the Olive magazine website here: http://www.olivemagazine.com/recipes/passion-fruit-layer-cake/4109.html

Review: William Curley Chocolate Club – March 2015

William Curley March box
As mentioned in my first review of the William Curley Chocolate Club, I’m lucky enough to have a 3-month subscription to their lovely little boxes of joy. As the contents of each box vary from month to month, I thought I’d give a quick rundown of the second box I received, this time for March.

The treats again came packaged in a beautiful black box with a ribbon, but I forgot to take a picture in my haste to get to the contents! Never mind – here’s what was inside:

  • House dark truffles
  • Sea salt caramel mou sweets
  • Pistachio sables
  • House dark 65 chocolate bar
  • Aztec hot chocolate

William Curley house dark truffles
The house dark truffles were the first thing I tried, and they were as good as I expected considering how much I enjoyed a similar truffle in the February box. Rich, smooth and oh so flavoursome, I could have easily had 10 of these!

William Curley sea salt caramel mou
I was really excited about trying the sea salt caramel mou sweets, because they looked and sounded so good! The caramel was divine – absolutely perfect, in fact – and the hint of sea salt made these sweets genuinely delicious.

William Curley pistachio sables
I was surprised and excited to see these pistachio sables in the box – I’d assumed everything would be chocolate or sweet-based. But as I love pistachios, I couldn’t wait to try these. The biscuits were very shortbread-like – buttery and crumbly – and the pistachio flavour was amazing intense. They really didn’t skimp on the pistachios when making these, for which I am eternally grateful!

William Curley house dark chocolate bar
This is basically William Curley’s ‘standard’ dark chocolate bar with 65% cocoa solids, but there was nothing standard at all about the flavour! The packaging referred to ‘ripe fruit notes’ that were definitely there and made this a lot more enjoyable than absentmindedly tucking into your average bar of dark chocolate.

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
I haven’t actually had the Aztec hot chocolate as a proper drink yet, but I used some of it in the Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies I made recently. I had a taste before throwing it in, and it seems to be a nicely intense dark chocolate with just a hint of chilli. Hopefully I’ll get round to sampling it as a drink soon!

Overall, this was another excellent box that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m sad that the next box will be my last one (under this subscription anyway!), but I’m looking forward to seeing what it contains!

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
I’ve had a craving for something extremely chocolatey for the last couple of weeks, so I thought I’d give in and bake some brownies for the first time in a while. My boyfriend had been talking about cooking something Mexican at some point, which prompted me to look for a dessert to match – and that’s when I found the recipe for these Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies.

I’ve seen a few recipes for chilli brownies before, but this one seemed unique thanks to the addition of cinnamon, which goes really well with chocolate.

As mentioned, I did want to make something *really* chocolatey, so I adapted the recipe to include more than just cocoa powder. As well as the cocoa, I threw in some chopped dark chocolate (just standard supermarket chocolate) and a little bit of the Aztec hot chocolate I got in the most recent William Curley subscription box.

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies - the chocolate I used
In the original recipe, the chilli kick comes from a quarter of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but I read some comments that suggested this doesn’t make the brownies spicy enough. So I thought I was well within my rights to add the Aztec hot chocolate (which has a hint of chilli) and also up the amount of cayenne pepper to half a teaspoon.

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownie mix
I only thought to taste the mix after I’d transferred it to the tin, and at first I thought it still wasn’t spicy enough – so I liberally sprinkled some more cayenne pepper on top.

After I put the tin in the oven, though, I realised that I could detect a distinct burn from the bit of mix I’d tasted – which probably meant that I’d made the brownies too spicy by adding more cayenne, as I have a higher than average tolerance for chilli (I regularly complain to my mum – the curry queen – that her food isn’t hot enough!).

Oops…

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
I found that I had to leave the brownies in the oven for longer than the recipe said, which is pretty standard for me when making brownies! I took them out when they still looked a bit wobbly in the middle, but I probably should have left them in for a bit longer, as the brownies in the middle were definitely a lot gooier than the ones around the edges. They were still gobbled up, though!

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
Gooey or not, the brownies were absolutely delicious – and not too spicy at all, in the end! The chilli kick was pretty faint for me, but everyone who tasted them also said it was just a background flavour and not too much, so that was a relief.

I’m glad I added the extra chocolate because it really did add an extra dimension, especially the chopped dark chocolate, which created little pockets of gooey loveliness throughout the brownies. The cinnamon definitely lifted these brownies above your bog standard chocolate brownies.

I would definitely make these again – but perhaps add even more cayenne next time…!

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies recipe

Adapted from this recipe.

Makes 18

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 80g cocoa powder
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 50g to 100g chilli hot chocolate (I used William Curley Aztec hot chocolate)
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you’d like it spicier!)
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4/180C. Line a 9 in x 13 in baking tin with a piece of baking parchment/greaseproof paper big enough to hang over the sides.
  2. Gently melt the butter in a large saucepan without letting it come to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla to the saucepan and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the cocoa powder, chopped chocolate, hot chocolate, flour, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and baking powder to the saucepan. Stir gently until smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and tip it from side to side to get the mix into all the corners. Bake for at least 20-25 minutes – if the mix still looks wobbly and liquid, leave the tin in the oven and check at 5 or 10-minute intervals until the brownies are cooked and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with fudgy mix on it.
  6. Cool the brownies in the tin, cut them into 18 pieces and remove them by lifting the paper out of the tin.

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns
As mentioned several times before, I’m trying to practice my bread-making more, as I’m not particularly good at it. These Easter hot cross buns from a Paul Hollywood recipe presented a bit of a challenge for me, but I think I just about overcame it!

One of the intriguing things about this recipe is the addition of chunks of fresh apple, which help keep the hot cross buns moist and add a bit more flavour. There are also a lot of sultanas and mixed peel, along with a generous helping of cinnamon.

The main issue I had to grapple with was, as always, the proving of the dough. The recipe says it takes 4 hours in total to prove the dough (you need to do it three times), but the whole thing including baking took me well over 7 hours!

Hot cross buns
The problem was that the dough seemed ridiculously slow to rise. Things improved when I attempted to warm up the kitchen, covered the trays with greased clingfilm instead of placing them in plastic bags and placed the final shaped dough balls on a chair in front of a hot oven (the last two points are Lorraine Pascale tips!), but I suspect the sheer weight of all the fruit in the dough inhibited the rise somewhat. Either that or I should have kneaded the dough a lot more!

I also had issues with shaping the dough into nice, neat, round buns, which is an ongoing problem for me! Some of the buns ended up slightly deformed as a result, but I just ate those first…

Hot cross buns
I baked the buns in two batches. The first batch was nearly burnt on top, so I put the second batch in for a few minutes less than the first, which seemed to help.

Hot cross buns
Despite the near-burning and the proving issues, the buns tasted so good. The first one I had, fresh from the oven, was absolutely delicious and beautifully sticky from the apricot jam glaze. They were equally good toasted and buttered, too. I really can tell the difference between these and shop-bought hot cross buns!

Would I make these again? Well, perhaps in the height of summer and when I know I have a whole day free! If you have a warmer kitchen than mine, I would recommend this recipe. Paul Hollywood might be a harsh taskmaster, but his bread recipes really do tend to be a cut above the rest.

Hot cross buns
Paul Hollywood’s hot cross buns recipe

Can be found here: http://paulhollywood.com/recipes/easter-hot-cross-buns/