Tag Archives: chocolate

Guinness Chocolate Muffins

2 Apr

You probably don’t know this about me, but I’m half Irish. More specifically, half-Northern-Irish. (Ai-rish, as opposed to Oi-rish). Which I suppose just makes me British. Pete says it doesn’t really count, as I’ve never been to Ireland and seem only to mention my affiliation around March. But I think it’s still worth noting. “It’s my heritage,” I told Pete haughtily. Perhaps I should have told him he was oppressing me.

I remember a story about Bill Clinton, who was interviewed during his presidency on St Patrick’s Day. Asked how he was enjoying the celebrations, he replied: “I feel more Irish everyday!” The story mentioned how he punched the air as he said it. That’s the kind of confidence I should be trying to emulate.

Yeah, I'm starting to see it now Bill

Anyway, St Patrick’s Day was last week ages ago, so in a show of solidarity with my brethren I made some green, boozy cupcakes.

I adapted this recipe from The Goddess Kitchen.

Butter, cocoa, sugar, and Guinness. In the interests of full-disclosure I have to tell you how badly this smelled. Imagine a residential pub at closing time, in the heat of summer, with all the windows shut. It was boozy.

The mixture was incredibly glossy. Like the barnet of a bonny Irish lass.

Sour cream, eggs. This is the meat-and-potatoes part of the recipe.

After a quick whisk with the flour.

I forgot to take pictures of the cakes going into the oven or coming out. So, as if by magic, here they are – already iced. Let’s pretend I had some help from this little guy:

It had to be green. Though the colour-scheme is a bit more Incredible Hulk than Emerald Isle.

After lashings of chocolate decorations, they look a bit merrier.


VERDICT

Taste:

You can definitely taste the Guinness – but in a nice way. It deepens the taste of the chocolate and makes it richer. The icing is a little bit sickly – though perhaps that’s the green colouring throwing-off my sense of taste.

Recipe Pros:

Easy enough to make, and the addition of Guinness makes them a bit different to regular chocolate cakes.

Recipe Cons:

If you can’t/won’t drink alcohol, these aren’t for you.

Marbled Chocolate Mud Cupcakes

10 Mar

I like to think of myself as quite a savvy individual. I mean, I know how to use chopsticks, I can hail a cab, I know which end of a chicken the eggs come out from. Yet apparently I wasn’t always so streetwise.

The scene: My first trip to the British Museum upon arriving in London as an undergraduate.

The objective: To see The Elgin Marbles.

The faux pas: I spent a great deal of time striding past some big, flattish statues hanging on the museum wall while I searched for the cabinet containing what I could only imagine to be a bag of marbles I assumed had once belonged to Elgin.

Did I question why Elgin’s bag of marbles was so impressive? Or indeed why it needed a a gallery all to itself? No, I did not. Thank goodness I went on to do an English degree that taught me about homonyms.

This is a cautionary tale: Today’s cupcakes are also homonymonous – what with them being marbled (the result of combining white and dark chocolate cake mixtures). To avoid further confusion,  the finished product may be referred to as The Hudson Marbles.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking.

Ingredients:

For the dark mud cake

85g butter, chopped

75 g dark eating chocolate, chopped

2/3 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup plain flour

1/4 cup self-raising flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 egg

For the white mud cake

85g butter, chopped

75 g white eating chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/3 cup milk

2/3 cup plain flour

1/4 cup self-raising flour

1 egg

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 160 oC. Grease two six-hole large muffin pans.

2. Make dark mud cake by combining butter, chocolate, sugar and milk in medium saucepan over low heat until melted. Transfer to medium bowl to cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in sifted flours and cocoa, then egg.

3. Make white mud cake by combining butter, chocolate, sugar and milk in medium saucepan over low heat until melted. Transfer to medium bowl to cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in sifted flours, then egg.

4. Drop alternate spoonfuls of the mixture into pan holes. Pull skewer back and forth through cake mixture for a marbled effect. Bake about 30 minutes; allow to cool.

Lovely lovely white chocolate…

… Which then gets melted with butter, sugar and milk into this vaguely disgusting puddle.

Do the same with the dark chocolate.

I’d get that seen by a doctor actually.

Meanwhile, build Hamburger Hill from cocoa powder and flour.

When you’ve finished melting your chocolate-mixes, you should have two bowls, like so.

Now, I thought I would conduct a small experiment with these cakes *stifles maniacal cackle*. I wanted to know what difference could be made by not using cases like I usually do. The holes on the far right have been greased with vegetable oil.

Mmm, greasy.

For the chocolate cake, add the dry ingredients to the bowl of melted chocolate.

Add an egg to make it stiff and glossy.

Once you’ve done the same with the white chocolate, you should have two bowls like this.

Experimental case-filling. For some I’ve started filling with white choc, before topping up with dark. And vice versa.

To get the marbled effect, use a skewer (I used a chopstick) to drag the mixture around inside the case.

When I lived in China I used chopsticks every day for every meal – including the homesick tuna pasta I was able to cobble together in my apartment. Since I’ve been back in the UK, this is the only time I’ve had a use for them (well, one of them).

They remind me a little of these beauties:

Fresh from the oven, you can see some have worked better than others. The cakes on the left are caseless, and are probably the best. On the whole they all look pretty neat.

The white chocolate with the dark on top seems to have worked best – or at least resulted in the most impressive appearance.

This is one of the caseless cakes. Thanks to lashing of vegetable oil, it came out of the tin perfectly. Result!

The swirls on the top keep it looking interesting.

And it’s worked rather nicely inside too.

The cakes with no cases are slightly smaller than the rest. Perfect for snack time!

It’s almost a shame to hide the marbled effect under some frosting. But not enough of a shame to stop me doing it.

Besides, if the top is frosted, you can surprise people when they bite into it. Like the 21st century equivalent of hiding a sixpence in a plum pudding – but without the fear of your guest breaking a tooth – followed by some no-win-no-fee litigation.

I used a simple chocolate buttercream frosting recipe and applied it with a palette knife. I was given this palette knife as part of a job-lot from my lovely mum when I went to university. Now I’ve finally found a use for it!

A generous donation

VERDICT

Taste:

Scrumptious. It’s basically the sanctioned eating-of-two-cakes-at-once. Winning!

Recipe pros:

Because of the two colours, it produces a more interesting cake than usual. The flavour is quite rich and sweet – and doesn’t use too much flour.

Recipe cons:

Reading through the recipe beforehand, there seemed to be a lot of stages. However, once I got started, it was all very simple. You’ll need two clean saucepans and two clean (big-ish) bowls – so there’s more washing-up than usual.

End Note: While searching for pictures of marbles, I came across this beguiling movie poster:

I have no idea what it’s about, considering there’s no blurb no blurb in English on IMDB. Marbles, I would have to assume.

I don’t know if you can quite make it out,  but inside those two marbles are a swastika and a Star of David. Goodness knows what that means. The kids certainly don’t look too worried. It’s all gallic good-naturedness. Probably.

Better not let the Daily Mail get hold of this – they’ll only use it as an opportunity to try and ban school French-exchanges or something.

“HAVE THE FRENCH LOST THEIR MARBLES?” the headline will read. Pointing to the poster they’ll ask: “DO YOU WANT THESE GLASSY-EYED RACE-MONGERS LEADING YOUR CHILDREN ASTRAY?”

And people will say… “Listen, I just came to this blog to read about cake and enjoy your light-hearted attempts at humour, and now I find things have taken a very confusing and unsettling turn. Let’s have less of this next time around, thank you very much.”

So there we have it. No good can come of marbles – Elgin’s, French, or otherwise. Unless of course you’re cramming them into your mouth in cake form.

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

28 Feb

Martha Stewart eh? America’s original domestic goddess. Like a sunnier, less boozy version of our very own Delia Smith. Oh she’s had her struggles alright – that stint in prison after lying about a stock sale for example – but she’s since bounced back better than ever, with new TV shows, books, a cameo appearance on Ugly Betty, and (if Wikipedia is to be believed) a range of prefab houses bearing her name.

But the best thing about Martha Stewart? The broad’s got banging hair. Now this will definitely out me as terminally uncool, but I really covert M-Stew’s ‘do. So shiny, so flippy. Love. It.

Maybe she's born with it?

The second best thing about The Marthster? These chocolate crackle cookies [click the link for the recipe]. They look so cute and contain lottsa chocolate. This is known as a Win Win situation.

First things first: Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Sweaty Room temperature butter. Good grief, did I really use this much?

Of course I did! Can’t get enough of this wonderful stuff!

Butter and sugar ready to be beaten. But woe, the butter seems to be too hard.

The electric mixer is less than useless, so I resort to ye olde fashioned method (aka using a fork). I am surprisingly proficient.

Add melted chocolate. (Here’s the chocolate I melted earlier.)

Blend until delicious. Try to refrain from licking the beaters.

The mixture should be smooth and velvety. The chocolate equivalent of this rabbit:

N.B. This rabbit is velveteen, which is basically a cheap version of velvet. Like pleather, or suedette. Therefore you should actually aim for your chocolate mixture to be an upmarket version of this rabbit.


Separate the mixture into four parts and wrap each one in clingfilm.

“That’s not clingfilm!” rants Pete.

Apparently it’s a generic clingfilm substitute that doesn’t cling properly. However, it’s fine for this purpose.

Yes, I’m well aware of what it looks like. But it smells delish.

Chocolate parcels. Ready for the fridge. Chill for two hours.

And after two hours, it has chilled to a hard mass. Remove “clingfilm”.

Cut the mass into smaller bite-sized pieces and roll them into balls. Like so. Looks good enough to eat already. But here comes the fun part.

Roll it in granulated sugar.

Then roll it in icing sugar.

Stickios digitos.

So remember: That’s granulated sugar…

…Then icing sugar.

You may want to prepare a saucepan of water finger bowl to keep things civilised.

Grease (-proof paper) is the word.

Lay out the balls with plenty of space between – they need room to spread.

Think of hay bales in the summertime

(c) freefoto.com

After a short time in the oven, the balls will flatten out, hopefully leaving you with something like this…

In the interests of full-disclosure, I have to admit that not all of them quite worked out:

I have no idea why. Perhaps they were in a hotter part of the oven, or had too much/not enough sugar on them. They look gross, but still taste great!

VERDICT:

Taste:

Crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle – like a brownie. It’s impossible to eat just one.

Recipe cons:

It’s a bit annoying having to wait for them to chill for two hours. It also gets very messy.

Recipe pros:

It gets very messy. Trust Martha – filthy little minx. And on that note, let’s have Big-M play us out:

Chocolate Zucchini Love Cake

27 Feb

Reason to hate the recession #232: The rise of the SAHG (or Stay At Home Girlfriend). The author of the linked article talks about how, since losing her job, she has thrown herself into becoming a better girlfriend to her partner, and provides tips for emulating her new lifestyle. These include Don’t Sleep In, Keep the House Clean, and Keep Yourself Up.

Aaand back in the real world, I have mostly been wearing… Pajama bottoms!

No, I’m just kidding! (Because they shrunk in the wash.) #domesticityfail.

But it looks like I can’t escape the curse of the SAHG. For Valentine’s Day I made a cake, like the sad-sack little stay-at-home woman I am. And worst of all? It’s a LOVE cake. Shaped like a heart. I feel like Sonja from I’m Alan Partridge with her Scatter Love Cushions.

This recipe is adapted from Noble Pig.

Demonstrating my commitment to the love cake, I bought a heart-shaped silicone cake mould. It’s super fun to play with and apparently doesn’t need greasing.

Here are the zucchinis (or “courgettes” to les rosbifs like you and me).

(Sung to the tune of Sailor’s Hornpipe)

“Pop a courgette in your mouth, just before you make the dough/

What they’re made of is a mystery, where they come from no one knows./

You can pick ’em, you can lick ’em, you can chew ’em, you can stick ’em/

If you promise not to sue us, you can shove one up your nose.”

(A prize if you know where those lyrics originally came from.)

Artisan courgette.

Like the circles that you find in the windows of your mind.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.

Two scoops of butter. Like two hearts beating as one.

Her eyes were like [blank] holes in the snow. (Actually, it’s vanilla extract.)

Nothing says I love you more than a bald orange.

Mixing the wet ingredients with the dry.

Add chopped walnuts, orange peel and courgette.

This is a really strange combination, but I like it.

Put half of the mixture into the mould. Remember – no greasing required!

Now time to enjoy some half-time oranges. It’s a cake of two halves boys.

Alas, disaster strikes! The non-stick silicone mould hasn’t lived up to the hype. Most of the cake comes out, but some is still left in the case…

… Looking a little bit like a freshly dug turf.

Still, what’s that expression about making lemonade when life hands you lemons? The cake scrapings provided ample nourishment as I continued the arduous cake-making process.

For the other half of the cake, I greased the mould with a tiny amount of vegetable oil.

As you can see, this worked much much better.

What a difference it makes. They’re like the brothers from The Man in the Iron Mask – if one of them was hideously disfigured. (I can’t quite remember if that’s what happens in the movie).

Mixing up a batch of cream cheese frosting.

With a LOT of this bad boy.

This is the bottom layer cake, with a layer of frosting.

And here is the finished article: two layers of cake sandwiched with frosting and topped with even more frosting! I’ll tell you something – it wasn’t easy to spread, especially because I was working with that crumbly bit of cake. I should have watched this (incredibly comprehensive) frosting tutorial first.

It’s far from perfect. But it’s choc-full of love (and courgette. And chocolate).

And cream. So much cream.

VERDICT

Taste:

Interesting in a good way. It has a very rich chocolately flavour, but with a slight earthiness. It’s quite a dense cake, so the cream cheese frosting provides a nice sharp counterpoint. Between two of us we could only manage a tiny proportion of the whole cake in one sitting.

Recipe pros:

It’s certainly different. Pete looked at me like I’d gone mad when I told him there were green vegetables in it. So that’s a plus.

Recipe cons:

It look way longer to cook than stated in the original recipe. Perhaps that’s due to the silicone mould. On the whole, it was quite a long process, but then this was a labour of love.

POST SCRIPT: Tragedy struck this cake on 15 February. Somebody (pointing no fingers, Peter) forgot to store it in a tin overnight, and by morning the cream cheese frosting had started to develop sweaty grease-beads. And so it was binned.

Truly a Romeo and Juliet tale for our times.

Choc Chip and Almond Cupcakes

21 Feb

After watching  a charming DVD called The Human Centipede, I needed something sweet and wholesome to rehabilitate my brain and re-inflate my shrivelled soul. And what could be more comforting than chocolate chip and almond cupcakes?

I had a very glamorous assistant to help me with this recipe. His name is Al. Because he probably wouldn’t want his face splashed across the interwebz, here’s an artist’s impression of us cooking together – based loosely on a still from the music video “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon:

“You can call me Al,” Paul Simon seems to say, brandishing some Sainsbury’s chocolate. (So that’s why he’s soft in the middle!) Please note his hairnet. We take elf and safety extremely seriously here at Hudson Towers.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking

Ingredients:

4 egg whites

125g butter, melted

2/3 cup ground almonds

3/4 cup icing sugar

1/4 cup plain flour

100g dark eating chocolate, chopped finely

1/4 cup double cream

100g dark eating chocolate, chopped,  extra

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200 oC. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan.

2. Place egg whites in a bowl and beat with a fork. Stir in butter, ground almonds, sifted icing sugar and flour, and chopped chocolate.

3. Bake cakes about 15-20 minutes. Leave to cool.

4. Meanwhile, combine cream and extra chocolate over heat until combined. Stir until smooth. Stand until thick. Spoon mixture over cupcakes.

Separating the egg white and yolk is always fun. Above is the yolk, and below is the white:

This is not one of the more visually-arresting shots.

Lovely ground almonds. The parmesan cheese of the baking world.

Chocolate. Expertly chopped by Al. It was incredibly difficult not to scoff the lot at this stage.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler. Just give the ingredients a quick mix…

… And that’s it. The recipe uses a surprisingly small amount of flour. I imagine the cakes will be quite light and fluffy in the middle.

And lo! They are. While it looks a little like a rock cake, it has none of the heft. It’s like a prop from an action movie – You could throw it at Bruce Willis’s head and it would bounce right off rather than knocking him out.

Melting double cream and extra chocolate to form a rich topping. (Not pictured: cheeky fingers dabbling in the bowl.)

The creamy chocolate shines when it’s first added…

… Before hardening to a slightly crisper (and matte) top.

VERDICT

Taste:

Delicious. The cake is light and spongy while the chocolate chips give a sweet kick. The chocolate topping is lovely too.

Recipe pros:

Almost impossibly easy, and uses few ingredients.

Recipe cons:

None. I just wish I’d made more.

Now perhaps you’ve had Paul Simon stuck in your head since I first mentioned him at the beginning of this post. If so, lance that popular musical boil by watching this YouTube video:

Skip to 2:10 for the piccolo solo, followed by the nifty synchronised footwork. Imagine that with a spatula and raw eggs, and it’s almost exactly what was going down in my kitchen. Just call me Betty.

Saucy Chocolate Pudding

17 Jan

Among the recipes my mum gave me when I started university was one she’d been given by a friend many years ago. Billed as “Julia’s Perfect Chocolate Pudding”, I decided to made it once during the first term for a group of friends.

It was a total disaster. It cooked only on one side, tasted bitter, and looked like a swamp. I had to throw it away and give people Wagon Wheels instead. “Perfect recipe” my arse. Thanks for nothing Julia. Let’s hope this is better.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking

Ingredients:

60g butter

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup caster sugar

1 cup self-raising flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder, extra

2 cups boiling water

Method (serves 6):

1. Preheat oven to 180 oC. Grease 1.5 litre oven dish.

2. Melt butter with milk in medium saucepan. Remove from heat; stir in extract and caster sugar then sifted flour and cocoa. Spread the mixture into dish.

3. Sift brown sugar and extra cocoa over mixture; gently pour boiling water over mixture. Bake about 40 minutes or until centre is firm. Stand 5 minutes before serving.

Adjustments:

It was only when I started typing up this recipe that I realised I was supposed to grease the pan. I didn’t. And it didn’t seem to make any difference.

I replaced the brown sugar with demerara sugar. I wouldn’t advise this. More details to follow.

Cocoa powder. You’d think no recipe could go wrong once you start with this.

Demerara sugar. See how dense the crystals are?*

Flour. Like the drifted snow at Piz Palü in springtime.

My mise en place, (technically, it’s only a demi-mise, but c’est la vie ma petit pois!)

Melted butter. I wonder if this is what my arteries look like.

Mix it all together, and transfer to (ungreased) dish…

… Then sift sugar onto the chocolate mix.

Yeah, about that. Does the sugar look a little chunky to you?

Sifting the sugar was taking a really long time. *Checks recipe again* Aha, it’s supposed to be brown sugar, rather than demerara. I imagine this is because brown sugar is finer.

* I’ve realised the problem. The crystals are too large to fit through the sieve. Despite my best efforts to shake and scratch it through, it’s a laborious process. I give up and tip half of the sugar back into the packet. Life’s too short.

The sugar layer is covered over with a layer of cocoa powder.

Now this is the bit I find odd. You just pour boiling water over the top of the mixture. The best thing about this recipe is that the pudding makes its own sauce – I guess that’s what this water is all about.

That really doesn’t look right to me.

Delicious swamp. Let’s hope 40 minutes in the oven will transform this bad boy…

Voila. Okay, it doesn’t look like much, but it does look just like the picture, so that’s encouraging. Swampville has been transformed into Lava Land. Chocolate ooze is bubbling through the craters on the surface.

It’s certainly saucy.

VERDICT:

Taste:

Holy goodness – it’s fantastic! What it lacks in presentation, it makes up for in noms. The cake part is bouncy and chewy, while the sauce is thick, sticky and really chocolatey.

Recipe cons:

None particularly. I didn’t miss the demerara sugar that I didn’t use – so I wonder if it’s a totally necessary part of the recipe.

Recipe pros:

It. Tastes. So. Good. And it’s pretty easy to do. Just bung it all in a dish and stick it in the oven. Jamie Oliver would be proud.

More importantly, the curse of Julia and her falsely-advertised “perfect pudding” has been removed once and for all. All hail the new self-saucing pudding.

Chocolate Brownie Muffins

4 Jan

Mmm, chocolate. Actually, I originally glossed over this page when I first flicked through the recipe book. It didn’t look particularly “wow”. But then I got a craving for a good solid gobful of chocolate, and this seemed to fit the bill.

This recipe is taken from the Australian Women’s Weekly Complete Book of Cupcakes and Baking.

Ingredients

2 cups* self-raising flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup caster sugar

60g butter, melted

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup pistachios, chopped coarsely

1/2 chocolate hazelnut spread

1 egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup soured cream

*Measuring Cups


My recipe book is Australian, so they use cup measurements, as do American recipes. Happily, I found these American-style measuring cups in Sainsbury’s for about £4. Sorry Delia – cups are definitely the way forward. For me it’s so much quicker and cleaner than measuring everything out onto a scale.

Method (makes 12):

1. Preheat oven to 200 oC. Fill 12-hole muffin pan with cases, or grease the pan.

2. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl; stir in remaining ingredients.

3. Divide mixture among holes of prepared pan.

4. Bake for about 20 minutes. Dust with sifted extra cocoa if desired.

Adjustments:

I didn’t use pistachios because they were too expensive.

I can’t be bothered to grease the tin, so I’m using cases instead. I like how they look like little upside-down debutantes in tutus. No? Just me then.

Sifting it all together. Is there anything more satisfying?

Mixing in the other ingredients. My silicone spatula-thingy means none of the mixture sticks to the side of the bowl.

See how scraping the bowl had made little cartoon emphasis lines around the chocolate mix? It’s like it’s saying “ta-da!” Or even “ahhhh!” (*phonetic for the angelic song of a holy choir – like that bit at the beginning of The Simpsons).

The mixture is gooey and looks like chocolate mousse.

In you go my pretties.

Anyone know how to bake without making a horrible mess? (Pete would say this is my favourite bit of the process.)

Fresh (literally ten seconds) out of the oven. I did a happy little jig when I saw how they’d risen.

Yes, they looked cracked on top, but so do the ones in the book. Is that a muffin’s defining characteristic?

Voila.

VERDICT:

Taste

After 20 minutes, the kitchen smelled like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. When I get the muffins out of the oven, it’s all I can do not to stick my face in them immediately. And when I do? Lovely – especially with a nice cup of tea.

Recipe cons:

Um, none? Really simple and quick to make. Nothing fiddly. I would say that it is most definitely a muffin and not a brownie – they are light and spongey, rather than having the heaviness/chewiness I’d associate with a brownie. They are, however, brown – so I’ll give it a pass.

Recipe pros:

These are possibly the best things I’ve ever made.

The cakes are moist and bouncy and very chocolatey. The chocolate chips have retained most of their shape and ooze chocolate when you bite into the muffin.