Archive for the 'baking' Category

Gimme s’muffins!

Three stages in the life of a Tasty Muffin:

Full of delicious promise, which will undoubtedly be martyred all too young…

Muffin guts!

The devouring begins. Here we have said muffin exposing its guts. For shame, Tasty Muffin. Have some decency.

All gone

Untimely death! Or, the good ones always die young. But oh how happy you made us, Muffin Friend!

Naturally you understand the progression for an Untasty Muffin would be radically different, and rather more drawn out. In extreme cases, it may even involve mould (though in truth I have never been known to let any muffin, tasty or otherwise, go uneaten long enough to grow mould).

Should you care to make your own, these are Apple and Cinnamon Muffins with a yummy crunchy nut topping. They started out from this recipe, which was itself adapted from something else, but I changed them because I had different ingredients, so here’s my version:

110g or 1 cup white self-raising flour
60g or 1/2 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
100g or 1/2 cup sugar (I used a mixture of brown and white)
50g or 1/4 cup margarine
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 small apples, finely sliced
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

For the topping:
30g sugar (about 1/8 cup)
25g / 1/4 cup nuts chopped (I used walnuts but I think pecans may be nicer here)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp oil

Makes about 12.
1. Preheat your oven to 180 C / 350 F. Line a muffin tin with muffin cases.
2. Mix all the topping ingredients together in a bowl, ensuring they are fully combined.
3. In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients for the muffin mixture (flours, sugar, cinnamon and salt).
4. Next add all the wet ingredients (egg, milk, margarine) and stir to combine.
5. Fold the apples into the mixture.
6. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and sprinkle some topping over each muffin.
7. Bake for between 20 and 25 minutes, and allow to cool before removing them from the tins.


Fruits of a lost weekend.

Ok, not that kind of lost weekend. I’m just not that cool. Or despairing. Which is good, I feel. Anyway, I had planned a weekend of determined sloth this weekend (since as of last Friday I am officially free of college work for a little while), and it is with great pride that I say I followed through on this with exceptional ease. There was lots of lounging around, wearing pyjamas long past hours of the day when it is acceptable to wear pyjamas, newspaper-reading, tea-drinking, and general lazy frivolity. My kind of weekend.

I even managed a little productivity, but only of the very low-key, purely enjoyable kind. Firstly, I made cookies:

Hazelnut, Raisin and Oatmeal Cookies

Then I knit. I finished the back of Jess, and am now onto the first of the front pieces.

Jess - Back completed

The cookies were a big hit, and pretty damn tasty. The original recipe came from Delia Smith’s Vegetarian Collection, but I adapted it a bit and it became vegan, so I’m posting the new version here in case anyone wants to have a go.

Hazelnut and Sultana Vegan Oat Cookies

Makes 16-20


4 oz (110g) self-raising flour
4 oz (110g) oat-flakes
4 oz (110g) margarine (not all margarines are vegan, so be sure to check if this is an issue for you)
3 oz (75g) brown sugar
2oz (50g) sultanas
1.5 oz (40g) hazelnuts, chopped into small chunks
1 dessert spoon golden syrup
1 dessert spoon maple syrup
pinch of salt

2 lightly greased baking sheets
Preheat oven to 170 C/340

1. Melt the margarine, sugar and both syrups in a small saucepan over a very low heat until dissolved. Remove from the heat.
2. Sift the flour and salt together into a mixing bowl. Add the oatflakes and two-thirds of the sultanas and nuts.
3. Stir together, then add the margarine mixture.
4. Mix well with a wooden spoon, then form a dough with your hands. You may need to add a few drops of water at this point if it seems a little dry.
5. Take about a heaped teaspoonful of the mixture and roll it into a ball in your hand. Flatten out fairly thin, to about 2.5 inches/6cm, and place on baking tray. They’ll be fairly crunchy when cooked so you don’t want to make them too thick. Repeat this until you’ve used up the rest of the mixture, and then scatter the remaining nuts and sultanas on top.
6. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 mins. Leave to cool for 10 mins. Eat!

Hazelnut, Raisin and Oatmeal Cookies

Oh I also watched a really sweet film which I highly recommend if you’re ever searching for something to watch.

So long!

A meditation on cups.

Some time last year I was over in Boston to visit the Boy, and decided that in return for having me to stay so often, I should cook his housemates dinner one night. The meal plans soon gained a two-fold raison d’etre: as a thank you from me, and as an attempt to prove to one or two fairly dedicated carnivores that vegetarian food could be both tasty and filling. Much thought was given to what to make, and eventually I settled on a spinach and ricotta lasagna with pine nuts (this one). The ingredient-shopping was unexpectedly challenging, as I hadn’t really allowed for the fact that certain of the ingredients, everyday to me, were not so commonplace in American supermarkets. Eventually, home we arrived, laden down with bags of tasty food items just waiting to realise their dinner destiny. The chopping and preparing began, and all was going smoothly until I needed to measure out some flour.

“Where’s your scales?” I asked the Boy.

“Scales?” He looked at me quizzically.

Attributing this unusual response to the fact that the Boy is not well acquainted with baking, I asked two of his more frequently-baking housemates who had just walked into the kitchen. To my horror, I got the same response.

“What’s a scales?” they wanted to know.

At this point, I was starting to panic. Saucepans were bubbling over, stomachs were getting growlier, and how was I going to cook anything without being able to measure out my ingredients??

“Ooooh,” they chorused, “just use cups!”

And so measuring cups of all shapes and sizes were duly produced, and a whole new world appeared before my very eyes. Ingredients could be measured by VOLUME instead of weight!! This was truly a revelation. I returned to Ireland a week later determined to introduce this new way of cooking into my regular life. To my delight, my sister bought me a set of my very own which are not only a perfect shade of blue, but they also combine cup-style measurements with my more familiar metrics, having both marked on them.

Blue measuring cups

Yesterday I spent the afternoon baking a cake to bring to a housewarming dinner party in my friend’s house, and as the chosen recipe was an American one, I jumped at the chance to use my precious cups. I’m not sure why I find using these infinitely more fun to weighing things out on a scales, but I now view it as far superior. You can just put things in there, and however much fits is the right amount!! Amazing! However, I still think it’s peculiar for certain ingredients. Butter, for example. Are you really supposed to mush it into the cup to see how much butter fits in one cup, and then that’s what you use? Is this the crack in the system – the chink in the armour, the achilles heel of it all – or am I just insufficiently educated in the ways of baking with cups? (If you know something I don’t, speak up!)

Tragically, my delight at the wonderful simplicity of the cup-method didn’t save my cake from, er, exploding on me. The bottom of the oven is now a sticky mess, and my cake-halves? They look like this:

Cake disaster

I’m fairly sure that greaseproof paper isn’t meant to be impaling my cake…

There was obviously going to be no getting them out of the tins in whole pieces, so I gave up on the attempt and transformed my once-held dreams of an elegant, grown-up cake into what I sadly and yet slightly triumphantly termed “dessert mash”. See for yourself:

Cake disaster becomes

Accidental as the end result was, it was heartily received. I’m still not happy, but I have only myself to blame. The recipe is from Orangette if you think you can beat my attempt. And you can, I assure you, you can.