Sunday 26 July 2015

Iceland 2015

When I say I went to Iceland on my holidays, people seem genuinely curious about what it's like. It's a country I didn't know much about before I went and since I've come home have been solidly raving about. We drove route one, starting and ending in Reykjavik. From lush green fields framed by glacier topped volcanos with grazing Icelandic ponies to powder blue geothermal pools, every road has the wow factor. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

Feel free to contact me if you are planning a trip!

Inside the Volcano Tour

Inside the Volcano

Pingvellir National Park

Pingvellir National Park

Waterfall in Pingvellir National Park

Seeing the tectonic plates separating in Pingvellir National Park



Breakfast spot




Dyrholaey Black Sand Beach

Dyrholaey near Vik

Random waterfall on the road

Hiking in Skaftafell National Park


Glacier tongue in the background

East Fjords

Road to Eglisstadir

Waterfall on the road to Seydisfjordur

Ice on the Mountains on the Road to Seydisfjordur

Crator in Myvtan

Geothermal Hvellir in Myvtan

Lake in Myvtan

Crator Viti in Myvtan



Dyrholaey black sand beach

Dyrholaey- walk to the lighthouse

Road in the South

Fjallsjokull- Glacier Lagoon 

Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon

Asybrgi Canyon

Friday 5 June 2015

Brown Butter White Chocolate Rhubarb Blondies

I love rhubarb. It's unapologetically tart and not particularly pretty. It doesn't care that it packs a hell of a punch without sugar and makes your jaws tingle just below the ear.   

As much as I love the rhubarb classics (crumble, hot with vanilla ice cream please!), I feel like it needs to be brought out of the dark ages and mixed up a little. It feels a little..... behind the times. Cue incessant flavour combination brainstorming and googling.  

These brownies are perfect. Moist on the inside, crunchy on the top  with chunks of sweet white chocolate balanced with bursts of sharp rhubarb flavour. Brown butter should be a 'secret weapon' in every baker's arsenal. It adds that toffee depth of flavour that I love and have been incorporating into everything I can from cookies, brownies and cupcakes.

Adapted from Hummingbird High

1 tablespoon sugar
2 big stalks of rhubarb (around 220g)
100 g butter
50g dark brown sugar
60g caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, beaten lightly in a cup
100g plain flour, sifted
100g white chocolate

1. Heat the oven to 200oC.
2. If the rhubarb is young and tender as it should be at this time of year you can leave the skin on. Chop up the rhubarb into 2cm size chunks. Scatter on a roasting tray and sprinkle over the sugar.
3. Cover loosely with foil and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until soft but holding their shape. The cooking time will depend on the rhubarb so keep a close eye on it. Take it out and allow to cool. Turn the oven down to 180oC.
4. Meanwhile put the butter is a small saucepan and heat on low until it is fully melted. Turn up the heat to medium. The butter will sizzle and then go quiet and become brown at the bottom. Take off the heat and allow to cool fully.
5.  Mix together the butter, flour and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the egg and butter and mix until fully combined. The mix will be similar to a soft cookie dough.
6. Chop the white chocolate finely into the size of chips and mix well.
7. Pour the mix into an 8 x 8 inch shallow tin lined with greaseproof paper. Smooth out with a spatula.
8. Press the pieces of rhubarb into the mix gently.
9. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the blondies have a good crust on top but are soft to the touch.

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Mascarpone Cream Lemon Cake

I want to see your handwriting. I want to see whether it is joined up in fancy curls or written in no frills print. I want to know whether your letters tilt just slightly to the right or to the left and whether you always remember to dot your i's and cross your t's.

Mine is scrawled and messy, always hurried even when I am not in a hurry. I am a teacher's nightmare, a cross of joint writing and indeschiperable blur.

I think, like your favourite flavour of cake, you handwriting says a lot about you. I think that if you fancy this cake you like your life to be clean and simple, but aren't afraid to splurge on a little bit of luxury when you feel like you deserve it.

Adapted from a John Waites recipe

For the candied lemon - make the night before if possible
2 lemons
600ml water
175g caster sugar
100ml water

For the cake
125g margarine, softened
125 caster sugar
125g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
zest of 2 lemon
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

For the filling
250g mascarpone
200ml cream whipped to soft peaks
zest of lemon
150g icing sugar, sifted

1. For the candied lemon use a sharp knife or peeler to cut lengths of peel from the lemons. Use the knife to scrape off any white pith, but no need to be too fussy,
2. Place the lemon peel in a saucepan with 200ml of the water. Bring to the boil, then dump out the water. Add another 200ml of water, bring to the boil then drain and repeat one more time. You should have brought the mixture to the boil 3 times in total.
3. Place 100g of sugar and the 100ml of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the lemon and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile place the remaining 75g sugar in a shallow bowl and have a sheet of greaseproof or non stick paper nearby. Drain the water off the lemon peel and then place the lemon peel in the bowl. Toss well so that the sugar sticks. Transfer to the greaseproof paper after knocking off excess sugar and leave to dry for a few hours. Overnight is best.
5. For the cake, beat the margarine and sugar together until pale. Add the lemon zest and beat on high for one minute. In a dry bowl sift the flour and baking powder.
6. Whisk the eggs in a cup very lightly. Add a good dash of egg with a heaped tablespoon of flour to the margarine mix and beat well. Repeat until all the egg is used up.
7. Fold in the remaining flour and baking powder. Finally gently fold in the lemon juice.
8. Grease and line 2 20 inch round cake tins. Divide the mix evenly between the tins and bake at 180oC for 18-20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
9. Allow the cakes to cool completely. When completely cold cut the cakes horizontally to create four layers.
10. To make the icing beat the mascarpone until very soft and pliable. Add the lemon zest and beat for another minute. Sift over the icing sugar and beat well for 2 minutes. Fold in the cream gently with a big spoon.
11. Pipe or spoon the frosting onto the first layer of cake, building the layers and finishing with a layer of frosting on top and the candied lemon zest.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Milk Chocolate Ganache Brown Butter Doughnuts

I always have fun when I bake but I enjoy a messy, many-complicated-steps, every bowl in the house dirty baking adventure. If you like your baking fun with a little less chaos these doughnuts are perfect. You will need a doughnut pan as these babies are baked, not fried. The pans don't cost the earth (€15 approx.) and honestly these doughnuts are such a crowd pleaser that you will use your pan over and over.

Baked doughnuts have a different texture to fried doughnuts, being more cake-like. I went belt and braces with the chocolate topping favouring a rich chocolate ganache over an icing sugar based watery glaze.

Chocolate, coffee, men and icing - so much better when they're rich!

Doughnuts slightly adapted from
Makes 6-8 doughnuts, depending on the size of the pan

1 cup plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup caster sugar
30g unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the ganache
2 1/2 tablespoons of cream
70g chocolate, finely chopped

1. Sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Add the sugar and mix well.
2. Put the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Melt gently and then continue to cook the butter. The butter will sizzle, then go silent and flecks of brown will begin to form. Allow to cool.
3. Heat the oven to 160oC and dip a pastry brush into the melted butter and use to grease the doughnut pan. Put the pan into the fridge.
4. Gently fold the buttermilk, egg, vanilla extract and brown butter into the flour/sugar mix.
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The doughnuts will be pale on top but darker underneath. Use a skewer to check whether the doughnuts are cooked through. The skewer should come out clean.
6. For the ganache, heat the cream in a cup in the microwave for 20-30 seconds until just at boiling point. Pour over the chopped chocolate and stir with a spoon until smooth And thick.
7. When the ganache is still warm, dunk the doughnuts into the glaze, cooked side down. Hold the doughnut over the bowl, swirling 180oC to remove the excess and ensure the ganache sets evenly.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies

I may be a chocolate + pretzel addict....

First I made these Salty Pretzel Chocolate Brownies and they were such a delicious chocolately salty soft and crunchy sensation that  my food imagination went into overdrive and I made these Salted Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Doughnuts.

It was only a matter of time before one obsession met another- 'browning' butter. You will notice a subtle caramel undertone in your cookies if you add brown butter AND it also makes this dough easy to roll into balls before baking.

Makes 2 dozen

100g butter
110g caster sugar
50g soft brown sugar
100g chocolate chips
175g plain flour
50g crushed pretzels
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla

1. Brown 50g of butter by heating in a saucepan over a medium heat. When the butter starts to crackle, turn the heat down. Take off the heat when plenty of brown flecks appear and the butter goes silent. Leave to cool completely.
2. Cream 50g butter and the sugars in a bowl with an electric beater for 5-6 minutes. Add a third of the egg with a tablespoon of flour and beat well. Continue to use up all of the egg.
3. Add the vanilla and brown butter beat briefly for 1 minute.
4. Add the flour and baking powder and mix until fully combined, but try not to get too heavy handed.
5. Finally fold in the pretzels and chocolate chips. Roll into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.
6. Heat the oven to 180oC. Roll the dough into balls and place well spaced apart on a baking sheet.
7. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden at the edges.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Chocolate Coffee Pecan Buns

The weekend is my happy coffee time. If I drink coffee at work, I am usually feeling tired and in need of an energy boost. But at the weekend, I savour it. A good cup of coffee is a giant exhale, a high-five, a 'whoop' it's the weekend. 

And I won't just make a cup of coffee for anything. It has to be for something good. A great read, an interesting article, a cool podcast, a great episode of my favourite-right-now TV show. A good cup of coffee at the weekend cannot be squandered.

And just as the moment must be right, so too must the accompaniment. Enter soft pillowy dough and swirls of coffee chocolate pecan sweetness. God I am in LOVE with these buns. The dough recipe is taken from Donal Skehan's recipe for Swedish Cinnamon Buns,.

Yeah it has yeast in it so you need to hang around for an hour or so to let it rise and do 5 minutes of kneading if you don't have a food processor, but honestly it's extremely straightforward. I experimented with the filling, departing from the traditional cinnamon flavour and really do love the chocolate and chocolate combo. The coffee cuts through the sweetness of the milk chocolate and the pecan nuts provide a toffee tasting crunch. 

Because I am a hipster wannabe I baked them in a cast iron skillet. You can bake these buns free form on a baking sheet or in muffin cases. 

Go on.... Your weekend coffee deserves a worthy partner.

Makes around 12 rolls

200ml milk
1 sachet instant action yeast
55g butter, melted
55g caster sugar
375g plain flour
1-2 tsp salt

For the filling
40g butter
55g sugar
30g milk chocolate
1 heaped tsp instant coffee powder
1 tblsp cocoa powder
125g pecan nuts

1. Heat the milk and butter over a low heat in a saucepan or in the microwave until the butter is almost melted. Take off the heat, stir until the butter is fully melted, add a teaspoon of sugar and allow to cool.
2. When lukewarm, sprinkle over the sachet of yeast and whisk well. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes frothy. If it doesn't get frothy, then check the sell by date on your yeast and start again.
3. Put the flour, salt and caster sugar in a bowl. Add in the yeast mixture and mix until a ball of dough forms. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-6 minutes until the ball is smooth and no longer ragged.
4. Put the dough into a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 1 hour to 1.5 hours in a warm place like the airing cupboard or beside (but not on) a radiator, until doubled.
5. To make the filling, put the chocolate in a small saucepan with the butter and heat until evenly melted. Take off the heat and add the coffee and cocoa powder. Allow to cool and then add the sugar. Mix well until a thick paste forms.
6. Heat the oven to 190oC and chop the pecan nuts gently.
7. Punch the air out of the dough, tip onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle 3mm thick. Spread the paste liberally and sprinkle over the pecan nuts, not forgetting the corners but leaving a 1cm border around the rectangle.
8. Starting at the long side roll the dough like a swiss roll to create a snail-like effect.
9. Once fully rolled up, use a knife to cut the dough into 12 pieces. Place cut side up into a cast iron skillet or a flat bottom pan suitable for the oven which has been greased and lined on the bottom with a sheet of baking paper. Leave an inch or so between each buns. Do not overcrowd or your buns won't cook properly and will be soggy. You may have one or two extra if your pan is as big as mine. Bake these free form on a baking sheet.
10. Leave the buns to rise for another 30 minutes and then brush with a little beaten egg for shine before baking for 15-18 minutes until golden.

Monday 19 January 2015

Salted Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Doughnuts

Listening to: Serial- A journalist becomes obsessed (in her own words) with the murder of a teenage girl in Baltimore in 1999. Her ex boyfriend has been convicted of her murder but has maintained his innocence since his imprisonment at 17. Thorough research and excellent journalism results in an utterly intriguing podcast series detailing her investigation. I have never really gotten into podcasts, but Serial demonstrates how effective they can be when done properly. While baking, on the way to work, cleaning the house, chilling out with a cup of coffee. I'm hooked on Serial!

Raving about: The Walworth Farce at the Olympia theatre - I don't go to the theatre enough. So compelling, so intense, dark and bitter and sweet and funny. Brilliantly executed with thrilling performances from the Gleeson family. What are we if not our stories? I think all the weekend shows are sold out but if you are around Dublin and free on a week day definitely go. If you don't believe me listen to what Aaron Paul had to say when he saw it this week.
Reading: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Don't read too many reviews of this, all you need to know is that this a story about family, laced with humour, deft observations and interesting nougats of psychology. Short listed for the Man Booker prize, this is one of my favourite books in a long time. 

Eating: Baked Doughnuts! I am a foodie fad follower and when baked doughnuts started cropping up on my favourite blogs I knew I had to get a baked doughnut pan. They don't cost very much but you will need to go to a specialist kitchen shop. The possibilities are endless, but where better to start then chocolate and salted caramel frosting! The crushed pretzels add a salted crunch. In truth, they aren't much different than cupcakes but they are so much more fun! 

Makes 10 

Adapted from Joy the Baker
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp finely ground coffee powder (or melt instant granules in a tiny splash of water)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
25g milk chocolate, melted
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
50g butter

For the frosting
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup cream
25g butter
1 tsp coarse salt
1 cup pretzels, crushed
1 cup icing sugar, sieved
3 tablespoons cream

1. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, coffee and cinnamon into a big bowl. Add the salt.
2. Heat the butter over a low heat until melted. Continue to heat until the butter begins to crackle and brown. Take off and allow to heat.
3. Spray the doughnut pan with cooking spray or brush with melted butter. Put in the fridge to cool completely.
4. Add the butter, egg and melted chocolate and mix well until completely combined.
5. Heat the oven to 180oC. Only fill the doughnut pan 3/4 full and bake for 12-15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Make the frosting. Heat half of the sugar over a low-medium heat watching cautiously. When the sugar has melted sprinkle over the rest in an even layer and allow to melt. Heat for 4-6 minutes until the sugar is copper coloured. Don't allow to get too dark.
7. Add the 1/2 cup cream into the caramel. The mixture might become lumpy, but keep whisking over a low heat until it becomes smooth again.
8. Add the butter and salt and whisk until melted and glossy. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool completely. If there are any lumps, sieve them out.
9. Beat the icing sugar, cream and 3 tablespoons of the salted caramel with an electric whisk until smooth.
10. Crush the pretzels. Spread the doughnuts with the frosting and sprinkle over the pretzels.