Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf After some weird is-it-or-isn’t-it to-ing and fro-ing with the weather, it’s definitely autumn now – which means it’s time to bake with lots of spices and dried fruit! I decided to make this fig, orange and star anise tealoaf from Ruby Tandoh’s Crumb recipe book a few days ago. It’s her favourite recipe in the book – and I can certainly see why.

This is very much a tealoaf as opposed to a cake – there’s no butter in the recipe, only milk, but the lovely dried figs do much to add some moisture to the loaf. The other magic ingredients are orange zest and star anise. I don’t think I’ve ever baked with star anise before – I only have it in the house because it’s goes well in certain Indian curries – but it really is the star of the show with its warming aniseed flavour.

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf
The tealoaf was very straightforward to make, and even baked in the time specified in the recipe (praise be!). It rose a lot more than I was expecting it to, mainly because I have a history of making loaf-shaped things that refuse to rise. All in all, this was a bit of a miracle already, and I hadn’t even tasted it yet by that point.

I made this after work on Wednesday night, so I pulled it out of the oven *just* in time for GBBO. We had slices of the tealoaf warm with lashings of butter on top, which is just the perfect way to have it! There’s still some left, so I’ve been toasting and buttering slices of it as it gets a little staler.

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf
The flavours are amazing – I prefer dried figs to fresh, so I loved them anyway, but the slight tang of orange zest and that beautiful star anise really help this tealoaf to shine. I would thoroughly recommend this recipe if you fancy baking something autumnal in the coming months.

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf
As I said, the recipe is in Ruby’s excellent cookbook, but you can also find it online here.

Orange and date muffins

Orange and date muffinsI had a sudden urge one night to bake something reminiscent of sticky toffee pudding. After looking through some of my saved recipes, I decided to adapt a recipe for prune muffins by making a few tweaks to create these orange and date muffins.

I’m going to be upfront here: they went a bit wrong. I managed to completely forget about the sugar until the muffins were in the oven! Luckily, I realised only a few seconds after I put them in, so I quickly whisked them out again and attempted to mix the sugar into each muffin case.

I wasn’t completely successful – it was difficult to make sure the sugar was completely mixed in, so when they came out, they had slightly caramelised tops from the sugar that didn’t dissolve into the mix. It sounds a bit weird, but (much to my relief) the caramelised tops actually meant the muffins were rather nice!

Orange and date muffins
There were still little pockets in each muffin that were a bit more… savoury than the rest, but the dates really helped to add some sweetness, and the orange zest and cinnamon was a nice distraction.

I took the muffins into work, and no one would have known I’d had a disaster in the kitchen if I hadn’t told them, so I think I got away with it!

I would recommend that you do actually beat the sugar into the muffin mix *before* spooning it into the cases, but if you also want some nice caramelised tops, all you have to do is sprinkle a bit more sugar on top – I think demerara would be perfect for this! See my recipe below for full details…

Orange and date muffins

Orange and date muffins recipe

Adapted from this recipe.

Makes 12 muffins

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 250ml milk
  • 125ml sunflower oil
  • 80g soft dark brown or dark muscovado sugar
  • 285g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Zest of one orange
  • 115g pitted dates, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp demerara sugar (optional)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases, or grease thoroughly.
  2. Mix together the egg, milk and oil in a measuring jug, then mix in the sugar. Set aside.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in the orange zest.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and pour the liquid mix into it. Stir until just combined (do not overmix, otherwise you’ll end up with horrible, rubbery muffins).
  5. Fold in the dates.
  6. Spoon the mix into the muffin tin. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top of the mix in each case, if using.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes until risen and browned on top. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dark fennel seed cake with orange zest icing

Dark fennel seed cake with orange zest icing
My fiancé has been asking me to make this cake ever since I obtained Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet years ago. The recipe in the book is called dark aniseed cake, but I substituted the aniseed for fennel seeds as suggested in the recipe, hence the different name of dark fennel seed cake. I stuck to the recipe for pretty much everything else, and ended up with one of the most surprising, delicious cakes I’ve had in some time.

There were a few new ideas for me to grapple with in this cake – especially using spelt flour and baking with fennel seeds – and I also had to use a round tin instead of a square one as stated in the recipe, because my square tin wasn’t deep enough. So, there was plenty that could have gone wrong (especially as it calls for ale, which meant I had to drink what I didn’t use…)!

Happily, the only thing that went wrong was the consistency of the icing (made with orange zest and juice), which was a bit too runny and slopped over the sides rather messily, hence the lack of a photo of the entire cake. But runny icing really doesn’t matter when you have a delicious cake that manages to combine the liquorice flavours of fennel seeds and treacle with the fruitiness of prunes and orange, topped off with the comforting heft of the spelt flour.

Dark fennel seed cake with orange zest icing

Let’s admire my Wonder Woman mug for a minute…

We honestly couldn’t stop eating this cake. It’s such a good autumn cake thanks to the spicy flavours, but it’s a world away from your normal ginger or fruit cake. I would really recommend this recipe if you love autumnal flavours in your baking, but want to try something a little bit different!

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.

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies
I came across this recipe for Ferrero Rocher brownies a few days ago, and couldn’t stop thinking about it. There’s something rather amazing about the thought of a squidgy, decadent brownie with a Ferrero Rocher in the middle! Yesterday, I decided to just go for it and make them, albeit with a little Christmassy twist – hence these chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies.

I adapted a trusty brownie recipe I use a lot to make the cake itself, adding the zest of an orange and replacing 100g of the dark chocolate with some Milka Noisette chocolate I just so happened to have in. I also threw in some chopped hazelnuts at the last minute. Then I followed the suggestion of the recipe I found and put half the mix in the tin, studded it with the Ferrero Rochers, then put the rest of the mix on top.

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies, pre-topping and baking

The brownies took a while to cook – I would say about an hour overall. But they were still beautifully moist and not in the least bit dry when they came out of the oven.

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies
I couldn’t wait for them to cool! When they finally did, I was in chocolate heaven. The orange zest is absolutely lovely with the chocolate, and the chopped hazelnuts and decadent middle add a nice bit of texture. These really are brownies for the serious chocoholic in your life, and could also make a wonderful Christmas treat thanks to the festive orange. You could also omit the chopped hazelnuts and use a dark chocolate orange in place of some or all of the chocolate – the choice is yours!

While I’ve reserved a few of these for myself, I’m going to take the rest with me when I go to visit my boyfriend in a little while – he absolutely loves both chocolate orange and hazelnuts, so I’m thinking these will be a big hit!

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies
The recipe

Makes 16 brownies

  • 250g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids)
  • 100g hazelnut-flavoured milk chocolate (or use more dark chocolate, or orange-flavoured chocolate, or whatever you like!)
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250g light brown sugar
  • 85g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g chopped toasted hazelnuts (optional)
  • 16 Ferrero Rocher chocolates

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/160C/140C fan. Grease and line a 20cm square tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl set above a pan of simmering water. Stir in the zest, set aside and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Whisk the eggs until pale then add the sugar and whisk again thoroughly.
  4. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
  5. Sift in the flour and baking powder, add the hazelnuts if using, and stir until just combined.
  6. Pour just over half of the mix into the tin, embed the Ferrero Rochers into the mix then pour over the rest of the brownie mix.
  7. Bake for about 1 hour, checking the brownies after 40 mins in case your oven is better than mine!
  8. Once the brownies look set on top, remove them from the oven and leave them in the tin to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing them up.

First bake: chocolate orange cake with cream cheese icing

Chocolate orange cake with cream cheese icingI was recently alerted to the launch of something amazing by Asda – chocolate orange cream cheese. Being a fan of the wonderful Philadelphia-Cadbury lovechild that is chocolate cream cheese, I couldn’t wait to get this wonderful concoction and do something baking-related with it.

Chocolate orange cream cheeseI briefly considered a chocolate orange cheesecake, but I don’t have a great track record with cheesecake in general, so I settled on a decadent chocolate orange layer cake with chocolate orange cream cheese icing instead. You can already feel the calories piling on just by reading that, can’t you?

I used a Mary Berry recipe for the sponges. Strangely enough, this was my first attempt at a Mary Berry recipe, despite being a huge GBBO fan. Suffice to say, the cakes turned out wonderfully!

Chocolate orange cake mix

Chocolate orange cake mix

I let the cakes cool overnight then made a simple icing by beating together the chocolate orange cream cheese, icing sugar and butter. I sandwiched the cakes together with half of the icing then spread the rest on top, and decorated it with some segments of a dark chocolate orange to finish it off.

Chocolate orange cake with cream cheese icingI couldn’t wait to try the finished cake! I have to say, it was absolutely amazing – the sponge was moist and flavoursome, while the icing was simply wonderful. I wouldn’t say the chocolate orange flavour of the cream cheese was particularly strong, but it was definitely there, and the richness of the cheese provided a wonderful contrast to all the sugar and cocoa.

I would most certainly make this again without changing anything – I just hope Asda keep this cream cheese in production for a good while longer!

Chocolate orange cake with cream cheese icingThe recipe

For the sponges, follow Mary Berry’s recipe for chocolate orange cake. You can either use her filling or my own, below:

  • 200g pack of chocolate orange cream cheese, available from Asda (or make your own with normal cream cheese, cocoa and orange zest or flavouring)
  • 40g icing sugar, sifted
  • 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  1. Beat together the sugar and butter until smooth, then stir in the cream cheese and mix well.

First bake: orange macaroon cake

Orange macaroon cakeMy love of coconut is well-documented on this blog. Whenever I’ve baked with it in the past, though, I’ve tended to pair it with fairly obvious flavours – cherries, raspberries and mangoes, for example. So I was intrigued when I came across this recipe for orange macaroon cake in Dan Lepard’s excellent Short & Sweet recipe book.

I would never have thought of pairing coconut with orange, but it’s a combination that works oh so well in this cake. It probably helps that the orange flavour is incredibly strong – there’s the zest of two oranges in the sponge (as well as a large splash of orange liqueur) and then the zest of one orange plus some juice in the icing. Yum!

Orange macaroon cake mix

Orange macaroon cake mix

The cake was very easy to make. The sponges came out beautifully – I had to leave them in a little longer than the recipe said, but that wasn’t really a problem. The icing was a doddle and the recipe makes just enough for the top and middle of the cake, which is something of a rarity in my experience as I usually end up with far too much! One thing I would say is don’t forget to sift the icing sugar first – I always do this when making icing and it really makes such a difference to the consistency.

Orange macaroon cakeThe coconut flavour comes from dessicated coconut, but I think next time I would reduce the amount of triple sec and add a splash of Malibu to even things out slightly, and perhaps use some coconut cream in the icing. That’s not to say you can’t taste the coconut – it’s definitely there, but as you all know by now, I can always go for more!

Orange macaroon cakeThis really is a lovely cake and I would heartily recommend it if you have a thing for citrusy bakes and/or fancy trying something a little bit different with coconut. You won’t regret it!

The recipe

From Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard, and also available online here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/apr/12/foodanddrink.shopping2