Sunday, 25 January 2009

Dark chocolate muffins with a coconut mocha glaze

When I was growing up in Norway childrens' birthdays were marked with chocolate cake -hardly unique I grant you - but the Norwegian version of chocolate cake was improved significantly with a sprinkling of desiccated coconut. These muffins are the adult version of birthday cakes from bygone years - not only do they look pretty but they're simple to make. Actually, they're not adult at all, kids would love these as much as you or I do. 

Anyway, here's the recipe and it's pretty standard. Plus there's an easy glaze and pretty coconut sprinkles to top it all off. What more could a girl ask for on a Sunday afternoon? As we say in Norwegian, deilig!
  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 125g butter
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 150g light brown soft sugar
  • 100g plain yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp instant coffee
  • pinch salt
Preheat oven to 190 C. Line a 12x muffin tin with paper cases.

Place the chocolate, butter, coffee granules and cocoa powder in a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water. Allow the mixture to melt (should take about 5 mins) and then take off the heat to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, salt and bicarb. Stir together and then add the egg, yogurt, vanilla and give everything a quick stir. Then add the melted chocolate mixture. If it's very thick, add a couple of tablespoons of milk or water to the mixture - you don't want it dense, more like a light mousse consistency.

Stir the mixture together and scoop into the muffin cases, bake 20-25 mins on the upper-middle shelf of the oven and allow to cool while you make the glaze:
  • 100g butter
  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1-2 tsp coffee granules
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3-4 tbsp icing sugar (depends how sweet you like the glaze...I like it quite bitter)
  • shredded coconut
As you did with the chocolate mixture for the cake, place the butter, chocolate, cocoa and coffee in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Allow to melt, then add the vanilla and icing sugar - making sure to sift the sugar beforehand as it gets lumpy. Mix this together and then glaze the muffins when they've cooled. Sprinkle with coconut and devour immediately!

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


The foundation for a good day, I've always maintained, rests with a good breakfast. Nothing quite goes according to plan when I skip breakfast, so I've concluded it must be an auspicious way to start the day. 

Hopefully the new U.S President is enjoying a good breakfast today too - it's rather a big day.

Since the new year there's hardly been any time for baking (boo!) but I did concoct this delectable breakfast dish from some funky bananas. By funky I mean very ripe, not groovy fruit. I call it my Inauguration breakfast treat :-) After lectures this afternoon I'll be glued to the TV whilst enjoying a cup of steaming tea and some chocolate cake - my pal Sophie's coming round too so we'll be weeping into our tissues during the speech. Makes for a memorable Tuesday afternoon.

Anyway, back to breakfast: all you do is combine equal quantities of banana with plain yogurt, add some pecan nuts and then eat with a couple of slices of toasted sourdough which have been slathered in butter, honey and cinnamon. 

A guaranteed great way to kickstart your day.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Great Scandinavian Cookbooks

No baking today as my anthropology course means I'm marooned at home with books galore. Quite simply, there is too much to read, and not enough time!

So, if you're in need of Nordic inspiration, these are my favourite Scandi cookbooks: 

* 'Kitchen of Light' by Andreas Viestad, and 'The Scandinavian Cookbook' by Danish food writer and cook Trina Hahnemann. Trina, in particular, has some great baking ideas.

There are also two baking books, alas in Norwegian, but still worth noting: 

*'Ta kaka' which means 'Take the cake' (!)


*'Dam's store bakebok' which is by one of Norway's larger publishers, Dam, and is their definitive book on baking.

Finally, there is a vintage gem from my Mother's cookery collection: 

*'Norway's delights' by Elise Sverdrup, first published in 1957 (this edition is from 1972) It's part of a series of books on Norwegian culture translated into English, including: 

* 'Phantoms and fairies from Norwegian folklore'
* 'Of Gods and giants - Norse mythology'
* 'A time for trolls - fairy tales from Norway'

and the somewhat enigmatic 'Three in Norway, by two of them.'


Thursday, 8 January 2009

Time for tea & cake!

Well, it didn't take long before the baking bonanza resumed.

After a week of (relatively) healthy eating - soup, lots of fruit, herbal tea infusions, etc - I got restless and decided to make what Americans call a "quick bread", which is not breadlike at all, more like cake in a loaf shape. But this moist, fruity cake is the perfect companion to large mugs of hot, black tea - just what the doctor ordered on a grey winter's day. 

BTW, I had a pear that was stonehard a few days ago and figured it wouldn't do any harm in this loaf, so in it went. You could use apples of course. 

Plus there were some sultanas and walnuts kicking about from Christmas baking sessions - in they went. As you'll see from the recipe, the sultanas received a bit of help ;-)  Use what you have in your cupboard, the photo below shows how many of the ingredients were leftover from December - a chance to use up what you have, now that's so 2009.

Pear, walnut & whisky-soaked sultana cake for tea time

  • 215g self-raising flour
  • 160g ground almonds
  • 160g light brown sugar
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 6 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 150g raisins or sultanas, soaked for 1/2 hour with 2 tbsp whisky and enough water to cover
  • 1 pear, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • handful walnuts


Preheat oven to 190 C. Lightly grease two loaf tins (1 small and one medium should do it)

In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl mix the eggs, vanilla and yogurt. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the egg mixture, followed by the melted butter. Stir together, using a large spoon, and if it looks very thick, add a few splashes of water to loosen the mixture. 

Add the soaked sultanas, pieces of pear and the walnuts, give the mixture another few stirs to incorporate everything and then decant to the loaf tins. Bake on upper-middle shelf of the oven for 45mins-1 hour (my oven's slow so it took close to an hour, if you have a convection oven the loaf will bake much faster) and savour a piece with a cup of tea or coffee. Mmm....

* other suggestions: you could add spices such as cinnamon or cardamom to the cake mixture. Other dried fruits could be used such as plums, apricots, prunes or figs. The pear was tasty, but actually reflecting on it I probably would stick to apples in the future as they've got a bit more acidity to balance the sweetness of the cake, depends what your taste is :-) 

Thursday, 1 January 2009

A fresh & bold start to 2009

Happy new year! 

No baking today, but I thought the first day of 2009 warranted a brightly jewelled breakfast. Instead of rubies, how about pomegranate seeds? Can't think of an orange-coloured jewel, but persimmons (or kaki/sharon fruit as they're also known) look great and taste delicious.

Finally I reckon a few almonds and a dusting of cinnamon won't go amiss, and a squirt of lemon juice lifted the persimmon so the whole dish had some zing to it. Place all of this in a pretty martini glass - or any glass for that matter - and scoff away! 

Who said breakfast had to be boring??