Sweet orange muffins with sticky syrup

Orange sticky muffins 2

This week I had fun at a “girls’ night in” with some of the other lovely ladies in my village. This involved all of us taking a little food, a little wine, all meeting up and having a night of laughter and friendship.

I haven’t had a girls’ night since December (when I had a wonderful weekend in Paris with a visiting Aussie friend) so I was quite excited to be able to get out and let the hair down with the girls. So excited that I took over TCs kitchen and spent the day cooking.

First up was this wonderful quiche recipe from the amazing Carla over at Expat Chef in Barcelona: Asparagus and Red Pepper Quiche.

The only change I made to Carla’s recipe was to add some crumbled feta, and I then scaled it down slightly to fit a standard round quiche dish… and wow, it was delicious. It went down a treat with the girls (all 7 of them) and the very  first comment I got was “OK you’re employed”. Actually, credit goes to TC for roasting the red peppers for me (these are known as capsicums to us Aussies)  – he’s been roasting these a lot lately and it’s something I’ve never actually tried, so he kindly volunteered that job. Actually, that was another small change to the recipe – rather than confit peppers, I simply left them as roasted and peeled then left them to sit with the oil that was still on them until I was ready to drain & cut them – they were still delicious!

So being excited as I was, I also decided to make a version of orange muffins with sticky orange & lemon syrup. Orange sticky muffins 1

I actually adapted these from a Thermomix recipe that I’d wanted to try for quite a while. For those who know what a Thermomix is, you will understand completely how much I miss mine back in Australia. Because I am such a Thermomix fan, I thought this might be a good opportunity to try out the recipe without one and see if I could cope with my little food processor I’ve purchased here in France.

The recipe is the 30 Second Whole Orange Cake from the Thermomix recipe community. If you would like the original Themomix instructions, please click here.  So this is the recipe with almost the same ingredients, and my method with the processor:

Ingredients (makes approx 14 large muffins)

1 whole orange cut into small chunks

1 tbspn orange rind, finely grated

225g butter

3 eggs

200g sugar

300g Self Raising Flour


Preheat oven to 180C. Line muffin tins with paper liners & set aside.

Place the orange pieces and butter into the food processor and process until the orange is finely processed and combined with the butter (this may take some time, with stopping & scraping the sides of the bowl, depending on your processor). Add the extra orange rind and the eggs, one at a time and process until completely combined.

Put the orange mixture into a large bowl. Combine the flour and sugar and add this (about 1/3 at a time) to the orange mixture, folding in until just combined.

Fill the muffin tins and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool slightly and while still warm, drizzle with the syrup and top with thin strips of orange rind. (Note: my muffins had browned on top, so in order to help the syrup soak into the muffins, I pierced them several times with a toothpick before drizzling the syrup)

Orange & Lemon Syrup

Juice of one orange (about 1/4 cup)

Juice of one lemon (about 1/4 cup)

100g sugar

Combine juices and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat & bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Drizzle over still warm muffins.

I made 12 large muffins but had enough mixture left over to make a small cake to leave behind for TC to enjoy.  Orange sticky muffins 3

So how did the recipe go using the processor instead? Rather frustrating, as my processor is just a little cheapie, so it took quite some time to get the orange and butter finely chopped and blended… stopping and starting many many times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  It is going to be so good to use my machine again next year…

Testing, testing….

We had a new oven installed this week – the old one died and we were completely sans oven for almost two weeks.

In the first two days with the new one, we’d already had two roast dinners. Of course this calls for a baking test too – first up: double choc chip cookies.

I had been watching Ina Garten on the Barefoot Contessa and saw her make these yummy double chocolate almond cookies with Kathleen King, so I decided to give them a bash. Except, because it was a late, spur-of-the-moment decision, I didn’t have almonds on hand so was going to substitute them with walnuts. Except, again, I then got impatient and wanted to get this mixture into the oven without taking the time to shell the walnuts!

So here are my double choc chip cookies, no almond. I also used only 1/3 of the original recipe (with the exception of the egg) because I didn’t want 52 cookies in the house!





Oven duly tested, it heats up quickly and runs a little hot. However, I think more testing is in order.

We have guests coming for dinner later this week and I am going to actually make a savoury dish. What a shock! TC usually does all that, but we have decided that we will do an entree, main, cheeseboard and then some small individual sweet pastries from the local patisserie to accompany coffee. That leaves me free to actually cook an entree while TC does the main.  I have chosen my dish and most of it can be made a day ahead… I’ll have to do a practice run early in the week too  I think. Stand by for that one.

Ready to enjoy

Ready to enjoy

Ahhhh, where’s my cup of tea…..

Bon appétit, à bientot!

Brown velvet is for cupcakes, red is for wine


Of course inspired by the usual red velvet cake in general, and by the recipe posted just recently by my lovely blogging-friend The Cooking Chook  in particular, I decided to make a batch of chocolate cupcakes. I particularly liked the sound of the white chocolate, cream cheese icing, so, with my devil-may-care bravado I threw away the red colouring and went for it to make brown velvet cupcakes.

The other thing I did was scale down the recipe. I know you are asking why, why why? Well two reasons, the first and most important being that the philadelphia cream cheese seems to only come in a 150g tub in my particular supermarket. This means scaling down the amount of icing I will have in a 250:150 ratio, or in other words in a 5:3 ratio… all of which means since I’ll only have 3/5 of the amount of philly, I’d better only make 3/5 of the amount of cake to go under the icing! The second reason is that TC and I don’t need any more cake, really. For the sake of our waistlines, less is better. Hmm, I could freeze the extras & take them to French class… there’s a thought.

Back to the scaling. Did you know Excel is very handy for this? Yes, the mathsy nerd in me comes out at times like this – as well as the sciency nerd who likes to be accurate – and using Excel is the quickest way to apply a formula to a list of things. Perfect for a recipe, haha!

I bet you are just dying to know what formula I used aren’t you? If you really want, I’ll tell you at the end.

So, with newly scaled quantities in hand, Chookie’s recipe and instructions (and some adaptations because you can’t actually get 1.2 eggs even if you tried really hard) off I set to bake some lovely cupcakes. IMG_3731

First mishap, dropped a bit of flour on the floor. OK… on with the show… next mishap, knocked a container out of the cupboard and voila, sweetener tabs all over the floor. Thankfully I had only cleaned and mopped the floor yesterday, otherwise all that flour and sweetener may have stuck to some greasy, unidentifiable spots on the floor. As it was, it was quick to clean up & power forward.

The next step involved combining all my dry ingredients, measuring out the butter, sugar and milk (for the buttermilk) and then letting the butter, milk and eggs sit for a while to come to room temperature. By this time I have decided it’s wine o’clock – it is Saturday night after all – so a glass of red is perfect for this waiting period. I did briefly hope that wouldn’t mean more mishaps to come. Ok, I know I have committed a writing crime and switched tenses mid-paragraph, but this post is now written in real-time and we are up to date. I’ll pour the 2nd glass of red while I check on the butter and eggs…

Melting chocolate is fun, I follow the rest of the directions and before I know it I have some icing. Oops, one more change, I decided to add 1/3 cup icing sugar, just because I like things sweet. IMG_3739 brown velvet cupcake

Put it all together…

… and voila, brown velvet cupcakes with white chocolate, cream cheese icing. Not bad at all, TC likes them too! IMG_3740

I have already frozen some, so will let you know if our fellow French students and teacher like them on Tuesday. If they last that long.

White on Brown Velvet Chocolate Cupcakes

1.5 cups sifted plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1.5 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

70g unsalted butter, softened

1 cup caster sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1/2 tsp white vinegar

1/2 tsp baking soda

White chocolate cream cheese frosting

150g cream cheese, at room temperature

70g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

110g white cooking chocolate, broken into small pieces

1/3 cup icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180C

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa, set aside. Cream butter and sugar until pale & smooth. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time & continue beating. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture & 1/3 of the buttermilk, mix and repeat until all of the ingredients are combined. In a glass, combine the vinegar and baking soda, quickly add to the cake batter & stir through. Divide mixture between prepared cupcake papers. Bake for 20 min, checking after 15 minutes & remove when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over gently boiling water, stirring with a metal spoon. When melted, set aside.

Whip butter until pale & smooth, set aside.

Combine cream cheese, salt and vanilla and icing sugar, beat for about 3 minutes until smooth & light. Slowly add the while chocolate, mixing to combine. Add the butter, 1/3 at a time & mix until combined.

Ice the cupcakes and enjoy!

Ok, the Excel formula because I knew someone was busting to know… with the quantity of each ingredient in column B (numbers only, descriptions in column C) enter in cell A1 “=B1*3/5, enter, then use the fill handle to drag down for the entire list of ingredients, then round to practical amounts.

Little things…

Parisien biscuit stamps TC and I gave each other small, novelty type gifts this year for two reasons – we didn’t want to spend too much money just because its “Christmas” and we also have to bear in mind how much stuff we are able to take back to Australia later next year (definitely not enough).

A couple of my gifts particularly made me smile. Just simple little things – a biscuit making set which includes recipes for traditional Parisien biscuits, sweet and savoury, complete with stamps to ensure they look the part,  a mini cupcake recipe book (shaped like a cupcake), and a lovely mug covered in colourful cats so that I can sit back with a nice cup of tea or a chocolat chaud and enjoy  the fruits of my forthcoming bake-fest. Bliss!

What did you get that made you smile this Christmas?   Cupcake recipe book Pussycat mug

Fallen tarte …

My attempt this week at tarte tatin did not turn out well.

Step one: mix melted butter and suger together and line the base of a pan.  For starters, I thought the butter & sugar mixture that I lined the bottom of the pan with, didn’t quite look enough. So I threw in some more butter and sugar, but made the mistake of not keeping the same proportions and I think there was too much butter.

Step two: peel & quarter apples & place into the sugar mix. Bake for 1hr – 1 1/4 hrs.  Well I used a mix of pears and apples together – all the best cooks tell me to use what you have on hand, so that’s what I did. Now the pears were very juicy, so combined with too much butter in the sugar mix, I think there was just too much liquid altogether.

Step three: cover with the pastry layer, bake again for 20-25 minutes.  This step I was happy with – and not only because I finally remembered to grab the camera!  I’m a fan of shortcrust pastry in tarte tatin, puff pastry just doesn’t seem right to me, so I made my own and it  turned out just as I had hoped.  I made one quantity in the processor so that it didn’t get overworked, chilled it while the fruit & caramel was baking, rolled it quickly then topped the already-baked fruit & tucked it in.IMG_2559

Back in the oven for about 20 minutes and it was ready.  IMG_2561

Now what was the problem with the excess liquid? Well, that meant that there was too much runny caramel with the fruit and this led me to make my next mistake – letting it cool slightly before turning it out.

Hmm, yes, well all the better cooks than me will know what that means!

Yes, the toffee started to set, making it difficult to turn out resulting in complete loss of shape  with the fruit and some damage to the pastry base – hence my fallen tarte. Then trying to eat the harder toffee bits put our teeth in just a little danger!

Still it tasted good and served with simple cream poured over, it was a delicious sweet, fruity, warm winter dessert – just what you want at this time of year.

Enjoy! IMG_2568

RECIPE:  (what I probably should have stuck to!)

30g unsalted butter, melted

120g sugar

4 apples or pears, peeled & quartered



150g all purpose flour

85g unsalted butter

pinch of salt

2-4 tablespoons ice water


Preheat oven to 200C.

Mix together the melted butter & sugar, line the bottom of a cake tin. Place the quartered fruit into the sugar mix in a circular pattern. Sprinkle with powdered cinnamon (optional), bake for 1 – 1 1/4 hrs.

To make the pastry, place the flour, salt & butter into the bowl of a food processor, place the entire bowl into the freezer for about 15minutes so that all of it is nice & cold to work with. Remove from freezer & pulse until the butter is around the size of small peas. Add the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time and pulse until the pastry comes together as a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface & shape into a round, slightly flatten it, wrap in plastic wrap & chill in refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Remove from refrigerator & roll out to the size of the tin.

Remove fruit from oven, lay over the pastry base tucking in edges, bake for 20-25 minutes.

Turn out onto a serving plate immediately.

Serve with whatever you like to eat it with & enjoy!

’tis the season…


for jolly shortbread – and of couse, walnuts!

I saw an idea similar to this a few weeks ago, so today I tried it… santa swirl shortbread with the addition of fresh walnuts, because the most delicious, fresh walnuts are available at all the markets & in the shops now. I’m always thinking of ways to use walnuts, so this was a good opportunity.

Using a basic shortbread recipe, I divided the mixture into two bowls, added a few drops of red colouring to one batch, then carried on as normal. Once both doughs were ready, I rolled them each out into a rectangle of roughly the same size, laid one on top of the other and rolled them up. Then I rolled the log in the chopped walnuts, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and refrigerated it until I was ready to bake.

Then it was just a matter of unwrapping, slicing, and baking. I forgot my oven here runs a little hot, so I should have either reduced the temp or taken them out of the oven a few minutes earlier – they were only JUST cooked more than I would have liked, not by much so all was good. Next time I must also remember to place them further apart on the tray – I ended up with some weirdly shaped shortbread biscuits.

Enjoy!       IMG_2344

Here’s to a deliciously hot chocolate aroma coming from my oven right now…
Oooohhh, this recipe from the fabulous Stéphane Gabart over at My French Heaven was easy, and most importantly delicious!! Moist, almost gooey, perfect on the outside…… Its now on my regular list.  Tres bon!

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How far do you go for sweet things?

Right now I am enjoying the fruits of the labour of one Monsieur Eric Maury, talented chocolatier and pâtissier with a little shop tucked away in the lakeside village of Marseillan, France. So far I have tasted his to-die-for tarte tartin, grand marnier chou, pistache macaron and his delicious and oh so chocolatey “tarte tentation” – yes, the temptation tart.

If you find yourself in the region, I highly recommend collecting a sample for yourself!

La Bonbonnière,  9 rue Emile Zola 34340 MarseillanImageImage