Let them have cake!

As some of you may or may not know, I do quite a bit of baking.

And I tend to do quite a bit of baking of celebration cakes & cupcakes as well as hampers for family and friends.

I have started to do them for a lot of people I don’t know either. Which is lovely.

So over the next short while I will be adding to this site with information on how these cakes can be ordered along with some pictures of recent celebration cakes and hampers.

If you have a celebration coming up, why not get in touch with me at graciesbakes@gmail.com – I would be delighted to chat to you about your party and theme.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Orla xx

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Vegan Pumpkin Mini Muffins with Cinnamon Glaze

Autumn has well and truly arrived along with fallen leaves, scarves, cosy boots, ear warmers, steaming mugs of coffee and lovely warming soups and stews. It is my favourite season – I am the ultimate fan of scarves
Autumn also brings pumpkins. Big fat orange pumpkins. And none more lovely than Libby’s Pumpkin Puree. I used to import this from the US before you could get it here. I spent Thanksgiving in Boston with my godson and his family a number of years ago. It was at this dinner that I managed to snag the amazing Pumpkin Bread recipe from my aunt.
It was a huge relief when Fallon & Byrne started to stock cans of Libby’s in their amazing store in Dublin and I no longer had to fly 3000 miles and spend an utter fortune to stock up. Saying that, I will still make a trip to the US given half a chance. :)

This mini muffin is vegan and wheat/gluten free. It is amazing light and moist but amazingly has no butter or eggs. The addition of cinnamon gives it that lovely warm flavour that is associated with autumn and warming dishes.

An original recipe by Gracies Bakes
Makes 8 muffins
Grease a muffin tin with some oil or some soya spread. I used mini pudding tins for these. Preheat the oven to 190C.

70g walnut halves roughly, but fairly finely chopped
1tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
70g coconut oil, melted
110g soft light brown sugar
60ml soya milk
1tsp vanilla essence
200g gluten free baking flour
one half teaspoon of salt
one half teaspoon of GF baking powder
one half teaspoon of GF baking soda
one half teaspoon of cinnamon
240g Libbys (or any other) Pumpkin Puree

For the Glaze
60ml of Brown Rice Syrup (Or honey*)
1tbsp coconut oil melted
1tsp vanilla
a pinch of cinnamon

*if you use honey in this, it is no longer vegan but they are just as tasty.

To make the muffins, place the walnuts, cinnamon and tbsp of sugar in a bowl and mix until the walnuts are covered.

In a large bowl, place the coconut oil, milk, vanilla essence and brown sugar and whisk together until creamy and light. I used a hand mixer to blend.
Sift the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking powder and sodas into the mix and stir together until combined.

Add the pumpkin and stir until just combined. Do not over stir as the mixture will become heavy and the dough will be gummy.

To bring together, add a teaspoon of the coated sugared walnuts to the bottom of the tin or muffing pan. Then add a heaped tablespoon of the mixture on top of the nuts. I use an ice-cream scoop to get even measures.
Lightly push the mixture down into the tin without packing it. THe mix will not rise too much but the cakes are paced with flavour.

Place in your preheated oven for 20-24 minutes. The cakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin.

When almost cooled, whisk the ingredients for the glaze together quickly and spoon generously over the top of the muffins.


This glaze does not keep so you will need to use it all in one go. As the mix cools the coconut oil will start to solidify again.

Serve with a steaming hot mug of coffee, while curled up on the sofa with a warm jumper, good company and a view.

Enjoy,

Orls xx

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Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice….

When I started college, I was told that the friends I made here would be my friends for life. 10 years after finishing my degree and leaving the security of the library, the lecture hall and, if I’m honest mostly the college bar in NUIG, I am happy to say that those wonderful ladies are still in my life.

A lot has happened in those 10 years. We have spent weeks, sometimes months not speaking in person as life got in the way but we have always had the ability to come together (usually with wine in the mix) and catch up as if no time had passed. There have been first dates, break ups, new houses, emmigration, weddings and now, a brand new chapter.

On Friday morning at about 4am, one of those amazing girlfriends gave birth to a beautiful, precious and pretty perfect new daughter. Baby A made her entrance into the world a little later than expected. She was comfy where she was. I will admit to shedding more than a few tears of happiness when I got a text from my friend telling me her news. And I have shed another couple as I have seen pictures of the beautiful little lady.

In a couple of weeks we will all have a reunion as one of the girls is home from Australia. And we will get to meet the newest member of the gang. We will celebrate her arrival and raise a glass to a happy and healthy future. We will hug her mum and dad and tell them how wonderful they are and how stunning their baby is.

In the mean time, I think this cake is a perfect celebration cake for her arrival. Enjoy it with good friends, laughter and celebrate those around you.

Baby A – I can’t wait to meet you and let you know that as well as all of your aunts and uncles and cousins – you have another gang of ladies who will do anything for you. Welcome to the world. Its great to have you here.

This cake is a simple sponge from Rachel Allen’s Bake book. The recipe is here – just don’t make the rhubarb cream – unless you want to of course!
I doubled the quantities and made 4 cakes. I only ended up using 3. When you split the mixture, place in a large bowl before putting in the baking tin & add the food colouring, mixing well to ensure that it is evenly coloured.
Allow the cakes to cool completely and level off for stacking. Have your cakes ready before you start your icing as it sets very quickly.

American Frosting – again this is from Rachel Allen’s Bake book. Quantities will make enough to ice a 3 tier cake.

You will need 2 egg whites, 425g caster sugar and 100ml water.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Ensure that the pot is large enough to hold a large bowl.
Place the egg whites into a spotlessly clean bowl & whisk with a handheld electric whisk until very stiff peaks form. Place to one side.
In a separate saucepan ,dissolve the sugar and water. Bring to a low boil for 5-10 minutes. You will know it is done when the liquid is thick and syrupy and at the thread stage. THis means that the last few drops that fall off a spoon form one long thick thread.

Once at this stage, pour the syrup into the egg whites, beating continuously. Place over the simmering water and beat for about 15 minutes until the icing is crisp white, thick and meringue like.

At this stage, you will have to move very quickly as the icing will set very very quickly.

Ice your cake as you wish. I used a palette knife to spread between the layers of cake and to spread around the sides and over the top. I also used a 04 star piping nozzle to decorate the top. A tip is to have a jug of just boiled water close by to rinse your palette knife. This will keep a smooth finish to the icing.

Set aside for about 15-20 minutes before serving. THe icing will crisp up nicely on the outside and will remain smooth and creamy inside.

Enjoy,
Orls xx

PS – I was trying to ignore the fact that I haven’t blogged in an age. Life has been very busy – I competed in a few races, my first triathlon, spent a week in France with my family & celebrated my brothers engagement to the loveliest girl ever. I have the best of intentions to blog regularly. But life gets in the way sometimes & I am enjoying just spending time with people. Please be patient.

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Wheat Free Banana Bread

In the last 2 weeks I haven’t been as vigilant as I had been in not eating wheat products. I have said before that I find it much easier to go without dairy but I love nothing more than warm fluffy white toast when I am having a bad day. And lets just say there have been a few of them in the last week or so!
I have noticed that I do feel so much better when I don’t eat wheat and I have really only noticed that since I have reintroduced it. I will definately be making more of an effort in the future to have things prepared and ready to go to should I have a mood induced snack attack.

I have also been suffering with more headaches in the recent past too (which have in a way caused the moodiness that has me reaching for the sliced pan!) and I can only put that down to having too much refined sugar. When I bake and a recipe calls for sugar, I would always try and reduce the amount and replace it with something like Agave syrup to limit the damage. So I have been trying to be super careful about the amount of sugar I have been eating too.

I noticed that we had a glut of ripe and fast becoming over-ripe bananas in the basket yesterday evening & I decided that I would attempt a wheat and refined sugar free banana bread. Bananas are incredibly sweet anyway and as they ripen and are mashed and cooked they have a sweetness that I think can carry a recipe without any additional sugar. Added dates and walnuts add flavour and texture and make it really very moreish!

This recipe *may* have had a few different attempts that didn’t work out but this incarnation, in my opinion is just right. It is a dense bread and the mixture of rye and spelt flour give it a nuttiness and texture that reminds me of a light brown bread. It would be perfect toasted and smeared with almond butter as an afternoon snack accompanied with a cup of hot tea. It also wouldn’t be out of place on the breakfast table with some nice jam or marmalade.

You will need a 2lb loaf tin lined with baking paper. Preheat your oven to 150Celcius.

To make you need –

150g wholegrain spelt flour
150g rye flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or more if you wish)
1tbsp cocoa powder
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
60g dates, pitted and chopped finely
3 regular (or 2.5 large), very ripe bananas
1 egg
1/2tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, place your flours, baking powder,baking soda, cinnamon, salt and cocoa powder. Mix well and add the chopped walnuts and dates. Mix again ensuring they are well distributed.
In a separate bowl mash your bananas until as smooth as possible – I use a potato masher to start and finish with a whisk. Add your egg and vanilla and whisk until completely combined.

Add your banana mix to your flours and using a spatula mix until combined. The dough will seem out of proportion wet:dry ingredients, but just stick with it and it will come together. THe dough will seem heavy but that is the way it should be. Don’t over mix. Transfer to your baking tin and flatten down the top.

Place in the centre of a preheated oven and bake for one hour – check the bread after about 50 minutes by inserting a knife or skewer in the centre of the loaf. If it comes out clean the bread is ready, if not leave it for another 5 mins and check again.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing from the tin – Leave a little lip of baking paper around the edges so you can just lift it out.

Slice, serve and enjoy.

This bread will keep in an airtight tin for up to 3 days – to refresh slightly, place in a warmed oven for 5 minutes or toast.

Enjoy-

Orls xx

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Red Lentil & Cauliflower Daal

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So this week was National Vegetarian Week which was sponsored by the lovely people at Dee’s Wholefoods who are based in the Real Capital. Which is Cork if you dont know.  ( I have to say that…. I live with a Cork man – believe me it’s just easier. 

Now I had great plans last weekend to post a blog with some of my favourite veggie recipes and my current ultimate favourite dish. However a serious dose of winter weather last Saturday and Sunday, followed by lashings and lashings of sunshine and intensive Vitamin D therapy on Monday (and the mini marathon*) meant that I delayed. Add to that my inability to read American date formats, my domain expired and had to be renewed. Picture lots of panic, annoyance and frustration. All aimed at myself of course – after all it was my mistake.The lovely people at Blacknight only emailed me about 10 times about the expiry – but sure I knew better.

But as you are all (hopefully) reading this, I managed to get it together and renew the domain. For another 3 years! Yay. (No pressure then)

I am over the moon that there is a vegetarian week and while it would have been nice to have my s&*t sufficiently together to post a recipe, surely better later than never is good. Right?

I am really not sure where this recipe came from. It is safe to say that it has evolved since I first made it. I have always loved a good dhal. Even when I ate meat, there was something so warming and comforting about a good one but I could never get it just right.

Now on the other hand, I haven’t always loved Cauliflower. A number of years spent working in hotels serving event and large carvery lunches, cauliflower was always the dish that had greyed, overcooked veggie and was drenched in nasty, oversalted cheese sauce.

This recipe changed my mind about the humble cauliflower. If you have any doubts at all about the it, I am sure that it will change your mind too.

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This recipe serves 4 people & takes about an hour to make all told. It will however, store well in the fridge and tastes better the second day once all the spices have a chance to hang out, mingle and get it on. 

You will need; 

2 tbsp olive oil 

1 large onion, thinly sliced 

1 small cauliflower cut into florets 

2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped or grated

4-6 cloves of garlic, crushed 

1.5 tsp cumin seeds 

1 heaped teaspoon Turmeric 

1 standard tin of chopped tomatoes 

200g dried red lentils 

salt & pepper to taste 

half a litre water

To make

Heat the oil in either a deep frying pan or a large saucepan or cast iron pot. I use my medium Le Crueset for this but have made it in a frying pan too.

Add the onion and fry on a medium heat until starting to colour and crisp. Stir while cooking to avoid it burning. 

Once browned, add the cauliflower and cook for a couple of minutes. Next add the turmeric and cumin and stir gently ensuring that the spices are well distributed. Reduce the heat and add the ginger and garlic. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes. 

Next add your tomatoes and stir. Fill the empty can with water and add to the pan. Next add your dried lentils and stir again. Season gently and cover with a lid or tinfoil if using a frying pan. 

Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes before checking and stirring gently. It may need more water at this stage & make sure you taste again for seasoning. Check the cauliflower to see if cooked properly. 

Bear in mind the longer you leave this, the mushier it will go – with the cauliflower losing all shape. 

Cover again and cook for a further 5 minutes. 

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Once cooked serve with warmed naan breads – my spelt naans from a couple weeks ago are perfect with this. Sprinkle with some chopped coriander and enjoy. 

Like I said, this stores perfectly for up to 4 days in an airtight tub in the fridge.

Enjoy -

Orls xx

*PS – Huge Congratulations to everyone who took part in the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon on the June Bank Holiday Monday. As Always it was a super day – weather wise as well as atmosphere wise. It was so hot that I am now sporting some rather attractive tan lines from my running top but a massive amount of money is raised for Irish Charities each year through this great event. Huge kudos to all the volunteers too & stewards who gave up their bank holiday & to all the supporters that lined the course too, thank you!

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Spelt Naan Bread

Every 5 or 6 weeks we have an Indian Night here in Casa GraciesBakes. I adore Indian food and we are lucky enough to have a good one in Drogheda – Punjabi House – that do take out. So every 5 or 6 weeks we get a take out. We are really boring when it comes to ordering and I am pretty sure that they know what we are going to order when we tell them our name! One of my favourite parts of getting a take out meal there is the enormous naan breads that we get. They are soft and doughy and perfect for transporting food from plate to mouth, as well as mopping up any of the delicious sauces left on the plate.

We haven’t had a take out since I have been trying to eliminate wheat from my diet so I decided that I would attempt to replicate the lovely doughy naan. I discovered a recipe jotted in one of my many notebooks and did a bit of fiddling with quantities and ingredients. I am delighted to say that it turned out great. Not as good as when someone else does the hard work of course, but nearly!

I used Spelt Flour and soya yoghurt. If you want to make this with wheat and dairy you can just use plain white flour and natural yoghurt in place of these two. But believe me when I say that even the most determined wheat and dairy eaters would be hard pushed to tell the difference!

For the naan bread you will need the following ;
7g Dried Yeast
300 – 350ml warm water
500g spelt flour, plus more for dusting.
1 tsp salt*
1 tbsp natural soya yoghurt
2 tbsp olive oil

To make the bread place the flour and salt in a large bowl and mix together. Make a well in the centre and add your yeast, yoghurt and olive oil. Mix into the flour and add the water about a third at a time. I find with Spelt flour that I need all of the water in the recipe. Your dough will be quite messy at this point but shouldn’t be soaking wet. Add the final third of the water a little at a time so that you don’t add too much water – you can always add more if you need to but you can’t take it back out if you put too much in!

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface – again use the spelt flour to dust the surface. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until you have a springy and smooth dough. As you would with any other bread.

Place the bread in a large bowl that has about a table-spoon of olive oil in it. Move it around and ensure that it is coated with oil to ensure that it doesn’t stick. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in a warm place for an hour. I usually pop it into the oven with just the light on – it creates enough heat to activate the yeast without killing it.

After an hour your bread should have doubled in size. Flour your work surface again and place the dough on it. Knock the gas out of it and knead gently into a round. Cut into 4 pieces and roll out each on to about 5 mm high. Leave to one side and cover with a clean tea towel for about 5 minutes. Cook in a frying or griddle pan on a medium heat until golden before turning.

You will find that your first naan will take the longest time to cook – as you add more to the pan the residual head in the pan will cook them faster so you will need to keep an eye on them. Many times i have been caught out on this and found myself in a kitchen full of acrid black smoke. NOT the most appetising of situations.

Once cooked, keep warm in a medium to hot oven for a couple of minutes and serve with the food or dips of your choice.

I served this with a lovely Channa Masala, a recipe I picked up on Eat Live Run. It is a simple and tasty recipe. Make life easy on yourself and have all the prep done in advance with all the ingredients chopped and laid out ready to go. Honestly, you will thank me for it. I also subbed out the butter for olive oil in the original recipe to make it dairy free but it is good either way!

If you wanted to add flavour to your naan bread try adding 2 crushed garlic cloves to the mix at the flour stage. Or a small bunch of chopped coriander. Ensure that it is mixed through really well in the flour before adding the yeast stage. As the dough sits for an hour, the flavours will develop nicely.

Whether you enjoy Indian food or not, these naan breads are great for dips. Tear them apart with your hands or cut them into shapes. Either way – Enjoy!!

Orls

PS – I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Pat Whelan from James Whelan Butchers at the All Ireland Marketing Awards on Thursday night. I have been following him on twitter for a while and it was great to finally meet the man behind the hashtag! It was also great to see him win the category of Small Business Marketing Award. Congratulations Pat & Team!!!

*Edited – the original post I had called for a tablespoon of salt. That was wrong! Please dont’ put a tablespoon of salt into the naan’s – you will not like the results! Its a teaspoon – or less if you are sensitive to salt! Sorry.

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Lentil, Beet & Red Onion Salad

I have been on my holidays for the last week. I didn’t go anywhere but had a blissful week off work which I spent cooking, gardening, baking, working out and getting my island/baking station fixed, during which I discovered I own 56 (yes 56) baking sheets, muffin tins and cake tins.

This has all been accumulated in less than 3 years.

My week off also allowed me the luxury of working out every day, at whatever time I wanted. I am generally a morning exerciser but at the moment that is not possible with a 5.40am alarm call so that I make the train. This past week has been bliss and has seen me get my sweat on quite a lot. I fitted in a race last weekend, a couple of 5 mile runs, some yoga, a weights session and then this morning I had my ass handed to me in a spinning class.

Now I haven’t done a spinning class in about 2 years, and I am ashamed to say that I rocked into the class like I did them in my sleep. I mean how hard could it be right? I work out a lot, I am fit, I can run 5 miles without trouble. A spin class will be a piece of cake right? Wrong….

To say I nearly died may be a slight exaggeration but not much. The instructor barely broke a sweat while screaming orders at us to stand up, sit down, sprint, sprint, sprint, while I was nearly passing out. I had jelly legs after the class but in a super good way. I will definitely be back. But when I have regained the use of my legs.

Almost instantly after getting off the bike, my appetite came out of nowhere and floored me. I had the perfect thing in the fridge to recharge my batteries. After a heavy work out, a mixture of carbs and protein is the best way to repair your muscles and body. This French Lentil, Beetroot and Red Onion salad is a lovely snack with some Rye Sourdough bread, or as a side salad with some tasty burgers.

Once made, it will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

To make the salad you will need
190g French or Green Lentils (Use these over the red lentils as they will hold their shape and texture once cooked)
One Bay Leaf
One medium red onion, diced
One cooked beetroot, diced (I use the ones that come in a vaccuum pack from supermarkets)
Salt and Pepper

For the dressing you will need
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (I use a lovely Jerez Sherry Vinegar I picked up in Madrid last year)
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

To cook the lentils, Measure them in a cup or measuring jug. Rinse them in cold water in a colander and place in a large saucepan with the bay leaf. Cover in double the volume of cold water as they measured in the cup/jug. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 20 minutes over a med – high heat. Test after about 15 minutes to see if they are close to being done. THey should be soft but still have a bite to them.
Once cooked, drain into a colander, remove the bay leaf & discard, and rinse again in cold water to stop them cooking.
Leave to one side to cool.

While the lentils are cooking chop your red onion & beetroot into small dice and set aside.

To make your dressing, simply add the wine vinegar of your choice to the olive oil & mustard and whisk. Taste and add salt and pepper until seasoned as you like it.

To assemble add the beet and onion to the cooked lentils in a large bowl, and pour over the dressing and mix gently ensuring that the lentils are coated.

Taste again and season if necessary.

This salad makes a perfect snack, or side dish for summer parties and gatherings and I can guarantee you that everyone will love it.

To make it even more decadent, crumble some yummy feta over the top & mix in – if you are adding feta however, don’t season until you have added the cheese as feta is salty & it could throw the seasoning. For all you meat eaters out there, you could add some fried and diced bacon but again, don’t season until you have added the bacon.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week. If it lasts that long.

On that note, I am off to ice my legs. And everything else. I have a feeling that my first day back at work tomorrow might be a sore one…

Wish me luck!

Orls xx

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