Tuesday, May 20, 2014



My novel about Emily Dickinson and her Irish maid, Miss Emily, comes out next year in the USA and Canada with Penguin. My interest in the poet stems from school, then more recently from baking* too. So here is Emily Dickinson's recipe for gingerbread which I made last week for my ex-husband's birthday 'do'. This recipe was adapted by people who work in the Dickinson Homestead Museum and I have further adapted it for Irish measurements and to make a smaller cake.

This is not a sweet cake - the lack of sugar and the dark treacle make it a little tart. But the dusting of icing sugar and the cream were a perfect addition to it. A sweet yogurt would do the same work. I used a round 8" tin.


60g butter
55ml cream
280g flour
½ teaspoon bread soda
½ tablespoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (125ml) treacle


·         Preheat the oven to 180ºC ( 350ºF)
·         Grease and line a baking tin
·         Cream the butter and mix with lightly whipped cream.
·         Mix through the treacle
·         Sift dry ingredients together and combine with other ingredients.
·         The dough is stiff and needs to be pressed into the tin
·         Bake for 20 minutes.
·         Dust with icing sugar


*(See here for Emily's coconut cake.) 

Friday, April 4, 2014

TEABRACK & BANANA LOAF - Great Irish Bake 3

Poster, balloons and money jar - Great Irish Bake
It's the official Great Irish Bake Day - our money jar is in place, the balloons are up and I have baked two cakes so far. My husband plans to bake bread later. We will serve these to my writing group tomorrow and hopefully they'll leave a donation in the jar :)

Teabrack mix
Banana bread in progress
Teabrack and banana bread
If you want to make either of these loaves the teabrack recipe is here and the banana loaf is here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

RAISIN SODA BREAD - Great Irish Bake 2

Kneaded dough
This is our second Great Irish Bake for Temple Street baking session. Lately I've been craving my mother's soda bread with raisins but as she lives 90 miles away, I've had to resort to making it myself. In my novel out next year, Miss Emily, Emily Dickinson's maid, Ada, shows her how to make soda bread. Dickinson was a good baker in her own right. (Which may be where my craving stems from - I am editing the book at the moment.)

The Odlums Baking site calls soda bread with raisins in it 'Station Bread'. I haven't heard this before - is this something to do with the stations of the cross, I wonder? Where is Regina Sexton when you need her?! I shall go and consult her history of Irish food and see if it mentions Station Bread.

This bread has about 99 calories per serving. (Adding butter means extra kcals!)

Cutting the cross - to keep the devil out of the bread


450g plain flour
1 level tsp bread soda
2 level tsps cream of tartar
big pinch of salt
1 tblsp white sugar
25g margarine

half pint milk 
a handful of raisins


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6
  2. Sprinkle flour onto a round baking tray
  3. Sieve flour, bread soda, cream of tartar and salt into a bowl. Add sugar after sieving and mix through
  4. Rub in the margarine until it's like breadcrumbs
  5. Add milk and mix to make a soft dough.
  6. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead a little
  7. Turn over and shape into a round. Place the dough on a floured tin
  8. Cut a deepish cross into the loaf
  9. Bake for 45 minutes
  10. Tap underneath, if there's a hollow sound, the loaf is done
  11. Cool on a wire tray, covering with a tea towel to give a softer crust 
  12. Slather with butter and eat. Yum!
The finished bread

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BANANA & SEED BISCUITS - Great Irish Bake 1

Juno sieving
The Great Irish Bake for Temple Street is already underway here in Ballinasloe. Our jar is out, ready for collecting the money. We made Apple Crumble on Sunday (eaten too quick for pics!) and today it was Banana and Seed Biscuits. This recipe makes makes about 12 biscuits. 77 Kcals per biccie.

Banana and seed biscuits

60g marg/butter
60g brown sugar
90g self-raising flour
50g mixed seeds (pumpkin and sesame)
1 small egg, beaten
1 small banana, mashed
half teaspoon mixed spice
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven to 190C.
Line two baking trays.
In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
Add the beaten egg and mix
Add the mashed banana and mix
Sieve in the the flour and spice; stir into the creamed mixture.
Mix in milk and, finally, the seeds
Blob dessert-spoonfuls onto the prepared baking trays.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Allow to cool on baking tray for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Like most people in January, I am trying to eat less sugar/fat/calories etc. I had a lonely lemon in the fridge and, as my usual lemon cake is sugar-packed, I went looking for a less calorific one to make. I adapted this Rosemary Conley recipe to include spelt flour, less egg and to make a smaller loaf.

If you make 12 slices of the cake, it is 100 calories per slice, which is pretty great.

I used a 2lb loaf tin which resulted in a squat enough cake, I was too lazy to line a 1lb tin (I have readymade liners for the 2lber). You could make double this recipe for a 2lb tin (bake for 1 hour), or this amount for a 1lb tin.

90g low-fat marg
90g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
90g wholegrain spelt flour (or plain flour)
2 tbsp of porridge oats
1 tbsp milk
half tsp baking powder
1 lemon, zested

juice of the lemon
1 tsp demerara sugar


- Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2
- Line your loaf tin
- Zest the lemon
- Juice the lemon
- Beat the marg with the caster sugar, gradually adding the egg
- Sieve in the flour and baking powder and beat again
- Add the lemon zest, porridge oats and milk and mix through
- Pour into lined loaf tin
- Bake in the preheated oven for 40 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the thickest part comes out clean.
- Pour over the lemon juice and sprinkle with sugar, allow to cool in tin
- Serve cold

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


This recipe is from Rachel Allen's lovely book Bake, which always seems to have easy, no-nonsense recipes when I need them. I love mince pies and was staring at them in Tesco this morning but resisted in favour of making some with Juno. Kids and baking are a great match when Mammy's in great form. Not so much today, but we got there :) And the mince pies are delicious.


For the sweet shortcrust pastry:
200 g plain flour, sifted
1 tablespoon icing sugar
100 g chilled butter, cubed
1 medium egg, beaten
250 g mincemeat (c. half a jar)
1 egg, beaten
Icing sugar for dusting


* On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to 3 mm thick.
* Cut 24 rounds with a 6 cm cutter,
* With a smaller cutter or heart/star cutter cut-out 24 lids. Re-roll the trimmings, if necessary.
* Line the holes of the cake tin with the larger pastry rounds. Fill each base with a teaspoon of mincemeat and top with one of the smaller rounds or hearts.
* Brush the tops of the mince pies with beaten egg.
* Bake in the oven for about 13 minutes until pale golden brown.
* Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
* Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Vegan Christmas cake
I finally got around to making my cake yesterday. This is my favourite cake in the world - moist, boozy, delicious. I am amazed we haven't cut it yet...This year I bought whiskey not brandy and I am worried it will taste different. If it does, I am going out for brandy pronto and I will douse the cake.

Juno studying the ingredients
As there are a lot of ingredients it is best to get everything ready before you start. We don't like icing but you can easily find vegan marzipan and royal icing.

The dry ingredients mixed with treacle
Juno helping me
This is a powerful cake - my wishes always seem to come true from it, so fingers crossed for this year's wish :) Happy Christmas!

350 gr wholegrain spelt flour
175gr vegan marg
175gr light muscovado sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
150gr sultanas
200gr raisins
150gr dates
50 gr flaked almonds
1 tblsp treacle
100gr glacé cherries, halved
grated zest of an orange
2 tblsps ground almonds
120ml soya milk
2 tblsps red wine vinegar
¾ tsp of bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
6 tblsps (90ml) brandy/whiskey

• Preheat oven to 150˚C
• Grease an 8” cake tin and line with greaseproof paper
• Sieve the flour and spice
• Rub in the marg until the mix is like breadcrumbs
• Stir in the flaked almonds and treacle
• Add the sugar, dried fruit, cherries, orange zest and ground almonds and mix
• Warm half the soya milk in a small pot and add the vinegar
• Dissolve the bread soda in the rest of the soya milk, then add
this to the milk and vinegar mix
• Stir this into flour and fruit mix until well combined
• Spoon mix into greased tin and smooth the top
• Bake for 2 hours, until a skewer/cocktail stick comes out clean
• Leave cake in tin to cool, then turn out and peel off greaseproof
• Prick cake with a cocktail stick and feed with a third of the brandy
• Wrap cake in greaseproof and store in a tin
• Feed with the rest of the brandy/whiskey at weekly intervals
• Will keep for 4 weeks or so