With November 5th looming only a couple of weeks away, this month’s recipe is a bit of fun and perfect fodder for a Bonfire party. Like most people these days, we go to a safe organised event, we are lucky enough to have some terrific ones in our area; we really are spoilt for choice. You get all of the “whizz bangs” and a big bonfire and of course don’t forget the obligatory sparklers. We always go to the Lions Club event on top of Thimbleby Hill in Horncastle, the real highlight for us is the enormous bonfire. There is something very ancient and special about a group of people gathering around a big fire in celebration. We then trek home and have our bonfire food in the warm, in the Hirst household it’s Hotdogs made with Lincolnshire Chipolatas served with ketchup and onions, Steak burgers and for pudding – Chocolate Orange Bonfire Muffins.
This is my recipe that seems to have evolved over a number of years, tweaking here and there. It’s a bit on the modern side for me, but I do have a weak spot for classic American Muffins. They are really easy to make, you just have to remember that they require a very different approach to making them than our British Fairy Cakes. You need to handle the mixture really gently and not mix it too much at all, once the wet and dry ingredients are barely combined, that’s it –stop.
You will need two big mixing bowls (one for wet ingredients and one for your dry)
Measuring spoons, sieve, big metal spoon, measuring jug, whisk, little saucepan to melt your butter in, chopping board, chopping knife, zester, lemon squeezer, scales, couple of spatulas, muffin cases (nice in orange or brown), muffin tins, mixer or food processor to make buttercream.
Bowl number one
- 12oz/350g plain flour
- 3oz/85g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 260g chopped up orange Matchmaker Chocolates (2 boxes)
- 1tbsp/15ml baking powder
- ½ tsp/2.5ml bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp/2.5ml salt
Bowl number two
- 2 large eggs (lightly beaten)
- 4floz/ 120ml whole milk.
- Zest of 1 orange
- 4floz/120ml juice from the orange
- 6oz/175g butter melted
- 7oz/200g soft Demerara sugar
- Orange Butter Icing and Decoration
- 6oz/150g butter at room temperature
- 11oz/300g sieved icing sugar
- Drop of red food colouring, I used 1 drop of liquid red to five spots of Sugarflair yellow paste concentrate.
- Box of Orange Matchmaker Chocolates (so three boxes in total)
- Gold leaf if feeling really decadent
- Non toxic gold and orange glitter.
- Preheat oven to fan 180c/gas mark 5/ 375F
- Sieve plain flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into bowl number one.
- Chop up roughly two boxes of matchmakers and mix into your dry mix in bowl number one.
- Lightly beat your eggs in bowl number two.
- Melt your butter in a little pan
- Zest and juice your orange
- Add your milk, sugar, orange zest, orange juice and butter to the eggs and give it a good whisk together.
- Gently fold in the wet ingredients to the dry. Don’t over mix it; stop when it has just come together.
- Fill your muffin cases right up to the top, that way you will get your classic domed muffin top.
- You should get about 12 big ones out of the mix.
- If you want to be a bit chefy, put a shallow tray of water in the bottom of your oven, the steam created will help your muffins rise a bit more.
- Bake for about 20min, you don’t want to over bake these.
- Take out of the oven when done, leave to cool for about 5 min in the tray and then take them out and put onto a cooling rack and leave until completely cold.
Now for the butter cream, either with a hand held whisk, a food processor or freestanding mixer start to whisk your butter, this does need to be butter and not stork or margarine as it needs to firm up in the fridge after you have decorated the muffins.
When it is starting to get pale and fluffy add in your sieved icing sugar. I use a food processor as it minimises clouds of icing sugar going all over your kitchen. At this stage I put my food colour in. I don’t put any orange flavouring into the buttercream, as you have got it in the muffins and again in the matchmaker decoration. Chill the buttercream for a few minutes to firm up ready for decorating. It doesn’t want to be rock hard, as you need to be able to work it up into a bonfire shape.
Now for the exciting bit, I put a good dome of buttercream on top of the muffin in the middle. You don’t want to cover the whole surface of the muffin, or it is just too much buttercream. You need to be aiming for a big walnut size blob in the middle and drag it up into a peak, so you have a good shape to start with. Then break the matchmakers into rough thirds and stick them in the buttercream sloping up to a point to make a bonfire shape, with bits of the buttercream showing through to look like flames. I then used some edible glitter in orange and gold to sprinkle over the top (please check the label as there are different sorts of glitter, make sure it is edible) finally finish the top with a tiny bit of gold leaf. Gold leaf is expensive, so if these are going to be eaten outside in potentially foul weather I wouldn’t bother with it – your expense and wrestling with it will be lost. The only reason to use gold leaf is to show off and that’s it. The best way to handle it is to use a clean pair of tweezers; otherwise it will stick to your fingers and dissolve into thin air. Makes sure your windows and doors are closed too or it inclined to blow away into nothing. If these muffins are going to be inside as part of a party spread I think the extra touches are worth it as they do look quite impressive. When you have finished decorating them, pop them in the fridge to firm up. They will keep for a couple of days.
Wishing you all a happy, sparkling and safe Bonfire Night.
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