Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Proof once again that chocolate will always make things better

Last week was a tough week. Things went wrong. Things fell through. And at one stage, a chimney almost fell off - but I don't even want to go there and, believe me, neither do you!

Some of you may think I'm mad but I've been trying to coordinate setting up a café with my other full-time work. This means that the past few weeks have consisted of me constantly switching from journalist mode to teacher mode to hassled-person-trying-to-set-up-a-café mode. Mostly, I've been doing fine, though there have been times when I've forgotten just who I'm supposed to be...

That was until last Thursday. I'd been in Tralee on Wednesday, where I'd found tablecloths I liked. This was a huge step forward as I'd spent ages searching in Dublin, Limerick and Dingle. But when I called the shop early on Thursday morning to finalise the order, they hit me with a bombshell. They didn't have enough fabric and the pattern had been discontinued so they couldn't order in any more. Back to the drawing board went a VERY disheartened Sharon.

Barely a second after that phone call, there was the chimney incident (the less said about that, the better) and another phone call from my landlord with more bad news.

Feeling really discouraged by now, I then had to go and teach a computer literacy class to a group of pensioners. The computers were playing up and it took at least 40 minutes to get started, by which time my normally lovely pensioners were very crotchety.

Things got even worse after that but I can feel my blood pressure rising as I write so perhaps it's just best for me to say that by Friday, I had made little or no progress with the café and expected little from the weekend.

Needing some serious cheering up, I found myself browsing through Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard, one of the cookbooks I got this Christmas and a treasure trove of baking treats. I found a recipe for chocolate custard muffins and by their very name alone, I knew they were what I needed.

Note to readers: before you get too excited, the name refers to the cooking method. There is no chocolate custard inside. But this doesn't make them any less delicious. These muffins are moist, chocolately and more-ish. One will most definitely not be enough.
Note to self: must make chocolate muffins with chocolate custard inside.

You'll find Dan's recipe for the muffins on the Guardian website here. He's a regular contributor of theirs and I warn you that if you browse his recipes, you'll definitely end up wanting his book! 
While the muffins were baking in the oven and cooling afterwards, I made Dan's treacle chocolate fudge icing to go on top. 

Halve the measurements he uses and you'll have enough to swirl on top of 12 muffins as well as some left over to use as chocolate spread afterwards. It keeps very well in the fridge.

I felt so much better after baking and eating these that my weekend seemed to flow from there. My boyfriend, two of my sisters and one of their boyfriends came to help me get started with painting on Saturday. One of them even had lots of tablecloth samples for me and I found one that was better than my original choice. (Hooray!)

We made much more progress than I ever thought we would and I am so thankful to them all for helping me and lifting me out of what was becoming a dark and pessimistic mood.

I feel I should thank these muffins too. The very act of baking them and the pleasure of eating them made me remember just what I'm trying to do with this café. There will be obstacles to overcome along the way but if delicious food like this is the result, I feel that it will be worth it.

My helpers enjoyed eating the muffins too!

I'll definitely be making these again. They may even feature on the menu of my café. If they made me feel better and made a success of a weekend that I thought would be a total failure, they must be good.


  1. Really glad that Short and Sweet was able to bring you some comfort when everything was going wrong! I might make a batch for my new housemates, they look delicious..

  2. Good to hear about the tablecloths and things generally improving, Sharon!
    And the room for your café looks lovely and friendly. I like the blue!

    (And if you decide to put those muffins on the menu - once you've reached the stage of being able to chuckle about all your troubles, why not call them something like Chocolate Chimney muffins, or Disaster muffins? ;-) )

  3. Everything I've made from it has been really good so far, Nancy! I've made a saffron, gruyere and onion tart, these muffins and apple, walnut and custard cake (that one did have actual custard in it!). I'd totally recommend these muffins. You'll definitely make a good impression on your housemates if you cook them these. Hope all is well. x

  4. I wouldn't speak too soon, Katja! Things are improving but there may be more call for these disaster muffins yet!

  5. Hang on in there, Sharon. From the picture above it does look like you're getting there - love the colours!

  6. Thanks, Caroline. I'm glad you like the colours and it's always good to hear some words of encouragment. I had anticipated some things causing me stress and was in some way ready for them. It's the unexpected things that have tipped me over the edge!