Gemma Stafford may be a YouTube superstar with over a million followers, but the professionally trained chef from Ireland who is the talent behind the website Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking, doesn’t share complicated recipes with uncommon ingredients.
In fact, Stafford’s focus is on accessible recipes that only include ingredients she would stock in her own kitchen. Some of her most popular recipes are one-minute mug cakes made in the microwave. These recipes are simplicity at their finest: mix a few ingredients in a mug, pop it in the microwave, and within about seven minutes start to finish you’ve got a homemade cake for one.
Stafford was in Chicago March 9-12 for the International Housewards Show. In an interview with DailyNorthShore, she said she conceived of microwavable mugs after a follower requested a recipe for a cake that isn’t made in a conventional oven. She mulled over the request, until she came up with the idea of microwaving a cake in a mug. The response was overwhelming and from there Stafford expanded on the concept to include a range of “mug meals” such as mug pizza, egg mugmuffins, pudding, cookies pie — you name it, Stafford can show you how to cook it in a mug.
Through her website, Youtube videos and social media platforms, Stafford shares recipes and tips for making easy meals that are real food fast, but far more delicious than fast food. Another fan favorite is a recipe for making homemade ice cream without an ice cream machine. By keeping it simple, Stafford has helped her followers overcome a fear that cooking is difficult.
“I didn’t reinvent the wheel. I was just pointing out to them that they could do this,” Stafford said.
In her videos, she shares step-by-step how to make a recipe, anticipating issues that may come up for a novice cook and explaining the best way to avoid those missteps. Since starting her website four years ago, Stafford has built a community of followers who are passionate about food.
Growing up in a small town a small town in southeast Ireland, Stafford always loved food. “Ever since I was a young girl I was fascinated,” she said. Every night her mother made a home cooked meal from scratch, trying a variety of recipes. “She was the reason I fell in love with food,” Stafford confessed.
Stafford was interested in becoming a teacher or a chef, ultimately deciding to pursue her passion for food and attended the Ballymaloe culinary school in County Cork. Upon moving to California, Stafford gained experience as a pastry chef working in bakeries and at a Michelin starred restaurant in San Francisco, as well as starting her own catering company.
When Stafford turned to online platforms to share her love of cooking, she essentially merged her passion for food with her interest in teaching. Stafford works with her husband, who has a background in technology and entertainment, and does all of the video and tech support.
With Saint Patrick’s Day just around the corner, Stafford recalled eating boiled bacon and cabbage, a classic Irish dish of the holiday. She also shared with DailyNorthShore two classic Irish recipes for readers to try: Irish soda bread and scones. More quintessentially Irish recipes can be found on Stafford’s website, www.biggerbolderbaking.com, as well as plenty of quick and easy recipes.
Traditional Irish Soda Bread (Brown Bread)
Author: Patricia Stafford
• 1¾ cups (265g/ 9oz) whole wheat flour (fine or coarsely ground)
• 1¾ cups (265g/9oz) all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 tablespoons (30g/1oz) butter, cold
• 1 egg
• 1⅔ cups (400ml) buttermilk*
• 1 tablespoons oats
Preheat the oven to 425°F (215°C).
Mix together the flours, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs.
In a separate jug, whisk the egg and buttermilk together (see note on how to make buttermilk below).
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the liquid into the flour mixture.
Using an open hand bring the flour and liquid together to a loose dough. The dough should be quite soft, but not too sticky.
Turn onto a floured work surface and gently bring the dough together into a round about 1½ inches (4cm) thick (8 inches by 8 inches).
Place on a baking sheet dusted well with flour.
Score the bread by blessing it with a deep cross on top. Poke a hole in the 4 corners of the bread to release the fairies and stop them from cursing your beautiful bread.
Glaze the bread with the leftover bit of buttermilk in your jug and dust the top with rolled oats.
Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 400°F (200°C) and bake for 30 minutes more. When done, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.
*For every cup of buttermilk needed mix 1 cup of regular milk with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar. Mix and let it stand for a minimum of 30 minutes before using.
Traditional Irish Scones
Author: Avoca Handweavers cookbook
• 3 ½ cups (1 lb/ 16oz ) flour (all purpose/plain)
• 5 level tsp baking powder
• 1 generous pinch of salt
• ¼ cup (2 oz/60g) white sugar
• 1 stick (4 oz/ 125g) cold salted butter
• 1 whole egg
• 2 oz double cream
• 7 oz whole milk
• Milk to glaze
In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients together
Rub in the cold butter with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.
If adding dried fruit e.g. raisins, berries, citrus rind, chocolate chips add them now before you add liquid.
Mix your egg with the milk and cream and pour into your flour mix (if you don’t have cream you can use only milk).
With an open hand mix loosely your scone mix until your dough forms. The bowl should be clean from the dough.
Turn your dough onto a floured work surface.
Knead lightly to give your dough a smooth surface.
Pat your dough down with your hand until around 1 inches thick.
With a scone cutter cut out your lovely little scones. You will have around 12.
Put on a baking tray, glaze the tops of your scones with some milk to give them a golden top when baked.
Bake at 350oF (18OoC) for 35 minutes.
Enjoy with Irish butter, jam and freshly whipped cream. Scones are best eaten the day they are baked but the next day you can pop them back in the oven to freshen them up again.