Fast-forward 30 or so years and imagine my confusion reading recipes for coffee cake and wondering where the heck that smoldering caffeine hit was? Yes, yes I know- hindsight now makes me see how short-sighted and literal I was. Lateral thinking was called for. A simple mistake in my defense I’ll plead. Almost as simple as the recipe for this cake here. Soured cream gives a moist crumb hiding a streak (and topping!) of oaty, cinnamon goodness and finished with a drizzle of smokey maple sweetness. This really perfect accompaniment to your caffeine rush no matter what the tine of day.
1 1/2 sticks salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup soured cream
2 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup All Purpose flour
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons smoked maple syrup (if you can’t get smoked maple syrup, traditional maple syrup will do just fine)
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 10” tube (angel food) pan
In the bowl of a stand mixer (with paddle attachment) cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This may take up to 10mins.
While the butter and sugar cream together, make the streusel. In a bowl combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and butter pieces. Rub the mixture together with your fingertips until a pea-sized sand texture is achieved and a crumble is formed. Mix in the toasted walnuts and set aside until needed later
To the creamed butter/sugar add the eggs one at a time, ensuring each is fully incorporated before moving onto the next
When all the eggs have been mixed in, add the vanilla and soured cream and mix until just incorprated
In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Whisk well the break down any lumps
On low speed add the flour mixture to your wet mixture gradually, I usually do it 1/4 cup at a time, waiting for each to be fully incorporated before adding the next
Continue adding the flour until it is all used and just combined into the mixture. Lightly fold using a spatula to make sure the batter is completely mixed
Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan and spread/level with a knife spatula. Sprinkle on 1 cup of the streusel mixture evenly.
Spoon the remainder of the batter on top and spread evenly. Finish with a final layer of the remaining streusel mixture on top
Bake in preheated even for 50- 60mins, until a cake tester comes out clean
Let cool on a wire rack for 30mins. After this carefully remove the cake from the baking tin, streusel-side up, and set aside to cool further
While the cake cools, in a jug combine the icing sugar and maple syrup. Stir until a smooth pourable is achieved. If the mixture is still a bit stiff add a few drops of milk to make it runny. Drizzle the glaze over to top of the cake to your desired amount and leave to fully cool before slicing and serving
This coffee cake will keep at it’s best in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Avoid storing the cake in the refrigerator as this will dry it out.
This bunch of recipes started as an idea where I wanted to do something drawing inspiration from my childhood in Ireland to my current life here in Toronto. It also helped that St. Patrick’s Day was impending so that provided a nice motivational kick. I’ve included three (or should it be four?) recipes here as frankly I couldn’t decide which to include for a single recipe post. However, I do think it works quite nicely to chart the influences on my passion for baking. I shall try to keep the background blurb short as I have to admit not being a fan of rambling anecdotes myself on recipe posts (“Seriously Janice- get to the recipe already! No one actually cares about your traumatic experience with bangs and how it rekindled your childhood love of popovers…)
In the meantime have a great St. Patrick’s Day. Eat (plenty); Drink (responsibly) and Be merry (it goes without saying).
Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibhe!
Traditional Plain Soda Bread w/ Blueberry, Rosemary & Juniper berry conserve
This is where I began. Well, I mean my love of baking. Soda bread was the first recipe that my mom showed me how to make in the kitchen. The bread is simplicity itself with little or no baking skill required. The conserve recipe is my substitute for the sticky jam jars of childhood. If you asked me to sum up childhood memories of baking it would be of freshly cut warm plain soda bread, slathered in butter and jam. And now I pass it on to you to make your own memories.
Plain soda bread
3 1/2 cups All purpose flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk*
Preheat oven to 450°F
Line a tray with baking parchment and dust lightly with flour. Set aside until needed
In a large bowl combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Whisk to combine and break down lumps. Make a well in the centre
Pour in most of the buttermilk
Using one hand stir the flour into the liquid from the outside of the bowl, turning the bowl as you do. Continue until the mixture comes together in a soft dough that is not too wet or sticky (you may need the remainder of the buttermilk here)
Turn the dough out into a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for a few seconds. Don’t overknead here- you just want to do it enough so that it holds it shape. Don’t do it to the extent that you would with standard bread dough!
Using your hands, lightly floured, pat the dough into a round shape about 2 inches thick. Transfer to the floured baking sheet
With a knife (I use a bench scraper) score a cross into the top of the loaf, so that it goes almost all the way through the thickness and over the sides of the loaf
Bake in the preheated oven for 15mins then reduce the heat to 400°F and continue baking for an additional 20mins until cooked. The baked loaf will be deep golden in color and sound hollow when the bottom of it is tapped
Remove and cool on a wire rack
This type of loaf will cool with a hard, crispy crust. If a softer crust is desired wrap a clean kitchen towel around the hot loaf and allow it to cool
*If you don’t have buttermilk to hand you can make your own by combining 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar in a jug. Stir to combine and leave to sit for 15 mins. After 15 mins the liquid will have thickened slightly and small curds can be seen. Use in the recipe as required. Any remaining milk can be stored in the fridge.
In large pot combine the blueberries, juniper berries, sugar, lemon juice and water
Stir over a medium heat until the mixture becomes loose and the berries start releasing liquid
When the berries have soften and you see more liquid add in the spring of rosemary, ensuring it is submerged in the liquid
Continue over a medium, stirring occasionally, for 30mins until the fruit has broken down and slightly thickened
Remove from heat, transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature and infuse
When cool place in a sterilised jar. Serve with traditional soda bread
Báirín Breac (Irish Barmbrack)
As a kid I hated dried fruit. Hated it with that primal fervour only a child can manifest when presented with something they don’t like. Not only was barmbrack out- also Christmas cake, fruit cookies and anything else harbouring any sign of a shrivelled morsel. Interesting then that as an adult I can have a hankering out of the blue for something with dried fruit. Perhaps making up for lost time? Whilst more traditional to see it at Halloween, barmbrack for me is synonymous with my roots in Motherland Hibernia. Here I’ve made some additions and substitutions- mead in addition to the traditional tea steeping fluid to give a little extra indulgence; Red Fife flour to add an extra layer of nuttiness to the loaf; and cranberries as, even after all these years, candied peel still abhors me.
Makes 1 loaf
1 cup raisins
1 cup sultanas
1 cup cranberries
1 1/2 cup black tea, freshly made
1/4 cup mead
3/4 cup dark muscovado sugar
1 cup All Purpose flour
2/3 cup Red Fife flour (or substitute wholewheat)
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
Put the raisins, sultanas and cranberries in a large heatproof bowl, pour over the tea and mead. Stir to combine ensuring all the fruit is wet. Leave to soak overnight, or minimum 6 hours, stirring occasionally
Heat the oven to 350°F and grease 4.5″ x 8.5″ loaf tin pan and line with baking parchment
In a second bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, spices and salt, making sure you break up any lumps in the sugar, then stir in the fruit mixture (including liquid), beaten egg and vanilla extract. Mix well to combine
Tip the loaf mix into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 80 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. (If the top looks to be going too dark or burning on top towards the end, cover loosely with foil)
Take out of the oven, leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out on to a baking rack
Whilst the loaf is cooling make the sugar syrup.
In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water. Heat the sugar and water over a high heat until the sugar has been dissolved. Bring to a boil and continue stirring over a high heat for 1 minute
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before applying to the loaf
When the loaf has been turned out on to the rack, liberally brush the top and sides with the cooled syrup
Allow to cool fully to room temperature before slicing and serving
Serve slathered in fresh butter and with a hot cup of tea for the quintessential Irish experience.
Store the baked loaf wrapped in wax paper, or baking parchment, in an airtight container. The taste and texture of the remaining loaf will improve over time becoming more “fudge” like.
Irish Cream Nanaimo Bars
While the previous recipes had their roots firmly planted in childhood memories and influences, this is a blatant (and heady) nod to the influences of my current home. Numerous Canadian baked goods have won me over – butter tarts; beaver tails; Pouding Chomeur but the Nanaimo bar truly hits my sweet Achilles heel. And how do you make something that perfect better? Why by adding booze of course! More specifically Irish Cream. Take your pick of the ones available out there but my preference is for the stalwart that is Baileys. Not that I’ve made trays of liqueur riddled sweet bars in order to research. Of course not!
1/2 cup of salted butter, melted
1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup of sweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely
1/2 cup walnut pieces, chopped and toasted
2 cups of icing sugar
1/2 cup of butter, softened
2 -3 tablespoons of Irish Cream liqueur, I use Baileys
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 separate tablespoons of butter
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x9inch baking pan with parchment paper
For the bottom layer, in a medium bowl, combined the sugar and melted butter. Stir until the sugar is nearly dissolved. Add in the graham crumbs, shredded coconut, cocoa, chopped chocolate and walnut pieces. Combine well. Add in the beaten egg and again mix well to combine
Press the mixture into the lined baking pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, remove and set aside to cool (I usually cool mine in the fridge as i make the middle layer)
Whilst the bottom layer is cooling prepare the middle layer
In the bowl of a stand mixer (paddle attachment fitted) combine the icing sugar, softened butter, cornstarch and liqueur. Beat on slow until all ingredients are combined and then increase the speed to high for a few minutes until the mixture is whipped and fluffy. Spread the whipped mixture evenly over the cooled bottom layer. Place in the fridge to cool while you make the top layer
Combine the semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon of butter in one heatproof bowl and the white chocolate chips and the other tablespoon of butter in another heatproof bowl. Melt both bowls of chocolate, one at a time, set over a pan of hot water. Spoon dollops of each melted chocolate over the cooled middle layer and using a knife spatula or spoon swirl together to evenly coat the top of the mixture
Place in the fridge and chill for minimum 2 hours before slicing (4x 6) and serving.
Keep the bars refrigerated for up to 3 days in a closed container, or frozen for up to 3 months
This dish was one that on my first attempt I tentatively made my way through. Most of the recipes I researched commented that care needs to be taken with the paprika, if it’s dry cooked too long it can scorch giving the dish an underlying acrid taste. Next, care had to be taken when adding the soured cream/ cream mixture. If you dump it straight into the pan with the paprika mixture there’s a very high chance of it splitting and curdling the sauce, flecking it with gloopy, white nodules. Whilst it’s still edible it is no where on par with the velvety smooth, ochre sauce that you get by taking that little additional step of tempering the cold cream mixture with a few tablespoons of the hot paprika sauce.
Now, after making it a number of times, I can navigate the recipe with that intrinsic muscle memory that is so synonymous with cooking or baking comfort food dishes. It’s very easy to see why this dish has stood the test of time.
As well as the chicken paprikash I’ve included a recipe for spaetzle. For me the two go together like every cliched pairing you could think of. Spaetzle (“Little Sparrows) are toothy little dumplings of German origin. I first had these in a Bavarian restaurant in Vermont having ordered them not knowing what to expect. When they arrived I was prepared for something like pasta from the visual. I was more than pleasantly surprised upon first bite at how chewy they were, with an addictive density smothered in rich butter. A beautiful love affair was born!
Try these out- you won’t be disappointed!
*for this dish I usually serve 1-2 drumsticks and 2 thigh pieces per person.
8 drumstick portions of chicken
8 thigh potions of chicken
1 medium white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 1/2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (at a push you can use standard paprika but the Hungarian variety gives a much better flavour)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup soured cream
1/4 cup heavy/ whipping cream
3 tablespoons flour
Flat leaf parsley, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
In a jug, stir to combine the soured cream and heavy/whipping cream. Add the flour and stir until fully incorporated. Set aside until needed later
In a large pan over a medium heat, brown the chicken drumsticks and thighs until golden brown. Remove and place in a casserole dish or Dutch oven.
Place in the preheated oven until needed near the end of the recipe
In the same pan as the chicken was cooked, add the onion sauté until softened, then add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and stir to deglaze the pan of chicken fronds
Add the chopped garlic and thyme leaves and sauté with the onions for a few minutes until the garlic is lightly browned
Off the heat stir in the paprika and stir to coat the pan contents
Return the pan to the stove, add the chopped tomatoes and chicken broth. Cook over a medium heat until bubbling. Check and adjust seasoning to taste
Whilst the paprika mixture cooks, to the jug of soured cream/cream mixture add 2-3 tablespoons of the hot paprika mixture and stir well to combine. Add the contents of the jug to the main pan of the paprika mixture and stir for a few minutes to fully incorporate and thicken. The paprika sauce should now be thick and bright orange in color
Remove dish of chicken pieces from the oven and pour over the paprika sauce, covering and coating all the chicken pieces
Return the dish of chicken pieces and sauce to the oven and continue to bake for a further 10mins. After this time check the chicken to be fully cooked (should be an internal temperature of 165degrees F)
Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the chopped flat leave parsley and serve. Chicken paprikash goes particularly well with a side helping of hot buttered spaetzle (and I just happen to include it below!)
Hot Buttered Spaetzle
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 teaspoons dried parsley
1/3 cup milk
In a jug, whisk together the eggs and milk. Set aside
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg and parsley. Whisk to combine and make a well in the centre
Pour in the egg/milk mixture and stir well until combined. The mixture will be quite thick and stretchy
Cover and set the spaetzli batter aside for at least an hour at room temperature. (I usually prepare mine in the morning if I’m cooking them in the evening- a lengthy sitting of 3-4 hours. This helps the dough to develop both taste and texture)
*This next bit depends entirely on what method you use to make you spaetzle. There are a number of gadgets that can be used for making spaetzle. These range from a sapetzle “press” (similar to a potato ricer) to a spaetzle “slider” (looks like a mandolin) but the method I use is with a spaetzle “lid and scraper”.
Place large dollops of the reared batter on the lid and use the scraper to push the batter through. Admittedly this make take some more skill and dexterity but it’s what I’m used to. The main thing here is to use a method that you’re comfortable with.
Spaetzle lid and scraper
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat. Whilst this reaches boiling fill another large boil with cold water & ice and leave in close proximity.
*Make the spaetzle according to your device method. With all the methods exercise immense caution as you’re working in close proximity to the boiling water
(Lid and scraper method) Place the spaetzle lid over the pot of boiling water. Take a ladle full of batter and drop it onto the lid.
Force the batter through the device. The batter will form droplets and drip in to the salted boiling water below and let them cook for 1 to 2 minutes until floating on the surface. Continue until all the batter is squeezed through the lid. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the large bowl of iced water
Repeat until you have used up all the spaetzle batter
In a large pan, head 5-6 tablespoons of butter until sizzling over a medium heat
Drain the spaetzle of all water, add to the butter and toss to coat
Continue to stir and toss over a medium heat until they start to get flecked with golden brown flecks
Serve hot with chicken paprikash
• The spaetzli may be cooked a few hours in advance to the point where they are placed in the iced water. If you want to store them remove them from iced water, shake dry and place in a covered container in the refrigerator. I have made mine the day before, stored in the fridge and then cooked the evening of the following day. Still perfection!
I’ll say it now- I’m not a big fan of cheese dishes. Now that’s out of the way I will admit to having cravings for them on occasion. Specifically one dish- Mac and Cheese. The stalwart comfort food that’s good enough to dissuade even a turophobe like me. One evening I took a fancy to make mac and cheese. Along with fried chicken. Along with Southern buttermilk biscuits! Pairing the cheesy pasta dish with fried chicken and how could I not be on board? Whilst doing my research on fried chicken I came across “Comeback Sauce”. Originating in Mississippi this dipping sauce is a spicy condiment guaranteed to have you licking your fingers and indeed “coming back” for more. When put together all of this dishes are for me the ultimate comfort food dinner and well worth the effort. After posting about it on my social media I was surprised by the interest in it and after much feedback from you- here it is! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Cheese & Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese
2 cups diced bacon
1 1/2 tsp maple syrup
4 cups dried macaroni elbow pasta
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 ground white pepper
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup Velveeta processed cheese product
2 cups freshly shredded Gouda (smoked can be used)
1 cup freshly shredded sharp red cheddar
1 cup fresh shredded Jarlesburg
1/2 cup grated Parmesean
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp melted butter
Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly grease/ butter a large casserole dish ( I used 11″x 11″x 2 1/2″)
In a frying pan or skillet fry the chopped bacon until lightly brown. Add the maple syrup and continue to fry until crispy. Remove from the heat, transfer to a plate and allow to cool. (When cool the bacon may stick together. Break up to smaller pieces if needed)
Cook the pasta according to package instructions, drain and return to pasta pot to keep warm. Lightly toss in olive oil to prevent clumping
Combine the shredded cheeses and set aside until needed
In a separate small bowl stir together the Parmesan cheese, panko breadcrumbs and melted butter. Set aside until needed
Prepare the cheese sauce base. In a large pot melt the butter. Add in the flour and stir to coat in butter. Cook over a medium heat until golden.
Gradually add in the milk, stirring constantly with a small whisk to prevent lumps
Once all the milk has been added cook the sauce over a medium heat until bubbling. Cook for 2 minutes, again stirring constantly, until thickened
Add in salt and pepper, and stir to mix
Reduce heat to low, add in the Velvetta and stir to melt
Once the Velveeta has melted, add in the shredded cheese mix in stages stirring between until each addition is melted. Once all the cheeses have been added continue to stir until smooth. Remove from the heat
Add the prepared macaroni pasta and crispy bacon pieces and stir well to combine ensuring all the pasta is covered in the cheese sauce. Transfer to your prepared casserole dish
Sprinkle the top of the pasta mix with the breadcrumb mix
Bake in the prepared oven for between 20-25mins or until the crumbs are golden.
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, very cold and cubed
1 cup cold buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Place the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl and stir to well combined
Add the cubed butter and cut into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter until coarse crumbs form
Make a well in the centre of the mixture. Pour the buttermilk on top. Stir everything together until just about combined– don’t overwork the dough. The dough will look like very crumbly
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently mould it into a rough looking rectangle using your hands. Next fold one side into the centre, then the other side. Turn the dough so it’s long horizontally. Gently flatten. Repeat the folding again. Turn the dough so it’s long horizontally once more. Gently flatten. Repeat the folding one more time
Gently roll the dough out with a rolling pin until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 3-inch circles. Re-roll any scraps until you have 9-12 biscuits
Arrange close together on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Make sure they’re touching
Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown on top.
Remove from the oven and, if desired, brush with melted butter. Enjoy warm. When cool, cover tightly and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days
12-16 chicken breast fillets
Canola oil for frying
4 cups Buttermilk
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Whisk together the buttermilk and dry ingredients and place in a shallow casserole dish
Place the chicken pieces into the marinade and gently stir to coat. The pieces should at least be semi-covered in the liquid
Cover and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge
In another shallow dish or plate mix together the seasoned flour ingredients
Remove the chicken pieces from the fridge, remove from buttermilk (do not remove any excess marinade) and dredge one at a time in the flour mixture. Press the mixture into the chicken whilst dredging. Again do not remove or shake off any excess. Leave the coated pieces to rest on a plate to one side whilst you heat your oil.
Pour canola oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot or pan, so that oil only comes halfway up the pot. Heat oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 F (180 C). Add 4 pieces of chicken to the pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Fry chicken for 4 minutes per side, adjusting the heat so it hovers between 280 F (145 C) and 300 F (150 C)
Transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain (and check for doneness by opening chicken or using a probe thermometer to read 175 F). Cover with foil to keep warm and continue frying other chicken pieces *if oil temperature drops due to frying process, simple reheat to original temperature
Keep chicken pieces warm until ready to serve
2/3 Cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Garlic Powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Mix all ingredients together until smooth and well combined