St. Patrick’s Day Recipe Bundle

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!

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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

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups All purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk*

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Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F
  2. Line a tray with baking parchment and dust lightly with flour. Set aside until needed
  3. 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
  4. Pour in most of the buttermilk
  5. 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)
  6. 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!
  7. Using your hands, lightly floured, pat the dough into a round shape about 2 inches thick. Transfer to the floured baking sheet
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. Remove and cool on a wire rack
  11. 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

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*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.

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Blueberry, rosemary & juniper berry conserve

Ingredients

  • 4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoons dried juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary (6 inch length apx)

Method

  1. In large pot combine the blueberries, juniper berries, sugar, lemon juice and water
  2. Stir over a medium heat until the mixture becomes loose and the berries start releasing liquid
  3. When the berries have soften and you see more liquid add in the spring of rosemary, ensuring it is submerged in the liquid
  4. Continue over a medium, stirring occasionally, for 30mins until the fruit has broken down and slightly thickened
  5. Remove from heat, transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature and infuse
  6. When cool place in a sterilised jar. Serve with traditional soda bread

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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

Ingredients

  • 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

To finish

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

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Method

  1. 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 
  2. Heat the oven to 350°F and grease 4.5″ x 8.5″ loaf tin pan and line with baking parchment
  3. 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
  4. 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)
  5. Take out of the oven, leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out on to a baking rack
  6. Whilst the loaf is cooling make the sugar syrup.
  7. 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
  8. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before applying to the loaf
  9. When the loaf has been turned out on to the rack, liberally brush the top and sides with the cooled syrup
  10. Allow to cool fully to room temperature before slicing and serving
  11. Serve slathered in fresh butter and with a hot cup of tea for the quintessential Irish experience.
  12. 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.img_3501

 

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!

Makes 24

Ingredients

Bottom Layer

  • 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

Middle Layer

  • 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

Top Layer

  • 3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 separate tablespoons of butter

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x9inch baking pan with parchment paper
  2. 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
  3. 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)
  4. Whilst the bottom layer is cooling prepare the middle layer
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. Place in the fridge and chill for minimum 2 hours before slicing (4x 6) and serving.
  8. Keep the bars refrigerated for up to 3 days in a closed container, or frozen for up to 3 months


Living in the Black

If you follow my social media feeds (Twitter; Facebook and Instagram) you’ve probably noticed I’ve been posting a lot of recipes lately featuring the little known ingredient that is Black Garlic. Whilst it might conjure up not so pleasing images (and not to mention smells!) believe me it’s completely unfounded.
Courtesy of the team at Balsajo Original Black Garlic I’ve been experimenting on both the sweet and savoury fronts with some very tasty results indeed.

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If you haven’t heard of Black Garlic yet please, please don’ tbe put off by the name. Yes- it is garlic “…but not as we know it Jim“. Forget the hard, pungent, opalescent nuggets that give us one of the cornerstones of cooking. Black Garlic is instead a case of Kitchen Alchemy made true. By process of heat and humidity (and probably some trade secret) familar white garlic bulbs are transformed into dark, fragrant, nuggets of molasses-like jelly. Again I say stick with me here! Whilst some people might be quick lable it shrivelled and black (well I guess it is black- there’s no fighting nature there!) what you can do with this is practically limitless. I’ve tried using it as an ingredient in sweet and savory dishes (and some in between). Thus far it’s prooved to be a very versatile ingredient indeed. Soft and jelly-like in texture with a flavour which brings to mind treacle, molasses, truffle, and balsamic I definitely recommend getting some of this into your kitchen. Its available in some selected supermarkets and artisan food stores. The guys over at Balsajo Black Garlic have included a handy stockist locator on their website. 

I’ve been wanting to experiment with Black Garlic for a while in order to test the full breadth of it’s uses and here’s what I came up with:

Fennel Seed & Black Garlic Toffee

Originally this came about as some Twitter banter between myself and the wonderful Miss Kitty Hope (yes indeed, she of Hope and Greenwood – purveyors of all things fantastical and sweet!)- but more about that later. We nattered about bacon in sweets/ bakes and somehow ended up challenging each other to creating something with a none-too-common ingredient and so black garlic was suggested. The resulting Black Garlic & Fennel Seed Toffee is a sweet, creamy toffee with a subtle hint of anise from the Fennel Seed and the treacley flavour of the black garlic adding to the creaminess. Surprisingly moreish- even if I do say so myself!

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Blueberry, Balck Garlic & Corriander Traybake

I needed to try the dark beauty of black garlic in a bake. Well- I wouldn’t be Mr. Mom’s without baking something now would I? Blueberry and corriander is a little known combo that works really well. The citrus notes of corriander seed boosting the flavour of the fruity blueberries. Topping the traybake with a limoncello buttercream frosting added an indulgent alcoholic kick (okay I’ll admit it I thought they were sounding just a little too healthy!). The addition of some chopped black garlic baked into the sponge mellows what otherwise might have been citrus overload and layers in nicley with the graduation from mellow to citrus kick.

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The adapted recipe in cupcake form was featured in my stint on the Mel & Sue show and you can find the recipe here.

Mel & Sue Cupcakes

Black Garlic & Chilli Oatcakes

So enough with the sweet things I thought. How about a savoury bake? My husband and I are chalk and cheese; oil and water; Yin and Yang when it comes to tastes. Whilst I am a complete an utter sweet-tooth advocate, he’s marches firmly to be beat of the Umami drum. I’ll have pudding and he’ll have cheese. Ah hah! And so I had my next experimental idea for black garlic. The treacley earthiness of the black garlic combines well with the mellow oatiness of these biscuits, before a subtle kick of heat comes in from the chilli. I tried them with a fabulous Epoisses  cheese, while my other half couldn’t get enough of them with a mature cheddar. They’ve definitely been added to my “Must Bake Again” list!

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Black Garlic & Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes

As I mentioned earlier on, this trip through the looking glass into the Land of Black Garlic happened because of some rather impromptu Twitter banter between myself and my new BFF Miss Kitty Hope. We challenged each other (I rather foolhardily) to create a bake, or sweet….or something (?) with  an unusual ingredient. I threw black garlic into the ring and Miss Hope picked up the gauntlet. The “competition” was facilitated by the team at Taste PR and kindly judged by the incredible Lily Jones (of Lily Vanilli). My black garlic & Matcha green tea cupcakes draw inspiration from the Asian background of black garlic and combine a number of Oriental flavours. The complete offering was a Matcha green tea & black garlic sponge, with Plum Wine spiked frosting, topped with a Matcha green tea, black garlic & black sesame seed marshmallow, and a candied black garlic clove “dart”. Rather incredibly (and very much to my surprise!) Lily decided on my cupcakes as a winner. I do however have to give kudos to Miss Kitty for providing some rather excellent and challenging competition (not to mention some hilarious Twitter “reading”!)

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So enough preaching the wonders of black garlic. As they say, “The proof is in the pudding”…or rather in this case- the toffee. I in no way intend to compete with the skilful mastery of confection that Hope & Greenwood have but I will freely admit to Miss Kitty Hope being the inspiration behind my Black Garlic & Fennel Seed Toffee. After all without her initial challenge in my Twit-stream I’d never have ventured into the realm of boiled sugar at all. So if you’re feeling up for it and fancy a little black garlic experimentation why not try you’re hand at making…

Black Garlic & Fennel Seed Toffee (aka Miss Kitty’s Challenge)

Ingredients:

500g caster sugar

125g salted butter

1 tbsp treacle

3 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

397g tin condensed milk 90ml water

1 tbsp fennel seeds

5 cloves black garlic, chopped

 

You’ll need:

A deep sided pan

A sugar thermometer

A silicone tray, or a baking parchment lined & greased tray

 

Method:

– In a deep pan, place the butter, sugar, treacle, golden syrup and water into a pan and heat, stirring constantly.

– Once all the ingredients are well mixed and melted, add the condensed milk slowly, stirring occasionally until it boils.

– Continue at a steady boil until the mixture reaches the “Hard crack” stage on a sugar thermometer, again stirring occasionally. Test that the toffee is ready by dropping a spoonful into cold water – if it turns solid, it is ready.

– Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the fennel seeds and black garlic. (Note: The black garlic may clump together as it’s quite sticky. Separate into smaller pieces as you as you add to the toffee mixture.)

– Pour into the prepared tray.  Allow to cool for about 6-7 minutes then score into regular sized pieces with a sharp knife.

– Once fully cooled break along the score lines into pieces.

– The toffee can be wrapped in baking parchment or greaseproof paper and stored in an air-tight container.

 

If you try my toffee recipe I do hope you enjoy and meantime,

“Remember Mom’s the word- that’s Mr. Mom’s!”