Guinness Soda Bread

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Sometimes there is nothing that I need more than a bowl of thick homemade soup and a slice or two of freshly baked, good, old-fashioned soda bread. Although sometimes I get the urge to throw the contents of a can of Guinness into the recipe. Why you might ask? Why not, is the important question.

I first tried Guinness soda bread in La Palma, which is a wonderful Italian restaurant in Waterford City. I was quite under the weather when I went out for dinner that night. My taste buds were acting up. The poor little guys failed to experience the true flavours of what I’m certain was a most flavourful meal. Visually, the meal was beautiful. I’ll have to return again. I was however, delighted when our waitress came out with a basket of bread, asking us which we would like to try. There was an option of a freshly baked crusty Italian bread or of a traditional Guinness soda bread. Ben and I opted for the Guinness soda bread without hesitation, having neither of us sampled it before.

I was surprised that I could taste the bread so intensely. It was nutty, warm and sweet, with a flavour that had a lot of depth. I could taste a hint of Guinness, which I’m sure would have been a lot stronger had it been another night. It was comforting and I longed for more of it.

So one evening after college I decided to create a loaf of Guinness soda bread which I hoped would do La Palma’s loaf justice. It turned out to be a lovely loaf. Nice and soft on the inside with a crisp exterior. And of course, the Guinness was present in both aroma and taste.

This could certainly be one for St.Patrick’s Day. Celebrate St.Patrick, Ireland and Guinness. All in one loaf!

Ingredients (Makes 1 Loaf):

  • 450g wholemeal flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 25g oats
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 50g margarine
  • 1 tablespoon treacle/golden syrup/honey
  • 400ml Guinness

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 190C/180C Fan/375F/Gas 5. Lightly grease a loaf tin.
  2. Put the margarine with the treacle/golden syrup/honey in a saucepan and allow the margarine to melt over a low heat.
  3. Meanwhile, place the flour, oats and sugar into a large bowl. Sieve in the bread soda, mixing well.
  4. Once the margarine has melted, stir in the Guinness.
  5. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and combine.
  6. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes. The loaf is done when a cake tester which has been inserted into the loaf comes out clean, or when the base makes a hollow sound when tapped.
  7. Once cooked, remove from the pan and allow to cool. Cover with a clean towel if a softer crust is desired.

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Valentines Shortbread Jam Hearts

I am a sucker for Valentine’s Day! I welcome any excuse to show someone how much I love them. I am a retailers dream come true. The same goes for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas and Easter. I don’t know how or when to stop. My bank balance wishes I would. But life is too short for that nonsense. The people in my life are there to be loved and spoiled. So love and spoil them I shall.

Yes, I am one of those people that buys the cutest and cheesiest Valentine’s card of all time. It brings me joy and is a guilty pleasure of mine. I picked out presents for Ben that I hope he will adore. I also made some delectable edible treats, because I really do think it’s expected of me at this stage (pastry chef and culinary arts student that I am).

I could spend hours browsing the web, absorbing all of the beautiful Valentine’s baked goods that it has to offer. It’s a celebration of love. Where would we be without it? The world can sometimes be a bad place but it can also be wonderful. Life is what you make of it. On a day like the 14th of February, life and love can be celebrated.

So why not get into the kitchen and make your loved one an edible present which has been made with love?

Happy Valentine’s Day! ❤

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Shortbread Hearts

Ingredients:

  • 150g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g butter or margarine
  • 50g caster sugar
  • Strawberry or raspberry jam
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
  3. Mix the butter and sugar into the flour.
  4. Combine all the ingredients until a smooth paste has been formed.
  5. Dust a work surface with flour and roll the dough carefully into a rectangle until it’s around 0.5cm thick.
  6. Using two different sized heart-shaped cutters, cut 8 full large hearts out of the dough. Using the smaller cutter, cut a small heart shape out of the middle of four of the hearts. Continue to cut small hearts out of the leftover dough until it has all been used.
  7. Using your fingers, or a palette knife, move the shortbread hearts onto a floured baking sheet.
  8. Bake for around 8-10 minutes. Once slightly firm, remove from the oven, carefully remove from the baking sheet with a palette knife and place on a wire rack (the hearts will continue to cook as they cool).
  9. Once cooled, spread the large hearts with jam and neatly place the hollow hearts on top. Dust with icing sugar.
  10. I covered the little hearts with red icing and some gold and pink sugar.

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Freshly Fried Jam Doughnuts

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The first time I had a fresh doughnut was in one of my pastry classes last semester. It was soft, warm, fluffy, sugary and oozed jam when I bit into it. It was awesome. The shop-bought doughnuts don’t even slightly compare. They are way too hard and dry. You haven’t tasted a real doughnut until you’ve made them yourself. Sure, making the dough is a little time-consuming, but think of it as a workout. Unless you have a mixer, in which case you will have the option of taking the easy way out.

Filling these little guys with the jam of your choice and sealing them up so that the jam is no longer visible, is wonderfully satisfying. I went with plain ole’ strawberry, but I also love blackberry jam and I think that I’ve yet to have it in a doughnut. I used my favourite jam – Bonne Maman. I know, I should really be making my own. Shame on me. But the jam is so damn good!

I get a little bit anxious when I place the doughnuts into the deep-fryer. I hope with all of my heart that the jam won’t seep out and ruin the oil. Momma would not be impressed.

Once the doughnuts have cooked through, they are rolled in caster sugar. I promise you, they won’t make it through the night. Mine certainly didn’t.

Ingredients (Makes 8):

  • 300g strong flour
  • 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
  • 60ml milk and water
  • 1 egg
  • 50g butter or margarine
  • 25g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Sieve the flour into a bowl.
  2. Make a well in the centre of the flour.
  3. Add the yeast, the beaten egg, the butter or margarine, the sugar and the remainder of the liquid. Knead well until smooth and free from stickiness.
  4. Keep covered and allow to prove in a warm place, until doubled in size.
  5. Knock back and divide into 8 pieces.
  6. Mould into balls. Press a thumb into each and add a little jam to each hole. Seal the jam into the doughnut.Image
  7. Cover and allow to prove on a well-floured tray.
  8. Deep-fry in hot fat, roughly 180C, for approximately 10 minutes (5 minutes on each side).
  9. Carefully lift out of the fat, drain and roll in caster sugar.

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Freshly Baked Baguettes

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When I was young, my mother would buy a freshly baked baguette almost every Saturday, before her and my father would go out that night. Mom used to fill the baguette with salad and mayonnaise. It was the best lunch ever, and I used to eagerly anticipate it all week. The smell of the freshly baked, comforting baguettes, filled with the freshest of salads. There was nothing quite like it and there still isn’t. Sometimes a box of cream cakes would even accompany the baguette. But they are a whole other story, for an entirely different day.

A few days ago, I needed a freshly baked baguette in my life. Instead of going out and purchasing one, I decided to use the ingredients that sit squarely in my cupboard waiting to be brought to life. After measuring out and combining the ingredients, I kneaded dough like my life depended on it. I shaped the dough into four medium baguettes. A large one would have been delightful and in keeping with tradition, but sadly I do not possess the necessary oven space, so medium sized baguettes had to suffice.

Once baked, I couldn’t possibly wait for the crusty, doughy, heavenly baguettes to cool. I generously slathered one in butter and devoured it, appreciating all of its goodness, all the while inhaling the beautiful aroma of freshly baked bread. Mmmmm.

Ingredients (Makes 4 medium baguettes):

  • 500g strong white bread flour, extra for dusting
  • a pinch of salt
  • 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 370ml cool water
  • olive oil, for kneading

Method:

  1. Put the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl (yeast and salt should be on separate sides). Add three-quarters of the water and begin to mix with your hand. As the dough begins to come together, slowly incorporate the remainder of the water. Knead for approximately 10 minutes, or until you have achieved an elastic, glossy dough.
  2. Tip the dough into a large, greased plastic bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for approximately 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
  3. Coat the work surface with a drop of olive oil, carefully tipping the dough out onto it. Handling the dough gently, divide into four even-sized pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and then roll out into a sausage shape. Beginning in the middle, roll out each sausage with your hands.
  4. Place the baguettes on a non-stick baking tray. Cover the tray with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour, until the baguettes have doubled in size. The dough should spring back lightly if prodded. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 220C/200F and place a roasting tin in the bottom.
  5. Once the baguettes have risen and are light, dust lightly with flour and slash each one three times with a sharp knife along its length on the diagonal. Fill the roasting tray with hot water in order to create steam (ensures a crisp crust on the baguettes) and place the baguettes in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the baguettes are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, or serve warm.

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Masala Lamb

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Who doesn’t love a good curry? A dish that is full of fragrant spices that makes one think of faraway, distant lands. Curries are dishes that are guaranteed to warm a shivering soul on a blustery day. They are perfect for beating the January blues!

Be it a hot curry or a mild curry, they are all perfect in their own, individual way. Accompanied by some naan and pilau rice, what more could you ask for?

This curry in particular is a heart-warming concoction of lamb, almonds, cream, garam masala and a number of other important spices. It is indulgently creamy with just the right hint of warmth. Not to mention, being extremely easy to prepare and cook.

With each curry I make, more and more follow. Is Indian cuisine possibly becoming a favourite of mine? Could it possibly replace Italian? The tides could possibly be turning. Or maybe not. But Indian definitely comes second on my list.

So kick back and beat the January blues with this recipe for masala lamb. 🙂

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 50g ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 400-500g good-quality lamb, cut into chunks
  • oil, for frying
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 300ml double cream
  • 3 heaped tsp garam masala

Method:

  1. In a food processor, blend the garlic, ginger, almonds, onion and cayenne to a fine paste. Add a drop of water if required.
  2. Heat a little oil in a large saucepan and add the coriander and cumin, frying for around one minute. Add the lamb and brown all over. Then add the blended garlic, ginger, almond, onion and cayenne paste and fry until the dish is fragrant and quite dry. Add 200ml water and a shake of salt, simmering for a few minutes. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Place a lid on the saucepan and cook over a low heat for approximately 1-1 1/2 hours. Stir every now again to ensure that nothing catches at the bottom.
  3. Bring the curry to the boil, turn the heat down and stir in the garam masala. Cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  4. Serve with pilau rice and naan bread.

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Christmas Tree Cupcakes

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Good morning folks! I can only apologise for the lack of blog posts as of recent. I have had a few exams in college and a very busy end of semester. I’ve also been working a lot over the run up to Christmas. But this morning, I am back with a bang. I present you with……..drum roll………Christmas tree cupcakes.

How delightful are these? Heavenly chocolate cupcakes with a  fluffy and creamy festive frosting. These cupcakes brought smiles all round. And how couldn’t they?

I had so much fun making these after a stressful two weeks in college. The satisfaction of topping each Christmas tree with a white chocolate star was indescribable. Decorating the tree was even more fun. Fun all round!

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. Happy Christmas everyone!

Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients (Makes 12):

  • 120g self-raising flour
  • 2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 40g margarine/unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120ml whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C Fan/180C/Gas 3.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt and margarine/butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk on a slow speed until a sandy consistency has been achieved ad everything is combined.
  3. Whisk the milk, egg and vanilla extract together in a bowl. Pour half of the mixture into the flour mixture and beat to combine. Once combined, add the remainder of the mixture. Beat until no lumps remain.
  4. Spoon the mixture into paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into a cake comes out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Festive Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 110g butter, softened
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 75ml cream,
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 16 ounce box/bag of icing sugar
  • green food colouring
  • edible decorations

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the sugar and cream. Cook over a medium low-heat for approximately 2 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Beat in the icing sugar until smooth. At this stage, add a few drops of green food colouring. Beat again until the colouring is fully incorporated. If the frosting is too thick, add 1 tbsp cream at a time until the consistency is correct.
  3. Using a large star-shaped nozzle, pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes in Christmas tree shapes. Decorate with edible decorations and top with a white chocolate star.

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Vanilla Fudge

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I recently invested in a sugar thermometer. I had planned on buying one for a long time, but it is a ridiculously hard thing to find in this crazy city. I finally gave in and ordered one from eBay. It was actually great value and great quality, so I am incredibly happy with my purchase. Having experienced many failed attempts at making fudge without a sugar thermometer, it was about time that I invested in one.

So I began what I think was my third or fourth time at making fudge. This time, I could see success on the horizon. I didn’t go for any too over the top fudge flavours, primarily due to the fear of wasting ingredients if the fudge did not set.

I have been to a number of food festivals and every year, without fail, there are one or two stands which are devoted entirely to fudge. An array of colours dazzled my eyes on the occasions when I did come across them. Bright pink, green, orange, yellow and rich chocolate brown fudges could be seen, purchased and devoured.Image

Despite all of this, I was still extremely excited to use my long-awaited sugar thermometer, on my slightly unoriginal fudge flavour. But honestly, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

The fudge was very fun and interesting to make. When the heat reached the required temperature on the thermometer, I felt confident that this batch would be the ground-breaking, successful batch. And successful it was.

The fudge was sweet, rich, slightly crumbly (I used margarine instead of butter) and it had that awesome texture that makes you crave more and more, while pushing all thoughts of guilt away.

Diet starts tomorrow. I promise. 🙂

Ingredients (Makes approximately 60 pieces):

  • 175g butter/margarine
  • 900g light brown sugar
  • 400g condensed milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence/extract, or to taste

Method:

  1. Line a 18 x 28cm baking pan with baking parchment/greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the butter/margarine into a large saucepan with 150ml water and warm gently over a low heat until the butter has fully melted.
  3. Add the sugar, continuously stirring over a low heat until it has completely dissolved.
  4. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to the boil.
  5. Boil hard until it reaches hard crack stage (168C) on a sugar thermometer.
  6. Remove from the heat and beat in the condensed milk with a wooden spoon.
  7. Return to a medium heat, stirring for a few minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat, beat in the vanilla essence/extract until the mixture is glossy.
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
  10. Leave to cool.
  11. Once the mixture has cooled and set, cut into cubes and store in an airtight container.

If the correct packaging is used, homemade fudge can make the most beautiful gift for your loved ones. Mine certainly loved it. 🙂

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