My Plan for the Paddy’s Day Weekend!

Keeping this as brief as possible but as I won’t be able to put up pictures etc until after this weekend I thought I’d share what I plan on doing now.

I’m heading to Dungarvan in Waterford for 3 nights with my mum’s side of the family. It’s a tradition on for everyone to get together this weekend with exceptions being applied for ‘busy’ years when there’s a family wedding on etc. This year there are 31 of us going and I’m in a house with my cousin Paul, who I went skiing with, his wife and their two adorable children, my cousin Aisling and her boyfriend Donal, who also came skiing, and my cousin Lauren.

I’ve decided to try and get a lot of baking done when I’m there and hopefully everyone will be able to try something they’ll enjoy. So, the plan is as follows:

Soda Bread

First thing when I arrive down on Friday afternoon I’m going to get some soda bread’s done. There’s 3 houses there for 3 days so I’m going to do 3 normal soda bread loaves and 3 black pudding ones.

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Stout Parkin

I’ve Edd Kimber’s book The Boy Who Bakes and he’s a recipe for Guinness Parkin, I’ve never tried it but I figure I’d give it a go this weekend. I prefer to use some of the craft brewers instead of the commercial Guinness so I’ll probably pop in to the Porterhouse next to work tomorrow and get some of their award-winning stout. The recipe can be found here if you’re interested:

http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/baking/guinness-parkin-recipe

Chocolate Stout Cake

I’ve made this before, it’s very easy to make and is really tasty, the ingredients are combined in a pot on the hob and it smells delicious when you are heating it up. Here are some pics from the last time I made it, the recipe can be found here: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/chocolate-guinness-cake-3086

Again, buy local, support Irish and find a better choice of stout than Guinness 🙂

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Brownies

I’m going to try some salted caramel brownies with an Irish Whiskey glaze, it’s going to be a bit made up as I go along so I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ll also make some normal brownies for the kids and people who are fed up with me feeding them drink via baked goods!

Tricolour Citrus Chiffon with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This bake will take a good bit of effort but I’m hoping it’ll be worth it. It’s going to be another practise for my work Bake Off and I’m hoping it all comes together on the day. I’m going to do a lime, lemon and orange Tricolour layered chiffon which will hopefully look that bit more ‘competition ready’ then the Neapolitan Chiffon I did the other day pictured below:

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I’ve also very kindly been invited along by Sinead @BumblesOfRice to a mini tweet-up that has been arranged in Dungarvan on Friday night which I’m really hoping to find time for and I want to at least have a look in on the Tannery and hopefully convince someone to come along and have some food with me there.

I’m pack up my stand and hand mixer, loaf, spring-form, brownie and baking trays and tins, various whisks, spoons and spatculas and about two-thirds of my ingredients store to take with me; it literally isn’t far off from an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach. Hopefully it’ll be a lot of fun and people will enjoy everything I make!

I’ll report back early next week but until then have a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I hope you’re spending time with family and loved ones and that there’s booze filled cake close at hand.

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Happy Mother’s Day – Better Late Than Never

Ok, so full disclosure up front, we don’t usually do anything for my mum in our family on Mother’s Day. I probably haven’t done anything in particular to mark the day in 20 years and back then it was probably a poorly made breakfast and a homemade card. I rang my mum on Saturday to see if she’d gotten the baked goods I’d made (as detailed below) and her response was “we don’t normally do anything”.

I did feel like I should do something nice for my mum this year, I owe a large slice of gratitude to her for lots of the support and advice she gives me with baking but I can’t really think of many things I’ve baked specifically for her. You should really need an excuse for doing something nice for your mum but mine has had a more difficult year than normal, I also saw a tweet at the weekend from Kathryn of @LondonBakes which I realised was also true of my mum and added some extra meaning “@londonbakes Tomorrow will be my mother’s first mother’s day without her mother and so I have bought her some of her very favourite things.”

I’d gotten the idea of adding a bit of a twist on some of my mum’s classic” recipes because nothing says “I love you mum” more than ruining some of her favourite recipes I have my mum’s recipes for around 5 years now. The Christmas after I moved in to my apartment I was getting in to cooking more; she bought me the recipe book below and typed out some of her recipes on index cards for me but this is the first time I’ve used some of them. She’s very sweet when she wants to be. 🙂

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I was supposed to bake these a week before Mother’s Day so they would arrive with my Mum before the weekend but I completely blanked on it and didn’t make a start on these til Tuesday with two of the recipes requiring an overnight fruit soak. So here’s what I made:

Gur Cake Mini Pies

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My mum has never actually given me her recipe for Gur Cake and speaking to her this week she doesn’t actually use on. I pinched the recipe for the Gur Cake filling from Catriona over at http://wholesomeireland.com/?p=307 but decided to change the pastry and normal style to create a bit of a smaller and lighter pie. Catirona’s recipe calls for cake crumbs and I used Madeira cake. I’ve discussed the recipe with my Mum since I sent these to her and her recipe is quite different. I may well use it some day now I’m not baking things in secret from her and post it here when I do.

I made my mum’s almond pastry recipe for the cases with 170g Plain Flour, 20g Icing Sugar, 20g Ground Almonds and a pinch of salt all blended in with 112g Margarine and an egg yolk and some cold water to bring it all together. I cut out the pastry discs, places in my tray and pressed in the Gur mix on top of them. I baked for 20-25mins at 170 degrees C

The almond pastry, orange juice and spices in the filling give the final gur cake alternative I made a very Christmas feeling and could certainly be used an alternative to Mince Pies at Christmas.

Oatmeal Slices

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This is probably the recipe I messed with the flavour on the most. My mum traditionally makes pastry (220g Plain Flour and 10g Caster Sugar blended with 100g Margarine, cold water to combine) and rolls it out to the size of a normal sized baking tray. The pastry is spread with 150g Apricot Jam on the pastry and tops with an Oat Meal Mix (180g melted Margarine, 180g Caster Sugar dissolved in to the melted Margarine, Almond Essence and Egg mixed in once cooled and 280g of Oatmeal stirred in at the end). This is baked at 210 degrees C for 20-30 minutes.

I decided I’d spread the pastry with Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam (and leave the Almond Essence out of the Oatmeal mix). My mum isn’t a big fan of peanut butter and strawberry jam…I love peanut butter and jam…still, it’s the thought that counts Mum!

Personally I loved these and the ones that didn’t make it to my mum went down well in work.

Lemon and Ginger Green Tea Brack

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Recovering a bit from my selfish PB&J Oat Squares my Mum loves Tea Brack and I’ve experimented with different teas before (with little success). My mum has been using ginger a lot in bakes the last few months so I wanted to include some here. My mum’s traditional recipe calls for 250g Dried Fruit soaked in 1 large mug of tea overnight. I pinched two tea bags of Lemon and Green Tea from one of the girls in work and made a bit of a stronger brew. I combined the drained fruit with 250g Self-Raising Flour, 100g Brown Sugar, 1tsp Mixed Spice and 1 Large Egg. I also added two ‘bulbs’ of grated stem ginger and a splash of the syrup from the jar. A squeeze of lemon juice wouldn’t have been out-of-place here but I didn’t include any myself.

The loaf was baked for 180 degrees C for 35-45 minutes.

This was my mum’s favourite of the three things but she seemed to enjoy trying them all.

I’d baked them Wednesday night and posted them before 10:00 Thursday Morning. Being the loving son I am I picked the cheapest option which should have arrived within 2-3 business days, the package arrived the following Tuesday, two days late…I blame An Post/Royal Mail!

So I baked these later than planned, they were posted and arrived later than planned and this post has gone up later than planned. Not to worry, my mum knows I’m far from the perfect son.

I’ll finish off with a song I like that’s from a son to his mum but it doesn’t have any special meaning to me and my mum, I just happen to like it.

Graham Crackers, Smores Brownies and Camping

A few weeks ago during a Twitter chat someone mentions Smores Brownies to me. I had a camping coming up and as Smores are so intertwined with campfires (in America at least) I decided they’d be ideal to bake and bring along. There aren’t really any rules to making this one, for those of you not familiar a Smore is a Graham cracker (Gram for short) that is used to sandwich freshly toasted marshmallows and chocolate together. The marshmallow melts the chocolate and you get a gooey centre to the cracker sandwich.

(Not my photo!)

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Graham crackers are made using Graham Flour which isn’t available in Ireland as far as I know. I read up on it and it’s basically a hearty and healthy flour and the finished crackers maintain that quality. I followed a recipe from here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/graham-crackers-recipe/index.html but swapped out some ingredients for things which were easier to get hold of. I swapped Graham Flour for Wholemeal Flour and swapped Molasses for half Black Treacle and half Golden Syrup. (I also doubled the 1/8 of a teaspoon of cinnamon cause I live on the wild side!).

My finished crackers were fairly coarse and didn’t look like the commercial product as I think Graham Flour is smoother than wholemeal but I was fairly happy with them. Knowing I was going to be breaking them up in to my brownies I didn’t bother with any presentation:

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I followed the normal brownie recipe I use and placed half the mix in the bottom of my tray before adding a layer of broken Graham Crackers and topping with the second half of the brownie mix. There is a real mix of styles of Smores Brownies available is you do a Google search – some bake Graham crackers into the base of the brownie, some have the crackers top and bottom and some have them broken up throughout the brownie mix.

I baked the brownies for an hour at 150 degrees C. Once they were finished I put half pieces of marshmallow on top before they cooled and popped them back in the oven. I left them to bake for a couple of minutes following a tip I’d seen online but I think if I was making them again I may grill the top instead as the marshmallows rapidly lost their structure (but thankfully not their gooey and sticky deliciousness)

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I was pleased enough with the finished result. The marshmallow topping is sticky and a bit difficult to cope with but the Graham cracker layer is interesting and adds a nice texture to the centre of the brownie.

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So I was all set and ready to go camping. I jumped on a bus after work on Friday night and arrived in Slane just as it was getting dark. Everyone else was there before me and my tent had been put up for me already. My cousin is in to his cooking and home brewing so he’d been slow cooking a brisket of beef for 5 hours and had brought along a tub of German-style wheat beer. We ate, drank and were merry until the early hours before finally giving up and trying to get some sleep in our freezing cold tents. It was -2 that night but well worth the trip and a good fire keeps the worst of the chills away.

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