It’s St. Patrick’s Day! The day of the Irish! The day of Guiness! And corned beef! And cabbage! The day we can all cast away our aversions to carbs and general good manners and drink ‘til we can’t see straight, if we want… I mean, it’s the Irish thing to do, right? (read: yes.
Once again, in an ode to one of my most favorite places, I made one of my most favorite (and less famous among the American set) Irish foods: brown bread. You’ll remember last year I made the same thing
in hopes of transforming myself into the very wonderful Darina Allen
of Ballymaloe. Alas, really simple foods like Darina’s classic recipe are incredibly difficult to recreate Stateside, for an absence of ingredients. The result was a not-so-successful version of what I’m sure is a lovely recipe.
Ever the stubborn type with finding (or creating) the best recipe for my baking arsenal, I searched and I tried again. And friends, success is here. Indeed.
This recipe is the closest I've tasted to the soft, but hearty brown bread frequently found on Irish tabletops that I fell in love with. My favorite way to eat it is with Irish butter and a cup of tea with tea, but it would also be great next to a hearty stew or just plain, standing at your kitchen counter while still warm and crumbly (just a thought, this never actually happened…I swear….no lie…).
Make it today if you’re feeling Irish and still on the clearer side of your Guiness. It’s also a very Irish thing and sometin’ yer wee mam would sure like. It’s grand, ‘tis. Just grand.
Irish Brown Bread
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups well-shaken buttermilkKD's notes: I was out of buttermilk so replaced it with the "buttermilk trick" - I used some skim milk and heavy cream to make it and it worked out great. Also, I added a tablespoon of sugar, rather than 2 teaspoons, per some of the comments on the original recipe. Finally, don't over mix it! This will cause it to be tough.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.
Whisk together flours, wheat germ, salt, sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a large bowl until combined well. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in center and add buttermilk, stirring until combined, about 30 seconds. Dough should be a bit sticky, but not wet. Do not over mix.
Transfer dough to cake pan and flatten to fill pan. With a sharp knife, cut an X (1/2 inch deep) across top of dough (5 inches long). Bake until loaf is lightly browned and sounds hollow when bottom is tapped, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool, right side up, about 1 hour.Notes:
Bread can be served the day it is made, but it slices more easily if kept, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature 1 day.
Leftover bread keeps, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature 4 days.
A commercial sized party bus, a 45minute ride into the hills, a bride, a groom, 150 cupcakes, 2 champagne toasts, innumerable glasses of wine, dinner, dancing and a shot of tequila to end the night.
72 hours later and the Blonde and the Ginger are now married.
What a night it was.
You couldn’t have asked for a more perfectly beautiful California October evening - the bright blue sky dotted by white white clouds, punctuated by perfectly cool evening – the seats framed by the vines, the stage poised. A sweet ceremony, sealed with a kiss, ended with applause and a quick jig down the aisle.
What else is there to say? It was a night full of love and joy. The dancing was great, the food delicious.
And, in case you were wondering, the cake turned out, too.
It's been a hectic summer. So hectic that it's now, in fact, fall and the activities of summer are still not quite winding down. Without a doubt, the most exciting and talked about event (at least amongst my
friends) is just now coming together.
It's a WEDDING!
And in the rush of all the other
activities this summer, I kinda maybe sorta forgot to tell my bloggie
friends, that I am, indeed, making the cake!
Yes, my friends, The Blonde and the Ginger are getting married and they asked me to make a wedding cake for them.
So here's the deal: it's not a huge wedding cake that they need. They have hired out for cupcakes to feed the masses (and to be cute) and wanted something to cut and feed to each other.
Initially I had thought to make it a standard 8-inch round cake with two tiers and fondant. After more consideration, I decided that a little bigger, 10-inch round, was more suitable for the celebration. The bride requested lemon cake.
Now, as you know, I've had my fair share of cake mishaps
in my day, so my emotional response to this request vacillated somewhere between excited (yay! What an honor, this is so exciting!
) and terrified (oh my God, the cake is going to fall apart everywhere and I will ruin the wedding, f*ck f*ck f*ck
) . But, when faced with fear like this, there's nothing better to do than to just keep running right through it, so I made a plan and have been implementing Project:Wedding Cake for the past month now.
Phase One was to make the gumpaste flowers. I didn't photo-document this process, but trust me, it came with a few (small) hurdles, but eventual success. Phase Two was to make four cake layers and six topper layers - chikity check!
Last night was Phase Three and Four, which included stacking the cakes (lemon curd was made earlier in the week) and frosting the cakes. This is the part where the cake could potentially fall apart. Phase four was rolling the fondant and draping the cake. Today will be the final phase, Phase: Labor and delivery. Oops, just kidding! Today is Phase: Delivery and Final Touch ups. (Then EAT IT!) More to come...
Here are some teaser shots from last night:
Stacking in progress: This is happening, man!
Closeup of the lemon curd filling. Tip: well-it off to avoid cakes falling and curd oozing.
The fondant's on!
Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Portobello Mushroom
1 portobello mushroom
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 italian sausage link, casing removed
about 2 cups spinach, loosely packed
Preheat oven to 350*.
In a pan, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces. Meanwhile, remove the stem from the mushroom, discarding any tough or woody parts; roughly chop the rest. Once the sausage is cooked through, add the garlic and the chopped mushroom cook until the mushroom is soft and the garlic is aromatic. Remove this mixture from the heat and spoon into the top of the mushroom cap, top down. Bake at 350* for about 15 minutes, or until the mushroom is cooked through.
There are a lot of ways in which I can imagine ringing in a thirtieth birthday. One might be a quiet dinner with the family. Another might be a hike in the mountains with your main squeeze. Some people might be spending the weekend with their 2.3 children and 1.5 pets, barbecuing in the backyard.
Let’s just say that thirty is one of those birthdays that can look pretty darn different, depending on how the whole situation known as Your Life is going.
With that being said, our life (and my “our” I mean my pal TDub and our group of friends) looks a lot like this:
A weekend-long celebration, replete with firework-laden cake (made by yours truly), cocktails, boating, lounging, glow stick dance parties, light shows and house boat-rocking good times.
We’re taking advantage of it, ‘cause by thirty-one, who knows? It might look a whole lot different.
TDub's Rockin' 30th Birthday Cake
Bottom Layer:Chocolate Butter Cake (from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes one 8-inch square, three layer cake
3 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
3 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch square cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and buttermilk and blend on low until moistened. Raise
the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Whisk the eggs and coffee together, and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only until blended after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans; each pan will take
about 3 1/4 cups of batter.
4. Bake for 38 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carefully turn them out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely. Remove the paper liners only when they are
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Place butter in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add sugar and cocoa, mixing well. (You may need to add the milk,
as it is a dry mixture) Stir in milk in portions, stirring each time. Add vanilla. Spread on cooled cake.
FOR THE TOP LAYER:Yellow Birthday Cake (from Martha Stewart)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.
Divide the batter between the prepared pans and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.
Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (from Savory Sweet Life)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream.
3-4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, SIFTED
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn’t blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoons at a time.
I'm on Jury Duty this week, friends. Which means that for the last few days I've ben doing a lot of sitting around, answering the same questions a million different ways. They (and by they, I mean the lawyers and Judge) have deemed me non-offensive enough that they want me to stay on the jury. So that's where I'll be for the next week or so. I think the right thing to do in this circumstance is to make some low a pumpkin bread, because it's 1)does not cntain two sticks of butter like most of my recipes do and 2) it's delicious. And since the weather here has gone cuckoo cold, I think we can at least use it as an excuse to eat seasonally inappropriate quickbreads. Sound good?
Oh and P.S. I was asked to make a big ol' cake this week, so get ready!
Low Fat Pumpkin Bread (Skinnytaste.com)
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with baking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt witha wire whisk. Set aside.
In a large bowl mix oil, egg whites, pumpkin puree and vanilla; beat at medium speed until thick.
Scrape down sides of the bowl.
Add flour mixture, then blend at low speed until combined. Do not over mix.
Pour batter into loaf pan and bake on the center rack for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the pan cool at least 20 minutes, bread should be room temperature before slicing.
I love silence. I love the way it feels to sit in a room and hear the sounds of nothing: the air circulating, the computer humming, the walls creaking.
If silence were a place, I think it would be the tiny house where our minds live. Whenever it’s silent, my mind gets to come home and wrap itself up in the big duvet blanket inside my brain. It relaxes. And in silence, my mind gets to just chill out.
I used to live in silence a lot. Alone. Silence used to envelope me for large stretches of the day, punctuated by visits from my cat, who would come and see me - she in her silence, too.
It probably seems strange, or sad or lonely to the average onlooker to imagine the girl all alone, kept company by her cats. The cat lady image is impossible to avoid.
But if you go there and believe that, then maybe you don’t get it. Be silent. And once you’re silent, try going back
to all the noise. Maybe you’ll see it then.
Everything has noise. Your computer has noise –feeds and updates and breaking news. Your phone has noise – calls, and questions, texts and alerts. Your job has noise and the radio has noise and the grocery store has noise.
So sit in silence for a moment and recognize the power of your mind outside of all the noise. This is where your creativity lies. Outside of all the noise: this is where your brain can be you. Where it can process. Where
the uniqueness of your individuality lies.
This is where mine lies.
There’s been too much noise. Too much noise that I can’t control.
The challenge is to find the silence: the center, the focus, the realm of thinking. From there creation is possible; creativity will come back, it has to.
And when that comes – bam! – just like that, I’m back.
Seeking the silence. Challenge, accepted.
Busy, busy, busy.
Busy in a good way.
It’s filled with activities of the most enjoyable varieties, like Wednesday cocktails or 10pm water slides with friends.
It’s less full of un-fun busy things like say, going to the DMV or trips to the dentist. Those things should be reserved for entirely less-summery times, when life cools down.
Summer’s busy means it’s time for easy, throw-it-together, fresh fruit desserts on the back porch. It means sitting on the porch, with drinks, concerts in the park, baseball games and dollar beer nights.
Yes, totally time for that.
Strawberry Honey Pistachio Tart.
Cocktails optional (but highly recommended). (from Savory Sweet Life)
1 (1/2 package) frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup ground pistachios
1/4 cup honey
1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy whipped cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 pint strawberries, stems removed and cut in half vertically
1/3 cup chopped pistachios (the original recipe is a bit unclear about how much, but I'm estimating that 1/3 cup is totally sufficient here; add more, if you'd like)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.
2. Unfold and roll the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch square. Place the pastry sheet onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
3. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Allow the pastry to cool on the baking sheet
4. While the puff pastry is baking, prepare the two different creams.
5. Using an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese, pistachios, and honey until well combined. Set aside.
6. In a different bowl, whip the heavy cream and sugar with an electric beater until firm peaks form.
7. Evenly spread the pistachio cream layer over the pastry followed by a layer of the whipped cream.
8. Arrange the cut strawberries with the tips pointing up in layers of circles, starting with the outer one, making your way in.
9. Sprinkle the tart with the chopped pistachios.
10. Serve immediately.
It's Sunday morning here. And, unlike a lot of places, summer just shows up in July. No questions, no suprises, no late-afternoon rain to keep us guessing or bolts of lightening to keep us wondering. Nope, here summer comes right on schedule, the sun peeking up over the horizon, shining rays seeping through the slits in your window shades. It's the kind of morning that turns into yoga at sunrise, or walks into the park or lazy lie-ins. Anything lovely could happen; any given Sunday.
Here, it's a pancake kind of Sunday, so let's have some... no suprises.
Pumpkin Pancakes (from Saveur)
1 3⁄4 cups flour
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄4 tsp. ground allspice
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 tbsp. canola oil
Butter and maple syrup, for serving
1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, cloves, ginger, salt, and allspice. Add pumpkin, cream, milk, and eggs; whisk until smooth.
2. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a 12" nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Using a 1⁄4-cup measuring cup, pour batter into skillet to make three 3" pancakes. Cook until bubbles begin to form on the edges, 1–2 minutes. Flip and cook until done, 1–2 minutes more. Repeat with remaining oil and pancake batter.
Serve pancakes hot with butter and syrup. (or maybe some sweetened mascarpone from this recipe
SERVES 8 (or 3 members of the Rose family)