Sunday, 17 August 2014

Black and white éclairs




Eclairs are the Coco Chanel of the dessert world; simple, timeless and elegant. I, for one, am incapable of stifling a gasp of admiration when presented with these glossy delicious choux pastries, a sweet-tooth's favourite since the turn of the nineteenth century. 

I have kept the flavours simple here, the eclairs are filled with chantilly cream and topped with chocolate ganache. And to add a little pizzaz I have used a decorating technique deceptively easy and eye-catchingly effective called 'feathering'. Try it out!





For the choux recipe click here.

For the chantilly cream
200ml cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar, sifted

For the topping
100ml heavy cream
50g dark/milk chocolate
pinch of salt
25g white chocolate

1. Heat the oven to 220oC.
2. Make the choux according to instructions on the link above. Pipe 12 x 3 inch lengths, well spread apart onto two baking sheets using a 1 1/2inch nozzle. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Change position of the baking trays, reduce the temperature to 190oC and bake for a further 20-25 minutes.
3. Once golden brown and puffed up, take the eclairs out of the oven and cut each in half lengthways. If they are too hot, stab them to let the steam escape and then cut them lengthways later.
4. Beat the cream until soft peaks form. Sift the icing sugar over and fold in. Keep in the fridge until needed.
5. To make the dark chocolate ganache, break the chocolate up into a bowl with the salt. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until almost boiling then pour over the chocolate. Stir with a spatula in circular motions until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is thick. Put in the fridge to cool until required.
6. To assemble, spoon or pipe the cream into the bottom half of the eclairs and replace the top.  Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or a small saucepan. Fill into a piping bag with a narrow nozzle.
7. Using a wide knife spread the ganche over the éclairs. While the ganache is still wet, pipe lines of white chocolate horizontally across the éclair parallel and at even intervals.
8. Drag a cocktail stick lightly up the long length of the éclair from bottom to top, creating the white chocolate pinnacles. Next drag the cocktail stick top to bottom creating pinnacles in the other direction. Repeat until you finish the design across the éclair.  For photos and guidance see here.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Daim Bar Ice Cream Bombe



I don't believe that some people can't bake. I do believe that it is easy to have a bad experience and get put off. But a failed bake can be for a hundred different reasons, some of which are not your fault (bad oven, unreliable recipe) and a few other reasons that you can easily fix. 

Anyywayy, even if you feel like you can't bake (a sentiment which I do not condone), unless you have some repetitive strain injury in your wrist you can definitely mix. 

Which is the only qualification you need for this next recipe. Three bowls, egg yolk mix in one, egg whites in another, cream in the third. Beat each individually then mix it all up and throw in some dime bars. 

Make the caramel and chocolate sauce if you feel adventurous or buy them in the ice cream sauce isle of your nearest supermarket. 

I made this in a 2L bundt tin but you could easily use a loaf tin or large bowl, just make sure you cover it well in clingfilm. 




Begin the recipe the day before you intend to serve.

From Sharon Hearne Smith's 'No Bake Baking'

10 daim bars 
4 eggs
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract 
250g mascarpone
400ml cream 

For the chocolate sauce 
100g milk chocolate 
1 tablespoon butter
4 tablespoons of cream 

Caramel sauce 
125g caster sugar 
75ml single cream 
1 1/2 tablespoons butter 
pinch of salt 

1. Cover the bundt tin in clingfilm, leaving a couple of inches of clingfilm around the edges. 
2. Separate the eggs. 
3. In one bowl mix the egg yolks, sugar, mascarpone and vanilla extract until smooth. 
4. In another bowl beat the cream until soft peaks form. 
5. In a third bowl beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form with an electric beater. 
6. Fold the cream into the egg yolk mixture. Then gently fold in the egg whites. 
7. Pour one third of the mixture into the bundt tin. Bash all of the daim bars except one with a rolling pin until they are in large shards. Scatter the daim bar into the bundt tin then cover with the rest of the mixture. 
8. Cover over with the rest of the clingfilm and then place in the freezer for 8 hours or overnight. 

For the chocolate sauce 
1. Heat the butter and chocolate in a small bowl over simmering water. When the chocolate is almost melted stir in the cream until smooth. 

For the caramel sauce 
1. Heat the sugar in a saucepan over a low heat. Do not stir. 
2. Heat the cream in a separate pan over a very low heat. 
3. The sugar will begin to caramelize around the edges. When all the sugar has turned golden brown, use a silicon spatula to gently break up any pieces of unmelted sugar.
4. Cook until dark brown keeping a very keen eye on it. 
5. Over a low heat carefully pour in the cream and stir gently after each addition. The mixture may bubble up and spit so be careful. Use up all the cream. Add the butter and stir over a low heat until smooth. Leave to cool for 10 minutes. 

To serve 
1. Take the ice cream out of the freezer for 20 minutes before serving. 
2. Place the bundt tin upside down on a plate and allow the ice cream to drop down. 
3. Drizzle over the sauces and decorate with the reserved daim bars. 
4. Serve with any leftover sauce so everyone can help themselves!




Saturday, 28 June 2014

Westport Greenway and Pistachio Lemon Muffins




I drove west 
in the season between seasons. 
I left behind suburban gardens. 
Lawnmowers. Small talk. 

Under low skies, past splashes of coltsfoot
I assumed 
the hard shyness of Atlantic light 
and the superstitious aura of hawthorn. 

Extract from White Hawthorn in the West of Ireland, Eavan Boland 

I love that Ireland is small. I love that I can get in a car and see the ocean within a few hours. Atlantic ocean preferably of course. I never considered myself to be outdoors-y, but there is a sense of calm and presence that I cannot find on the east coast, even on a beautiful grassy cliff in north county Dublin overlooking the Irish Sea. The Atlantic and its coastline, for me, knows no equal.  It is rugged and wild and.... spontaneous.  

And we all need spontaneity. To remember that we are actually young and not as young as we sometimes feel. 

So last week we took a 500 km roadtrip in one day to County Mayo to cycle from Newport, just outside Westport out to Achill Island on the Westport Greenway, the longest off road trail in Ireland. 

It was so pretty I thought I would share a few photos. 








I made these muffins the night before we left for some hearty sweetness on our journey. The pistachios add a lovely salty crunch but leave them out if you would rather a plain lemony soft muffin.

For the muffins- makes 12 large muffins

200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
200g caster sugar
zest 2 lemons
Juice of one lemon
100g butter, melted
4 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons of natural yogurt
75g pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped plus extra for decoration

For the icing
250g icing sugar
3 tablespoons of lemon juice

1. Place the caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Using the back of a big spoon mash the lemon zest into the sugar. This will bring the lemon oil out of the zest.
2. Add the flour and baking powder to the bowl.
3. Add the eggs, cooled butter, yogurt and mix gently. Finally add the lemon juice and pistachios and mix well but thoroughly.
4. Bake for 15-18 minutes @ 180oC until a skewer comes out clean.
5. Allow to cool completely.
6. Mix the icing sugar and lemon juice together until smooth. Spoon or drizzle over the muffins. Decorate with pistachios.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Mint and Lemon Iced Tea


When you are from Ireland you drink tea hot, with milk and maybe some sugar. I can only imagine the look of disgust I would get from the likes of my grandmother if I handed her a glass of iced tea. It would be the desecration of the great Irish tradition.

Luckily we have embraced the weird and wonderful (as we see it) and although iced tea isn't as popular as it is in the US or contintental Europe, the Irish no longer look aghast, or even possibly horrified at the thought of chucking ice cubes rather than milk into their tea.

Light and refreshing, this tea is perfect for sipping while watching the sun set over the garden on these summer evenings.

Makes 1 litre of iced tea

4 tea bags
100g sugar
600ml boiling water
7 sprigs of fresh mint
2 lemons, juiced

1. Put the teabags,boiling water, sugar mint and lemon juice in a big saucepan. Bring to the boil, stir well and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
2. Take out the teabags and mint, preferably by pouring the tea through a strainer. Add another 500ml of cold water.
3. Serve on ice with extra mint sprigs and lemon slices.


Monday, 16 June 2014

Salty Pretzel Chocolate Brownie



I am a commitment-phobe. No not the relationship kind but the kind that makes me run away from tying down any sort of weekend plans. It's not that I don't like doing stuff at the weekend, quite the opposite. It's just that I want the option not to do anything at all. I like nothing more than two days of possibility stretching out ahead of me.

Even if I only end up watching many many episodes of Nashville and having day dreams about becoming a country music star.

It's a matter of principle.

I also need some kitchen time at the weekend. So important. Chopping, mixing, turning up spotify, pouring, cooking. Good times.

I baked these salty pretzel chocolate brownies for an Orange is the New Black marathon a group of friends were having. They went down a treat! Crunchy and salty on the bottom, ooey gooey on top. Extra toffee on top to stick to your teeth is optional but highly recommended!



From bakersroyale.com

For the pretzel base 
1 cup and a half pretzels
3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 brown sugar
scant 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup melted butter cooled

For the brownies 
7 oz/175g milk chocolate
3/4 cup/150g butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup plain flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Line a 9 x 13 x 2 inch tin with parchment paper.
2. For the pretzel base  put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse briefly until the pretzels are big crumbs and the butter is evenly distributed.
3. Pour into the tin and pat down with the back of a spoon.
4. Bake for 10 minutes at 180oC. Leave to cool.
5. For the brownies melt the butter until almost fully melted in a heat proof bowl over a bowl of simmering water or in the microwave (but keep a keen eye on it!). Add the chocolate and heat gently stirring every 30 seconds until evenly melted and mixed.
6. In a clean bowl mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and sugars.
7. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, vanilla extra, water and melted chocolate mixture.
8. Pour the brownie mix over the pretzel base.
9. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a crust has formed and when you insert a skewer it comes out barely moist.
10. For the topping melt 10 toffee sweets in the microwave until runny- this should take about 1 minute. Drizzle over the brownies. Add a careful sprinkle of good sea salt.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Banana Peanut Butter Ice Cream


I can't remember exactly what age I was, but one year we all got these small round hard packets from The Body Shop that turned into facecloths when you put them in water. I distinctly remember this sense of awe and wonder watching the block dissolve into a billowing facecloth in the sink on Christmas morning.

Every now and then we need a little bit of wonder.

Enter magic banana 'ice cream'. Frozen banana pieces are blitzed in a food processor until creamy and then peanut butter is added for flavour and extra softness. It really does taste and feel like ice cream, although maybe more like soft serve.  

I can't wait to experiment with different flavours and toppings. Watch this space!

From pinchofyum.com
Serves 2 people

3 bananas chopped into bite sized pieces
3 tablespoons of peanut butter
big pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
chopped roasted peanuts to serve

1. Lay the bananas out on a piece of foil and put in the freezer until hard, around 2 hours.
2. Quickly throw the bananas into a food processor with a good blade and blitz for around 3 minutes until smooth. They will go bitty first off but keep processing.
3. Add the peanut butter, salt and cinnamon and process until evenly distributed.
4. Quickly serve with peanuts sprinkled over.



Monday, 26 May 2014

Cinna-bun Tear 'n' Share






Well it has been an extremely exciting week for Ireland. First Miley came to Dublin, twerked all over the shop, outraged the Irish mammies and daddies who obviously lived under a rock before they bought the tickets and went for dinner in a place I found months ago. (FYI The bill comes with a brown paper bag of jellies and the menu is stuck into the pages of old books- check out Mulligans in Stoneybatter).

Then One Direction invaded played Croke Park three days in a row and we re-found in our hearts the great Statesman that is Niall Horan. Personally I had all of the 1D hysteria I could cope with when I watched that 'Crazy for One Direction' Channel 4 documentary and on that occasion I greatly valued the volume function on my remote.

Then in a most bizarre turn of events Kimye turned up in Cork for their honeymoon with/without their compass-inspired child. Local messers took to social media to con poor gossip-seeking journalists-see this news report. I giggled out loud walking home from work visualising Kim K supposedly going through the 39c veg in Alid. Two joggers gave me raised eyebrow looks (but judgement from joggers is a whole other story).

In the middle of all this we also had local and European elections but to be honest no one gave a monkeys.

My part in all of the craziness was one of amused bystander. All that web browsing naturally led to multiple cups of tea and cups of tea led of course to the search for a satisfying accompaniment.

Enter Cinna-bun.

I was previously unaware of the cinnabun phenomenon in the US. Unfortunately it hasn't really caught on here which is a ridiculous shame because there is nothing more satisfying than a cup of tea with the pillow-soft sweet dough and cinnamon sugar swirls of a cinnamon bun. Get artsy-fartsy with some buttermilk glaze and you turn phenomenal into pheNOMenal. 

The use of buttermilk here sounds crazy I know but the tang of the buttermilk compliments the sometimes sickly-sweet icing sugar. Plus it looks pretty. And that is never far from my mind. 


The cardamon adds a lovely fragrance to the dough but leave it out if you want to play it safe.

I use strong white flour as it makes the dough rise faster and I think adds good structure to the dough.

Recipe from Donal Skehan, makes 1 tear and share loaf with 10-12 big pieces
For the dough
200ml milk
55g butter
7g sachet of fast action yeast
55g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cardamon (optional)
375g strong white flour
1/4tsp salt

For the filling 
55g butter softened
1 tbsp cinnamon
45g caster sugar

For the glaze 
125g icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons of buttermilk

1. Melt the butter over a low heat in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Add the milk and heat until lukewarm.
2. Take off the heat, add the yeast and stir well. Leave to sit for 5 minutes.
3. In a clean bowl mix the flour, caster sugar, cardamon and salt together.
4. Add the wet ingredients and mix until you have a shaggy dough.
5. Bring together with your hands and turn out on a floured surface. Knead for 5-6 minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable and springs back when you stick your finger into it.
See the transformation below. The first photo is pre-kneading and the second is post kneading.



6. Put the dough in a dry bowl and cover with a tea towel or with clingfilm. Leave to rise for about an hour in a warm place until doubled in size.
7. Take out the dough and roll on a floured workspace until about 3mm thick. Leave to rest for 5 minutes.
8. In the meantime make the filling by beating all the ingredients together.
9. Spread the filling on the rectangle leaving a 1 cm border all the way around.
10. Roll on the long side, keeping it as tight as you can. Leave the joining piece at the bottom and transfer to a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush with beaten egg for extra shine.
11. Cut the log at angles with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors without cutting right through to the bottom making 12 pieces. Tease out the pieces so that they are removed slightly from the centre as per the pictures.
12. Allow to rest for 20 minutes to puff up slightly and then bake at 190oC for 20-25 minutes turning after 15 minutes until golden brown on top. Take out of the oven and leave to cool.
13. Make the buttermilk glaze by whisking all the ingredients together until there are no icing sugar lumps. The amount of buttermilk you need will depend on how thick your buttermilk is. Add one tablespoon, beat well and then add more.
14. Drizzle generously over the cooled cinna-bun.