One week later

I haven’t been online a whole lot lately. I’ve missed my usually daily reads, no laughs with Joy, no foodie inspiration from here or here or here, and no daily dose of PW. I’ve let it all slide by this week because something else very important came along… Let me show you:

little foot

This teeny tiny foot makes my heart melt. Those little toes *sigh*. I’m in love <3 Those toes belong to my own little M, born on Saturday Feb 19th. He decided to begin life on his own schedule, at 29 weeks and 5 days he was ready to meet the big wide world and so he came! Ten weeks early, he seems so tiny and fragile but he is a strong little man and doing so well - truly an answer to prayer. He won't be home with us for several weeks yet which kills me just a little bit. For now we make daily trips in to the Neonatal unit where he is in good hands. Back at home, yesterday marked little M's one week birthday. Since we had no milk left for cereal and no bread for toast (such things as groceries have gone by the by this week), I decided to whip up something tasty for breakfast. It was nice to be reunited with my kitchen - I haven't been baking much in the last few weeks! We had these sticky buns for breakfast before heading in to see little M and they were goooood : sticky buns

Wholemeal Sticky Fruit Buns

Makes 24 buns

  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active yeast
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups coarse wholemeal flour
  • 3 cups white flour
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit (apricots, raisins, dates, whatever you fancy!)
  • 1 cup icing sugar

Dissolve the white sugar in warm water. Sprinkle in the yeast and leave to sit for 5 minutes until frothy. Stir in the salt and oil. Gradually stir in the wholemeal and white flour until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough onto a clean floured surface and knead for 5 – 10 mins.
Place the smooth, elastic ball of dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp teatowel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and knead it lightly for a minute or two. Use a rolling pin to spread the dough into a rectangle shape.

Spread the softened butter evenly over the dough leaving a small margin unbuttered down one long side of the rectangle. Sprinkle the brown sugar and fruit liberally over the butter. Working towards the unbuttered edge, roll the dough up. Slice the roll into equal pieces and place each scroll close together in a lightly greased baking dish. Leave to rise in a warm place for another 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 175C and bake the buns for 20 – 30 mins or until cooked. Make a simple glaze with the icing sugar by stirring in just enough water to make a drippy icing that can be drizzled over the buns when they are still warm from the oven.

Reality Check

Sometimes life doesn’t deliver the truffles and macarons you were expecting. Sometimes out of the blue you end up with this:
sausage and chips

This is the well balanced and nutritious hospital meal I ate tonight from my bed. Yup, that’s sausage, bacon and chips. For dinner. In a hospital. I’ve also eaten fish and chips 3 times in the last week. In the hospital.

A well balanced diet?

I’m choosing to see the humour in this.
It also helps that my wonderful amazing husband has been keeping me supplied with fruit to ward off the scurvy.

I won’t go into all the details here but suffice to say life has been thrown off course somewhat and I might not be baking much for a little while. Just so ya know.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not moaning or wallowing. I’m actually feeling quite ok and I’m incredibly thankful for so many things; for excellent care and medical expertise, for amazing friends and family, and for every day that our little bun decides to remain in the oven.

This is the best possible place for me and bubs to be right now. So, long may the hospital meals continue haha!

Banoffee Entremets

I’ve been participating in “Daring Bakers” challenges for 6 months now. The Daring Kitchen is a group of cooks and bakers who collectively try out a new and challenging recipe each month and share their successes (or failures) at the end of each month. Its been a fun way to try making things I’d never normally bake and stretch my culinary skills!

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

Yikes! I must say I was a bit scared at the idea of delicate patterned sponge cake (joconde) wrapped around a multi-layered dessert (entremets). Nevertheless, following the instructions carefully I jumped in and tried it anyway. Here’s the result:

banoffee entremet
Sponge a little overcooked, stripes a little wonky, but still cute when all put together and very tasty 🙂

Here’s how it’s made…
First I baked the joconde imprime. This was done by piping lines of chocolate cake batter onto a lined baking tray, freezing the pattern until firm and then pouring the white sponge batter over top and baking it.

Next the joconde was trimmed and sliced carefully to fit around the sides of a circle mold. I didn’t have any mini springform pans so I improvised with light cardboard strips taped into a circle shape.
joconde imprime

Next I filled the joconde with my banoffee layers. Banana, caramel, chocolate cake, and whipped cream mmmmm.
banoffee fillings

banoffee entremet

Christmas Stollen

Along with the traditional christmas favourites, I baked something new this year. Something I can’t believe I’ve never tried before. I’d like to share with you my new found christmas joy: Stollen. Stollen is a sweet German bread / cake filled with citrus peel, dried fruits, almonds, spices and sometimes marzipan. Its got all the same yummy flavours as christmas cake but the light yeasty base makes it much easier to devour several slices in one sitting!
Stollen Wreath
I was introduced to Stollen through this month’s DB challenge. The 2010 December Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Penny of Sweet Sadie’s Baking. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make Stollen. She adapted a friend’s family recipe and combined it with information from friends, techniques from Peter Reinhart’s book………and Martha Stewart’s demonstration.

I have to say I really enjoyed making this, even though it takes quite some time. Because its coated liberally in butter and icing sugar the Stollen lasts much longer than you might expect and gives you many many days of tasty munching. Its especially good toasted with butter alongside a big mug of tea or hot chocolate mmmm.
stollen slices

Christmas Stollen

Serves 10 – 12 people, makes 2 loaves.

  • ÂĽ cup lukewarm water
  • 2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) (14 grams) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 140 grams unsalted butter
  • 5½ cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for kneading)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Âľ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Grated zest of 1 lime or lemon and 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract or orange extract
  • 1/3 cup mixed peel
  • 1 cup firmly packed raisins
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) rum
  • 1/3 cup red glacĂ© cherries (roughly chopped)
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots chopped
  • 1 cup (100 grams) flaked almonds
  • Melted unsalted butter for coating the wreath
  • Icing sugar for dusting wreath
  • 1 cup almond marzipan

In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the rum (or in the orange juice from the zested orange if preferred) and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup milk and 140g butter over medium – low heat until butter is melted. Let stand until lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour ÂĽ cup warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle with the yeast and let stand 5 minutes.

Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl and add lemon and vanilla extracts.
In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, orange and lemon zests. Then stir in the yeast/water mixture, eggs and the lukewarm milk/butter mixture. This should take about 2 minutes. It should be a soft, but not sticky ball. When the dough comes together, cover the bowl with either plastic or a tea cloth and let rest for 10 minutes.

Add in the mixed peel, soaked fruit and almonds and mix with your hands or on low speed to incorporate.
stollen ingredients
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading to distribute the fruit evenly, adding additional flour as needed. The dough should be soft and satiny, tacky but not sticky. Knead for approximately 8 minutes. You can tell when the dough is kneaded enough – a few raisins will start to fall off the dough onto the counter because at the beginning of the kneading process the dough is very sticky and the raisins will be held into the dough but when the dough is done it is tacky which isn’t enough to bind the outside raisins onto the dough ball.

Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Put it in the fridge overnight. The dough becomes very firm in the fridge (since the butter goes firm) but it does rise slowly… the raw dough can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week and then baked on the day you want.

When you’re ready to bake your stollen remove it from the fridge and let the dough rest for 2 hours in order to warm slightly.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and preheat oven to 180°C with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Punch dough down, roll into a rectangle about 16 x 24 inches (40 x 61 cms) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Divide the marzipan into 2 balls and roll each one into a 60cm long sausage. Lay them down the length of the dough rectangle 1/3 and 2/3rds of the way across. Starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long, thin cylinder. Transfer the cylinder roll to the sheet pan. Join the ends together, trying to overlap the layers to make the seam stronger and pinch with your fingers to make it stick, forming a large circle. You can form it around a bowl to keep the shape.

Using kitchen scissors, make cuts along the outside of the circle, in 2-inch (5 cm) intervals, cutting 2/3 of the way through the dough.
Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Leave to rise in a warm place for 2 hours, or until about 1½ times its original size.
shaping and rising the dough
Bake the stollen for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue to bake for 20 to 30 minutes. The bread will bake to a dark mahogany color, should register 190°F/88°C in the center of the loaf, and should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the top with melted butter while still hot. Immediately tap a layer of powdered sugar over the top through a sieve or sifter. Wait for 1 minute, then tap another layer over the first. The bread should be coated generously with the powdered sugar. Coat the stollen in butter and icing sugar three times, since this many coatings helps keeps the stollen fresh. Let cool at least an hour before serving.
baked stollen
Enjoy 🙂

It’s the day before Christmas and I’m sure a lot of you are busy in the kitchen preparing sweets and special dishes for family and friends to feast on tomorrow or perhaps you’re taking part in a mad dash gift buying spree? eeek! I’m right there with you in the busy-ness of Christmas eve today. Tomorrow however, I intend to relax and spend as much time as possible soaking in the joy of food, gifts, and good times with family. Christmas is my favourite holiday!
So, if you’re a Christmas-lover like me I hope there is plenty of cheer all round tomorrow and hope you’ll also take some time to remember why it is we celebrate – the ultimate gift of hope given through Jesus birth.

Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

This morning when I woke up, this is the view that greeted me out the living room windows:
Snow in November?!

Overnight a heavy blanket of white has fallen, frosting everything in 2 or 3 inches of snow. It looks beautiful and freeeezing out there.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around snow in November. November. Really?! But I’m also enjoying the first snow of the season and feeling more Christmas-y every day! This morning I finished making my first Christmas cookies while listening to “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”. Please forgive the early overdose of Christmas cheer hehe.

Peppermint meringues with chocolate ganache – YUM. The original recipe used stripes of red gel food colouring in the piping bag to make perfectly striped red and white meringues. This does look fab and if you’re game you should try it. The technique sounded a bit tricky for me though with too much potential for a big pink goopy mess so I stuck to white meringue with a sprinkle of crushed candy cane on top.
peppermint meringuesmeringues
These were delicious. The meringue is crispy and minty and perfectly complemented by the chocolate filling. I highly recommend making these for Christmas. They’re much nicer than candy canes and super cute.

Peppermint Meringues with chocolate ganache

Makes approx 2 dozen

  • whites from 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Preheat the oven to 80C and line two baking trays with baking paper.

Place a large heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. In the bowl stir together the egg whites and sugar. Stir and heat until the sugar has dissolved and the egg white is just slightly warm. Remove from heat and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form – you should be able to hold the bowl upside down without any movement of the meringue.

Use a piping bag with a large star tip to pipe small meringues onto the baking sheets. Bake the cookies until crisp but not browned, about 1 hour 40 mins. Cool meringues completely before sandwiching together with a teaspoon of ganache.

To make ganache:
In a small saucepan heat 3/4 cup cream until hot but not boiling. Add 130g chocolate, chopped into small pieces. Stir the chocolate into the cream until it has melted and a smooth glossy ganache forms. It will thicken to a spreadable consistency as it cools.

Baking Crostata

This week I learned to make Crostata, an Italian tart made with a pasta frolla crust and filled with fruit preserves, or fresh fruit and pastry cream. In essence, a crostata is a fancy soundin’ name for a pie. I made mine in two varieties- cherry almond and caramel rhubarb, and both tasted pretty darn good.
crostata ready to bake
I have had my share of battles with sticky rolling pins and torn-to-shreds pastry dough in the past. As a result, I haven’t made a tart in a very long time. If pressed, I’m usually one to opt for ready-made frozen pastry sheets (gasp!). With this in mind, when I made the pastry for these crostata I reused a trick I learned while making sugar cookies, I rolled the dough out between two sheets of cling film. It worked! This made the once stressful job much much smoother, the rolling pin didn’t stick and the dough was easy to shuffle around without tearing. When ready to transfer the pastry to the tart pan I just peeled off the top layer of cling film, flipped the pastry into the pan and peeled off the other side of cling film. Voila!

Pasta Frolla

Makes two 6″ tarts

  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 115g cold butter, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
  • Grated zest of half a lemon (optional)

In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Cut or rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and pour in the beaten eggs. Add zest if using. Mix the egg into the flour using a fork. Continue mixing until a dough begins to form, use your hands to lightly knead the dough into a ball. Mold the dough into a flat disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Take the dough from the fridge and place on your working surface on top of a large sheet of cling film. Place another sheet of cling film on top and roll the dough out to a thickness of approx 3mm. Remove the top layer of cling film and flip the pastry sheet into the tart pan, position it and press it gently into place. Peel off the remaining cling film layer and trim away any extra pastry from the edges. Prick the base of the pastry case with a fork a few times.

Caramel Rhubarb Tart Filling

The caramel rhubarb filling is one I grew up with and a definite winter favourite for me. Chopped rhubarb drizzled in a syrup made with equal parts flour, brown sugar, golden syrup and milk. Simple. Served warm with a big scoop of ice cream I could eat the whole pie by myself. Not saying that’s what I did… but I’m not denying it either.

  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups rhubarb chopped

Mix the milk, golden syrup, flour and sugar to a smooth syrup. Sprinkle the rhubarb in an even layer across the base of the pastry-lined tart pan. Drizzle the caramel evenly over the top. If desired you can now use the remaining pastry scraps to make a lattice over the top of the pie. Glaze pastry lightly with an egg wash and bake for 30-40 mins at 180C.

rhubarb caramel crostata

Cherry almond tart filling

The cherry almond filling was adapted from a delicious recipe on MyTartelette. If you haven’t seen her blog yet then you’re missing out – the food photography, the recipes, the macarons *gush* they are all simply beautiful. I used a half portion of Tartelette’s almond filling (recipe here) and combined it with black cherries rather than apricots. As with the rhubarb tart, bake in the oven for 30 – 40 mins at 180C. Don’t worry if the center still looks quite jiggly when you take it out, once the tart cools the filling will set a little more.

almond cherry crostata

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

Raspberry Pavlova

Rapberry Pavlova
My thoughts on pavlova:

  1. It reminds me of my mum. Whenever we have a family get-together its the thing she always volunteers to bring. She has mastered The Pav after much trial and experimentation. Thanks Mum for passing on the knowledge!
  2. It reminds me of Christmas day when there is always pavlova loaded with cream and strawberries for dessert. I’m thinking of a New Zealand Christmas of course, which arrives in the midst of summer and is all tied together with memories of summer holidays, barbecues and lazy days at the beach. I love Christmas.
  3. I like to pretend its actually quite healthy because I’m eating nothing but egg white really! (*ahem* held together with sugar and wrapped in cream…)
  4. One piece is never enough. But due to point 3 above that is 100% ok. Also, pavlova for breakfast is allowed. I said so and I’m a grown-up now so noone can stop me!
  5. Pavlova

    • 3 egg whites
    • 2 teaspoons cornflour
    • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
    • 1 cup caster sugar
    • 50ml boiling hot water

    Preheat the oven to 210C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
    Carefully separate the eggs ensuring absolutely no egg yolk gets in with the whites. In a clean, dry mixing bowl combine the egg whites, sugar, cornflour, vinegar, vanilla and hot water. Beat with an electric mixer until a glossy white meringue forms. Continue beating until the meringue is stiff. You’ll know its done when you can hold the bowl upside down briefly without the meringue moving. Once it reaches this point scrap it onto the lined baking tray and shape gently to the roughly the height and shape you want the finished pavlova to be.

    Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes at 210C. After 10 minutes turn off the oven and leave the pavlova in there with the door shut. Leave until the oven is cool and try not to open the oven door to peek!

    Once cool, decorate the pavlova with cream and fresh fruit. I topped mine with a mixture of 1 part raspberry yogurt, 2 parts whipped cream and garnished with a sprinkling of raspberries.

    slice of pavlova

Baby Bear Hat

I was watching Gossip Girl a few weeks ago and couldn’t help but notice the cute little baby bear hat on display:
Gossip Girl - Milos Bear Hat
I oohed and awwwed and decided I’d have to make one myself because it was just too cute not to have!

With no cocoa brown wool on hand I decided to go for a cream version. Here is the finished product:
cream bear ears hat

Not too bad as a first attempt I thought!
I was worried the ears were too floppy and wouldn’t stay upright nicely but when my friend’s gorgeous wee girl kindly modeled the hat for me the ears worked perfectly.
jj bear hat
Isn’t she beautiful?!?! Now that I have the pattern sorted I’m going to have to make a some more of these…

Baby Bear Hat

  • 1 pair 4mm knitting needles
  • 1 ball Sirdar Baby Bamboo yarn in cream
  • 1 ball Sirdar Baby Bamboo yarn in poppy

Note: Gauge with 4mm needles should be 10cm square = 22 stitches x 28 rows. Overall circumference of the hat will be about 35cm.

Using cream yarn cast on 78 stitches.
1. Knit in stockinette stitch until the piece measures 4 1/2 inches long. Finish on a purl row.
2. Knit 4 stitches, knit 2 together. Repeat to end of the row (65)
3. Purl row
4. Knit 3 stitches, knit 2 together. Repeat to the end of the row (52)
5. Purl row
6. Knit 2 stitches, knit 2 together. Repeat to the end of the row (39)
7. Purl row
8. Knit 1 knit 2 together. Repeat to the end of the row (26)
9. Purl row
10. Knit 2 together. Repeat to the end of the row (13)
11. Purl row
12. Knit 2 together. Repeat to the end of the row (7)
13. Purl 2 and cast one off. Cut yarn with a 40cm tail. Thread yarn through the first stitch and all the remaining stitches. Secure with a knot.
Use the long tail from the thread to sew up the seam of the hat.

Using cream yarn, cast on 12 stitches.
1. Knit in stockinette for 6 rows ending on a purl row
2. Knit 2 together, knit 8, knit 2 together (10)
3. Purl row
4. Knit 2 together, knit 6, knit 2 together (8)
5. Purl row
6. Knit 2 together, repeat to the end of the row (4)
7. Purl row
8. Knit
9. Switch to ‘poppy’ yarn and purl
10. Knit
11. Purl row
12. Knit into front and back. knit 2. knit into front and back. (6)
13. Purl row
14. Knit into front and back. Knit to last stitch. Knit into front and back (8)
15. Alternate purl and knit rows for another 6 rows.
Fold in half and sew around the seams of the ear.
Repeat for the second ear and sew into position on either side of the hat.

This pattern is free to reuse! Feel free to make as many hats as you like for personal use or gifts. If you repost or print the pattern elsewhere please let people know where you found it. You may not sell this pattern.

Pumpkin Soup

The days are getting cooler here now. Summer has long since waved her final farewell and when the wind blows you can feel the first hints of winter creeping into sight. Thankfully the unpleasant colder snap also brings with it the joys of winter scarves and gloves, hot chocolate with marshmallows and an almost permanent pot of home made soup in the kitchen.

One of my favourites is pumpkin soup. It’s a little sweet, its smooth and creamy, and its warm and comforting to eat on a wintery day. So, whenever I can overcome my loathing for the job of chopping and peeling a pumpkin, I make a big pot of pumpkin soup. What’s left after I’ve had all I can eat is then portioned out and frozen for future emergency pumpkin soup cravings.

One of the sad downfalls of Dublin is that pumpkin is not sold here most of the year. For some reason it’s just not considered to be a valid food here!? The one time of year when I can stock up on pumpkin is Halloween when they’ll sell big delicious pumpkins, not for eating but as decorations. They just don’t know what they’re missing!

When I bought my pumpkin for soup last week the checkout girl picked it up, turned it over and gave us a puzzled look before asking, “Is this a pomegranate?”. Speechless.

The mixture of spices and flavours in this pumpkin soup recipe may seem a little odd at first but trust me, it works really well. Adapted from an old recipe by kiwi kitchen maven Alison Holst.
pumpkin soup

Pumpkin Soup

  • 25g butter
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/2 a pumpkin, seeded, skinned, and cubed
  • 3 medium sized potatos, peeled and cubed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 chicken stock cube (approx 2 teaspoons stock powder)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Melt butter and cook onion and garlic in a large pot until soft but not browned. Prepare pumpkin and potatoes and add to onion with the water, spices, stock and sugar. Cook until pumpkin and potato are just soft in the center when pierced with a knife.

Puree the mixture and add enough extra water or milk to thin the soup to the desired consistency.

Chocolate Chippie Biscuits

mini chocolate chip cookies
This is a recipe that’s been in the family forever, origin unknown. It’s very simple and quick to throw together. And it tastes delish. For variety it’s also nice to try adding chopped dried apricots, or chopped nuts into the mix. The cookie is almost shortbready in colour and taste and it also works well for making thumbprint cookies, just leave the dough plain and make an indent in the center of each cookie to fill with jam.

It’s not the most exciting or original recipe I know, but this one is such a staple in our family I hope you’ll give it a try…

Recipe is available as a PDF on Chocolate Chippie Biscuits.

Chocolate Chippie Biscuits

Makes 2 dozen

  • 125g Butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugar together then stir in the condensed milk. Add the flour, baking powder and chocolate chips and stir to combine. Don’t worry if the dough looks too crumbly to form into balls just add a little more condensed milk until it looks more clumpy.

Roll into small (walnut sized) ball and flatten slightly onto a baking tray. Bake at 180C for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on the tray for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Enjoy with a long cool glass of milk 🙂

chocolate chip cookies and milk