Sunday, 14 December 2014

Ile Flottantes

This day last year I was in Paris. After a hearty bean stew full of sausage, bacon and ribs in a bistro beside our hotel that coincidentally happened to be on the Guardian's list of best cheap eats in Paris, we ordered Il Flotantes (translates to Floating Islands) for desert. Served in a shallow enamel dish, it was a curious looking thing. Squares of mallowy meringue drenched in caramel floated on a sweet custard. Simple, homely, stunning.

I can't believe it has taken this long for me to make it at home. It's perfect after a heavy meal and great for those with a simple palette.

From Ed Kimber's  Patisserie Made Simple

For the Custard
400ml full fat milk
100ml single cream
5 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean

For the Meringue 
3 egg whites
100g caster sugar
1L semi skimmed milk

For the Caramel 
100g caster sugar

1. For the custard. Heat the cream and milk in a pan with the vanilla bean split lengthways or the vanilla bean paste until almost boiling.
2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar with a whisk in a bowl. Add the hot milk in a continuous stream whisking constantly.
3. Pour back into the saucepan whisking constantly over a gentle heat until the custard thickens to the consistency of single cream- not as thick as traditional custard.
4. Pour into a clean bowl and leave to cool completely in the fridge.
5. For the meringue beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the meringue is glossy.
6. Put the semi skimmed milk in a large wide saucepan and heat to barely simmering. Using two tablespoons dipped in cold water, shape the meringues into ovals- called quenelles.
7. Slide into the warm milk and cook in batches for around 10 minutes with the lid on, turning them half way through.
8. Take the meringues out with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper.
9. When you are ready to serve, make the caramel. Put half of the sugar in a large saucepan and heat over a low heat until melted. Add the rest of the sugar sprinkling evenly oven the melted sugar. Heat the caramel until medium brown.
10. To serve, ladle the custard into a shallow bowl. Top with two meringue "islands" and drizzle over the caramel sauce.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Cherry and White Chocolate Tiramasu

Let's get Christmassy. It is 6 December and the tree is going up, cheap baubles and all. Let's embrace that warm fuzzy in our stomachs and hit the shops like we are Pretty Woman and Richard Gere just gave us his credit card. There are a few cookbooks on the cards this Christmas and plenty of baking plans. Just part of the fun and excitement.   

White chocolate cherry Tiramasu is a great Christmas dinner party option. Easy to prepare in advance, the red and white colour contrast makes for a stunning visual. You can use jam jars to keep in style with your hipster glasses and brand new 'beat up' boots or tumblers to keep things simple. I used martini glasses for an extra 'ooh' and 'ah' factor, I never pass up an opportunity to pump up the glamour. If you feel you want to keep your martini glasses purely alcohol filled, I appreciate and respect that. 


Adapted from Neven Maguire's Home Chef

For the custard (or buy good quality custard)
3 egg yolks
1/2 tbsp cornflour
1/2 tbsp custard powder
2 tbsp caster sugar
150ml milk
50ml cream

For the cherries
150g fresh cherries pitted and halved
150ml red wine
35g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1star anise
2  tablespoons amaretto or port

For the marscarpone cream
250g marscapone
75g cream
80g white chocolate
4 sponge fingers

1. Make the custard. Beat the egg yolks, caster sugar, cornflour and custard powder in a large bowl.
2. Heat the milk and cream until almost at a boil. Pour the hot milk and cream over the egg yolk mixture whisking constantly.
3. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly over a medium heat until the mixture gets very thick. This could take 5-6 minutes. Pour into a clean bowl and cover the custard with a circle of greaseproof paper to avoid a skin forming.
4. Chop 40g of the white chocolate very finely. Heat 2 tablespoons of the cream in a small bowl in the microwave or a small saucepan until below boiling. Add the chocolate and stir until thoroughly melted. When cool add to the cooled custard.
5. For the cherries, put the red wine, caster sugar, cinnamon stick and star anise in a small pan and bring to the boil. Turn now and simmer with 5 minutes with the lid off until the mixture reduces.
6. Add in the cherries and cook for 5 minutes until slightly tender but holding their shape.
7. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
8. Put two tablespoons of cherries in the bottom of each glass. Break one of the sponge fingers for each glass and place over the cherries sugar side down. Spoon over the red wine mixture until all used up, discarding the cinnamon stick and star anise. Put in the fridge to cool.
9. Grate the white chocolate. Beat the rest of the cream in one bowl until thick. Beat the mascarpone until soft and then fold in the cream and white chocolate.
10. Spoon the mascarpone mixture over the cherry mixture. Top with a sprinkling of cocoa powder and fresh cherries.

Monday, 24 November 2014

English Muffins

It's bright and sunny and cold and I have remembered that I don't completely hate winter now that the torrential rain has passed. In fact I quite like the bundling up ritual, the numb tingle in my nose and the completely valid excuse to batten down the hatches when the dark evenings set in...

This weekend I made English muffins. Perfect for breakfast, excellent at tea time, these muffins are soft and fluffy on the inside with a crunchy exterior thanks to the polenta and a hot frying pan. I recommend eating warm smeared with butter, accompanied by a hot cup of tea. 

Recipe by Paul Hollywood, makes 8

300g strong white flour 
1 tsp salt 
7g sachet of yeast 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
15g caster sugar 
15g butter softed 
170ml milk 
15g polenta, or semolina

1. Put the flour into a large bowl. Add the salt in one side and the yeast in another. Mix well. 
2. Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. 
3. Add the egg and the milk until a soft dough forms. I found that I did not need all the milk. 
4. Smear a very small amount of oil on to the worktop. 
5. Turn out the dough out onto the worktop and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. 
6. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for an hour in a warm place until doubled in volume. 
7. Punch the dough to remove the air. Dust half the polenta and flour onto the work surface. Roll out the dough to 2.5cm thick. Using a cutter, stamp out 8 rounds. 
8. Put the rounds on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes. 
9. Heat a frying pan or a griddle pan to a low heat.
10. Cook the muffins on both sides until dark brown, around 6 minutes either side but keep an eye on them. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Melting Moments

These biscuits are SHORT. 

There isn't too much jargon in baking, but 'short' comes up quite a bit. 'Short' means a high butter to flour ratio. When you read short you understand rich, buttery and crumbly, i.e. delicious melt in the mouth biscuits. 

Today we are going old school, forgetting about fancy macarons and patisserie and the like and baking what our Grannies made for teatime. To maintain the very effective swirl, I used a star nozzle and made sure the dough was very cold before it went into the oven to maintain its shape. Skip the fridge and you will end up with a baking tray full of melty disfigured biscuits. 

From the Great British Bake Off Series 2 Book

Makes about 16 sandwiched biscuits

For the biscuits
250g butter, softened
60g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla
250g plain flour, sifted
60g cornflour, sifted

For the buttercream icing
200g icing sugar
75g butter, softened
1/2tsp vanilla

1. Beat the butter and icing sugar together until pale and very smooth. Add the vanilla and beat briefly.
2. Sift in the flour and cornflour and beat well until the mixture is well combined.
3. Fill a piping bag with a star nozzle with the mixture. Pop the piping bag in the fridge for 30 minutes.
4. Pipe 5cm diameter swirls onto sheets of greaseproof paper, well spaced apart. Place the baking trays into the fridge for at least an hour, The longer the better.
5. Preheat the oven to 180oC.
6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until just lightly golden.
7, For the icing, beat the butter and icing sugar in a bowl until creamy. Add a dash of milk and the vanilla and beat again. Add food colouring if desired.
8. Sandwich the biscuits together and leave to set in the fridge.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Mocha Religieuse

Choux buns just got stacked up, covered in shiny ganache, filled with chocolate coffee pastry cream and given a frilly collar. Hello Sunday! Hello Religieuse, so named because they are stacked to look like nuns. 

In every pattisiere shop window in Paris you will see Religieuse. Although traditionally dipped in ganache, in the windows of Laudurée and the like you will see them dipped in bright glacé icing. Personally, I am not a big fan of the overly sweet glacé icing, so I kept these traditional. The pastry cream is one of my favourites. It packs a delicious creamy coffee punch and the ganache too as I used milled instant coffee powder. 

If you have mastered choux, these really are a very small step for added impressiveness. Give them a go! 

For the choux (from Paula Daly)
150ml water
50g margarine
65g plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten

For the chocolate coffee pastry cream 
250ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon custard powder
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
1/2 tablespoon of milled instant coffee

For the ganache 
100ml single cream
100g milk chocolate
pinch of salt
2 teaspoon milled instant coffee

For the collar
100ml single cream
Coffee beans, optional

1. For the choux, heat the water and margarine in a saucepan over a medium heat until melted. Sift the flour into a dry bowl. Increase the heat and bring the water to the boil.
2. Take the water/margarine off the heat before the water evaporates. Dump in the flour and beat well. Put back over the heat for 1/2-1 minute to cook out the flour.
3. Take off the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
4. Add a little egg at a time, beating well between each addition. The mixture may curdle but keep beating until it comes together and it is shiny.
5. Mark eight one inch and eight two inch circles onto greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 220oC.
6. Pipe the choux onto the marked circles. If they have pointy tops, dip your finger into warm water and smooth out the tops.
7. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190oC and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
8. Take out of the oven, transfer to a wire rack and stab with a knife to let steam escape.
9. To make the pastry cream, heat the milk with the vanilla in a small saucepan until almost at a boil.
10. Mix the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour, cocoa powder, coffee and custard powder in a bowl until combined.
11. Pour in half of the milk while whisking vigorously.
12. Pour back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and beat over a low heat until thick enough to pipe. This will take 4-5 minutes.
13. Make the ganache. Heat the cream and coffee in a saucepan over a low heat until almost to the boil.
14. Break up the chocolate and place in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Pour over the hot cream and mix in a tight circle, slowly widening the circle until all the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth and shiny. Put in the fridge until ready to use.
15. Using a piping bag with a plain nozzle, fill the choux buns.
16. Beat the cream in a small bowl until peaks form. Put into a piping bag with a star nozzle.
17. To assemble, dip the top of the big choux buns in ganache. Dip a small choux bun in the ganache and place on top of the big bun.
18. Pipe a frilly collar with cream and top with a single star and a coffee bean, if desired.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Pierre Hermes' Salted Caramel Macarons

Macarons are like cats, Paris and Michael Fassbender; I love them far more than they love me.

After a disastrous first date, we have come to an understanding.... I accept that I will never have a 100% perfect macaron yield, at least 4 or 5 will crack across the top and not have "feet". Same batter, same tray, same temperature- my only reasoning is that the oven isn't giving out heat exactly evenly. Short of throwing out my relatively new oven and buying a new one, I think I may have to live with less than macaron perfection.... Grrh.

I used to use this Bravetart recipe, but have now switched to this Pierre Herme's recipe. Herme's recipe is a little bit tricker in that it involves making a sugar syrup and you have to age the egg whites for at least two days, but I find the results are slightly better, a shinier top and more chewy. If you aren't bothered getting a sugar thermometer out, do try the Bravetart recipe, by all means a less fussy option.

Happy macaronage!

From Pierre Hermes

Makes 36 shells
For the macarons
150g icing sugar
150g ground almonds
55g egg whites, left on the counter for 48 hours or longer in the fridge covered in clingfilm and stabbed with a fork
7.5g good quality yellow food colouring
7.5g vanilla extract
55g egg whites, left to liquefy, as above
150g sugar
slightly less than 40ml water

Salted caramel filling 
150g granulated sugar
175ml single cream
15g salted butter plus 70g salted butter
1/2 tsp good quality salt

1. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds separately and then together in a big glass bowl. Discard any chunky bits of almond stuck in the sieve.
2. Mix 55g of the egg whites, food colouring and vanilla extract together in small bowl. Pour on top of the icing sugar and ground almonds but do not mix.
3. Beat the other 55g of egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
4. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan until the syrup reaches 118oC. Take off the heat and allow to cool to 115oC and then pour down the side of the bowl while beating the egg whites until the egg whites cool to 50oC- this shouldn't take long.
5. Mix the meringue in to the almond/icing sugar mix in three batches until the mixture flows like magma. This will take a few minutes. Use a spatula to smear the mix against the side of the bowl. The mixture should fall from the spatula in a smooth ribbon and disappear back into the mixture within 20 seconds.
6. Pipe into rounds of 3.5cm diameter. Rap the baking sheet onto the counter sharply to get rid of any air bubbles. Leave the macarons at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow a skin to develop.
7. Heat the oven to 180oC.
8. Bake the macarons for 12-14 minutes, opening the door very quicky twice to allow steam to escape. I found that the macarons baked better on the top or bottom shelves, but it may take some experimentation with your oven to figure out what suits you. The macarons are baked when they can be peeled easily from the paper- the bottom should not be too sticky.
9. To make the filling, put 25g of sugar in a saucepan and allow to melt over a medium heat. Add the rest of the sugar in 25g portions once the previous 25g is melted until all 100g is used up. Once all the sugar is melted, cook until the sugar turns a dark amber. Play close attention and use your nose as a guide- if it smells like it is burning pull off the heat and plunge the saucepan into a sink of cold water.
10. Heat the cream until almost boiling.
11. Add 15g butter and the cream. The mixture will bubble and splatter and the caramel may go hard but will melt at the next stage.
12. Turn up the heat and boil until the mixture reaches 118oC.
13. Pour into a shallow container and cover with clingfilm. Put in the fridge to cool completely.
14. Beat the 70g of butter for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Add the caramel in two additions beating well between each. Add the salt and beat well to combine.

15. Pipe generously to sandwich the shells together.
16. Allow the macarons to 'mature' for 12 hours and then allow to come to room temperature for 2 hours before serving.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Blaa Blaa White Bread

Have you heard of Waterford blaa bread yet? Since obtaining EU protection status which means that true blaa bread cannot be made outside Waterford, blaa bread is cropping up on hipster trendy menus all over the country. And as Ireland's only yeast bread inspired by the Hugenots, this bread deserves wider recognition outside a small corner of the south east. Very soft, fluffy and characteristically floury, blaa is quite unlike other white bread rolls, more similar to a bap and good sweet or savoury. Apparently, a blaa roll is traditionally filled with 'red lead' in Waterford, some sort of ambiguous sausage meat for lunch. Count me out of any 'red lead' consumption... 

From Niamh Shield's 'Comfort and Spice'

500g strong white flour 
10g dried yeast 
10g caster sugar 
10g unsalted butter 

1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 275ml of warm water. Stir well and leave for 10 minutes to froth. 
2. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and rub in the butter. 
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix vigorously until a shaggy dough forms. Dump it out on the table and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. 
4. Place in a clean bowl and allow to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size in a warm place like a hot press or sunny window. 
5. Preheat the oven to 210oC. Punch the dough to knock the air out and divide into 8 balls. Place on a baking tray, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for another 50 minutes until the rolls swell.
6. Dust liberally with more flour and then bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Eat the same day.   

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Afternoon Tea in the Merrion Hotel

If you are going to do Afternoon Tea, pull out all the stops (and your purse) and do it right, in style, in somewhere where the pastry chefs are the Picasso's of ganache and mousse. And the chefs at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin certainly don't lack imagination or skill. Their 'Art Tea' is a two course menu, the first being a variety of sandwiches, scones and cakes and the second being a selection of three miniature desserts inspired by three paintings selected from the Merrion's own art collection. 

The photographs speak for themselves but there is also something that I couldn't capture on film and that is the relaxed, laid back atmosphere in this beautiful room. We sat for almost three hours, drank at least 10 cups of tea and ate ourselves silly. 

You can also get a beautiful doggy bag to bring home, which takes the pressure off if you are like me and can't possibly comprehend leaving any cake un-tasted. 

What a treat.

The sandwich plate:
Smoked salmon with horseradish cream on brown Irish soda bread
Egg mayonnaise and cress on a brioche bun;
Rare Irish Beef on white bread; and
Cucumber with cream cheese and chives on tomato bread.

The cake and scone plate:
Battenburg (the colours and design are inspired by a painting);
Lemon cake;
Porter Cake; and
Plain and fruit scones served with lemon curd, jam and clotted cream.

From the other side.

The three paintings selected by the chef to inspire his/her second course.

Wow factor: The second course

 Raspberry and passion fruit tart.

Rosewater and Orange Mousse on a White Chocolate Feuilletine

Chocolate Trinty- a choux bun filled with chocolate ganche

€36 each at the Merrion Hotel Dublin, see

Monday, 8 September 2014


Right now the "cronut"tm is the One Direction of the baking world. A creation of Dominque Ansel, this wonder is (as the name might suggest)  a cross between a croissant and a doughnut. In New York people queue from early morning to get a cronut before they sell out.  You can only buy two at a time and they will set you back $5 each.

Along with your double soya frappe, a cronut is the ultimate breakfast fashion accessory. Because just like the fashion world, foodies are suckers for a trend. From Primrose  and Magnolia bakeries' cupcakes to dainty macarons, we are a pretty easily led bunch.

Unfortunately I haven't had the pleasure of an Ansel cronut, but this recipe combines the softness of a doughnut with the buttery, flakey deliciousness of a croissant and is surprisingly easy to make. If you have made puff pastry or croissant pastry before you might think there would be  a lot of that "laminating" business, but happily this recipe isn't much different from making normal scones except for a little rolling technique required.

You can roll your cronuts in sugar, but if you want to go the whole hog, decorate with bright glacé icing by mixing icing sugar with a very small amount of water and a drop of food colouring.


Makes 12

125g plain flour 
125g strong flour 
60ml milk 
65ml warm water 
7g packet dried yeast 
150g cold butter diced
30g caster sugar
 1/2 tsp salt 

Creme Pattiserie 
250ml full fat milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean split 
2 egg yolks 
50g caster sugar 
1 1/2 tbsp cornflour 
1 1/2 tbsp custard powder 

1. Put the water, milk and yeast in a jug and stir. 
2. Mix the flours together in a bowl. Add the butter and mix in a food processor or with your fingers until very coarse breadcrumbs with plenty of lumps. 
3. Add in the caster sugar and salt and mix well.
4. Add in the wet ingredients and mix until a shaggy dough forms. Turn out onto a big piece of clingfilm and bring together into a ball. 
5. Place in the fridge for 2 hours. 
6, Take out of the fridge and roll into a rectangle twice as long on one side as the other. Fold like an envelope- fold one third of the dough back over the dough and then fold the other third over. 
7. Turn the dough 90oC and then use the same rolling and folding technique twice more. If the dough is getting sloppy and buttery place in the fridge for 15 minutes. 
8. Leave in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight is best. 
9. Take out of the fridge and roll to 1/2cm thick. Use a large round cutter to punch out 6-8 rounds. Poke a hole in the centre with your fingers or with a small cutter. 
10. Leave to rest for another hour at room temperature covered with a clean tea towel. 
11. Heat the oil to 170oC.  
12 Cook a few at a time for 4-6 minutes each side until golden to dark brown. 
13. When cool inject 5 or 6 with shop bought custard or make crème patisserie as below. 

For the crème patisserie 
1. Heat the milk and vanilla together until just at the boil. 
2. Mix the egg yolk, sugar, cornflour and custard together in a bowl. Add half of the milk stirring constantly. 
3. Pour the mixture into the rest of the milk, return to a medium heat and cook, whisking all the time for 5-6 minutes or until thick. 
4. Pour into a bowl, cover with a circle of greaseproof paper and place in the fridge until needed.  

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Julia Child's Madelines de Commercy

I have to admit that I hadn't heard of Julia Child until the very enjoyable film Julie and Julia where she was played by the amazing Meryl Streep. If you are even further behind than me, Julia Child is credited with bringing French cooking into American homes and her recipes have been relied on for generations. Who better than the Queen of French cooking to guide us through the sometimes murky waters of Madelines, a French delicacy!

Lightly flavoured with lemon, these Madelines have a slight crunch on the outside and a soft sponge interior. Perfect with a cup of tea on a drizzly Saturday in Dublin!

From Julia Child's Kitchen - Makes 2 dozen

2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 ounces unsalted butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons for buttering the molds (total of 5 1/4 ounces)
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grated lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
3 drops of lemon juice

1. Bring all the ingredients to room temperature.
2. Put the butter over a medium heat and allow to melt. Turn up the heat and watch while it sizzles and spits. Once brown flecks appear and the butter goes silent take off the heat and allow to cool but not congeal.
3. Take 1 tablespoon of the butter and use it to brush the madeline tin. Don't let big pools of butter sit at the bottom of the tin. Dust lightly with plain flour and place the tin in the fridge.
4. Mix the flour and sugar together in a clean bowl. Add 3/4 of the egg mixture and beat until well combined. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
5. Beat in the remaining egg and cooled butter saving 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir in the salt, vanilla and lemon.
6. Place the mixture in the fridge for a few hours- overnight is better as this will help the hump form.
7. When ready to bake preheat the oven to 180oC. Fill the madeline molds 2/3 full using approximately 1 large tablespoon of mixture.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden at the edges. Allow to cool and then remove gently from the pan.
9. Brush the pan with the remaining tablespoon of butter, dust with flour and place in the fridge for 1 hour before baking the second dozen.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Fluffy American Pancakes with Caramelised Peaches

I am swept up in Leaving cert results this week for the first time in years. The stress, the nerves, the excitement, the feeling that everything hangs in a delicate balance, the anticipation of an unknown future. 

Inevitably I started to think about my life since that envelope got ripped open. What would I say to my 17 year old me? What would she say to the present me, 7 years down the line? Anyone who says they have no regrets is in denial or lying.

But regret, as inevitable as is it is equally pointless. Instead of thinking about what I would say to my 17 year old me, I should be thinking about what the 30 year old me would say to me now. It is easier to regret than to take a good hard look at your now. 

But all this introspection requires sustenance in the form of sweet sweet breakfast food! Inspired by the realisation that the summer is slowly coming to an end, these light fluffy pancakes are the perfect summer weekend breakfast. There is still time left to capitalise on those bits of summer that are fastly becoming glimpses in the rear review mirror; a burst of sunshine, the tickle of grass on your bare feet and eating the final pieces of summer fruit.  

I haven't done much with these peaches, a knob of butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar before being shoved under the grill is all they need. 

Serves 2

For the pancakes 

135g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 egg
150ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
30g butter, melted and cooled

For the peaches

3 peaches, halved and cored
1 tablespoon of light brown sugar
knob of butter for each peach half

1. Preheat the grill to medium heat.
2. In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients for the pancakes together. In a small jug beat the eggs, milk and vanilla together, lightly.
3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg/milk mix. Beat well with the whisk ensure that there are no pockets of flour. Finally mix in the melted butter until thoroughly combined. Let to stand for 5-10 minutes.
4. Put the peach halves in an oven proof dish. Place a small knob of butter on each half and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Place under the grill for 10-15 minutes until charred and soft, checking every five minutes to ensure the edges don't burn. If they do, turn the grill down.
5. Heat a non stick pan to medium heat. Pour a ladle of pancake batter on to the pan. The mixture will be very thick and so is easier to handle than traditional crepes.
6. When the bottom starts to solidify and the top begins to set and form bubbles, flip the pancake to cool on the other side until brown. The mixture should make 6-8 pancakes. Keep warm in the bottom of the oven while waiting for the peaches to cook.
7. Remove the peaches from the grill and allow to cool before serving on top of a stack of pancakes. Add a squeeze of honey to serve.

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!


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!

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.