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.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Busy Bee's Blueberry Almond Chia Jam

I have always considered jam making to be proper hardcore.  My eyes start to glaze over when I see instructions about pectin, buying weird 'jam sugar' and something called the 'wrinkle' test. Enter chia seeds! They take all the work out of jam. 

If you haven't heard about chia seeds they are an ancient seed native to South America where they have been hailed for centuries for their wide and varied nutritional properties including being: 
- high in fatty omega acids 
- high in protein
- high in fibre 
- rich in manganese and calcium.  
When mixed with water they form a gelatinous coating and so are a perfect thickening agent in this jam. In other words no messing around with a sugar thermometer! Find them in good supermarkets or in the health food store. 

Adapted from  
Makes 1 large jar of jam 

500g fresh or frozen blueberries 
3 tablespoons of honey or agave nectar (I like agave because it has no taste)
3 tablespoons of chia seeds 
2 tsp almond extract

1. Put the blueberries in a saucepan over a medium low heat until the fruit begins to soften. If using fresh blueberries add a tablespoon of water. Mash slightly with a fork when they start to breakdown and the add the honey/agave nectar. 
2. When the fruit has sotened completely add the chia seeds and stir well.  
3. Simmer over a medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes until the jam has thickened considerably. It will thicken more when it cools. 
4. Add the almond extract and stir well. 
5. Put into a sterilised jar. Jam will keep for 1-2 weeks in the fridge.  

Suggested uses: 
Swirl into natural yoghurt or porridge
Spread on toast 

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Vegan Coconut Chai Ice Cream with Chocolate Shell

I am totally obsessed with the Mindy Project right now. It took me a while to get into it but now I just adore it. It is smart and witty, pop culture saturated. Hooray for weird characters on TV that eat too much saturated fat, battle through multiple work/life embarrassments and feel violently ill after exercise. That is someone I can relate to, being a girl who engages in strategic arm folding in order to cover food stains on clothes.

And because the casting is true to life the characters feel credible. I mean no one ever believed the Gilmore Girls were actually eating any of the junk they claimed to. I have a sneaky suspicion that those brown paper bags of supposed corn syrup badness from Doose's were actually filled with low calorie rice cakes and Lorelai and Rory would share one between them.

Honesty in TV is good! Note to the those network bigwigs who decide our programming fate- we can handle it! Except possibly the 'Girls' type of honesty which makes me hate my selfish selfish generation and disturbs me on a subconscious level.

Speaking of honesty I should probably be honest about this 'ice cream' because technically it isn't ice cream as it contains neither cream or eggs. Instead, full fat coconut milk is flavoured with warm chai spices. It was a big hit in this house and everyone agreed that you sacrifice neither taste nor texture by going vegan. I really couldn't lie to you after the above rant, could I?

For the ice cream  (inspired by
2 x 450g full fat coconut milk
2 black regular teabags
1 cup boiling water
3 star anise
1 1/2 cinnamon sticks
8 cardamon pods, seeds removed
5 whole cloves
4 whole black peppercorns
1 slice ginger, peeled
1 cup sugar (if you want to be strictly vegan use 3/4 cup honey)
pinch salt
1 tsp rosewater

For the chocolate shell (from Joy the Baker cookbook)
130g milk chocolate, chopped (vegan friendly if you are being strict about it)
1/2 cup coconut oil
pinch of salt

1. Put all the spices and ginger with the tea bags in a small saucepan. Add the boiling water and bring to the boil.
2. Turn off the heat and add in the sugar. Stir until it dissolves. Allow to seep for 10 minutes.
3. Pour through a strainer throwing away the tea bags and spices. Add the rosewater to the liquid.
4. Put the coconut milk into a big bowl and add the chai concentrate. Mix well.
5. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions, usually for about 20 minutes or until the thickness of frozen yogurt. If you don't have an ice cream maker just put into a tub in the freezer and mix every couple of hours to prevent ice crystals forming. Preferably freeze overnight if you aren't using an ice cream machine.
6. Pour into a bowl/other container and freeze for at least 4 hours.
7. For the chocolate shell put a bowl with the coconut oil and chocolate over a saucepan of simmering water. Don't let the bowl touch the water.
8. Stir until melted. Add the salt and keep warm until you are ready to serve.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Rhubarb and Pear Tart

Let's all get on the rhubarb bandwagon. It is bright and colourful, in season and in abundance right now. Hell yes it is mighty sour but we can sort that out with a (fairly) generous portion of sugar and by 'pearing' (geddit?) it with a sweeter fruit.

If I have one foodie promise I consistently try to keep it is that I will try to eat what is in season and grown locally thereby supporting my community and reducing my carbon footprint. It's a tough sell to the girl who loves trying the weird and wonderful but it is something I need to think about.  

And it doesn't get any more local than the back garden! I came home from holidays to be told that the garden is overrun with rhubarb. An invasion of the best kind.

The pear adds a delicious sweetness here that cuts through the rhubarb. I like my rhubarb soft and the pastry crispy. If you like your fruit to be textured don't bother stewing it before putting it in the tart.

For a 10 inch/25cm quiche tin pictured

For the fruit:
10-12 stalks of rhubarb
200g-250g sugar (extra to taste)
3 tsp cornflour
1 pear, peeled and sliced

For the pastry: 
450g plain flour
a pinch of salt
300g butter diced and cold
3 tsp caster sugar
2 egg yolks
2-3 tbsp cold water

1. To make the pastry sift the flour into a large bowl or food processor. Add the salt and mix.
2. Throw in the butter and blitz in the food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Alternative rub the butter and flour between the tips of your fingers. If the butter gets too greasy stick in the fridge for 5 minutes.
3. Add the sugar and stir. Beat the egg yolks in a small cup with the water. Add just enough liquid to the flour/butter mixture to form a firm dough, similar to what cookie dough would look like. When the butter/flour starts gathering into big pieces you have nearly enough liquid added. Add a few drops at a time until most of the butter/flour gathers together. You may even need a little more water but be cautious and mix well before adding more water.
4. Place a large piece of clingfilm on the counter and dunk the pastry out on the clingfilm. Use the clingfilm to gather the dough together into a big ball. The key is to handle the pastry as little as possible when bringing it together. Leave in the fridge for at least half hour.
4. Chop up the rhubarb roughly into small chunks. Place in a bowl with the sugar and cornflour and leave to macerate (the rhubarb will lose some liquid) for 10 minutes.
5. Drain off the excess liquid and then place the mixture in a saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer at a gentle bubble for 5-6 minutes stirring regularly until the rhubarb is just starting to soften. Have a taste to monitor the sugar level. Add more of sugar if you think it is too bitter. Rhubarb can vary greatly in bitterness. Leave to cool.
6. Take out the pastry and cut in half. Roll one half into a circle about 2.5cm/1 inch bigger than what you would need to cover the bottom and sides of your pie dish. In other words you need excess over the sides. The pastry should be about 0.5cm/1/4inch thickness.
7. Gently lift the pastry over the rolling pin and then turn the rolling pin away from yourself until the rolling pin is underneath the pastry. Transfer quickly to the dish, easing the pastry into the corners. Stab a couple of times with a fork and place back in the fridge.
8. Preheat the oven to 200oC.
9. Roll out the other half of the pastry. You could make a full lid at the same thickness as the bottom or if you are in an adventurous mood make a lattice like I did here. I followed this great tutorial from but I left bigger windows in mine.
10. Take the pastry case out of the fridge and cover the bottom with pieces of pear. Fill with the rhubarb mixture. Dampen the exposed pastry with a little bit of water. This will help the top stick. Cover with the top piece of pastry. Using a knife at a 90o angle trim the excess. Seal the edges with a fork or pinch with your fingers.
11. Brush with a little beaten egg for a glossy finish and if making a full lid pierce the pastry gently with a fork. This will help the steam escape.
12. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
13. Leave to cool slightly then serve with ice cream, custard or cream.