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.