Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread

In many cultures, bread is symbolic for life and sustenance. If there is bread in the house, no one will go hungry. Bread has symbolic meanings in different religions as well. Throughout Europe, Easter bread symbolizes new life and served at breakfast on Easter morning. The history of Easter bread goes back hundreds of years and is enjoyed during a meal at the end of Lent.

During its life cycle the grain of wheat dies and is reborn months later in the form of a spike capable of providing sustenance to human beings. Wheat is the quintessential nutritional plant. It was believed to contain the mystery of life and death and thus it became a sacred plant. One of the essential features of the Neolithic era was plant cultivation. This led to a way of life that had previously been unimaginable and gave birth to new beliefs that completely altered the spiritual universe of humankind.

Encylopedia.com   April 13 2017

Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread recipe

Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread recipe

There are many recipes for Easter bread with a variety of ingredients and shapes. Traditionally, Italians and other Europeans develop their family recipe with the usual ingredients of flour, milk, eggs, butter, sugar, and yeast. Additional ingredients, like oranges and anise are added to the dough. These special ingredients personalize the bread and show what Easter means to the family or town. Every loaf of Easter bread tells a story. The bread means life. The three braids symbolize the elements of the Holy Trinity, and the eggs mean new birth. (Jovina Cooks). The baker becomes the storyteller of their family history and Easter significance.

Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread recipe

Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread recipe

This Easter bread recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2012. It is less involved than other traditional recipes because a “starter” is not required. Yet, I kept the shape simple as one long braided loaf decorated with eggs and poppy seeds. Another benefit I learned, is there’s no need to hard boil the eggs before you color them. They cook in the oven with the bread. It is always great to have one less thing to do around any holiday.

Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread recipe

Before I researched the history of Easter bread, I believed challah and Easter bread are the same, with the exception of the decorated eggs.  There are similarities, but ultimately they are different breads. Easter bread is made from a sticky dough, has fewer eggs, and is sweeter than challah. Additional ingredients in Easter bread are oranges, anise, and dried fruits or nuts. I also learned Easter bread is similar to Panettone, but has a different shape.

Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread recipe

Without question, Easter bread is delicious and fun to make. It is an airy, pleasantly sweet, and fresh tasting bread. I made the bread once with orange zest and fennel pollen, and once without. Both versions produced bread with delicate subtle butter flavor perfect for a delicious breakfast treat. Also, don’t be afraid to eat the eggs as long as the Easter bread has not been sitting unrefrigerated for over 12 hours. As always concerning any egg product, use your common sense.

Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread recipe

You should make this bread just to fill your home with its seductive scent. For 24 hours, my house filled with a warm buttery scent causing everyone to perk up and take a break from their work. Joy was in the air. Don’t we all need a break from work, and have a chance to look around? This time of year, there are so many wonderful surprises to discover. New plants and flowers are popping up every day and the sun feels warmer and warmer. I love Spring and the activity of life that comes with it.

Make creamy ricotta to spread on your sweet Easter Bread. A heavenly breakfast of homemade ricotta smeared on homemade bread.  

Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread reicpe

I don’t know about you, but whenever I make bread I am happy. Baking bread brings me joy and a great sense of accomplishment. Maybe it is because the touch of dough is so smooth and soft. I love feeling my hands wrap around the supple dough. I tell myself to stop and resist temptation to play with my food. If you find yourself succumbing to this seduction, please stop yourself or you will have tough overworked bread.

Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread recipe

At last, Spring is here along with every reason to celebrate new life after a dormant winter. At any time, a loaf of homemade bread brings the promise of life and sustenance for all to enjoy. Without hesitation, the promise of your specially prepared loaf is revealed in the joyful expressions of friends and family. Join the fun and start your Easter celebration at breakfast with sweet Easter bread.

Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread Recipe

 Celebrate with Sweet Easter Bread reicpe

Sweet Easter Bread

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 25 minutes

Category: Breakfast

Cuisine: Italian

1, 12- 16 inch loaf

Sweet Easter Bread

This is a delicious bread perfect for any breakfast. It is lightly sweet with hints of orange zest and fennel pollen. The eggs will cook perfectly in the oven with the bread for an extra bonus.

Recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2012. Recipe by Melissa Roberts

Ingredients

    For the Dough
  • 2/3 cup / 150ml whole milk
  • 5 Tbs / 70g granulated sugar- divided
  • 1 3/4 tsp / 1/8oz / 6g active dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups / 405 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp / 3 g Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (10 stick) / 113g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 Tb / 23 g melted butter
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of ground anise or fennel pollen (optional)
  • Poppy Seeds for decorating (optional)
  • 1 egg plus 2 teaspoons of water, mixed (for egg wash)
    For the decorative eggs
  • 5-6 large eggs
  • Food coloring of your choosing

Instructions

    Make the Dough
  1. Heat the milk in a 2-cup microwave safe glass measure in the microwave until the milk reaches 110-115F (43-46C). (Can also heat the milk on the stove in a small sauce pan). Start at 30 seconds and check the temperature of the milk and add 10 seconds until you reach the desired temperature. You do not want it hotter than 115C because the higher temperature will kill the yeast.
  2. Gently stir in 1 tablespoon (13g) of the sugar, and the yeast into the milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes. The milk should get foamy from the yeast. (If the milk does not get foamy your yeast is not active).
  3. Melt the butter and let cool.
  4. Whisk the eggs into the milk and add the cooled melted butter.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the remaining 4 Tb (58g) sugar, all-purpose flour, and Kosher salt, orange zest (optional), and ground anise or fennel pollen (optional). Mix together with a whisk or fork to get the ingredients evenly combined. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  6. On low speed, add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix to get the ingredients combined. Stop and scrape the bowl when necessary. About one minute. Turn the speed up to medium high and mix for 5 minutes until the dough gets soft and silky.
  7. Brush the insides of a medium mixing bowl with the remaining half tablespoon of melted butter. Add the bread dough into the bowl and butter the tops and sides of the dough with the remaining butter. Turn the dough around in the bowl to get a good coating of butter all over it. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter in a warm spot until it doubles in size, for 1 1/2 hours up to 2 hours.
  8. The dough can be made ahead up to the point of the first rising. Refrigerate the dough, then when ready, rest the dough at a warm spot on the counter and let it rise for 2 1/2 hours.
    Color Eggs
  1. Color your eggs according to the directions of your food coloring. You do not need to hard boil the eggs first, just be careful not to crack any eggs while you are coloring them. The eggs will cook in the oven while the bread is baking. Refrigerate your decorated eggs until you are ready to use them.
    Assemble the bread
  1. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide the dough into three equal pieces.
  3. Lightly sprinkle flour over your work surface and dust your hands with flour.
  4. Roll each piece of dough into long tapered ropes about 16 inches (41cm) long. If your dough is springing back and not lengthening, cover the strands with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Arrange the strands lengthwise across the sheet pan and pinch the top of the strands together. Loosely braid the dough. Drape the outer left strand over the middle strand, then drape the outer right strand over the (new) middle strand. Repeat alternating the left and right outer strands until you are at the bottom. Pinch the bottom strands together and secure. Tuck the eggs between the braided strands down the middle of the bread. The eggs will slide out if they are too close to the sides of the bread. Loosely cover the bread with plastic wrap or clean kitchen towel and let the bread rise for 45 min - 1 hr. The bread will puff up but not double in size.
  6. Meanwhile, arrange the oven rack to the middle position, and if you have a baking stone place it on the middle rack. Pre-heat the oven to 350F/ 175C/ Gas Mark 4. When baking bread, I like to preheat my oven for an hour. I believe the temperature is more even and accurate.
  7. After the final rise, whisk together one egg with 2 tsp water and brush the bread with the egg wash. Avoid getting the egg wash on the eggs. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, if using, and place the sheet pan with the bread on the middle rack in your oven. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 190F (88C).
  8. Take the bread out of the oven and slide it with the parchment paper onto a cooling rack. After 5 minutes remove the parchment paper. Can be served warm or room temperature.
  9. The bread can be made the night before serving for breakfast, 8 hours in advance. After 8 hours, the eggs might start to turn bad. The bread will be fine for a couple of days, but not the eggs.
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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Why make ricotta cheese and add one more thing to do in your busy day? Is it really necessary to make ricotta cheese if I am already making a lasagna that takes too long? The answer is an unflappable yes because the taste is 100 times better than store-bought. Ricotta cheese bought in grocery stores tastes gummy, gritty, and filled with additives to prevent the whey and curds from separating. Ricotta should have a pure milk flavor, not a chemical flavor.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

Another good reason to make homemade ricotta is a small gesture, but a good one. Sourcing milk from small farms will reduce your carbon footprint. Additionally, milk from cows that are allowed to graze, eat a natural diet of grass, and produce hormone and antibiotic free milk, tastes better and is better for our health. Further, clean farming practices and less plastic containers in the world will ultimately make it a healthier and cleaner place.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

I wanted to share this recipe because it is so simple and quick. If you are at all skeptical about starting another project, I believe this is a great way to ease into making ricotta cheese. The recipe makes a small batch, enough to use in pancakes, or to make one of my favorite appetizers, ricotta with lemon zest, mint and honey spread on toasted bread.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta Recipe

This recipe is from the cookbook, Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. Additionally, Kenji is the founder of the website, Serious Eats, which I reference a lot. He is all about the science of cooking and puts recipes through rigorous testing to come up with the best practice to produce the tastiest results. This recipe will produce about 1 cup of fresh ricotta and could take 5-15 minutes from start to finish. Another easy bonus is, it is prepared in the microwave.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

However, the recipe is not without its challenges. When I first made it, the bowl I used barely fit inside my microwave. I believe the lack of space around the bowl made an unevenness in the way the milk heated up. The temperature of the milk between the top and bottom of the bowl differed by 10 – 15 degrees. This resulted in producing less ricotta from the quart of milk than the recipe indicated. The next time I made the recipe in the microwave, I used a Pyrex mixing bowl and had better results.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

Keys to Success making Ricotta

You will need an instant read thermometer. Getting the milk to 165F is crucial to making ricotta. It’s important to make sure that the milk doesn’t get too hot and start to boil.

Do not use ultra pasteurized milk. The milk carton label must inform the consumer of the type of pasteurization process. All organic milk sold in the grocery store is ultra pasteurized. This is done to make sure the milk has a longer shelf life. Ultra pasteurized milk will not turn into ricotta cheese since the good bacteria needed to help create the curds is non-existent.

Distilled vinegar produces the cleanest taste. Lemon juice will give the ricotta a distinct lemon flavor. Regardless of which acid you use, the flavors in warm and freshly made ricotta were more pronounced. The flavors mellowed after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. The ricotta became drier overnight as well.

A microwave safe bowl with a wider mouth had better results than an 2 quart liquid measuring cup. Additionally, remember that this won’t work exactly the same across all microwaves.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta reicpe

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe
What to make with fresh Ricotta?

Mix one cup of ricotta cheese with zest of one lemon and 1-2 tablespoons of minced fresh mint. Spread the cheese on toasted baguette and drizzle with honey. It is a creamy, bright and slightly sweet appetizer plus it is easy to prepare.

Creamy Homemade Ricotta recipe

Creamy Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 7 minutes

1 cup ricotta

A simple recipe for homemade ricotta and finished in about 5 - 7 minutes. It produces a creamy ricotta, perfect as a spread on toast. (See blog post for ricotta spread recipe). It is a great recipe to use and get familiar with the ricotta making process.

This is a recipe from The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups/ 1 liter whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup distilled vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

Instructions

  1. Line a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and place the strainer over a large and deep bowl. Set aside.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. Gently stir. Use a bowl with a 2-quarts capacity. Place the bowl in the microwave and turn on high for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Check the temperature of the milk, if it is not 165˚F / 74˚C, continue to microwave checking every minute or 30 seconds until the milk reaches 165˚F / 74˚C. You will see the milk curdle and the liquid (whey) become clearer and separate from the curds. If the liquid is milky and without a clear separation between the whey and the curds, the ricotta is not finished. There is a 165˚F/ 74˚C to 180˚F / 82˚C temperature window to work in.
  4. Once the milk/ricotta cheese reached the desired temperature, take the bowl out of the microwave and lightly stir for a few seconds.
  5. Use a spider or slotted spoon to scoop out the curds into a cheese cloth lined strainer. Scoop out as much of the curds as possible, then gently pour the remaining liquid into the strainer. Drain the ricotta to your desired texture. 5 minutes will have the creamiest and moist texture. 15-20 minutes will produce a texture that is spreadable and slightly moist. 2 hours or refrigerated overnight, will produce dry and crumbly curds.

Notes

This recipe can be made on the stove top in a large saucepan. Add all the ingredients into a medium saucepan with the heat set at medium to medium-low. Stir the milk constantly and gradually heat the milk to 165F / 74C. Continue as directed to drain the whey.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake

It turns out for the past half century I missed out on a special dessert. I recently learned this dessert originated in Oregon in the 60’s, then variations developed all over California. I was there. How did I, or anyone in my family or friends, not know about this? If it was hot in Eureka, it was hot in San Francisco. Despite the gravitational pull of anything pink had on me then, this popular and pink dessert slipped by unnoticed. Pink Champagne Cake was a popular dessert in the 60’s but I believe a resurgence is in order. It is a beautiful tower of pale pink cake and buttercream, flavored with pink champagne.

Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake reicpe

I first discovered it in a cookbook, American Cake by Anne Byrn. My thoughtful sister gave me this book because she knows how much I like to research the history and story behind the food I make. It is a great cookbook about the history of cakes in America with recipes from the 17th century to present time. Pictured right on the cover is a beautiful pink cake garnished with white chocolate and bright pink rose petals. It is a true sight of beauty and elegance. Apparently, as Anne Byrn explained, pink champagne was a popular drink in the 60’s among hip California women. It also became a popular color from jewelry to shag carpets. This cake was created to ride the Pink Champagne trend. I love seeing how food culture and popular culture connect and influence each other.

Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake
Cake batter
Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake recipe
Cakes measured for slicing in half to make a 6 layer cake
Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake reicpe
Cake with crumb layer of frosting

Pink champagne cake is the first recipe I have made from this book and it is an unexpected winner. I was not sure how it would taste, but the subtle flavors balance with the light texture. The cake is moist and made with egg whites, like a chiffon cake, but is slightly denser because of the butter. The frosting is very sweet, and even though it is a buttercream Confectioners sugar is the dominant ingredient. There are several types of buttercreams and this recipe I consider is an American buttercream. They usually are not as smooth as European buttercreams and have a lot more sugar.

Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake reicpe

I made pink champagne cake twice, first as written,  and the second time with a different buttercream. American buttercream is not my favorite frosting. They tend to be too sweet and slightly gritty from all the powdered sugar.  Instead, I used a recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum cookbook, The Cake Bible. Her buttercream recipe is light, silky smooth, not as sweet, and very buttery. I thought the texture of this mousseline buttercream matched the light texture of the cake. I also added some strawberry purée because strawberry adds a little more depth to the pink champagne buttercream. This is an American cake, but the European buttercream is a lot nicer and more elegant than the American one. Anne Byrn shared her recipe on Food 52 if you want to see her original.

Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake reicpe

Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake

One downside, the mousseline buttercream is not an easy frosting for a beginner to make. It helps to have a confident eye and hand that experience develops. There is always a first time. Be patient and give yourself plenty of time to make this. You will also need a candy thermometer, or a good instant read thermometer that goes up to 255˚F (124˚C).  My version is somewhat of a production between the strawberry purée, buttercream, the cake, and all the layers. The original frosting is a lot easier to make.

Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake reicpe

If you want to bake this cake, but are unsure about making a European buttercream,  make the original frosting from the recipe provided in the Food 52 link. However, taste as you add the sugar. The frosting is very sweet. When I made it, I cut back on the amount of sugar by two cups and I still thought it was too sweet. I added lemon juice and lemon zest to cut the sweetness.

Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake recipe

The original recipe is a three layer cake. It is a beauty to look at, but I thought making six layers with strawberry mousseline buttercream would be a nice way to add more strawberry flavor throughout the cake. I am a little embarrassed by how uneven my layers came out. I have not had this issue before. In the past my measure and marking technique has been successful in creating even layers. I believe the cakes were more domed shaped than I realized. I do work hard to be consistent. However, wouldn’t you know the one time I am documenting my work for reference and prosperity, it does not turn out the way I want it to. As I always say, “This is how you know it is homemade. It is perfect in its’ imperfections.”

Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake recipe

Springtime is the beginning of a lot of special occasions, and Spring is one of them. After a long winter who doesn’t want to come out and celebrate the new season’s emerging life. No more dormancy and short days. Life is blooming all around and that alone is worth celebrating. It is also the beginning of Easter, Passover, more birthdays, graduations, bridal showers, baby showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, and anniversaries. Pink Champagne Cake is the perfect cake to make for these momentous occasions.

Celebrate with Pink Champagne Cake

Pink Champagne Cake

Category: Dessert

Cuisine: American

8 - 10 servings

Pink Champagne Cake

A special cake for any celebration. Pink champagne adds a light flavor to the cake and the buttercream for a very delicate party cake. Strawberries and white chocolate complement the delicate champagne flavor to make the cake shine. Pink champagne cake was popular in California during the 1960’s. Best eaten the day the day it is made and assembled, but will last for a couple of days unrefrigerated.

This cake recipe is from American Cake by Anne Byrn. The buttercream and strawberry puree recipes are slightly adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. The amount of buttercream in my recipe will cover an 8 inch 6-layer cake, which is one and a half of the original recipe. Listed in the notes section, are the ingredient amounts if you want to make a 3-layer cake.

Three recipes make up this cake and the prep and cook times are listed in the instructions for each recipe. Give yourself plenty of time. All three recipes can be made in advance.

Ingredients

    Cake
  • Butter and flour for preparing three 8-inch cake pans
  • 3 cups / 348g cake flour*
  • 1 Tbs / 16g baking powder
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 cup / 250ml pink champagne, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 cups / 447g granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) / 226g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Pink food coloring*
    Strawberry Purée
  • 20 oz / 567g frozen strawberries with no added sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2-3 tsp granulated sugar (optional)
    Pink Champagne Mousseline Buttercream
  • 3 cups (6 sticks) 1 ½ lb / 680g unsalted butter, soften but still cool
  • 1 ½ cups / 332g granulated sugar, divided
  • ⅓ cup / 75 ml water
  • 7 large egg whites, room temperature
  • ¾ tsp + ⅛ tsp cream of tartar
  • 3 fl oz / 90 ml / 5-7 Tbs pink champagne, room temperature
  • Finely grated zest from one lemon
  • Pink food coloring*
  • ½ cup / 125 ml strawberry purée
  • Decorate with shaved white chocolate, or sliced strawberries, or grated coconut, or edible rose petals, or other candy garnishes

Instructions

    Strawberry Purée -Takes about 20 - 30 minutes to make, not including the defrosting time.
  1. Start defrosting the strawberries the day before or first thing in the morning. They will take several hours for the strawberries to defrost and release their juice. Suspend a colander over a large mixing bowl. Add the frozen strawberries to the colander and let the strawberries thaw out and release their own juices. Occasionally press down on the strawberries to encourage the juices to release. You should get close to 1 1/4 cup juice.
  2. In a small saucepan, pour in the strawberry juice and turn the heat to medium high. Reduce the juice to about 1/4 cup.
  3. Purée the strawberry pulp in a food processor until smooth. There will be some texture because of the seeds, but you want it as smooth as you can.
  4. When the strawberry juice is reduced add the strawberry puree and stir. Add the lemon juice and taste the strawberries. Depending on how tart or sweet the strawberries taste, add about 2 -3 teaspoons of granulated sugar. You will not want it very sweet because the buttercream will be sweet. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the strawberry purée into a heat proof glass measuring cup. You should have about 1 ¼ cup. The purée can be stored in an airtight container for 10 days in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to one year.
    Cake - Takes about 20 minutes to mix, about 25 minutes to bake, 40 minutes - 1 hour to cool
  1. Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350˚F/ 175˚C / Gas Mark 4
  2. Prepare 3, 8-inch cake pans. Cut a circle of parchment paper for each pan, large enough to fit inside your cake tins. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of each pan, then coat with a light dusting of cake flour around the sides and bottom. Tap the pan against the counter to release any excess flour. Discard the excess flour. Place the parchment paper circles inside each cake tin. Set aside.
  3. Place the flour, baking powder, and Kosher salt inside a medium size bowl. Mix the flour mixture with a wire whisk to get all the ingredients thoroughly mixed together. Set aside.
  4. Place the egg whites, champagne, vanilla and oil in a medium mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly mixed through. Set aside.
  5. Put granulated sugar and butter in a bowl of a stand mixer, or large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Mix on medium speed until lighter and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  6. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula.
  7. Turn the speed on low and add a portion of the flour to the butter, and mix. Then add a portion of the egg whites to the bowl and mix. With the beater on, alternate adding the flour and the egg whites to the butter, ending with the flour.
  8. Turn off the mixer and stir in one tiny drop of pink food coloring. Stir by hand until all mixed through.
  9. Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans.
  10. Place all three pans in the oven on the center rack and bake until the cake is lightly golden brown, the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pans, and a cake tester comes out clean when poked in the center of each cake. About 23-27 minutes. Be careful not to overbake the cakes. The cakes will taste dry if they are overbaked.
  11. Place the cakes in the pan on cooling racks and cool for 10 minutes. After the cakes have cooled for 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of each cake pan to loosen the cakes. Turn the cake upside down resting the top of the cake in one hand, and pull the pan away. Carefully peel off the parchment paper and place the cake right side up on the cooling rack. Repeat for the remaining cakes. Cool completely before frosting. Can be made in advance. Wrap each cake tightly with plastic wrap and store on the counter for 1 day.
    Pink Champagne Buttercream- Takes about 20 to 30 minutes to make.
  1. In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with a hand-held mixer until smooth. Set aside away from any heat source.
  2. Place a heatproof glass measuring cup to the side next to the stove where you will be working. In a small heavy saucepan heat 1 cup plus 3 Tbs sugar and 3/8 of a cup (90 ml) of water over medium high heat. Stir the sugar in the water until it is completely dissolved and the liquid is bubbly. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting. (If using an electric range turn off the heat and set the saucepan aside).
  3. In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until the egg whites form soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar, one tablespoon at a time to the egg whites, and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Turn off the mixer and return your attention back to the sugar syrup.
  4. Turn the heat up to high and boil the sugar syrup until it reaches the temperature of 248˚F - 250˚F (120˚C) using a candy thermometer or an instant read thermometer. Pour the syrup into the heatproof glass measuring cup to stop the cooking.
  5. Return to the egg whites and turn the speed up to high speed. If using a handheld mixer, slowly drizzle the syrup into the egg whites without the syrup touching the beaters. If you are using a stand mixer, turn the speed off, add a little of the syrup, then turn the speed up to high and beat for 5 seconds and stop. Repeat the process until the syrup is added into the egg whites, scraping the clinging syrup with a rubber spatula to get every drop. If you get the syrup on the whisk or beaters, the syrup will just spray over the sides of the bowl and not mix into the egg whites. Once all the syrup is added, turn the speed down to medium and beat for a couple of minutes to cool the whipped egg whites.
  6. On low speed, beat in the whipped butter into the cool egg whites, one tablespoon at a time. The buttercream will look thin at first, but it will eventually thicken up. If at any time the buttercream starts to look curdled, stop adding butter and turn the speed up a little. Beat until smooth. Once smooth, continue to add the butter one tablespoon at a time until done.
  7. Lower the speed and add in the pink champagne and lemon zest, and beat in. Add one tiny drop of pink food coloring and mix until thoroughly mixed through. (Can be made in advance up to this point, keep in the refrigerator for 2 days or freeze).
  8. Measure in a dry measuring cup, 2 ¾ cup (685 ml) buttercream and place in a medium mixing bowl. Set the remaining buttercream aside. Add ½ cup (125ml) cooled strawberry purée to the buttercream and beat by hand until mixed together. Cover both bowls of buttercream and keep on the counter away from any heat until you are ready to assemble the cake.
    Putting it all together- About 30 minutes to assemble.
  1. For a 6-layer cake, measure with a ruler the height of each cake and mark the center with a toothpick. Measure and mark the center point around the circumference of each cake. The toothpicks are your guide to cut each cake in half through the middle. With a long serrated knife, rest the serrated edge up against the side of a cake and on top of the toothpicks. With a gently sawing motion cut through the cake, paying attention to your markers and turning the cake as you work your way around the circumference, and then through the middle of the cake. Repeat for each cake. Keep the pairs together. Select which cake layer is going to be your top layer and set aside.
  2. Take apart one divided cake and place the bottom portion of the cake on your cake plate.
  3. Spread ½ cup (125ml) of the strawberry buttercream over the top of the cake. Make a smooth and level layer of buttercream. Place the top portion of the cake on top of your frosted layer and spread ½ cup (125 ml) of strawberry buttercream evenly and smoothly across the top.
  4. Continue to stack and frost the tops of each layer with ½ cup (125ml) strawberry buttercream until you get to the top layer. The strawberry buttercream is to be used only for the middle layers of frosting. While you are stacking your cake layers, try to get them as level as possible. Trim off the top of each layer if they are uneven, before you frost the layers.
  5. For a three layer cake frost each layer with 3/4 cup pink champagne buttercream or strawberry pink champagne buttercream.
  6. Once the layers are assembled, spread a thin "crumb" layer of pink champagne buttercream around the top and sides of the cake. This is to get the cake frosted with a thin protective layer so the crumbs won't show through the frosting. Once done, spread more buttercream all over the top and working down the sides of the cake for a nice finishing layer of buttercream. Frost as much as wanted or needed.
  7. Decorate the cake with shaved white chocolate over the top of the cake and extra strawberries for decoration.
  8. Keep the cake in a cool spot loosely covered with aluminum foil up to 2 days unrefrigerated. Best if eaten the day it is assembled.

Notes

Cake flour has less gluten and produces a more delicate cake than with all-purpose flour. If you like to bake cakes, cake flour is nice to have around. Swans Down and Softasilk are two brands that sell cake flour. Do not buy self-rising cake flour. If you do not want to buy cake flour, or cannot get some, substitute 1 cup of all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbs cornstarch for every cup of cake flour. Recipe from The Kitchn

Ingredient amounts for buttercream if you want to make a 3-layer cake: Unsalted butter - 1 lb / 454g (4 sticks), Sugar - 1 cup / 200 g, Water - ¼ cup / 2oz 60 ml, 5 large egg whites, Cream of tartar - ½ + ⅛ teaspoon, Pink Champagne - up to 3 fl oz or 90 ml, Tiny drop of pink food coloring.

Use 3/4 cup of buttercream between the three layers, instead of 1/2 cup.

I used Wilton Liquid food coloring - Base Pink. Wilton also makes a gel food coloring in pink.

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Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs

In the US roast pork has several names: roasted pork, slow roasted pork, pulled pork, Italian pork roast, Roman Style pork roast, the list goes on. In Italy, especially central Italy around Rome, roast pork has one name, Porchetta, [por’ ketta]. According to Wikipedia, Porchetta  , the Ministero delle Politiche Agricole, Alimentari e Forestali has designated Porchetta to be a “traditional agricultural-alimentary product” of Italy.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Traditionally, Porchetta is a major production to make. A whole pig is gutted, deboned, massaged with garlic, lemon, wild herbs like fennel, and sometimes other meats. Then it is reshaped and cooked on a spit over an open fire. It is a meal that is served for a celebration, as well as a street food sold out of vans. Currently, you can find white vans all over Italy, but especially Rome, selling Porchetta sandwiches from the van. A special occasion meal turned Italian street food for the world to love.

I have yet to enjoy a Porchetta sandwich in Italy, but I am confident someday I will. Until that time, I can make a scaled down adaptation of Porchetta in my home. You don’t need to break down a whole pig, and you don’t need a fire pit with a rotisserie to enjoy this meal. Thanks to the fortitude of Italian immigrants and enterprising chefs, like Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, us homebodies can create this Italian Roast Pork without it being a major production.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs reicpe

Following a recipe in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, I started making my roasted pork with a pork shoulder. I had the butcher butterfly it to easily spread the herbs throughout the pork, then refrigerated the pork to marinate overnight. I baked it in the oven the next day with root vegetables. The final result was a scaled-down Porchetta, a succulent roast pork with golden crispy skin and filled with herbs and lemon.

Porchetta: Italian Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Judy Rodgers does not butterfly her pork shoulder. Instead, she creates pockets throughout the pork shoulder to stuff with the herbs. I thought it would be easier to spread the seasoning all over the meat with it open in one big flat piece. I also wanted to have extra herbs to rub over the top layer of fat. Did I mention the golden crispy skin? The kind you want to pick at when no one is looking. Getting extra crispy and golden skin is one of your goals creating this roast pork.

Rosat Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Keys to Success: Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs

There are some key elements to keep in mind. First, Porchetta is all about the dark crispy skin. It is difficult to find pork shoulder that has not had the fat trimmed off. If you have a good butcher, then you can get quality pork with a thick layer of fat on top. Yet, if you are like me and dependent on the grocery store to supply your meat, you can still create succulent roast, but lacking some of the cracklings. Once the pork roast is tied, rub olive oil and any extra herbs over the top.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

If you have a built-in rotisserie in your grill or oven, you are a lucky person. This recipe for roast pork shoulder is perfect for roasting on a revolving spit. The results will be closer to the traditional Porchetta, and you will get dark crispy skin all around your roast.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Several recipes for Porchetta have you cook the pork to an internal temperature of 180˚F/ 82˚C. However, this recommendation comes from chefs who are sourcing high-end quality pork. It is not the pork commonly available, and affordable, to the average person. Pork roast, cooked to 180˚F is a well done piece of pork. If you cook with pork sourced from a small farm that allows the pigs to graze and bred for flavor, therefore has more fat, the high internal temperature should not dry out the pork. In my opinion, most grocery stores do not sell pork containing the same amount of quality fat. If cooked too long the roast will dry out. The best practice roasting standard pork, is to finish baking when the internal temperature reaches 160˚F -165˚F/ 74˚C.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Finally, traditional Porchetta is stuffed with wild herbs. If you have fennel pollen, or know where to get some, I highly recommend substituting the fennel seed with fennel pollen. You will not need as much fennel pollen, because it is more concentrated in flavor. It is not too overbearing because there is more of a floral flavor in the pollen, than an anise one. I love to use fennel pollen in roasts. It is also great sprinkled over goat cheese. If you do buy fennel pollen, it will be worth it as there are plenty of ways to use it up.

One does not have to go to Italy to enjoy Porchetta. You can make it right in your own home. If you do, thank your nation’s Italian heritage. They brought their traditional foods with them to have and share for their new life in a foreign country, and we have all benefited from their journey.

Roast Pork with Lemon and Herbs recipe

Enjoy Porchetta in New York City.

Porchetta: Italian Roast Pork

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

6-8

You will be more than satisfied if you take the extra time to season a pork roast with herbs and let marinate overnight in the refrigerator. The pork will be well seasoned and will develop great flavor. I never miss an opportunity to roast vegetables with any roast. Vegetables add extra flavor to the pan juices and get seasoned with the juices and fat from the roast.

Cooking time will depend on the size of your pork shoulder. If you have a temperature probe with your oven, you will be able to gauge the cooking time without always having to take the pork out and check it with an instant read thermometer.

Ingredients

  • One 3-4 lb Boneless Pork Shoulder, butterflied
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest from 1 ½ lemons
  • 18 leaves of fresh sage, crushed and minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 tsp fennel seeds, gently crushed
  • 1 ½ Tbs capers, rinsed and patted dry
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1-2 lbs of assorted vegetables cut into large chunks for roasting, (onions, carrots, parsnips, fennel, turnips, potatoes, etc...)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 - 3 Tbs Dry Vermouth or dry white wine

Instructions

    Preparation
  1. Open the butterflied pork shoulder with the top fat layer on the bottom and cut side up, and lie flat on a work surface. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt evenly over the whole section. If your pork shoulder is smaller than 3.5 pounds, use less salt. Let it rest on the counter while you prepare the herb mixture.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, lemon zest, minced sage, mince rosemary, fennel seeds, and rinsed capers. Stir and crush the herbs until evenly combined. Sprinkle the herb mixture evenly over the opened pork shoulder, reserving some for the top. Roll up the pork to resemble its natural shape, with the fat side up. Secure the pork with kitchen string by tying it in 4 or 5 sections around the width at one inch intervals. Make one more loop around the length of the pork, looping the string around a couple of the tied sections so the string will not slip off. Tie the ends and secure. Trim any loose string. Sprinkle the outer surface of the pork with the remaining herb mixture and ground pepper.
  3. Put the pork in a dish, like a Pyrex baking dish, then loosely cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
    Roast
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F / 175˚C / Gas Mark 4
  2. Cut the vegetables into large bite size pieces or wedges. Place the vegetables in a medium bowl. Lightly coat them with olive oil and season with Kosher salt. Toss the vegetables to evenly mix.
  3. Place the pork roast in a 12 inch - 14 inch oven proof skillet, or medium roasting pan. Add the vegetables around the pork. Put the pan with the pork in the oven and roast until done. After 45 minutes if you notice the roast is not browning turn the heat up to 375˚F /190˚C / Gas Mark 5 until the roast starts to brown. Then turn the heat back down to 350˚F.
  4. After one hour of cooking, turn the vegetables around in the pan to get well coated with the rendered fat from the roast. Check the internal temperature of the pork. This will help you gauge how much longer you will need to bake the pork. Put it back in the oven. At the hour and a half mark, add ½ cup of stock to the pan. If you believe the vegetables are done, remove them before you add the stock. Add any extra herbs like rosemary or sage to the liquid. Bake until the roast is done, with the internal temperature of 160F -165˚F / 74˚C. The pork will be golden brown with crispy skin.
    Make the pan sauce
  1. Separate and remove the fat from the remaining pan juices. Add about 3 tablespoons of dry Vermouth and the remaining 1/2 cup stock. Set the skillet on a burner and turn the heat to medium. Scrape the bottom and sides of the pan with a wooden spatula or spoon to dissolve all the caramelized bits. Skim off as much fat from the liquid as the sauce simmers. Carefully add any juice that has accumulated on the carving board from the pork roast to the pan juices. Taste and correct the seasoning and put in a spotted serving dish. The sauce could take around 5 - 10 minutes to make.
    Serve
  1. Remove the string that is tied around the length of the roast and the first string located closest to your carving end. Slice the pork into slices no thicker than ½ inch. Remove the strings as you carve.
  2. Serve with the roasted vegetables and pan sauce.
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Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Breakfast, how I love thee, let me count the ways. I love thee for the replenishment after an evening’s fast. I love thee for the breakfast coffee which awakens me from my evening slumber. I love thee for the simple unpretentious food like cereal, eggs, toast and fruit which ease me into a new day. I love thee for the endless sweet and savory discoveries that enlighten me.

Alas, more breakfast love has come my way in the form of a new breakfast discovery. It is not sexy or fancy, but belongs in the simple and unpretentious category – baked oatmeal. I happen to like oatmeal, and all hot cereal, so I am open-minded to this idea of baking it. However, if you are not a fan of oatmeal this might be the recipe that will win you over. It is one of the easiest and adaptable breakfast recipes around.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples ad Apricots recipe

For the last 50 something years, I have been dutifully stirring a pot of oatmeal to just the right consistency, without ever questioning if there was a better way. That was foolish of me, because there is. What a novel idea. It is so simple, I am kicking myself for not thinking of this earlier. Apparently, it is an old secret because the Amish have been baking oatmeal for generations.

Baked oatmeal is rolled oats layered between fruit and sweetened with maple syrup and milk. It is like a cross between a bread pudding and a fruit crumble without the crunch. It is not custardy or rich like bread pudding, but there is a similar texture. The rolled oats absorb the maple syrup and milk, plus the juices of all the fruit and spices while it is baking. This process transforms oatmeal from an indistinguishable porridge to a healthy baked breakfast treat. It is so good, you will believe you are eating dessert for breakfast, minus the guilt.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apriots

While I was baking breakfast rolled oats, the house filled with the sweet scent of maple syrup, apple pie and oatmeal cookies. It was quite intoxicating. I had almost forgotten how magical these aromas can be. Despite the fact I had just eaten lunch, the smell of baked oatmeal made me so hungry, I became impatient for the oatmeal to finish. This seductive smell is very persuasive and could convert any oatmeal skeptic to grab a spoon and dig in. Certainly, I wish I knew about this 28 years ago when I tried, and miserably failed, to get my kids to eat hot cereal. I can imagine their chiming, “Is it done yet? Can I have some?”

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Oatmeal recipe

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

Easy Adaptations for Baked Oatmeal

As I mentioned earlier, baked oatmeal is one of the most adaptable recipes around. If you are on a non-dairy diet, substitute milk with unsweetened coconut milk or almond milk. If you are on a vegan diet, substitute with non dairy milk and a flaxseed egg substitute. Full disclosure, I have tested that yet, but I don’t see why it would not work. If you make this a vegan breakfast, please let me know how it goes.

Additionally, use your favorite fruit or whatever is in season. I made this fruit filling because I needed to use up some leftover dried fruit from my pantry. The dried figs, apricots and cranberries went perfectly with apples and minced ginger. Follow the basic recipe, then substitute the fruit with any seasonal fruit you have available, even frozen fruit. They all work. If raisins are the only fruit you want to use, then you will need a fresh fruit like apples, or bananas sliced lengthwise and cover the bottom of the pan. Mix the raisins with the rolled oats and proceed as directed. The fruit on the bottom of your baking dish will help prevent the oats from sticking to the pan.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks, is my primary source and where I first discovered this simple but remarkable breakfast. For this recipe, I followed a basic formula I found consistent in most baked oatmeal recipes. Typically, they all had about 2 cups of rolled oats, 2 cups of liquid, 1 egg, melted butter, a sweetener, and various amounts of fruit and spices.

March is a tweener month for fresh produce, and why this recipe includes apples and dried fruit. I love to combine fresh and dried fruits. The concentrated flavors of the dried fruit add a lot of fruit flavor. Plus, I had a lot of odd amounts of dried fruit that I needed to use up, and this recipe is perfect for that. My baked oatmeal has a decent amount of fruit in it, but if you want a ratio of more oatmeal than fruit, it is easy to scale the fruit down. Just make sure there is a good fruit layer on the bottom of your pan.

Baked Oatmeal With Apples and Apricots recipe

More breakfast ideas from Lemon Thyme and Ginger:                         Banana Oat Pancakes, Gluten free Dutch Baby Pancake, Lemon Glazed Apple Muffins, Goat Cheese Omelet 

Baked oatmeal is also easy to make ahead and reheat it for a later time. I like to make it on a Sunday morning, then reheat individual portions in the microwave throughout the week. This makes the work week easier to manage when I don’t have to think about what’s for breakfast. You can also prepare it ahead, refrigerate, then reheat the whole dish, covered in aluminum foil, in the oven.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots recipe

To be honest, I was surprised at how good baked oatmeal is. However, there is one downsize, and that is I used three bowls to make it. Baked oatmeal may require more cleanup, but it is more enjoyable to eat than the standard stove top recipe. This is one new discovery worth making. Oh baked oatmeal, how I love thee.

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

6 servings

Baked Oatmeal with Apples and Apricots

Baked oatmeal is an easy and delicious substitute for stovetop oatmeal. All the ingredients are mixed together to make a comforting and nutritious breakfast. It is perfect to make ahead of time, then warm up individual portions to eat during the middle of the week. This is a delicious family breakfast that all members will enjoy.

Use the basic recipe and substitute any fruit to fit into the current season or personal preference.

Serve warm for breakfast or a hearty dessert.

Ingredients

  • 2 apples which can be different varieties but should be ones that do not get too mushy when baked
  • 6 dried apricots
  • 6 dried figs
  • ¼ - ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 heaping Tbs of minced ginger
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (1/4 tsp if using store bought ground nutmeg)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • Shy ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbs melted butter
  • 2 cups milk or unsweetened nondairy milk - like coconut or almond milk
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F / 190˚C / Gas Mark 5 and place the rack on the top third of the oven. Generously butter an 8’ x 8” (20cm square) baking pan.
  2. Core and slice the apples then chop into decent bite size pieces. There is no need to peel the apples. Mince the dried apricots into pieces between ¼ inch to ½ inch big. Chop the dried figs into bite size pieces.
  3. Add the prepared fruit into a mixing bowl, then add lemon juice, freshly ground nutmeg, and minced ginger. Mix well to get all the fruit evenly distributed. Set aside.
  4. In another bowl mix together the rolled oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, and most of the chopped walnuts. (Reserve some walnuts to sprinkle on the top). Mix the ingredients together to get evenly combined. Set aside.
  5. In a third bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup, pure vanilla extract, and room temperature melted butter until thoroughly mixed together. Set aside.
    Putting it all together.
  1. Add a good layer of the prepared fruit to generously cover the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Add the oatmeal and spread it to cover the layer of fruit. Pour the milk mixture all over the oatmeal, and tilt the pan to encourage the milk to flow into all corners and throughout the oatmeal. Bang the pan against the counter to make sure the milk has flowed completely through the rolled oats and fruit. Add the remaining fruit and chopped nuts to cover the top of the oatmeal.
  2. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes until it is golden brown on top and looks set in the middle.
  3. Remove the baked oatmeal from the oven and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Spoon portions of the baked oatmeal in a bowl and serve warm plain, or with additional milk or yogurt. I think it is sweet enough as is, but add more maple syrup if you want it sweeter.
  5. Store in the refrigerator covered for several days. Re-heat in the microwave in a glass container covered with a paper towel.
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Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Usually, when I’m making dinner, my primary focus centers on the main entrée. The side dishes get made, but my attention is elsewhere. It is just too stressful to cook three different recipes, that require a lot of ingredients, prepping, and everything done at the same time. I love vegetables and don’t mind eating them without a lot of flourishment. Yet, they do deserve an opportunity to be front and center. Making a composed dinner doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, just a little foresight.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots

Most people like carrots. When my son Evan was young, carrots was one of the 3 vegetables he ate. This popular vegetable is easy to prepare and does not require a lot of pampering. It is one of the backbones used to make stocks, soup, stews and braises. If you haven’t given carrots much thought, think again. Carrots are so much more than crudité. I love cooking with them because their natural sweetness and sturdy structure make it easy to pair with bold flavors on either the sweet and/or spicy side.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

This recipe was inspired by a recipe written by Nigel Slater titled, Harissa Carrots. His recipe is delicious and is featured in his cookbook Eats. In Slater’s recipe he blanches carrots, then mixes them with harissa paste, egg yolk, vinegar and olive oil. The egg yolk in the dressing made it nice and creamy, but not suitable for a vegan diet. My idea was to make a carrot side dish that everyone could eat. So, keeping the flavor of Slater’s Harissa Carrots in my mind, I created a vegan dressing to compliment the carrots natural sweetness, provide some spicy-heat, and lots of fresh herbs. I have said it before and I will say it again, fresh herbs elevate any food from good to awesome. I do not cook without them.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

In this recipe for Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots, I use three different types of herbs. I realize cilantro and dill do not have a big fan club. Yet, if you are willing to be adventurous then reduce the amount of cilantro and see if you like it in a blend. There are times when less is more, but this recipe is not one of them. However, if you do not want to commit to all three herbs, use one or two of them. Mint and dill are especially delicious with carrots. I want you to enjoy your meal, so if you know you don’t like something – don’t use it.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots Recipe

For me, I am no longer fearful or stingy with how I cook with herbs. Many recipes from Middle Eastern cuisine have inspired me to combine herbs and not use them by themselves. There are many herbs that compliment each other, and tasting an abundance of the freshness is always welcome in a recipe.

More carrot recipes: One Pan, One Meal Chicken Dinner

Fortunately, making Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots, is as easy as making a salad. Making this dish won’t take up a lot of your attention, but the results will taste as if you slaved all day. The spicy heat is in the background and will grow as you continue to enjoy your meal. I prefer all the ingredients to balance one another. This recipe is not about the heat but about balance, and bringing all these flavors together to give carrots center stage.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots reicpe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots reicpe

Serve with any grilled meats and white meat fish. They are also delicious as part of a vegan bowl made with greens, carrots, chickpeas, a grain, and nuts. Enjoy!

Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2 minutes

Total Time: 17 minutes

6 servings

Serving Size: 3oz

Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Carrots are a great and pleasing vegetable. Their natural sweetness makes them a very versatile food that most people enjoy eating. This recipe for carrots has a nice balance of flavors, not too sweet and not too spicy. I prefer the heat to be in the background and not dominate the flavor of the food.

The fresh herbs add a bright green touch and really compliment the carrot's sweetness. Add all three herbs or just a couple. The mint adds a really nice touch and it is not too overbearing.

Perfect with grilled meats, and most fish. Sweet n' Spicy carrots are also great as part of a vegan meal made with greens, grains, these carrots and walnuts.

Ingredients

  • One inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (smooth or grainy)
  • 2 tsp honey (or 1 tsp maple syrup for a vegan recipe)
  • 1/4 tsp ground chili pepper* (more if you want it hotter)
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • Juice from half a lime, reserve the other half to add if needed
  • 1 Tb red wine vinegar*
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tb chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tb chopped mint
  • 1 Tb chopped dill (optional)
  • 1 1/2 lbs / 683g medium size carrots
  • 2" piece of daikon radish (3 oz / 87g)

Instructions

  1. Gently scrape off the thin skin of ginger using the edge of a teaspoon. Be careful not to dig into the flesh of the ginger root. Once the skin is removed, thinly slice the ginger and mince. Add to a small mixing bowl.
  2. Add the Dijon mustard, honey, (maple syrup), ground chili pepper, lime zest and juice, vinegar, and Kosher salt into the bowl with the minced ginger. Whisk together until well combined.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, a little at a time. While you drizzle, whisk to create an emulsion. Once all the olive oil is added, give it a good whisk to keep the oil and acid from separating.
  4. Taste the dressing and correct the seasoning to suit your taste.
  5. Add the herbs, then whisk to combine. Set the sweet and spicy dressing aside while you prepare and cook the carrots.
  6. Peel the carrots and trim the ends. Cut each carrot in half across the width, then cut each piece in half down the length. Cut all the pieces in half lengthwise to create long carrot strips.
  7. Fill a medium saucepan with water and turn the heat up to high. Add a pinch of Kosher salt, a 1/4 inch sliver of ginger, and 2 crushed garlic cloves to the water. Bring the pot to a boil and add the carrots. Cook the carrots for 1-2 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Drain the carrots and pick out the garlic cloves and ginger. Add the carrots to a mixing bowl.
  8. Peel and julienne the daikon radish in long thin strips. Add the daikon to the carrots and gently toss the carrots and daikon radish with your hands to mix together. Before you add the dressing taste it again and make any adjustments. Add the dressing, give it a gentle but good stir until the vegetables are evenly coated with the dressing.
  9. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Notes

Use your favorite ground chili. The ground chili I used has a bright flavored heat, not a smokey one. Sorry I do not know the name of it. I started with a quarter teaspoon of ground chili then added a little more later. This meal is not about the heat, but about the balance of heat and sweetness. Good substitutes are: your favorite ground chili powder, harissa paste, Thai chili paste, or sriracha. Adjust the amount you add to match the chili's heat. Example, if you use sriracha I would begin with 1/2 teaspoon then add more later if needed. Just like cooking with salt, it is always good to start with less then add more.

Do not substitute balsamic vinegar for this dressing. Good substitutions are: white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.

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Refreshing Guinness Float

For Saint Patrick’s Day, I wanted to pay tribute to my husband’s Irish heritage by posting a blog about stout floats. It wasn’t just any old stout float. A new microbrewery called Broken Bow in Tuckahoe NY, produced a stout that we have a small world connection to.  It just so happens this brewery is in the hometown of my mother-in-law. Yet, not just in her hometown, but right around the corner of her childhood home. Brewed in the chocolate coffee stout are 5 types of chili peppers. By coincidence, 4 of 5 chili peppers are grown on farms in Yorktown, where we live. Hell Hath No Fury is the name of the stout. Unfortunately, it is a seasonal beer for the fall.

Guinness Float Recipe

Yet, even if I could not make a direct home front connection, I was determined to write a post about beer floats. I can still honor my mother in law and her family and use Guinness Extra Stout. After all, Guinness is brewed in the Grogan and Begg families motherland. So, Guinness Float it is. The funny thing is, I don’t believe I have seen Agnes drink beer let alone stout. Nor, for that matter, have I seen her mother drink beer. It is the thought that counts, right?

Guinness Float Recipe

I never enjoyed a Guinness Float before I went on this adventure. Also, it is only fair to admit that I am not a big stout drinker. However, my son is educating me about all kinds of beer in hopes that I will expand my repertoire. At first, I wasn’t sure if mixing the very bitter and malty stout with creamy vanilla sweetness would work. However, upon my first sip, I was pleasantly surprised. The two are really a great combo. I used to believe that there was nothing better than a root beer float, especially on a hot summer afternoon. Guinness float is giving my old favorite some competition.

The milky creaminess of vanilla ice cream works wonderfully with the malty bitterness of Guinness Stout. Please don’t feel like you need to be a stickler to just one type of ice cream. We also tried coffee ice cream, and a combination of the two. I am sure chocolate ice cream would taste great as well. You could also change-up the flavor by using different stouts. I have a chocolate hazelnut stout I am curious to try. The possibilities are endless.

Guinness Float Recipe

My life changing discovery is the stout simple syrup I found on The Food Network website. The Hearty Boys on the Food Network came up with this idea. Oh man, it is like a malt caramel syrup. I added some chili powder that has a bright heat flavor. I used a chili powder we received as a gift. All we know about it is, it is from Pakistan, but it is incredible.  Adding the ground chili to the stout syrup had an amazing effect. I recommend adding your favorite chili powder if you don’t mind a little heat. I am not embarrassed to say, that I kept sneaking over and tasting it by the spoonful.  Stout syrup is also delicious drizzled over a bowl of ice cream. Add it to chocolate syrup and you will get an amazing chocolate experience.

A couple of weeks ago I began my journey learning about Irish cuisine. It may have originated through the backdoor of a pub, but I have vicariously traveled out to the green pastures and coast of Ireland during my exploration. One day I hope to visit Ireland in person and enjoy the landscape, people and culture. Until that time, I will continue to be inspired by its cuisine. Cheers!

Hungry for more tastes of Ireland? Try my recipes for Crispy Potato Skins, an Irish Cheese Platter, Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce, and Chocolate Stout Cake.

Want to eat green without food coloring? Enjoy Spinach and Broccoli Soup,  and Pasta with Spicy Brussels Sprouts and Sausage.

Guinness Float Recipe
How to make Guinness Float, 2 ways

Guinness floats are just like root beer floats, but it is an adult beverage. Adding the ingredients together can either go smoothly or cause an eruption. No matter which method you choose, add half the bottle first then let everything settle down. Once you know everything is calm slowly add more beer, or ice cream.

Each way produces a slightly different float. Both are equally delicious.

  1. Add the ice cream in the glass, then slowly pour in the beer. This sequence will produce a more blended stout float. You can also get more ice cream this way. It is important to pour the stout slowly pausing periodically to let settle and not cause it to overflow.
  2. Pour the Guinness just over half way up in your glass. Then carefully add one scoop of ice cream on top of the stout. Let it rest to see how the ice cream will displace the stout. If wanted, carefully add another scoop of ice cream. This sequence will create a float with more of a delineation between stout and ice cream. You will also have more stout than ice cream. You can slowly add more ice cream and/or stout until you reach your desired amount. Careful it will overflow if you work too fast or pour in too much beer.

Guinness Float Recipe

Full disclaimer, this is not a sponsored post.

Guinness Float

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

1 serving

Guinness Float

Guinness Floats are fun and refreshing. They are great after an afternoon of hiking, or any activity. They also can be served for dessert. For dessert you can reduce the amount in half and serve in a smaller glass with one scoop of ice cream and half a bottle of Guinness. Vanilla ice cream and Guinness are great combination but chocolate and coffee ice cream are nice combinations.

You can play around with the flavor of your stout float by using any type of stout. Coffee chocolate stouts would be delicious. The possibilities are endless.

Don't forget to have some root beer for minors, or for family or friends who do not drink alcoholic beverages.

Ingredients

    Stout Float
  • 2 scoops Vanilla ice cream
  • Guinness syrup
  • 1- 12 oz bottle Guinness Extra Stout, or your favorite stout
    Guinness Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-12 oz bottle Guinness Extra Stout
  • pinch of red chili powder (optional)

Instructions

    Stout Float
  1. In a large tumbler glass add one scoop of ice cream. Drizzle a tablespoon of the stout syrup over the ice cream. Add another scoop of ice cream and stout syrup. Hold the ice cream filled glass at a 45-degree angle and carefully pour the stout into the glass. Make sure the stout eases into the glass by pouring the stout so it glides down the inner side of the glass. Pour until the stout fills the glass about halfway up and let the stout settle for a bit. Carefully pour more stout in the glass, pausing every now and then to make sure it does not overflow. You will not use the whole bottle of stout for your float. Add stout until it reaches close to the top of the glass. Enjoy.
    Guinness Syrup
  1. Open a bottle of Guinness and let it rest on the counter for 15 minutes to lose some of the carbonation. Add the sugar and the Guinness to a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium high and bring the liquid mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir the mixture to help the sugar dissolve. (Optional) Add a small pinch of your favorite hot red pepper chili powder to the syrup. Cook the syrup down until it gets syrupy and has reduced, about 15-25 minutes. Once it has thickened and reduced, turn off the heat and set aside to cool. Keep in a glass container with a tight sealed lid.
  2. Enjoy!
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Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce

Have you ever heard of wild sea spinach? I hadn’t until I read about it in, The Forgotten Skills of Cooking, by Darina Henry. Wild sea spinach grows along the coastline of Ireland, and other countries in the UK. Another species of wild spinach grows in New Zealand and parts of Asia. Sea spinach is related to most cultivated beets. However, casting family lines aside, prepare sea spinach the same way as cultivated spinach. Darina has made me so curious about wild sea plants. I wonder how they taste and if they are salty from being bathed by the sea.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce recipe

Anyway, I saw a recipe of hers where she prepares wild sea spinach in a butter sauce and serves it spooned over oven poached sea trout. Maybe I am a romantic at heart, but the idea of cooking vegetables and fish from the local coastal area made me want to jump into the cookbook and be there. If you read my post about crispy potato skins, you know about my fantasy wanting to forage wild plants with Darina. It is very possible this recipe could have been the one that got my fantasy in full gear.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce recipe

In Darina recipe, she poaches a whole sea trout “en papillote”. This is a technique where you wrap fish in foil or parchment paper and bake it in the oven. I love to prepare fish using this technique. The fish is very moist and the natural juices accumulate in the pouches. I have never poached a whole fish en papillote before. My visual of a whole salmon wrapped in foil is rather massive and would be hard to handle. For my purposes, I decided to scale the recipe down.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce recipe

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce

Salmon filets are a great substitute for sea trout. I also believe arctic char or small rainbow trout would work too. Perhaps, I may have to go to the UK to get sea spinach, but now and then sea trout is available in our stores in the Northeast US. I substituted baby spinach to replace the sea spinach. It may not have the ocean saltiness, but the baby spinach has a wonderful smoothness and flavor in a butter sauce.

The spinach butter sauce is an adaptation of a beurre blanc, a French white butter sauce, and is traditionally served with fish. It is not difficult to make, but you must be patient and not let the butter get too hot. While I am whisking in the butter, I usually move the pan on and off the heat to control the temperature. It is important to keep whisking away until the butter is all incorporated. Your whisking, and keeping the temperature low, are the keys to get the butter emulsified in the sauce.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce recipe

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach butter Sauce

Baked salmon with spinach butter sauce is a delicate and rich dish. Because the spinach sauce must stay warm, and is not easily reheated, it is not a meal that can easily be made ahead. It is possible to cook the fish ahead and serve at room temperature. However, the spinach butter sauce must be warm. I have read that a thermos will help keep the butter sauce warm, or placed in a double boiler on very low heat. Ultimately, it is best to eat salmon with spinach butter sauce as soon as it is done.

This is an elegant meal, and I believe a treat to be served on occasion. Serve along with baby potatoes boiled in salted water then drizzled with olive oil and herbs. You need the boiled potatoes because whatever amount of sauce the salmon does not soak up, the potatoes will. You should not serve this meal with anything else that is rich and fancy. The spinach butter sauce is all the embellishment you need.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce recipe

A delicious dinner of oven poached salmon with spinach butter sauce, boiled baby potatoes with parsley and chives, green salad with a light dressing, white wine, and good company. Your special dinner is ready.

Oven Poached Salmon with Spinach Butter Sauce

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

4-6 servings

Serving Size: 4- 8 oz servings or 6- 5 oz servings

Fish wrapped in foil or parchment paper packets, en papillote, then baked in the oven is a great way to cook fish. The fish stays moist and the natural juices accumulate in the pouches. The spinach butter sauce adds a luxurious element and compliments the fish nicely. Perfect with boiled baby potatoes.

This recipe is slightly adapted from The Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Darina Allen

Ingredients

  • 5 oz / 150g baby spinach
  • 2 lbs / 1 kilo salmon filet, or one side of arctic char
  • Kosher Salt
  • 4 tarragon sprigs, divided
  • Fennel Fronds (optional)
  • ¼ cup/ 60 ml dry vermouth or dry white wine (optional)
  • 5 Tbs butter plus 1 Tbs
  • 1/2 cup / 125 ml heavy cream
  • 1 lb / 455 g fingerling potatoes
  • 1 – 2 Tbs Extra virgin olive oil
  • About 1 Tbs minced chives
  • About 2 Tbs chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F / 190˚ C / Gas Mark 5
  2. Wash and remove the stems from the spinach. Blanch the spinach in salted boiling water for one minute after the pot returns to a boil. Drain the spinach then shock in ice water. Place the blanched spinach on a clean flour sack towel, or thin kitchen towel, to dry, then squeeze out all the water from the spinach. Finely mince the spinach and set aside.
  3. Cut a piece of aluminum foil that is at least 6-8 inches (20 cm) longer in length, and wider, than your piece of fish. Lay the aluminum foil on a sheet pan, large enough to hold your piece of fish, and smear half a tablespoon of butter across the center part of the foil. Place the salmon on the buttered surface and smear, or dot, the surface of the salmon with a half tablespoon of butter. (If your piece of fish is larger or your a cooking a whole fish, you will need more butter). Sprinkle the salmon with salt and scatter half of the tarragon leaves over the salmon and some fennel fronds. (If you are cooking a whole fish, add the herbs and salt in the cavity of the fish). Add the vermouth or wine if using.
  4. Cover with another piece of aluminum foil and fold in and crimp the 4 sides of the foil to create a tight seal.
  5. Place the fish in the preheated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of your fish. Start checking to see if your fish is done at 20 minutes. Press down on the top of the salmon at it thickest part. If it feels tender but firm with some give, then the salmon is done. Once the salmon is done cooking, take it out of the oven and let it rest in the foil for 10 minutes. You can take the salmon out of the oven slightly before it is done, as it will continue to cook while it rests.
  6. In the meantime, mince the remaining tarragon and set aside.
  7. Boil some salted water in a saucepan large enough to hold all your potatoes. Add the fingerling potatoes, whole, to the salted boiling water and cook until done. Depending on the size of the potatoes, they could be done between 10 and 20 minutes. The potatoes are done when you pierce them with a knife, and the knife slides easily in and out of a potato without resistance. Check several potatoes to determine if they are all cooked. Drain the potatoes, and when cool enough to handle but still hot, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, chopped parsley and minced chives.
  8. While the salmon and the potatoes are cooking, make the spinach sauce. Add the heavy cream to a wide mouth saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Carefully bring the cream to a boil. Once the cream starts to boil turn the heat slightly down, simmer until the cram is reduced by half its volume, ¼ cup. Once reduced, add the minced spinach and remaining tarragon and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low then add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, to the sauce and whisk in completely. Once the butter is thoroughly whisked in, add another knob of butter then whisk and repeat whisking it in. Repeat until all the butter is emulsified in the sauce. While you are making the sauce, watch the heat carefully and whisk constantly, you do not want the butter to get too hot or it will separate or brown. Once the fish is rested, carefully pour out some of the juices from the fish into the sauce, then whisk until combined.
  9. Place the fish on a platter and spoon the spinach butter sauce over the fish. Put any leftover sauce in a bowl for your guests to help themselves. Serve with the boiled potatoes.
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Taste of Ireland: Chocolate Stout Cake

There is no occasion too ordinary that does not deserve recognition and celebration. For any reason, be it a birthday, anniversary, honor your national heritage, a promotion, or simply because the whole family is together, a celebratory acknowledgement is welcome and cake is the perfect finale.

Chocolate Stout Cake recipe

If you are partial to chocolate cake, then chocolate stout cake is a terrific stand in. This is a very moist cake with deep dark chocolate flavor. Guinness Stout enriches the chocolate without any boozy aftertaste. Adding the Guinness to the cake makes a moist cake with deep malty and dark chocolate flavor. The extra bonuses are, it is simple to make, baked in one pan, and does not require fancy cake decorating skills. Chocolate Stout Cake is perfect in its simplicity as well as flavor.

Chocolate Stout Cake recipe

I believe chocolate stout cake would taste delicious by itself without frosting, or just simply topped with whipped cream. Yet, it is nice to give cake more pizzazz and a creamy rich frosting will compliment the dark chocolate. Also, adding white frosting creates a cake that resembles a pint of stout. Many recipes frost chocolate stout cake with dark chocolate ganache, or cream cheese frosting. Fortunately, I discovered one made with white chocolate and cream cheese frosting and that sealed the deal for me. Normally, cream cheese frosting does not excite me, but add some white chocolate to it, I just knew it would be spectacular.

Chocolate Stout Cake recipe

Baking with stout is not a novel idea. According to Anne Byrn in her book American Cake, people across the globe have baked with ale, porters and cider for ages. Centuries ago people used to make their own ale or cider. This common ingredient was often included in baked goods to keep cakes moist and add extra flavor. During that time, cakes were cooked inside a cast iron pot with a lid and placed directly on top the hot embers of the home fire. These were not like the delicate cakes that we now know and love, but hearty ones with preserved and fermented ingredients.

Traditional Irish Stout Cake is more like a spice cake with raisins and citrus. The origin of this type of cake could date back several hundred years. I am not sure when chocolate stout cake became popular in Ireland, or the US, yet I believe it was an inevitable pairing. Chocolate and stout are perfect mates.

Chocolate Stout Cake recipe

My recipe for Chocolate Stout Cake is a combination of three recipes. From my research, I discovered Chocolate Stout Cake is not for the faint at heart. One recipe I found uses a pound of butter for one cake. That is more like a pound cake with all that butter.  I was hoping for something not so heavy, and kept searching for a “lighter” version. Nigella Lawson’s recipe from the New York Times came through. Her recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake uses only 10 tablespoons of butter, and another bonus includes 1 cup of Guinness. The other recipes I found used a half cup of stout. This was an easy decision to make, less butter… more stout. I believe that is a fair trade.

I was thrilled when I discovered Donal Skehan’s recipe for White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting. His Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe is like the other ones I researched, but his idea of adding white chocolate to the cream cheese frosting is brilliant. The past few times I made frosting with white chocolate has been nothing but extraordinary.

Chocolate Stout Cake recipe

Additionally, I discovered a recipe for stout simple syrup from Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith. I added chili powder to the syrup then drizzled it over the frosting. I thought the stout syrup would resemble the amber stout making its way up through the white foam in a pint. Honestly, I could drizzle this stuff on anything. Right now, I am wondering how it would work in whipped cream, ice cream, or espresso martinis.

More food ideas for Saint Patrick’s Day: how about a cheese and beer tasting with Irish cheese or Crispy Potato Skins

I am sure there are many potential adaptations for my pieced together cake. Most recipes for Stout cake select Guinness as the stout of choice. Fortunately, there are so many stouts to choose from, why not have some fun with it? I may try a stout from a local microbrewery the next time I make Chocolate Stout Cake.

Chocolate Stout Cake recipe

Chocolate Stout Cake is a perfect cake to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. Yet, it is too delicious to serve only once a year. I know I will want to make it for any time good cheer is on the menu.

Chocolate Stout Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

10 slices

Chocolate Stout Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Next time you are in the mood for chocolate cake, Chocolate Stout Cake will give you that chocolate flavor you crave. The addition of Guinness stout makes this delicious chocolate stout cake very moist with some extra lift. The stout makes the chocolate richer without a boozy taste. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting is a delicious compliment to the dark chocolate cake. A luscious double chocolate treat.

This recipe is from three recipes: Cake from Nigella Lawson's, Chocolate Guinness Cake via the New York Times. The white chocolate cream cheese frosting is from Chocolate Guinness Cake by Donal Skehan. The Stout Syrup is from Stout Float by Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith from the Food Network.

Ingredients

  • Chocolate Stout Cake
  • 1 cup / 8oz / 250ml Guinness Stout, or your favorite stout
  • 10 Tbs / 5oz / 132g of unsalted butter plus more for greasing the pan
  • 3/4 cup / 2 ½ oz / 70g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups / 1 lb / 450g sugar
  • 2 cups / 10oz / 291g all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup / 6oz / 200ml sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tb vanilla extract
    White Chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 7 oz / 200g good quality white chocolate, 30% cocoa butter
  • 4 oz / 125g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1- 225g package cream cheese
  • 1½ cups / 225g confectioners sugar
    Stout Syrup (optional)
  • 1 cup / 225g granulated sugar
  • 1-12 oz / 355 ml bottle Guinness Stout

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 inch / 23cm springform pan. Add a parchment paper liner to the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  2. In a medium sauce pan add the butter and stout. Turn the heat to medium low and stir occasionally until the butter has melted. Once the butter is melted, remove from the heat and add the sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk together until well combined. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large mixing bowl add the flour and baking soda and whisk together to get the baking soda evenly mixed through. Make a well in the flour and add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture, the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Mix together until thoroughly combined.
  4. Pour the batter in the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 45 min - 1 hr, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Place on a wire rack and cool the cake in the pan.
    Stout Syrup (optional)
  1. If using make the stout syrup while the cake is baking.
  2. Pour the stout and sugar in a medium saucepan and turn the heat up to medium high. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat then simmer the liquid until it becomes thick and syrupy, about 15 minutes or more. Let the syrup cool before using.
    White chocolate and Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler. As soon as it is melted remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  2. In a bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or large mixing bowl with a hand held mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and light. This will take awhile. Periodically stop beating and scrape down the sides of the bowl so it mixes evenly.
  3. Add the cooled white chocolate to the cream cheese and butter, and mix together at medium speed.
  4. Sift the confectioners sugar, then gradually add it into the white chocolate and cream cheese. Mix on low speed between each addition of confectioners sugar. Once all the confectioners sugar is added, beat the frosting until smooth.
    Putting it all together
  1. Run a knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Release the latch from the springform pan and lift the rim away from the cake. Loosen the bottom of the cake from the pan with an icing spatula or knife, then remove the bottom of the pan. Holding the cake upside down, carefully peel off the parchment paper. Place the cake on a serving plate.
  2. Spread the frosting across the top of the cake. The cake will look like a pint of stout with the dark bottom and the white cloudy top.
  3. (optional) Drizzle the stout syrup randomly across the top of the frosting on the cake. Swirl a knife through the stout syrup drizzle to create a random pattern.
  4. Serve and enjoy. The cake tastes best at room temperature and eaten the day it is made.
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Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 ways

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 ways recipe

One cannot research Irish Cuisine without devoting some time reading about the potato. This nutritious plant plays an important role in Ireland’s history, and because of the potato famine, US history as well.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Although there is some debate about when and who introduced the potato in Ireland, there is no mistaking its impact. The health and welfare of the Irish people significantly improved after its introduction. I read, before the potato famine, 30 percent of Ireland’s population depended on the potato for a significant portion of their diet. There is evidence from that time that people ate 40 to 60 potatoes a day. *

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe
Ingredients for Crispy Potato Skins with Smoked Irish Salmon
Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 ways recipe
Grated Dubliner cheese and pickled jalapeños

Sadly, the plant that helped build a country is also responsible for one of Ireland’s most significant challenges. In 1845, the potato blight hit Ireland. By 1851, 1 million people died from starvation, and by 1855, 2 million people emigrated from Ireland. * How does a country recover from such a significant loss?

* Information about the history of the potato in Ireland came from articles on these websites: History.com, The History of Ireland, and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

There is often a connection between historical events and food, or the lack thereof. With some time and effort, I am sure it is possible to create a timeline of historical events and discoveries that relate back to the potato. Any food could have an impact to all aspects of our daily lives. Yet, some of the more interesting developments is seeing how food changes from a means for survival, to a developed regional cuisine. Fortunately after the potato famine, Ireland was able to do just that.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

I own a wonderful Irish Cookbook, The Forgotten Skills of Cooking, by Darina Allen. She is considered “the Julia Child of Ireland”, and runs the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork.  I love reading this book. Darina has a friendly ease in her writing that makes you feel you will always be welcome at her table. She is passionate about teaching and the slow food movement. I would love to spend a day with her, foraging through the Irish countryside then bake biscuits with the wild onions we collected.

Knowing Your Potatoes 

Darina Allen’s book is my primary source about Irish cuisine. It has a vast collection and I believe I will be reading, cooking and learning from it for some time. After browsing through her section on potatoes, I am not sure what I enjoy more, the food or their names. With names like Champ, Colcannon or Bubble and Squeak, it is easy to believe there is always lively conversation during dinner time. It was hard to pick just one recipe to feature. Several traditional potato recipes were very enticing, but I decided on a recipe that is very familiar to Americans, Crispy Potato Skins.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Darina’s recipe recommends serving plain baked potato skins with dips, like you would for chips. Her dips range in flavor from sweet and spicy, to herby and creamy combinations. This sparked my imagination. However, I decided to follow my own path and create crispy potato skins as a composed appetizer recipe.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Please forgive me for my American adaptation. Darina’s Crispy Potato Skins are perfect appetizer fare on any continent. Yet, I could not stop myself from dreaming up endless potato skin recipes. Potato skins with melted cheddar cheese and crispy bacon is a familiar menu item, but what about smoked Irish salmon? Pickles and potatoes are delicious together, what about pickled jalapeños? How would hot pepper jelly taste with the crispy potato skins? Maybe crab or blue cheese would be a nice change. I am not too far off the game here as Darina’s cookbook inspired all my ideas.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

One idea I had, is to serve potato skins buffet style, like you would for a taco dinner. This could be successful for a small gathering of friends. People would get the potatoes skins hot out of the oven and choose toppings as they please. I thought this would be perfect for the times when there are guests with different diet preferences. No one would feel left out.

One word of caution, do not eat green potatoes. They are slightly poisonous and will give you an upset stomach.

The important thing to remember is potato skins are informal, and help create a fun and relaxed time with friends and family. Don’t let the informality fool you. They are also quite delicious. Even though crispy potato skins are easy to make, they require planning ahead. It can take up to an hour to cook the potatoes before you cut them open and make them into crispy potato skins. These tubers are twice baked. So sadly, they are not suited for an impromptu get together.

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Now that all the crispy potato skins are all eaten up, I must decide what to make with the leftover fluffy potato flesh. Let’s see… Champ, Colcannon or Bubble and Squeak? Oh joy, what’s next?

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 Ways recipe

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 ways

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

32 crispy potato skins

Serving Size: 2-3 slices per person for an appetizer

Taste of Ireland: Crispy Potato Skins 2 ways

Two ways to serve crispy potato skins, one with smoked salmon and another with melted cheese and pickled jalapenos. The amounts of toppings for each recipe of potato skins is sized up for 8 potatoes. You can easily adjust the ingredients up or down depending on how much you want to make. The amount of topping ingredients is all relative to personal preference and the size of potato.

Serve the Crispy Potato Skins hot.

Plain crispy potato skins and the Dubliner Cheese and Pickled Jalapenos Potato skins can be made ahead and reheated in a 350˚F oven covered with foil.

Ingredients

  • 8 medium size Yukon Gold Potatoes, or other medium starch potato
  • 2 Tb melted butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
    For the Crispy Potato Skins with Smoked Irish Salmon
  • 1/4 lb smoked Irish Salmon*
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 Tb minced chives and more for garnish
  • 32 extra thin slices of cucumber, cut in half
    For the Dubliner and Pickled Jalapeno Potato Skins
  • 1/2 cup (or more) of grated Dubliner cheese
  • 32 slices of pickled jalapenos, rough chopped

Instructions

    For the Crispy Potato Skins
  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F
  2. Scrub and clean each potato thoroughly, then dry with a paper towel.
  3. Prick each potato with a fork or sharp paring knife in 2-3 places
  4. Place the pricked potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until cooked about 45-60 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. The potatoes are done when pierced with a sharp knife or fork and there is no resistance. The knife will glide easily in and out of the potato.
  5. When done, remove the potatoes from the oven and cool. Turn the oven up to 450˚F.
  6. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides. Some potato flesh should remain on the skin. Reserve the potato flesh for another use.
  7. Slice each potato half, lengthwise in 2 pieces.
  8. Arrange the potato slices on a sheet pan and brush the fleshy part of each slice with melted butter or extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with Kosher salt and ground pepper.
  9. Bake in the oven until crisp, about 10-15 minutes.
    Crispy Potato Skins with Smoked Irish Salmon
  1. While the potato skins are crisping in the oven, slice the smoked salmon into pieces that will fit onto the potato skins.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the sour cream with 3 Tbs of the minced chives.
  3. Assemble the crispy potato skins. You will want to work quickly because the potato skins taste best when they are hot.
  4. When the potato skins are crisp and hot out of the oven, spread a small spoonful of the sour cream and chives along the fleshy part. Add two cucumber half slices on top of the sour cream, then drape a generous piece of smoked salmon on top of the cucumber. Garnish with minced chive.
  5. Repeat until you have assembled all the skins you want to complete.
    Melted Dubliner Cheese and Pickled Jalapenos Potato Skins
  1. Remove the potato skins from the oven when crisp. Keep the potato skins on the sheet pan and sprinkle grated Dubliner cheese over each piece and place the pickled jalapenos on top of the cheese. (or vice versa). Put the potatoes back in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted. Serve hot.

Notes

* You will most likely not need a full 1/4 pound of smoked salmon. Cut the smoked salmon into pieces as you need them. Enjoy the remaining smoked salmon for another use.

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