Category: irish

Food find of the month: Irish apple cake from Kleinworth & Co.

OH WOW. WOW.

This is some good cake.

Irish apple cake!

I found it on Pinterest; I’m not ashamed to say. Irish apple cake is what it’s called. And it’s from a blog called Kleinworth & Co. I had to squeeze it in this month, so let’s extend the “Irish” stuff a while longer. ‘K?

The apple has a lot of history in Ireland:

Did you know that St. Patrick is said to have planted apple trees in Ireland? Apples have been grown in Ireland for at least 3000 years and legend has it that he planted an apple tree in Ulster County at the ancient settlement of Ceanoga near, what is today called, Armagh. While it is a lovely tale, it’s more likely that the Druids, who used apple trees in their rituals, were the ones who first tended apple orchards in Ireland. Prior to English rule, Ireland was governed by a system of law that was codified and administered by the Brehons, who were the successors to the Celtic druids. The Brehons were charged with the preservation and interpretation of laws that had been established by centuries of oral tradition.The Irish took their apple trees seriously. Brehon law stipulated that anyone cutting down an apple tree would be subject to a financial penalty that included the surrender of five cows. I’m not sure what happened to those who had no cows to surrender, but we can be sure they were fined or punished for their transgression. Desserts and beverages made from apples are very popular in Ireland.

-source

Granny Smith apples for Irish apple cake.

So there you have it.

I’ve made Dutch & German apple cakes before, and a hazelnut apple cake that’s much beloved, and the principle is basically the same with this one. But yet altogether different- because the creation is more like a pie crust than a cake.

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A REAL Irish soda bread.

Daffodils... does that mean spring is here??

It’s daffodil time. Daffodils are a sure sign of spring, right? I mean with a jar of beautiful perky yellow blooms on your table you can’t possibly be faced with more snow. Right? RIGHT?

*sigh* Probably not.

Anyway… it’s also time for Irish soda bread.

Authentic Irish soda bread.

And tons of different kinds of Irish soda bread. Everyone seems to have their own version of it, don’t they? I  do stand by the fact that it ought not to have raisins or caraway seeds in it (even though I really like experimenting & having fun with my recipes). Authentically it’s just straight up & basic. Don’t believe me? Here, read this:

Epicurious: What about the version with butter, raisins, and caraway?
Rory O’Connell: No. That would be regarded as being some sort of exotic bread that wasn’t Irish.

Epicurious: What is your personal opinion about soda bread variations?
Rory O’Connell: I think some are fine. I love plain white soda bread or brown soda bread, but [at Ballymaloe] we also do variations on the theme, using that simple, easy-to-prepare recipe as a vehicle for adding other ingredients—cheese, herbs, olives, roast cherry tomatoes, red onion, garlic. But then we don’t say, “This is an Irish soda bread with sun-dried tomatoes.” We say, “It’s a sun-dried tomato bread made on an Irish soda bread base.” But in a way I don’t mind too much what people are doing with it as long as they’re baking.

-Source

An authentic Irish soda bread, with 4 ingredients.

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Whiskey (or bourbon) caramel & a Guinness ice cream float.

Shamrocks on the windowsill.

God bless shamrocks that signal it’s spring. God bless Guinness. God bless whiskey. And… God bless the Irish.

I don’t believe in (a) God, per se. I’m more of an Agnostic myself. But if I did I’d ask him to bless the Irish- the people who make the best whiskey, make (some of) the best beer, have the best sense of humor, & who know how to have a good time. I mean… GUINNESS, PEOPLE. GUINNESS.

Oh what the hell. Hey, universe: bless the Irish.

And bless me, because I made this:

Guinness ice cream floats with vanilla ice cream & whiskey caramel.

Oh, what’s that, you ask? That’s just a Guinness ice cream float.

Just like it says. Yup. Oh and it’s topped with whiskey caramel. Mmm hmm. Yes. Ohhhh yes.

Guinness floats with whiskey caramel.

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Homemade Irish cream, ’cause why not?

Homemade Irish cream liqueur!

There’s been a lot of baking going on around here lately. I think I’ve put more milage on my new oven in the last 2 months than Jay’s put on his 2 year old car. So I wanted to do something easy that didn’t require doing a load in the dishwasher. And I decided to try this homemade Irish cream. Yes, Irish cream. A staple of the after-dinner drink, collaborator in the infamous “Irish car bomb” shot, and all-around delicious beverage.

Irish cream is a cream liqueur based on Irish whiskeycream, and other ingredients such as coffee, which can be served on its own or used in mixed drinks or as part of a shot or a whole shot. Irish cream is very popular in the United KingdomCanada, and the United States.

It is usually served on the rocks as a moderately strong beverage on its own, but is often mixed stronger by adding more whiskey or sometimes bourbon, which complements the Irish Whiskey used in production. Coffee liqueur such as Kahlúa and many caramel liqueurs are also used. Baileys is a common addition to White Russians, due to its creamy flavour.

Some recipes for Irish cream liqueur have been published, which use various combinations of Irish whiskey, cream, coffee (sometimes, and usually optional), sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. Many have significantly less alcohol by volume than the commercial brands.

- Wikipedia

At first, I was skeptical. Obviously, we all know that Bailey’s Irish cream (or Carolan’s, or Molly’s, etc, etc) is made with cream & whiskey. But I couldn’t really believe it was that simple to just make it at home. If it was true, why wouldn’t people do it more often?

I think the answer lies with the people who buy instant pudding mix & gray-colored supermarket pickles.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s always a bottle or two of Irish cream in my house. I will probably always buy it. But at least now I know I can make it myself! I’ll never, ever run out. Plus it just makes a great gift!

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Some stout pie shenanigans.

The Irish (and English, for that matter) love their pies. And I don’t mean fruit pies, I mean meat pies. Hot, cold, warm or room temperature, they love them some meat pies. It’s a famous pub dish; a flaky pie crust or puff pastry topping over a beef-stew like filling. You can make them in individual pie plates or as one big pie. Similar concept to Shepherd’s pie, except this pie actually has a crust on top, whereas the former has mashed potatoes.

meat pie is a pie with a filling of meat and/or other savoury ingredients. Principally popular in EuropeAustraliaNew ZealandCanada, and South Africa, meat pies differ from a pasty in the sense that a pasty is typically a more portable, on-the-go item, as opposed to a more conventional pie.

-Wikipedia

A few weeks ago, I went to a pub that Jay’s friend opened in Brooklyn, and somewhere around the third or fourth Guinness we decided to have a beef & stout pie. It was just a simple little pub with no kitchen, so the pie was an instant microwaveable one. But it gave me an idea: make your own, Marilla!  And at some point, in between then and now, I picked up this book, which conveniently had a recipe listed on the cover for beef & stout pies. SCORE.


How perfect is that?

Anyway, I decided I’d give ‘em a try this week, and they turned out pretty amazing.

And quite easy, actually. In the opinion of the Irish (according to the book), the only stout suitable for cooking with beef is Guinness. If you have another stout you want to use, then so be it. I stick with Guinness for this kinda stuff though- it’s sweet, but not too sweet. Perfect for a stew.

IRISH BEEF & STOUT PIES

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. boneless chuck steak or eye of round steak, cut into 1″-inch pieces
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups meat stock
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 or 5 large carrots, peeled & sliced into “coins”
  • 4 or 5 medium/large potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 pound store-bought puff pastry or store-bought pie crust
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, then toss the (patted dry) beef in the mix until evenly coated.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the beef, in batches, and transfer to a flameproof casserole dish or dutch oven. Deglaze the skillet with 1/4 cup of the stock, and add the liquid to the casserole dish.
  3. Heat another 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet and cook the onion and carrots for 6-7 minutes or until onions are soft.  Add to the casserole dish with the tomato paste, thyme, stout, potatoes and remaining stock. Heat the casserole dish or oven over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer gently with the lid slightly askew for around 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Check the seasoning, and add salt or pepper as needed. Drain the meat mixture in a strainer set over a large bowl. Reserve the liquid, letting rest until cool. Preheat the oven to 425° F and put a baking sheet in the oven to preheat.
  5. Divide the meat mixture among four individual pie plates or 5 -5 1/2″ ramekins. Pour in enough liquid to not quite cover the filling. Dampen the rims of the plates or ramekins with water.
  6. Cut your pastry into four pieces, each one large enough to cover the tops of the pies including a 1″ hangover.  Make holes in it or two or three slashes to allow air our and place them on top of the filling, pressing the edges down. I used a fork to push the dough onto the rim. Brush with egg yolk.
  7. Places the pies on a the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400° F and bake for 5 more minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving so no one burns a tongue!

It isn’t the most attractive looking meal, but trust me. It’s way better than it looks! Potatoes, beer, beef, carrots… how can that be bad!?

If you wish, you can lessen the amount of carrots & potatoes, but add in some cremini mushrooms (just the caps, quartered- no stems). I’m not a big mushroom lover. I left them out. If you do choose to add mushrooms, add them with the onions and carrots in step 3. Also, I used frozen pie crust for the tops. Puff pastry will be puffier, obviously. You can also use homemade, if you’ve got a great recipe you like. For the sake of time I went with frozen. Sue me. 

I also made four ramekins, each one measures about 5″ across and 3 1/2″ high. I actually bought them at Pier 1 Imports, so here they are, the larger size. Vintage embroidered Irish linen napkins not included.

And that, my friends, is that. Serve with a hearty bread, or a bit of Irish soda bread, and a pint of Guinness! Or Harp. Or whatever. It doesn’t really matter what you pair it with, just so long as you enjoy yourself.

I hope you all have a happy & delicious St. Patrick’s Day!

Irish tea, bread & sympathy.

Coming from a family environment where my main grandparental influence came from my maternal grandparents, I’m pretty well versed in all things Irish (and German- but that’s another post). My grandmother Agnes was full-blooded Irish, second generation born in New York, and my grandpa was 1/4 Irish, 3/4 German. My grandpa passed away when I was very small, about 6 years old. But my grandmother was with me my whole childhood and young adult life. She passed away when I was 30, so I’d say that from her I got a full course in Irish-American tradition. Tea was a big part of this. My grandma drank tea all day. ALL DAY. She never drank coffee, not unless it was a fancy coffee once in a while after dinner, or an Irish coffee at one of her favorite Irish pub/restaurants that me & Jay used to take her to. My whole life, tea was a major player in everything. If you were sick- have a hot cup of tea with honey or lemon (or both). Sad? Have a hot cup of tea with milk & sugar. And in the summer, as expected, there was always iced tea.

The same can be said for Irish soda bread. I’ve made all different kinds, ate all different kinds, both homemade & store-bought. My favorite still remains; the Irish soda cake. I could eat it morning, noon & night. But I still come up with new ones to try, despite my allegiance. And this one is a recipe I tore out of Gourmet or Bon Appétit ages ago and never made. It’s from Downey’s in Philadelphia, and the addition of dark brown sugar intrigued me.

Soda bread (Serbian: česnica/чесница, Irish: arán sóide, Scots: fardel) is a variety of quick bread traditionally made in a variety of cuisines in which sodium bicarbonate (otherwise known as baking soda) is used as a leavening agent instead of the more common yeast. The ingredients of traditional soda bread areflourbread sodasalt, and buttermilk. The buttermilk in the dough contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. Other ingredients can be added such as butter, egg, raisins or nuts.

In Ireland, the flour is typically made from soft wheat; so soda bread is best made with a cake or pastry flour (made from soft wheat), which has lower levels of gluten than a bread flour. In some recipes, the buttermilk is replaced by live yoghurt or even stout. Bakers recommend the minimum amount of mixing of the ingredients before baking; the dough should not be kneaded.

Various forms of soda bread are popular throughout Ireland. Soda breads are made using either wholemeal or white flour. In Ulster, the wholemeal variety is usually known as wheaten bread and normally sweetened, while the term “soda bread” is restricted to the white savoury form. In more southern parts of Ireland, the wholemeal variety is usually known as brown soda and is almost identical to the Ulster wheaten.

The Soda farl or “Griddle cakes”, “Griddle bread” (or “Soda farls” in Ulster) take a more rounded shape and have a cross cut in the top to allow the bread to expand. The griddle cake or farl is a more flattened type of bread. It is cooked on a griddle allowing it to take a more flat shape and split into four sections. The Soda Farl is one of the distinguishing elements of the Ulster Fry, where it is served alongside potato bread, also in farl form.[11]

MY VERSION OF DOWNEY’S IRISH SODA BREAD

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons, plus additional for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons well-shaken buttermilk at room temperature
  • 1 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F with rack in the middle. 
  2. Blend flours, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and butter in a large bowl with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Stir in buttermilk and eggs until smooth dough forms. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and divide into small round individual loaves (I got four). Space them evenly on a lightly floured baking sheet. Sprinkle with flour, and cut an X in the top of each loaf with a sharp knife.
  4. Bake 20 minutes, then reduce oven to 375° F and continue to bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
  5. Transfer loaves to a rack to cool. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with butter, creme fraiche, marmalade or jam.
  6. Bread is best the day it’s made, but can be frozen. Just wrap it tightly in 2 layers of foil and freeze no longer than one month. Refresh, wrapped in foil in a 325° oven until heated through, about 20 minutes.

 

This recipe can be made into one large, round loaf or doubled and made into either three long “baguette” style loaves or two large round loaves.

You can feel free to add raisins (or Jameson soaked raisins) or caraway seeds, if you wish. I come from a family that happens to prefer it plain, as do I, so I rarely if ever add anything to it. It’s best, like stated above, the same day. But I wrapped it in foil and reheated it slightly the next day & it was perfect. Also, it’s just personal preference as to what to serve with it. If you’re having it with a meal, then butter is the norm. If you’re serving it with tea or coffee or as a snack, then jam, orange marmalade, clotted cream or creme fraiche is good. But it’s great plain too.

And I must say, as much as my old standby recipe is my favorite, this one was really, really good too. If you never found a soda bread you like.. I suggest you try making some of your own, that way you can tweak it and add or subtract the elements you want to. You just might end up a fan.

Ye olde Irish dark chocolate Guinness pudding.

Nothing I am about to show you today is traditionally Irish.

guinnesschocolatepudding

Nothing.

Actually… I’m lying. The Guinness is. Other than that, it’s a conglomeration of the Americanization of Irish culture; throw something green in there & it’s automatically Irish! But that’s okay with me, really. Look at how we celebrate the Chinese New Year with orange chicken & fried rice. Or how we go to an Italian restaurant & eat “chicken parmigiana.” None of that is realistic or authentic. That’s just how we roll in America, and as someone of Irish descent who knows better (and corned beef isn’t really authentically Irish either, folks), I’m still okay with it. I like green cupcakes & bagels. It’s fun. Better to be celebrated in that way than overlooked, right? America was built on the backs of immigrants, many of them Irish, so in whatever way we choose to celebrate them, it’s better than ignoring them. Do I wish that it was more to people than just a day to get drunk? Of course. But look at the 4th of July or Memorial Day- most people use them as excuses to have barbecues & get hammered.

And I alone can’t change that. So I keep these holidays in my way, and you can keep them in your way. And I like to keep them in a fun way, even if it isn’t 100% authentic.

And naturally, there’s really nothing that screams ‘SAINT PATRICK’S DAY” in America more than Guinness stout.

Dark chocolate Guinness pudding with creme de menthe whipped cream!

Guinness (pron.: /ˈɡɪnɨs/ gin-is) is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James’s Gate, Dublin. Guinness is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide. It is brewed in almost 60 countries and is available in over 100.[1] 850 million litres (1.5 billion imperial or 1.8 billion US pints) are sold annually.[1]

A feature of the product is the burnt flavour that is derived from roasted unmalted barley, although this is a relatively modern development, not becoming part of the grist until the mid-20th century. For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed beer to give a sharp lactic flavour. Although the Guinness palate still features a characteristic “tang”, the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The draught beer‘s thick, creamy head comes from mixing the beer with nitrogen when poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad, and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001,[2] is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland[3][4] where Guinness & Co. makes almost €2 billion annually.

Guinness stout is made from water, barley, hops, and brewer’s yeast. A portion of the barley is roasted to give Guinness its dark colour and characteristic taste. It is pasteurised and filtered.[citation needed]Making the product requires knowledge in the sciences of microbiology, mycology, bacteriology, and thermodynamics.[26] Despite its reputation as a “meal in a glass”, Guinness only contains 198 kcal (838kilojoules) per imperial pint (1460 kJ/l),[27] fewer than skimmed milk or orange juice and most other non-light beers.[citation needed]

Until the late 1950s Guinness was still racked[clarification needed] into wooden casks. In the late 1950s and early 1960s aluminium kegs began replacing the wooden casks; these were nicknamed “iron lungs”.[28]

Draught Guinness and its canned counterpart contain nitrogen (N2) as well as carbon dioxide. Nitrogen is less soluble than carbon dioxide, which allows the beer to be put under high pressure without making it fizzy.[citation needed] The high pressure of dissolved gas is required to enable very small bubbles to be formed by forcing the draught beer through fine holes in a plate in the tap, which causes the characteristic “surge” (the widget in cans and bottles achieves the same effect). The perceived smoothness of draught Guinness is due to its low level of carbon dioxide and the creaminess of the head caused by the very fine bubbles that arise from the use of nitrogen and the dispensing method described above.[citation needed] “Original Extra Stout” contains only carbon dioxide,[29] causing a more acidic taste.

Contemporary Guinness Draught and Extra Stout are weaker than they were in the 19th century, when they had an original gravity of over 1.070. Foreign Extra Stout and Special Export Stout, with abv of 7.5% and 9% respectively, are perhaps closest to the original in character.[30]

Although Guinness may appear to be black, it is officially a very dark shade of ruby.[31]

Bottle conditioned Guinness Extra Stout was available in the UK until 1994, and in Ireland until early 2000.[32]

My idea here was that there’s really nothing more fun than a good chocolate pudding. So why not make it a grown-up pudding? I thought of doing Jameson at first, but then I decided Guinness would go so much better with the chocolate. And I had some Lindt semisweet baking chocolate here just dying to be used up. So I really had to make this.

What? I did.

Dark chocolate Guinness pudding topped with creme de menthe whipped cream. Originally made for St. Patrick's Day but would also be great for Christmas! Substitute a chocolate or cream stout if desired.

So you’re remembering that ginger cake, or whatever, and you’re sitting there thinking “This bitch really loves Guinness.” And you’d be right. But even if I didn’t, it’d still be an easy to find stout that just works. It’s flavor just lends itself perfectly to baked goods, but it’s reasonably priced and can be found ANYWHERE. However I will say this: a chocolate or cream stout would work just as well. If you’re workin’ with the Irish theme then obviously I’d stick with Guinness. But in theory any rich, dark, thick, sweet stout would knock this pudding out of the park.

DARK CHOCOLATE GUINNESS PUDDING

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (I like Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup Guinness stout (I used extra stout, feel free to use whatever you want… like I said, a chocolate stout would work well too)
  • 1ounce very good semisweet chocolate, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Pour the Guinness into a measuring cup, and set aside. Let sit until the foam subsides.
  2. Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light yellow and thick in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium-high speed. On low speed, add the cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Bring the milk & Guinness to a boil in a medium saucepan and, with the mixer on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the chocolate mixture. Combine well, then pour the mixture back into the pan.
  3. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, until thickened. If the mixture begins to curdle, remove it from the heat and beat it vigorously with a wire whisk. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate, butter, vanilla, and heavy cream, and mix until the chocolate and butter are melted and fully incorporated.
  4. Strain through a sieve if desired or needed.
  5. Pour into serving bowls or glasses (or jars!). Place plastic wrap directly on the top of the pudding, and chill thoroughly. Serve with whipped cream… if desired, the creme de menthe whipped cream below…

CREME DE MENTHE WHIPPED CREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons good quality Crème de Menthe
  • 1 drop green food coloring (if you want the color brighter)

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the first three ingredients together with the whisk attachment until they’re thickened. Check the taste, add more sugar or Crème de Menthe as needed, by the 1/4 teaspoon.
  2. Continue beating until the whipped cream is the proper thickness, but don’t whip too much… you’ll get mint-flavored butter! Ew.
  3. Add a drop of green coloring to brighten the color if needed or desired.

Dark chocolate Guinness pudding topped with creme de menthe whipped cream. Originally made for St. Patrick's Day but would also be great for Christmas! Substitute a chocolate or cream stout if desired.

The flavor of the whipped cream reminds me of that infamous “Shamrock Shake“- so if you’re not a fan of that, you probably won’t like this. It’s a very straightforward mint flavor. If you’re unaware as to what it is, or you’ve never had it:

Crème de menthe (French for mint cream) is a sweet, mint-flavored alcoholic beverage. Its flavor is primarily derived from Corsican mint. It is available commercially in a colorless (called “white”) and a green version (which obtains its color from the mint leaves or from the addition of coloring, if extract and not the leaves are used to make the liqueur). Both varieties have similar flavors and are interchangeable in recipes, except where the color is important.

Crème de menthe is used as an ingredient in several cocktails, such as the Grasshopper and the Stinger, and is also served as an after-dinner drink and can be used in food recipes as a flavoring (see Mint chocolate).

The traditional formula involves steeping dried peppermint leaves in grain alcohol for several weeks (creating a naturally green color), followed by filtration and the addition of sugar.[1]

I’m a fan of anything mint, especially when paired with chocolate, so I love it. But I will agree that it’s an acquired taste. Another idea is to use peppermint extract & green food coloring, you can also just make regular whipped cream and color it green with just a drop of food coloring. And ANOTHER idea? Make it a Bailey’s Irish Cream whipped cream by substituting Bailey’s for the Crème de Menthe. The pudding recipe can be halved, but it doesn’t make such an exorbitant amount that you’d need to, unless there’s only two of you. Or one of you. I still don’t understand that because I can eat two 16-ounce jars of this all by myself… but oh well.

It would be super cute to tear off little shamrocks from a shamrock plant and use them as garnish for this! Not edible, but sure as hell cute. Damnit. Wish I’d thought of that before.

And Guinness in no way provided me with anything nor did they ask me to write this recipe up. Oh how I wish I was gifted with a gigantic case of Guinness stout! But alas, no. All ideas/recipes/opinions/etc are mine & mine alone, apropos of nothing but years of delicious Guinness imbibery (is that a word?).

One potato, two potato…

Ah, St. Patrick’s Day. It took me a while to think of what my cupcakes were going to be this year for St. Patrick’s Day. I couldn’t think of anything to top my previous years exploits: Guinness stout cupcakes, Bailey’s Irish cream cupcakes, maple-Irish whiskey frosted cupcakes & green velvet cupcakes. But I really didn’t have any awesome cupcake ideas this year. I know- crazy right? I other awesome ideas, yes, but none for cupcakes. I tortured myself, I even experimented with some things that I didn’t like at all. And then… I decided to scrap the whole thing & just make some Irish potatoes.

No, not actual potatoes. They’re candy! Little candies made from coconut & cream cheese & rolled in cinnamon. Nope, they are not cupcakes. But you know what? Screw it! I always make cupcakes! This year I’m makin’ me some pertaters! Ireland & potatoes go together like peanut butter & jelly.

The potato was introduced to Ireland as a garden crop of the gentry. By the late 17th century, it had become widespread as a supplementary rather than a principal food, as the main diet still revolved around butter, milk, and grain products. In the first two decades of the 18th century, however, it became a base food of the poor, especially in winter.[23] The expansion of the economy between 1760 and 1815 saw the potato make inroads in the diet of the people and became a staple food all the year round for farmers.[24] The large dependency on this single crop was one of the reasons why the emergence of Phytophthora infestans had such devastating effects in Ireland, and had far less effects in other European countries (which were also hit by the fungus).[25]

The potato’s spread was essential to the development of the cottier system, delivering an extremely cheap workforce, but at the cost of lower living standards. For the labourer, it was essentially a potato wage that shaped the expanding agrarian economy.[24]

In 1844, Irish newspapers carried reports concerning a disease which for two years had attacked the potato crops in America.[30] According to James Donnelly, a likely source was the eastern United States, where in 1843 and 1844 blight largely destroyed the potato crops. He suggests that ships from Baltimore, Philadelphia or New York could have brought diseased potatoes to European ports.[35] W.C. Paddock suggests that it was transported on potatoes being carried to feed passengers on clipper ships sailing from America to Ireland.[31]

Once it was introduced, it spread rapidly. By late summer and early autumn of 1845, it had spread throughout the greater part of northern and central Europe. Belgium, Holland, northern France and southern England by mid-August had all been stricken.[36]

In Ireland, the Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852.[1] It is also known, mostly outside Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine.[2] In the Irish language it is called an Gorta Mór (IPA: [ənˠ ˈɡɔɾˠtˠə ˈmˠoːɾˠ], meaning “the Great Hunger”)[fn 1] or an Drochshaol ([ənˠ ˈdˠɾɔxˌhiːlˠ], meaning “the bad times”).

During the famine approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland,[3] causing the island’s population to fall by between 20% and 25%.[4] The proximate cause of famine was a potato disease commonly known as potato blight.[5] Although blight ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s, the impact and human cost in Ireland – where one-third of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food – was exacerbated by a host of political, social and economic factors which remain the subject of historical debate.[6][7]

The famine was a watershed in the history of Ireland.[8] Its effects permanently changed the island’s demographic, political and cultural landscape. For both the native Irish and those in the resulting diaspora, the famine entered folk memory[fn 2] and became a rallying point for various nationalist movements as Ireland was then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Modern historians regard it as a dividing line in the Irish historical narrative, referring to the preceding period of Irish history as “pre-Famine”.

The band Black 47 takes their name from the worst year of the famine, 1847. It was a very serious thing & there isn’t much to joke about. But the fact that Ireland bounced back (granted there were huge migrations to other countries as well) is a testament to their strength. Not to mention a reason to celebrate Ireland! It’s no surprise after reading that that potatoes & Ireland are so intertwined, though, is it?

My grandma always used to order them from an Irish gift company every St. Patrick’s Day. These are the ones she used to order; they’re O’Ryan’s. They’re so delicious, and unexpected. I searched around for recipes & I found one I liked at bakedbree.com. Most of the recipes are similar if not the same, so you can’t really go wrong. Really you can just mix some cream cheese, butter, coconut, vanilla & confectioner’s sugar until it’s the right consistency and go from there without a recipe if you want. They’re just like little truffles.

IRISH POTATOES (COURTESY OF BAKEDBREE.COM)

Ingredients:

  • ½ stick of butter softened
  • ½ brick of cream cheese softened (4 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Beat together butter and cream cheese. Slowly add the confectioners sugar.
  2. Add the vanilla, then the coconut and mix until combined.
  3. You may want to chill the coconut mixture a little before you roll them. I like to use a small ice cream scoop. These are really rich, so you want them to be small.
  4. Roll the coconut mixture into a ball. Then roll the coconut mixture into the cinnamon and put on a parchment lined baking sheet. Keep the finished Irish Potatoes in the fridge.

And there you have it. Totally easy, totally fun and really yummy. Great to make with kids, too. Since they have to be kept in the fridge, I decided to put them in a jar for storage. Glass keeps out odor & moisture better than plastic, anyway. Plus it doesn’t impart nasty old flavors from previous things that have been stored in it. So I used a flip-top jar to keep my potatoes nice & cold. I really suggest you get some glass jars for storage if you don’t already have them. Way better for you than plastic.

On that note, enjoy, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

“Only two things in this world are too serious to be jested on, potatoes and matrimony.”
(Irish saying)

I like a little beer in my jelly.

I’ve made tea jelly, & champagne jelly… both with excellent results. so really, the only jelly left for me to make (aside from coffee jelly & whiskey jelly- and trust me, I’m working on it) was beer jelly.

Yup. Beer jelly. Not just beer, but stout. Guinness stout, to be exact.

I know you purists are turning your noses up. But for the rest of us- COME ON. IS THIS NOT AWESOME?! I think it’s insanely awesome. When I found this recipe my heart skipped a beat. I was wondering if anyone had tried it before & I was not only happy to know I wasn’t the only freak wanting to make jelly out of beer, but also that someone had a successful beer jelly-making experiment for me to follow. Let alone one that’s perfect for St. Patrick’s Day!

Guinness (play /ˈɡɪnɨs/ GIN-is) is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness (1725–1803) at St. James’s Gate, Dublin. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide, brewed in almost 50 countries and available in over 100 countries.[1] 18,000,000,000 US pints (8,500,000 m3) are sold annually.[1]

A distinctive feature is the burnt flavour which is derived from the use of roasted unmalted barley (though this is a relatively modern development since it did not become a part of the grist until well into the 20th century). For many years a portion of aged brew was blended with freshly brewed product to give a sharp lactic flavour (which was a characteristic of the original porter). Although the palate of Guinness still features a characteristic “tang”, the company has refused to confirm whether this type of blending still occurs. The thick creamy head is the result of the beer being mixed with nitrogen when being poured. It is popular with Irish people both in Ireland and abroad, and, in spite of a decline in consumption since 2001,[2] is still the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland [3][4] where Guinness & Co. makes almost 2 billion annually.

The company had its headquarters in London from 1932 onwards. It merged with Grand Metropolitan plc in 1997 and then figured in the development of the multi-national alcohol conglomerate Diageo.


GUINNESS STOUT BEER JELLY (thanks to grow it cook it can it; recipe is hers exactly)

Makes about 7 half-pints; I halved the recipe & got exactly 3 half-pints & one 4-oz. jar

Ingredients:

  • 2 12-ounce bottles of stout beer
  • 1 package powdered Sure-Jell pectin
  • 3 ½ cups sugar

Directions:

  1. Bring canner to a boil. Wash jars and lids. Put lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water with the canner.
  2. In a large, non-reactive pot, bring the beer and powdered pectin to a rolling boil. It will be very frothy, that’s normal. Stir in sugar and bring back to a rolling boil. Cook on high heat for two full minutes.
  3. Pour hot jelly into jars. It will still be very frothy. I decided to leave a thick layer of foam on top of the jellies to imitate the way dark beer looks in a glass, but you could certainly skim it off with a spoon if you like. I only wanted a little froth on top, so I ladled the jelly into jars and led the air bubbles rise to the top for a few minutes before I screwed the lids on.
  4. Wipe rims clean, screw on lids, and process half pint jars for 5 minutes.

Crazy talk. It’s absolute crazy talk that I have jelly made from stout in my presence. But I do, my friends, I really do. And this makes me really happy. It should make you happy, too, because it’s really easy & quick to make. The coolest part is the foamy top! It really looks like a glass of just poured Guinness straight off the tap. I should warn you though, the more you pour or ladle it the more it loses it’s foam. What I did was I filled the three half-pints first, then the quarter pint jar. By the time I got to the tiny 4-oz. jar, there wasn’t much foam at all. But that’s okay because I wanted the larger jars to look more like beer glasses. The littler jar was just an added bonus! Also, the longer it sits without a lid, the more the foam dissipates and the lower the “level” of the jelly gets. So get on that shit! Don’t wait too long to lid them.

It’s a loose set jelly, so don’t expect it to be as firm as most, but it’s firm enough.

I wouldn’t try using a liquid pectin with this, reason being powdered & liquid pectin act very different. I stuck with what the original recipe author suggested & it came out perfect. Although if you’re rebellious, let me know how it works out for you. And here’s the deal: it’s amazing on Irish soda bread, whether you use my recipe or your own. It’s also great with the Irish soda bread muffins I made last year. It’s also great on a cracker with a piece of Irish cheese, like Dubliner, or on a thick ol’ piece of toast slathered with Kerrygold butter. But… true to form, it’s also great on scones. Specifically a plain scone.

And of course I had to “dress ‘em up” to make them more festive.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is genius.

Fi, fie, fo, fum, I smell soda cake & Jameson.

Sometimes when I make Irish soda cake, I feel like I’m in the story Jack in the Beanstalk & I’m Jack, but everyone around me are the giants. It’s so amazing, and it smells so good, that people just go nuts for it. I think if I fell on the floor & was unconscious, they’d step over me to grab a piece. I’m serious. And I don’t really blame them. Don’t believe me? Check this out. Chrisie told me she loves my Irish soda cake and she even took to Facebook & elaborated on how much:

I guess that means she really likes it. See what she said about the tea-soaked raisins? It gave me an idea. Now me personally? I’m not into raisins. I did like the California Raisins, though. But anyway, I thought of her tea-soaked raisins which made me think of rum-raisin, and then my brain went straight to Jameson Irish whiskey. And then it went to Jameson-soaked raisins. I wasn’t going to put them in the cake, but on top. And I decided, like Chrisie, to make the cake into little muffins or cupcakes. Then I’d top them with a vanilla-Jameson glaze & some Irish whiskey-soaked golden raisins.

Shut the front door, right?

And yes, I left some plain with just a nice, sugary crust on top.

IRISH SODA MUFFINCAKES WITH JAMESON-SOAKED RAISINS & JAMESON GLAZE

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsps. melted shortening (or butter)
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Make wet dough: mix salt, baking powder, baking soda, flour and sugar. Beat eggs lightly and add melted shortening and buttermilk.
  2. Mix all together until combined. If too watery, add a bit more flour. If too thick, add a bit more buttermilk.
  3. Prepare a muffin tin with liners. Fill each liner with two-three tablespoons of batter.
  4. Before putting in the oven, sprinkle sugar on top (if not using the raisins & glaze).
  5. Bake at 375 degrees° F for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

JAMESON-SOAKED RAISINS

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 3-4 tablespoons Jameson Irish Whiskey (enough to cover the raisins)

Directions:

  1. Place raisins in a small bowl and pour whiskey over them.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit in a cool, dry place for about a half hour, 45 minutes.
  3. When ready to use, remove raisins using a small strainer to remove excess whiskey. Use the whiskey in a drink or even in the glaze (below).

JAMESON WHISKEY GLAZE

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons Jameson Irish whiskey (or whatever brand you prefer), you can use whatever is left after the raisins have soaked too
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. For glaze, pour sugar & Jameson into a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat; boil rapidly for 1 full minute. Remove from heat, whisk in butter & vanilla. Let set to thicken slightly for a few minutes. Place raisins on top of the muffins. Using a spoon, drizzle glaze over cooled muffincakes, making sure to cover the raisins.

Forreals, yo.

I prefer to use golden raisins on these because let’s face it- regular raisins can look like mouse crap. Sorry if that ruined your appetite, haha. And of course, the colors of the golden raisins go better with the color of the cakes and the green liners anyway. Those fancy “ruffled” liners are by Wilton. I baked the muffincakes in regular white liners, then put them in the fancier ones after they’d cooled.

So basically, feedback on these has been “holy balls” & “wow” & statements along those lines. I didn’t have any, ’cause like I said, I don’t like raisins. But.. if you want to be on a super Jameson kick, then pair these with some Irish coffee. Or Irish coffee my way, which is coffee with milk & sugar & Jameson, then topped with whipped cream.