Irish Leek & Cheddar Tart

March 9, 2014

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There’s more than one day to a weekend. At least that’s what I’ve been told, even though it often feels like the weekend only spans a couple of hours, whereas the work week seems to go on for a bit shy of eternity. Well yesterday, I gave you a great brunch recipe for that Caramel Apple & Irish Whiskey Clafoutis, but I’ve got another great one all lined up for today and since the weekend seems to still be lingering around a bit, maybe you could jump on into the kitchen and whip up this Irish Leek & Cheddar Tart.

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Though this delicious tart should not be relegated to the breakfast/brunch time slot by any means. Truth be told though, we’ve added a simple green salad and eaten this tart for lunch or dinner just as many times as it has appeared in the morning. We are big leek fans around here and will gobble them up in no time flat even when they are just simply sautéed in butter, but once you add some stout beer, nutmeg, and thyme into the mix. Look out!

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The stout adds a real depth of flavour to those leeks. And the sharp Irish cheddar perfectly completed the dish, turning a tart with very simple ingredients into an indulgent delight. Categorize this recipe under “eat anytime” and often!

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Irish Leek & Cheddar Tart

recipe adapted from: Wee Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of Perfect Flaky Pie Crust recipe (recipe found below…or use store-bought if pressed for time)
  • 1 1/2 lbs. leeks, white and pale green parts, washed and chopped
  • 4 oz. ( 1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 3/4 cup Guinness or Murphy’s Stout beer
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 1/2 ounces mature Irish Cheddar Cheese ( I used Kerrygold)

Directions:

Make batch of shortcrust pastry, or open box if using store-bought. Roll out shortcrust pastry on lightly floured work surface. Line 9″ tart pan with the dough. Cover the dough with a piece of aluminum foil and freeze for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place dough-lined pan on a baking sheet with aluminum foil in place. Fill foil with beans or pie weights. Bake dough for 20 minutes, or until dough is beginning to turn golden.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In large saucepan melt the butter. Add the leeks and cook until tender, about 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir the flour into the leeks and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Add the stout beer, stirring continuously until combined. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and thyme. Let mixture simmer until beer is reduced and a thick sauce remains. Remove from heat and set aside.

In bowl, whisk milk and egg together.

Set tart pan on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle half of grated cheddar over the pastry dough. Add the leek mixture and top with remaining cheddar cheese. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the tart pan over the leek/cheese filling. Return tart pan to oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until filling is puffed and golden brown.

Perfect Flaky Pie Crust

Originally adapted from: Inspired Taste but also appears in my Mushroom, Onion & Thyme Galette

Ingredients:

(this recipe makes dough for two pie crusts – you will only need 1 for this tart recipe)

  • 2 1/2 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (227 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 sticks)
  • 6 tablespoons vodka (chilled)
  • 2 Tablespoons ice water

Directions:

This recipe will make enough dough for two pie crusts. You will only need one for this tart recipe. You can either half the recipe or go ahead and make the whole thing and freeze half so you’ll be ahead of the game next time you need shortcrust pastry.

Mix 6 tablespoons of vodka and 2 tablespoons of water. Put in fridge or freezer (don’t forget it) to chill.

Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt to a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until combined.

Scatter butter cubes over flour and process until a dough or paste begins to form, about 15 seconds. (There should be no uncoated flour).

Scrape bowl, redistribute the flour-butter mixture then add remaining 1 cup of flour. Pulse 4 to 5 times until flour is evenly distributed. (Dough should look broken up and a little crumbly).

Transfer to a medium bowl then sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water/vodka over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough falls apart, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra water/vodka and continue to press until dough comes together.

Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball. Cut ball in half then form each half into discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using).

Enjoy!


Caramel Apple & Irish Whiskey Clafoutis

March 8, 2014

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Have mercy! Is it the weekend yet? I’ve got just the perfect weekend lazing around and drinking early brunch dish for you. A Caramel Apple & Irish Whiskey Clafoutis! Wowzers right?!! A clafoutis is a french dessert that consists of baked fruit (usually cherries) in a flan like batter. I found this wonderful whiskey splashed Irish twist on that classic French dish over at Edible Ireland  (love that site! – great recipes, beautiful photography – what more could you want)and just couldn’t wait to make it. (as if the weekend could mosey on up any slower…)

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Now I know of few of you folks out there are probably smirking and thinking “Yeah, so much for her lazy weekend if she was making some sort of French thing, which you just know has to be time-consuming, complicated and annoying!” Oh I am so happy to say that you would be wrong. This dish, impressive – yet rustic – as it looks was quite easy to make and delicious to boot!

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But if you’re still being a doubter, perhaps you would perk up a bit knowing that you can make the apple caramel mixture up the night before. That way when the weekend arrives, you won’t have to spend one more extra precious moment than necessary “slaving away” in the kitchen. You just heat the apples up, mix up the batter, add the apples in and pop it into the oven . Easy peasy. Then you can just sit around sipping your mimosa (or Buck’s Fizz). Before you know it that decadent brunch treat will be ready and your weekend will be off to a fantastic whiskey-caramel-apple-y start!

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Caramel Apple & Irish Whiskey Clafoutis

recipe from: Edible Ireland

Ingredients:

for the batter:

  • 80 g (2/3 cup) flour
  • 75 g (1/3 cup) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder (optional – but it will keep the clafoutis from sinking as quickly when removed from the oven)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100 g (6 tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

for the apples:

  • 30 g (2 tablespoons) butter
  • 4 crisp eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 60 g (1/3 cup) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons Irish whiskey*

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Butter a 25 cm (10 inch) pie plate or cast iron skillet or large individual ramekins.

To make the caramel apples, melt a knob of butter in a large pan over a medium-high heat. When it’s sizzling, reduce the heat to medium and tip in the apples, sugar and cinnamon, stirring to coat the apples in the butter and sugar. Cook the apples for about 5 minutes, until they have softened and the sugar has turned syrupy. Keep warm.

Whisk the flour, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, melted butter, milk and vanilla. Pour half of the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisking until it looks like a paste, then add in the rest of the liquid, whisking until the batter is smooth and well blended. (Alternatively, you could just place all the batter ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth.)

Place the pie plate or skillet on a baking sheet to catch any drips when the clafoutis is cooking in the oven. Pour in the batter, then using a slotted spoon, transfer the apples to the plate or skillet, leaving as much of the caramel sauce in the pan as you can and making sure the apples are evenly distributed. Bake the clafoutis in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the clafoutis is puffed up and golden brown and the centre is set.

About 5 minutes before the clafoutis is done, reheat the caramel in the pan to loosen it again, then stir in the whiskey and allow to cook for 1 or 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. Serve the clafoutis warm with the caramel whiskey sauce drizzled over.

*If you’ve had a “whiskey incident” and know you couldn’t smell, much less taste whiskey first thing in the morning, switch it out for some brandy or calvados.

** This is also a great dessert recipe. Just imagine serving it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with that caramel whiskey sauce. Yum!

Enjoy!

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Arán Spíosraí with Irish Whiskey Glaze

March 5, 2014

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Alright! Here we go on day five of my annual St. Patrick’s Day blog-a-polooza with a recipe for Arán Spíosraí with an Irish Whiskey Glaze. Arán Spíosraí simply means Spice Bread and I think we all know what Irish Whiskey Glaze means. Isn’t that the look that your eyes take on after tasting a bit too much of your frosting recipe as you prepare it?  (Good old Jameson!) Well, in my defense, I had to make sure the recipe was good before I published it right? What kind of a cook would serve something up without tasting it? And some things require a bit more tasting than others…

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Anyhooo….This lovely quick bread can probably be thought of as more cake-like than bread-like. Quite sweet, it is chock full of chopped citron and raisins along with a veritable riot of spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice ginger – hence the name. Very versatile, this bread is great for breakfast slathered in butter, equally welcome along with your afternoon tea or can be a simple yet tasty dessert topped with a bit of fresh whipped cream. And leftovers are not a problem. It holds up well in the pantry and I think the taste even improves a bit with age. Perfect to have a loaf on standby for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

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Arán Spíosraí with Irish Whisky Glaze

recipe from: Bob Vivant

Ingredients:

For the Bread:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup candied citron, chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 6 oz. Lyles Golden Syrup ( can substitute 1/3 cup honey and 1/3 cup molasses or 2/3 cup light corn syrup)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup milk

For the Irish Whiskey Glaze:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Tablespoons Irish Whiskey
  • pinch of sea salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line a 9×5″ loaf pan with parchment paper or grease it with butter.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Stir in the raisins and candied citron. Make a well in the center.

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Remove it from the heat and stir in the brown sugar and Lyle’s Golden syrup. Beat in the egg and milk until combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined. Place batter in prepared pan.

Bake for 60-70 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool loaf on a rack for 20 minutes and then remove from the pan. Allow to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and whisk in confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and whiskey. Allow the glaze to cool for 15 minutes. Spoon the glaze into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe glaze in pattern of your choice across top of bread.

Enjoy!


Traditional Irish Pancakes for Pancake Tuesday

March 3, 2014

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Hey…wait a second! Pancakes? Weren’t you expecting Pancakes yesterday with that Flapjack post? Well here they are today. But again, they are not the pancakes you may be used to in the States. These are Traditional Irish Pancakes and tomorrow, March 4th is Pancake Tuesday! Also know as Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday depending on where you might be standing at the time, this is the last day before Lent begins. So what does that have to do with a Pancake? Well, during Lent folks were supposed to abstain from eating any luxurious or decadent foods which included milk, butter and eggs. Making pancakes along with all of their traditional toppings was a good way to use up all of these forbidden ingredients before the period of fasting began. Traditional Irish Pancakes are thinner, more like a French crêpe, than those big, fluffy, cake-like buttermilk versions so often found in America. Traditionally, you will find these pancakes topped with lemon juice and a sprinkling of superfine sugar. However I’ve also heard of folks eating them with Lyle’s Golden syrup, jellies, jams, honey or Nutella, all of which seem more decadent to me than lemon juice and sugar.

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What did I get up to with mine? Well, I just happened to have a jar of Green Apron’s award-winning Chocolate Raspberry Preserves which I had squirreled away after my last visit to Ireland. The Green Apron is a small artisan preserve company located Derryclough, Ballingarry, County Limerick, Ireland, owned and operated by my friend Theresa Storey. All of the preserves they produce are shamefully delicious, but the Chocolate & Raspberry is my particular favourite. Last year, I made some Chocolate & Raspberry Buttermilk Doughnuts with them to kick off my St. Patrick’s Day countdown. I still drool a bit when I think back to them. If you are in Ireland and would like to get ahold of a jar, you can find the Green Apron in the Limerick Milk Market every Saturday. They also do some other markets and fairs from time to time, so check their Facebook page for updates. I’m afraid The Green Apron Preserves are not being sold in the States at this time, but if you visit Ireland, make sure to pay them a visit while there. So back to my pancakes. Those Chocolate & Raspberry Preserves seemed pretty decadent to me, so I broke out the jar that I had been hoarding away and schmeared  that jammy goodness all over a pancake or two. Yum!

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Guess you could say that I’m all set now for 40 days of deprivation…or not! (just wait until you see all the decadent creations I will be blogging about for the next 14 days…you’ll know there is no abstaining going on around here!) But I’m sure you all will be behaving quite virtuously, so I’m glad you’ll be able to have your last big hurrah for a while tomorrow with these indulgent Traditional Irish Pancakes.

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Traditional Irish Pancakes

recipe from: Irish American Mom

Yield: 12 – 15 pancakes

Ingredients:

for the batter:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 oz. ( 1/2 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 oz. (1/2 stick) butter, melted  (for frying)

toppings:

  • freshly squeezed lemon juice ( 2-3 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar)
  • jams, Nutella, Lyle’s Golden syrup, honey

Directions:

Whisk flour and salt together in large bowl. Make a well in the center.

Mix eggs and milk together until fully incorporated.

Slowly pour milk mixture into well in dry ingredients bowl, whisking all the while. Continue mixing until you have a smooth batter.

Add melted butter and continue whisking until smooth.

Heat 8″ skillet over medium high heat. Brush pan with melted butter.

Pour approximately 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Tilt from side to side until a thin layer of batter is achieved.

Cook until bubbles appear in batter and the top starts to look a bit dry – approximately 1 minute.

Flip pancake and continue to cook for an additional minutes.

Transfer cooked pancakes to plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

When ready to assemble, pour 1 teaspoon lemon juice on each pancake and sprinkle with caster sugar. Or alternatively cover pancake with toppings of your choice. Roll each pancake up and devour!

Enjoy!


Baileys, White Chocolate, Cranberry & Pistachio Flapjacks

March 2, 2014

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These Baileys, White Chocolate, Cranberry & Pistachio Flapjacks are exactly what the doctor ordered today! But wait, I just realized that I might have confused a few of you out there in the blogosphere. You’re probably looking at the photo and thinking, “What Flapjack? That’s a granola bar. A flapjack in the States is a pancake.” Hmmm…perhaps. But in Ireland, that is a Flapjack. It is funny how sometimes even though everyone is speaking English, the words just don’t mean the same thing. For instance, in college once upon what seems like one million years ago, a bunch of us gals were sitting around talking about what fashion accessories we thought looked good on guys. I mentioned that I thought guys looked good in suspenders, which was met with much laughter. Drying her eyes, one friend went on to ask me “how do you get the fellas to wear them?” Somewhat puzzled I said “You just tell them they look good in them and they’ll wear them!” Met with gales of howling laughter. O.k. I thought, what gives? Well…it turns out “suspenders” in Irish-English are a garter belt used to hold up ladies stockings. They not the things that go over your shoulders to hold up your britches, which are in fact are not called suspenders in Ireland but are called “braces”, which I thought were just the things worn on snaggledy teeth to straighten them. Tricky huh?  Another memorable Irish-English faux pas on my part was when a male friend of mine said he was heading out in his car to drive downtown and I said, “Will you give me a ride?” Yeah…that string of words means something totally different from what I intended. (I’ll just let you figure that one out on your own…) Oh well, live and learn.

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So back to the subject at hand…these little delights are flapjacks. And the ones shown here a chock full of all sorts of yumminess like White Chocolate, Cranberries, Pistachios and – be still my heart – Baileys! But Flapjacks are very versatile, you can swap in or leave out whatever you like. Anyone for dark chocolate and coconut? If you are feeling particularly healthy one day, use honey instead of golden syrup and throw in a big helping of fruit, grain and nuts. (Guess you’d have to leave out the Baileys if you were going all healthy huh? shock, horror) It’s all up to you. And me? I like the combination I’ve come up with here, especially that sea salt sprinkled over the top to give it that sweet and salty taste sensation. Only complaint is they were gone in a flash. Luckily they are quick and easy to make, so I can just do another batch. And happily I did find a great use for all those crumbly bits that were left behind in the tin. I’ve been sprinkling them over my yogurt or Skyr (for those of you who read my recent Iceland post). Delicious! Nothing like a hint of Baileys first thing in the morning to get you going!

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Baileys, White Chocolate, Cranberry & Pistachio Flapjacks

recipe adapted from: The Daily Spud

yield: 24 -26 flapjacks – depending on how you cut ‘em

Ingredients:

  • 175 grams (12 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 50 grams dark muscovado sugar ( you can substitute in dark brown sugar)
  • 2 Tablespoons Lyle’s Golden Syrup ( you can substitute in light corn syrup or honey)
  • 2 Tablespoons Baileys
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 250 grams rolled oats
  • flaked sea salt

Directions:

Line a 9″ x 9″ baking tin with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Place a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat and add the butter, sugar, golden syrup, Baileys and salt. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter and sugar have melted.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, pistachios, cranberries, and white chocolate. Make a well in the center and add the melted butter mixture. Mix until combined. Place oat mixture in baking tin and press it down with the back of a spoon or a spatula. Sprinkle flaked sea salt over pan.

Bake on middle rack in oven until golden brown, about 20 – 30 minutes. allow to cool completely in the pan before slicing.

Enjoy!


Pumpkin Pecan Crunch Bread & Mini Muffins

November 28, 2013

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I can’t believe it! Not only is Halloween done and dusted, but I am actually roasting a Thanksgiving turkey as I type! (Wish me luck because this is the first time I have ever attempted to roast a whole bird! I’ve only done breasts before and the whole thing is definitely a bit more cumbersome to say the least…) Where in the world did Fall go? You know, it is a very slippery slope from Thanksgiving to Christmas and I can feel us just picking up speed at this point. I had wanted to share all of these lovely Fall apple recipes with you, but it looks like that might have to wait until after Thanksgiving…which is happening now. Oh well, what can I say? Things here have been a bit crazed to say the least and one does what one can. I should probably focus on the positive. So I will say that I do have a lovely Thanksgiving Day recipe for you…Pumpkin Pecan Crunch Bread and Pumpkin Pecan Crunch Mini Muffins.

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It is the same recipe, just different pans really. I like it prepared both ways. If you’re just hanging around with the family and are feeling rather relaxed and informal, the loaf pans are a bit less work. But I will say if you are making this for a get together, go with the mini muffins every time. Not only do they look adorable, but they are easier to manage in public than slicing a loaf of bread. Also, I should mention that the crunch-y, streusel-like topping has a tendency to break up and fall off of the full loaves more easily. And believe you me, you do not want to lose out on eating one crumb of that magical topping. It is completely addictive and really adds so much to this spicy, moist pumpkin bread. You just can’t get any better. Or so I thought… until I decided to drizzle a little bit of maple cream cheese glaze over the top! Mercy!

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I originally found the recipe on Once Upon a Chef.  A great blog which you should definitely take a peek at if you haven’t already! The Chef actually only adds the crunchy pecan topping to her muffins, which she makes as full sized muffins rather than the mini ones that I’ve done here. Furthermore, she bakes her pumpkin loaves without the crunchy topping. It was me that decided to do the topping for both. And me that got a bit carried away and had to add that glaze drizzle. Gilding the lily a bit, I’ll admit, but I just couldn’t stop! If you have a bit more restraint than me, feel free to leave it off. You can even feel somewhat virtuous about it…But me? I’ll be the one licking the maple glaze bowl clean!

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Hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

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Pumpkin Pecan Crunch Bread & Mini Muffins

recipe adapted ever so slightly from: Once Upon a Chef

yield: two 4 1/2 x 8 loaves or 45 mini muffins

Ingredients:

For the Crunchy Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup Demerara sugar
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

For the Maple Cream Cheese Glaze: (optional)

  • 3 Tablespoons Cream Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup

For the Muffins (or Loaves):

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin (I use Libby’s)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray one mini muffin pan, or two 4 1/2 x 8″ loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray.

For Topping: Combine flour, butter, Demerara sugar, chopped pecans and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

For Muffins: Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl and mix well. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar at low-speed until just blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; continue beating at medium speed until very light and fluffy, a few minutes. Add pumpkin and beat until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Turn speed down to low and mix in flour mixture until just combined. Use an ice cream scoop to transfer batter to muffin pans, filling each muffin tin about ¾ full. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake for about 18-21 minute, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool on rack for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely (use a butter knife to lift them out of pan).

For Loaves:

Turn batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly. Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake for about 65 – 75 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Let loaves cool in pan about 10 minutes, then turn out on wire rack to cool completely.

For the Maple Cream Cheese Glaze:

Mix the cream cheese, sugar and maple syrup together until combined. Continue to stir until light and fluffy. Add a little milk or cream until mixture is of a consistency that can be drizzled. Drizzle over cooled loaves or muffins.

Enjoy!


Tourte Milanese

September 6, 2013

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Wow! The summer has just flown by! I must say, I’m not sorry to see it go. Summers in Virginia are not pleasant, to say the least. And I’ve definitely determined that it is the humidity around here that makes it so intolerable. I thought I just plain hated hot weather. But I just got back from a trip to Maui. It was roughly the same temperature in Maui as it is in Virginia. Yet a Maui 89°F day felt entirely different from a swampy 89°F day in good old Virginia. I am happy to report as well that my husband and I did not spontaneously combust the moment our pale skin contacted sand. That being said, we did spend an extraordinary amount of time every morning slathering ourselves with 100 SPF sunscreen. And even with that, my husband managed to get an impressive burn on his back the second day we were there. Maui is simply drop dead gorgeous, from the mountains

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to the sea

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and we found plenty to do that did not involve any intentional sunbathing. We saw the sunrise at the top of the volcano Haleakala

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and then rode bikes twenty-one miles down to the base of the volcano,

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we went snorkeling

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and were thrilled to make the acquaintance of this huge turtle.

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And witnessed many lovely sunsets.

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Overall a great trip. But enough of that holiday talk, let me get to talking about this Tourte Milanese, which is quite a stunner itself.

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I knew the minute I saw this over at Parsley Sage & Sweet (PSS), I was going to be making it. Now I will admit, I did take some shortcuts from the recipe as listed on the PSS sight. I used store bought puff pastry. PSS gives you a great recipe if you would like to make your own puff pastry. I’m afraid I was not that motivated. Furthermore, I decided that I couldn’t be bothered to roast my own red peppers as PSS did. I simply went out and bought a couple of jars of roasted red peppers and used those. If you are one of those industrious, “everything must be homemade” kind of folks, take a look at the PSS sight for the directions. Actually you should look at the sight anyway because there are some gorgeous step by step photos of the Tourte displayed there that you shouldn’t miss out on.

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With all of my shortcuts, this Tourte was not difficult to make at all. It was a bit time-consuming, but Wowsa… just look how impressive it is. It looks like you spent all day making it. Folks won’t understand that it is mostly just assembly work, with very little actual cooking skills involved. Without a doubt it will be the star of your breakfast, brunch or pot luck supper. With all of its vibrant colours, it would make a holiday brunch all the more festive. And not only is it quite the looker, it is delicious as well! You can’t go wrong with this recipe!

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Tourte Milanese

recipe from: parsley sage & sweet

yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound store bought puff pastry, chilled.  Roll both sheets together for 1 lb, then cut off a 1/4 lb for the top of the tourte. Use any scraps to cut out designs for the top, if desired.

For the Eggs

  • 10 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh tarragon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Filling

  • 2 jars roasted red peppers
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds spinach, trimmed and washed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 8 ounces Swiss cheese or Gruyere, thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces smoked or honey ham, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS:
Prepare the pastry: Generously butter an 8 1/2-inch springform pan. Cut off one-quarter of the pastry, cover, and set aside. Roll out remaining puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick round. Carefully fit the pastry into the pan, pressing to get a smooth fit, leave a 1-inch overhang. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry until it is 1/4 inch thick. Cut out an 8-inch circle of dough for the top of the tourte and lift it onto a plate or baking sheet. Cover both the crust and the lid with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. If using scraps for cut-out designs, like leaves, place the cut-outs on a separate plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill in fridge along with top and lined springform pan.

Make the Eggs: Whisk eggs, herbs, salt and pepper together. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat and pour in the eggs. Gently but constantly stir the eggs around in the pan, pulling the eggs that set into the center of the pan. Slide the eggs onto a plate, without mounding them, and cover immediately with plastic wrap. You want a loose, soft scramble since the eggs will be baking for a little over an hour.

Prepare the peppers: Remove roasted peppers from jar. Cut them into the largish bite size pieces. Blot the peppers dry with paper towels before adding them to the tourte.

Cook the spinach: in a large quantity of boiling salted water for 1 minute to blanch it. Drain spinach in a colander, rinse with cold water, and press it to extract all of the excess moisture. Heat the oil, butter, and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Add blanched spinach and sauté for 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and add a little heavy cream. Bring quickly to the boil and stir so it mixes with the spinach. Remove the spinach from the skillet with a slotted and set aside.  Once it’s coole, squeeze as much liquid out before adding it to the tourte.

Assemble the Torte: Remove the pastry-lined springform pan from the refrigerator and layer the filling ingredients in the following order: (quick tip: Sprinkle a little dry bread crumbs or grated Italian hard cheese on the bottom of the raw crust before adding first layer of scrambled eggs to protect against a soggy bottom crust).

  • half the eggs
  • half the spinach
  • half the ham
  • half the cheese
  • all the roasted peppers, laid flat

Continue layering in reverse order;

  • remaining half of cheese
  • remaining half of ham
  • remaining half of spinach
  • remaining half of eggs

With each layer, make certain that the ingredients are spread to the edge of the pan. Fold the excess crust in over the filling, and brush the rim of crust you’ve created with the egg wash. Center the rolled-out top crust over the tourte and gently push the edge of the top crust down into the pan, pressing and sealing the top and bottom crusts along the sides. Brush the top with the egg wash and cut a vent in the center of the crust. Use the point of the knife to etch a design in the top crust, taking care to cut only halfway into the dough. Chill the fully loaded tourte for 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking.

20 minutes prior to baking; position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake the Tourte: Place the tourte on a jelly-roll pan, give it another coat of egg wash, and bake it for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until puffed and deeply golden. Remove from the oven and let rest on a rack until it reaches room temperature. Run a blunt knife or offset spatula around the edges of the pan and release the sides.  Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Enjoy!


Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns

March 30, 2013

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One a penny, two a penny! Hot Cross Buns! That’s right…it’s time for the Hot Cross Buns to make an appearance. I’m sure you’ve been seeing them everywhere, but I must say, look no further! The best Hot Cross Bun recipe can be found right here. This year I made buns with a bit of a twist from the old traditional ones I usually do and baked Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns. Let me just say, they are dee-lish! They are incredibly moist and bursting with apple and cinnamon flavour, most likely due to a fresh homemade apple cinnamon compote which is added to the dough along with golden raisins, and  bits of dried apple. And if that doesn’t tempt you, as soon as these little buns emerge from the oven, they are drenched in a syrupy apple cinnamon glaze. Do I have your attention now? Yum, yum, YUM!

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On Good Friday I always make Hot Cross Buns. I just have to do it. It’s like I have no choice. I find all of the lore surrounding them fascinating! Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday and the cross that adorns them is said to be a symbol of the Crucifixion. However, these little buns may even pre-date Christianity. The cross could possibly have been made in honour of the Saxon Goddess Eostre and in that case would have symbolized the four quarters of the moon. The Buns that are actually baked on Good Friday are said to have quite an array of powers besides their delicious taste. For one thing, these pastrys will never get moldy. I actually have been putting a Good Friday baked bun aside for several years now and I can attest, they do not mold!

Preserved Buns from Easters past!

Preserved Buns from Easters past!

Furthermore, if you hang one in your kitchen, it will not only protect your household from fires but will also work as a charm to ensure all of your bread baking endeavours will be successful. Indeed, a dried bun from the previous year, also has medicinal properties. You can grate a bit of it into the liquid of your choice to make a restorative elixir that will help sick folks regain their health. This powder can also be applied directly to wounds with the same curative results. Amazing!

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Now I must stress that only Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday itself have these powers. So most likely you’re going to have to bake them yourself on the actual day to ensure your buns are filled with these magical properties. Hot Cross Buns are made with yeast, so just keep in mind, there are going to be a couple of rise times involved. You need to plan for it and unless you plan on getting up at o’dark thirty to start working on them, you probably won’t have them available for breakfast that morning. But you could have them ready by elevenses! They are a bit of work, but believe me, these buns are so worth it! And I had the most pleasant surprise. When I finished glazing the Hot Cross Buns I actually had some of the Apple Cinnamon Syrup left over. I set it aside and was quite happy to find that it had actually set up upon cooling, leaving me with a scrumptious jelly! Yup….Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns with Apple Cinnamon Jelly. It just keeps getting better! You’ve gotta make these delicious buns today!

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Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns

recipe from: Technicolor Kitchen

yield: 20 Buns

Ingredients:

Apple and lemon compote:

  • 1 ¼ cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon (375 ml) water
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored, diced
  • 1 cinnamon quill

Dough:

  • 5 cups (700 g) all-purpose flour (I had to add 1 extra cup flour) + 1/3 cup (46 g) extra for the piping mixture
  • 1 cup (155 g) golden raisins
  • 80 g dried apple, diced
  • 14 g (2 sachets/4 ½ teaspoons) dried yeast
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 5 ½ tablespoons (65 g) granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon (375 ml) whole milk
  • 100 g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
  • 1 egg

Directions:

Start with the compote: combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan, then squeeze in juice of half the lemon and stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Meanwhile, cut remaining lemon half into 3mm-thick slices, add to saucepan with Granny Smith apples and cinnamon quill. Bring to the simmer, reduce heat to medium and cook until lemon and apple are translucent (20-25 minutes). Strain, reserving fruit and syrup separately. When cool enough to handle, dice lemon, combine with apple. Remove the cinnamon quill, add it to the syrup and set aside.

Combine flour, raisins, dried apple, yeast, ground cinnamon, allspice, zests, sugar, apple compote and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan, warm over low heat until butter melts and mixture is lukewarm. Whisk in egg, then add milk mixture to flour, stirring to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes) – I used my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook to knead the dough; gradually added 1 cup flour because the mixture was too wet. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl, so just slowly add flour as you are kneading until you see this.
Place in a lightly buttered bowl, cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (30-40 minutes). Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Knock back dough, divide into 20 even pieces, then knead each piece into a smooth ball. Arrange dough in a large rectangle or concentric circles, placing balls side by side onto prepared sheet, leaving 1cm between each for dough to expand. Cover with a tea towel and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (30-40 minutes).
Preheat oven to 220°C/428°F. Combine the 1/3 cup extra flour and ¼ cup (60 ml) cold water in a bowl and stir to a smooth paste. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a small plain nozzle and pipe a cross shape onto each bun.

Bake for 10 minutes, reduce oven to 200°C/400°F and bake until golden and buns sound hollow when tapped (10-12 minutes).
Meanwhile, combine reserved syrup and cinnamon quill in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until syrupy. Brush thickly over hot buns, then transfer buns to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!


Irish Coffee Scones with Whiskey Butter

March 9, 2013

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Here it is, Day 9 of my St. Patrick’s Day countdown and I think it’s time for another yummy breakfast treat. We haven’t had one since back on Day 1 when I posted about those irresistible Chocolate & Raspberry Buttermilk Doughnuts. Not that I’m opposed to the occasional slice of cold pizza, or even better, cold, left over french fries for breakfast. But I’m talking about a recipe for “official”  or ” classic” breakfast food. How about some lovely Irish Coffee Scones? Yeah, scones are perfect for breakfast. And these are for St. Patrick’s Day, so let’s do this thing up right. It’s a special occasion. Not an everyday thing. These scones have coffee, which is an essential for breakfast. And they have Baileys, I think we have established how I feel about the Baileys Irish Cream. It has been in high rotation in my recent culinary creations. So all that is missing for these to be a well-rounded St. Patrick’s Day breakfast would be a nice shot of Jameson. Oh…I’ve got it! We’ll stick it in the butter! Whiskey Butter….that’s what I’m talking about! How fantastic, Irish Coffee Scones with Whiskey Butter!

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These Irish Coffee Scones are very moist, quite tender and definitely have a pronounced coffee-y/Baileys flavour. They are very light, almost more cake-like than biscuit/scone like, perhaps due to the addition of the cake flour. They are pretty easy to make, though I will say the dough is quite sticky, so just make sure your hands and prep surface are well floured. As long as you’ve got that covered, you’ll be fine. As with all scones, make sure your butter is very cold when you cut it into the flour and once you’ve added liquid to your dry ingredients, handle the dough as little and as gingerly as possible, otherwise your scones will be tough. Make sure that you don’t forget to sprinkle sugar-in-the-raw over the top of your scones, as it gives them a really lovely crunchy texture. And oh….when serving these delectable little morsels, the Whiskey Butter is not optional. It is a requirement! Start St. Patrick’s Day off right and bake up a batch!

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Irish Coffee Scones with Whiskey Butter

recipe from: Buttercream Blondie

yield: 8 scones

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold & cubed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee
  • 1/4 cup Baileys Irish Cream

Directions:

Brew coffee & set aside to cool.

Combine dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Cut in cold, cubed butter.

Whisk eggs with cool coffee and Baileys.

Add to dry ingredients and mix till it comes together. This is a wet dough at first & kind of sticky.   It will come together.

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface.

Pat dough out into a circle.  You can use a rolling pin if you want, I use my hands to shape it. ( I divided the dough in half and patted each dough half into a circle, for a more petite scone. This dough is quite sticky, so make sure your surface, as well as your hands are well floured.)

Slice dough into 8 wedges (or if you have divided the dough into two halves, cut it into 4 wedges) & refrigerate until ready to bake.  Make sure the dough is cold when it goes into the oven.

Brush with heavy cream & sprinkle with sugar in the raw.

Bake at 400° F  for 15-20 minutes, rotating once halfway through.

Whiskey Butter

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Irish whiskey  (I used Jameson)
  • pinch of salt

Whip butter with whiskey and salt.

Enjoy!


Chocolate & Raspberry Buttermilk Doughnuts

March 1, 2013

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It’s here! It’s here! Day #1 of my St. Patrick’s Day countdown of Irish-y recipes. And ya’ll, I’m starting off with a great one! Who doesn’t swoon at the thought of Buttermilk Doughnuts? And these particular Buttermilk Doughnuts are filled with a Chocolate & Raspberry Jam that will bring tears to your eyes. Now I’m sure some of you folks out there in internet land are saying “Uh…How are Chocolate Raspberry Doughnuts particularly Irish?” Well now, keep your britches on for a just a minute and I will make the Irish connection clear.

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The food scene in Ireland today is really changing rapidly. For such a long time when one spoke of Irish cuisine, bland boiled meat and potato was the unfortunate stereotype. But now a days I think most folks are aware that there is a real food renaissance going on in Ireland. The traditional Irish dishes, which were always rustic and filling but were for quite some time ignored, are being revived and served in the most hip restaurants to be found. You see, that wonderful mild climate that gives the country such gorgeous green vistas also produces an abundance of world-class fresh ingredients from wonderful grass-fed beef and dairy cows to gorgeous fresh fruit and vegetables. There is an emphasis on seasonal, locally sourced, quality food. And this new-found emphasis on fresh and local has created a resurgence in artisan producers. In recent years there has been a huge increase in the number of farmers markets in the country. Now farmers markets are amazing because you often get to meet the actual people who grow and craft the delicious food you are purchasing. (Lets take another look at those doughnuts…)

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Last October, Jay and I were lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel over to Ireland to visit friends and family. Much to our delight, The 6th Annual Dingle Peninsula Food Festival was taking place while we were there. Now, if you are planning a trip to Ireland, let me just say, the Dingle Peninsula is a must see for your trip. National Geographic has declared it “the most beautiful place on earth” and it is ranked as one of Trip Advisors “Top 100 destinations in the world”.

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So, if you can manage to plan it so that you are there during the Food Festival, it will just be icing on the cake. The little town of Dingle really turns out for the festival! They have a “Taste Trail” which encompasses over 60 locations from pubs to galleries to shops. Walking that food trail was incredibly fun and tasty! The way it works is that you buy a book of taste tickets and then set off on the trail. Each location has a sample of featured local cuisine. We had kangaroo skewers (betcha didn’t know there were kangaroos in Ireland huh?), Spinach and Gruyère crepes and charming butterfly cakes, a pint or two of micro brew, plus many other tasty delicacies. We could barely waddle back home! But in addition to the food trail frenzy,  there are cookery demonstrations, food workshops, live music, the Farmers Forum, farmer’s/food markets and the Annual Blas Na hÉireann (Taste of Ireland): National Irish Food Awards. Blas Na hÉireann is the biggest competition of its type in Ireland. The prestigious awards, given as gold, silver and bronze in over 60 categories, are considered to be the ultimate benchmark of quality Irish produce and its passionate producers.. That’s where the Chocolate & Raspberry Preserves that I used to fill my lovely Buttermilk doughnuts come in. (Ahhh…it’s getting clearer…) My friend Theresa and her family own The Green Apron,  a small artisan preserve company located Derryclough, Ballingarry, (overlooking Knockfierna – the famous fairy hill) in County Limerick, Ireland. She makes those stunning preserves, which won a silver award in the Blas Na hÉireann Jams, Marmalades and Conserves category! That in itself was fantastic, but she didn’t stop there. Oh no. Theresa also won the Gold in that same category for her Apricot, Orange & Almond Conserve,

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Theresa & her daughter Athene accepting the Gold and Silver Awards

and she won a Silver in the Dips & Seasonings category for her Italian Butter Mix and last but not least The Green Apron won Best in Farmer’s Market for Small Producers for their stand in the Limerick Milk Market.

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Four awards! Woohoo!!! Over that exciting weekend Theresa also taught a cookery class entitled “Preserving Your Harvest” and was able to man The Green Apron stall, with the help of family and friends. I tell you, she is unstoppable! I was lucky enough to bring a jar of the award-winning Chocolate & Raspberry Preserves, with a clear Irish pedigree, back home with me. Now, I must confess, I can’t tell you the recipe for it. No, no, no. Top secret and all. Well, I guess I could divulge it, but then would have to track you down and kill you all before Theresa was able to take me out. What I will say, is that if you are in Ireland, you simply must get ahold of a jar. You can find the Green Apron in the Limerick Milk Market every Saturday. They also do some other markets and fairs from time to time, so check their Facebook page for updates. Or you can email Theresa directly to discuss the possibilities of mail order. For all of you in other locales, if you’re in Ireland, try to catch her at the Milk Market, or you can find her at the next Dingle Peninsula Food Festival.

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Otherwise, you’ll just have to find your own favourite, scrumptious jam to fill your doughnuts with. Check out your local farmer’s markets and I’m sure you’ll find some wonderful artisan producers. Or get busy and make up a batch of your favourite fruit. A quality jam will make all the difference in your doughnuts. I can remember I wouldn’t go anywhere near a jam or jelly filled anything when I was younger. It was something about the texture and that fact that the jelly tasted sort of plastic and not like any particular fruit. If it was supposedly strawberry or raspberry, it often just tasted vaguely “pink”. There was never any real fruit flavour shining through, just sweet goo. That is not the case with my Chocolate & Raspberry Buttermilk Doughnuts. Not only is the cake portion of the doughnut moist and tender, but it is also bursting with vibrant raspberry preserves, with a rich chocolate undertones.

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For those of you who just can’t get enough chocolate, I dipped several of my doughnuts in a chocolate glaze. I also covered some with granulated sugar. Now you know how parents supposedly don’t favour one child over another, or at least would never admit to it? Well, I gotta say, whilst the sugar tossed doughnuts are lovely, but the chocolate glazed, Chocolate & Raspberry filled ones will make you go weak in the knees!

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These doughnuts are baked, not fried, sooo….I guess that means they’re good for you? Alright, it probably means they are less bad for you than their deep-fried cousins, which you will not miss in the least, especially not the calories and fat part, after you get a bite of these much trimmer little devils. There is no yeast involved, so you don’t have to worry with rise times. And the recipe is flexible, if you don’t have a doughnut pan, you can make these up as muffins and stuff them full of the jam of your choice as well.

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Easy and Delicious! Now that’s what I like to hear!

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Chocolate & Raspberry Buttermilk Doughnuts

yield: 8 doughnuts

Recipe adapted from: The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book

Ingredients:

For the doughnuts:

  • 7 Tablespoons (3 1/2 oz/105 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 Cup (5 oz./155 grams) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz./235 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Green Apron’s Chocolate & Raspberry Preserves (or your favourite preserve)

For the toppings:

Sugar coated:

  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

Chocolate Glazed: 

  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon hot water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F (180°C). Grease Doughnut pan with butter or butter-flavoured nonstick cooking spray.

In stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, beating well to incorporate  until pale and smooth.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to the butter mixture in two additions, alternating with the butter milk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. the batter will be slightly lumpy.

Spoon batter into each doughnut cavity until it is 1/3 full. Place Green Apron’s Chocolate & Raspberry Preserve (our your favourite jam) in a pastry bag and pipe a line of the preserves in the center of each doughnut. Cover the preserves with doughnut batter until each cavity is approximately 2/3 full. Don’t overfill the individual doughnut cups or you’ll lose the doughnut shape during baking.

Bake the doughnuts for 10-12 minutes or until the top of the doughnut spring back when touched. Let them cool in the pan for 4-5 minutes before removing.

To add sugar-coating:

Place granulated sugar in ziplock bag. Dip the cooled doughnut in melted butter. Place doughnut in bag and gently turn until coated with sugar.

To Glaze with chocolate:

In medium bowl, microwave chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup on 50% power for 1 minute. Stir until completely melted. Add hot water and mix until the glaze is smooth. If glaze is too thick, add more water until it reaches desired consistency.

Dip doughnuts into chocolate and place on wire rack until glaze has hardened.

Enjoy!


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