White Chocolate Malted Mousse Cake

April 19, 2014

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Whoo – wee! Is it Easter time already?! Hard to believe it, but it is indeed. I have had an entire month off since my St. Patrick’s Day blogapalooza and have still yet barely recovered. And believe you me, my waist line has not yet managed to get back to normal either. Yup… the old britches are fitting a bit tighter these days. Nothing to be done about it I suppose but some diligent exercising and calorie counting….which I will start right after the Easter holidays, I promise  (wink, wink) . Because no, I can’t start now…not since two of my favourite candy treats spring up like weeds in all of the stores around Easter. I’m talking about those crack-like Cadbury Mini Eggs and those adorable speckled Robin Egg malted milk candies. Now I’m usually pretty strong-willed, but faced with the trial of seeing those delicious treats everywhere this time of year, all of my dieting resolve simply crumbles. So I just won’t set myself up for failure and the calorie restriction will simply have to wait for a few days. Last year I gave into temptation and purchased one (or was it two…or maybe three…) bags of those Robin Eggs and made Robin Egg Rice Krispie Treats, which were not only quick and easy to make, but also a wonderfully yummy snack. And this year, finding a bag of those mini Robin’s Eggs lurking about on my kitchen counter, I whipped up this gorgeous White Chocolate Malted Mousse Cake for our Easter festivities. Talk about temptation! It has so many of my favourite things in it – a crunchy shortbread/cashew crust filled with creamy malted white chocolate mousse which is adorned with Robins Egg malted candies – clearly an irresistible indulgence!

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This festive dessert is very easy to make, you just have to keep in mind that it does need a bit of chill time in the fridge. But no worries. You should pour yourself a glass of wine and have a bit of chill time for yourself while you wait. Your patience will be rewarded many times over when you take your first bite of this sinfully decadent dessert. You may have to spend a bit longer in the confessional (Bless me Father…) but sure you’ll be headed off to Mass anyway…right? Happy Easter Everyone!

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White Chocolate Malted Mousse Cake

recipe slightly adapted from: A Family Feast

Ingredients:

For the Crust:

  • 6 ounces shortbread cookies
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted

For the Mousse:

  • 2 ounces white chocolate
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 (1/4 ounce) envelope unflavoured gelatin
  • 2 – 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons plain malted milk powder
  • Robin’s Egg malted milk candies for garnish (I used the mini Robin Eggs)

Directions:

For the crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place the cookies and cashews in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until a fine crumb consistency is reached. Add the melted butter and pulse again to combine.

Pour crumbs into the bottom of a 9″ springform pan and press down to form an even layer over the bottom of the pan.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown around the edges.

Cool the crust completely in the springform pan on a wire rack.

For the Mousse:

In a small saucepan, combine the white chocolate and 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Stirring constantly, heat until the chocolate fully melts. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Pour the milk into a small, wide microwave-safe bowl. Very slowly sprinkle the gelatin over the milk, allowing the gelatin to begin to absorb the milk before sprinkling more over the top. (To avoid creating lumps of gelatin it is important that you not only have a wide surface area of milk but that you also sprinkle that gelatin ever so slowly, allowing it to absorb before adding the next layer). Allow the gelatin and milk to sit undisturbed (don’t stir) until the gelatin is fully softened – about 3 to 4 minutes.

Microwave the gelatin milk mixture at 50% power until the gelatin completely melts. ( Heat in slow intervals, about 10 seconds at a time, taking care not to scald the milk) Once the gelatin dissolves, stir it into the white chocolate mixture. Set aside to cool, but stir often. It will begin to thicken.

While the chocolate mixture cools, in the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the cream cheese, sugar, salt and malted milk powder until light and fluffy. Slowly add in the cooled and thickened white chocolate/gelatin mixture, stirring until combined.

In a separate mixing bowl, whip the remaining heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture by hand until blended.

Spoon the mousse over the cooled crust, spreading evenly in the pan. Refrigerate until firm – at least 3 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, remove the sides of the pan. Decorate with Robins Egg malted candies.

Enjoy!


Pints of Guinness Cupcakes

March 17, 2014

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My Goodness – My Guinness! What do we have here? Little Pints of Guinness Cupcakes for St. Patrick’s Day! Yup, today is the day! I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to here, but somehow, seventeen Irish-y recipes later, here we are! I’m finishing my countdown today with these delicious little boozy cupcakes. Are you kidding me? Of course they have booze in them! The cake portion of these edible pints are made with a moist and rich blending of chocolate and  Guinness. The “head” of these pints are formed with a smooth delectable and dreamy Baileys buttercream frosting. Yum, oh yum!!!

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Truth be told, I’ve made a version of these Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with a Swiss Vanilla Baileys Buttercream Frosting before and they were a big hit. In their first incarnation, they looked just like regular little cupcakes and were topped with crumbled chocolate covered pretzels.

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This time around, I thought I’d like to have a little fun with the shape and since they were Guinness cupcakes, I thought I’d really try to capture the look of a pint of that wonderful elixir. I am very pleased with the results!

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In order to get that pint glass type shape, I baked these in popover pans, rather than the usual cupcake tins. Then I piped the Baileys buttercream frosting onto the top and smoothed it a bit with a spatula to get the appearance of that creamy Guinness head.

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What fun huh? Now you can drink your pint (pints…) and eat one too! Just perfect for your St. Patrick’s Day festivities. So what are you waiting for? Get on out there and have some fun! Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daiobh! (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!)

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Pints Of Guinness Cupcakes

recipe from: Lea and Jay (yours truly :) ) who originally adapted it from The Butch Bakery Cookbook by David Arrick and Allison Eats

Ingredients:

For the Chocolate Stout Cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup (  3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cup Guinness, poured and settled before you measure it out
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream

For the Swiss Vanilla Baileys Buttercream Frosting:

  • 5 Large Egg Whites
  • 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 2 Cups (4 sticks) Butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, cool but not cold
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream

Directions:

First, bake your cupcakes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two (6 well) popover pans. Take care to really butter them well so that the “little pints” will slide out easily once baked. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt your butter and set aside to cool slightly, then add in the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the stout, then set aside to cool completely for another 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sour cream, then whisk in the cooled chocolate and butter mixture. Whisk in the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt, combining until just moistened. Fill each popover cup with 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of batter. (Each well of my popover pan held 3/4 cup of liquid total, so I was filling them 1/2 full). Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cupcakes are set and a toothpick comes out clean (mine took about 24 minutes). Let cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then carefully remove them from the pan to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Now for the frosting. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites and sugar together. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water but do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved and the color is milky white, about 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on medium-high speed (start slowly at first) until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the paddle attachment. Add the cubed butter, few pieces at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the buttercream looks like it is breaking, don’t worry, it will eventually come together.

Add the salt and Baileys Irish Cream and beat for 5 seconds to combine.

Place frosting in piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes. Take spatula and smooth frosting until it resembles the head on a pint of Guinness.

Enjoy!


Green Velvet Baileys Cheesecake Cake

March 15, 2014

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What a fun cake for St. Patrick’s Day huh? Green Velvet Baileys Cheesecake Cake! So what you’ve got here is a layer of Baileys Cheesecake sandwiched between two layers of Green Velvet Cake ( you know – like red velvet but green instead) and frosted with a delicious cream cheese & marshmallow frosting. Are you drooling yet?

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I found this fantastic cake over at Recipe Girl. I must admit, Recipe Girl’s Green Velvet Cake is a much more vibrant Kelly Green than mine. Mine seems to be more of a moss-green. Oh well, as everyone knows, there are 40 Shades of Green in Ireland! I can actually attest to the fact that there are many more than that! The color difference between our two cakes is not a mystery to me. You see, Recipe Girl recommends that you use 2 tablespoons of liquid green food coloring (that is an entire 1 ounce bottle). Now I was sure I had food coloring on hand. But lo and behold, when I went to grab it whilst right in the middle of making this cake, there was only a drop or two of that dye to be had from the bottle. I did have some Wilton’s Gel Frosting Tint on hand which I substituted in. So there you have it! If you really want that your cake to have that retina-searing, screaming green hue, use liquid food coloring (and a lot of it). The good news is that the moss-green hue did not affect the flavour of my cake. It is still quite moist and tasty.

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And if those green velvet cake layers weren’t enough for you, there is an entire Baileys Cheesecake nestled neatly into the middle! The Baileys in this cheesecake might have been my addition to the recipe. I couldn’t resist. Almost every single recipe I’ve shared with you recently has a bit of booze in it. I figured why stop now so close to St. Patrick’s Day? You will notice that you assemble the cake with a frozen cheesecake layer. Don’t worry…it defrosts really fast! By the time you get the cake frosted, on the table and ready to go, that cheesecake layer will be entirely thawed, wonderfully creamy and perfectly luscious !

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Oh and let me tell you about the frosting. As with most red velvet cakes, this green velvet cousin has a cream cheese frosting. Always brilliant right? Except get this, this frosting has cream cheese and marshmallow  creme! It is by far the most mouthwateringly scrumptious cream cheese frosting I have ever tasted! Well there you have it! All of the reasons you simply must get busy making this amazing Green Velvet Baileys Cheesecake Cake for St. Patrick’s Day. In two days… three counting today…yup, you’ve plenty of time!

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Green Velvet Baileys Cheesecake Cake

recipe slightly adapted ( I added Baileys – go figure!) from: Recipe Girl 

yield: 12 – 14 servings

Ingredients:

For the Cheesecake:

  • Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated white sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream

For the Green Velvet Cakes:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons (1-ounce bottle) green food coloring

For the Frosting:

  • Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • One 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • a few drops of green food coloring, if desired

Directions:

Prepare the cheesecake layer: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place a large roasting pan on the lower third rack of the oven. Place a kettle of water on the stove to boil. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Wrap a double layer of heavy duty foil around the bottom and up the sides of the pan (you want to seal it so the water from the water bath doesn’t seep into the pan).

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend the cream cheese until it is smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in the sugar and salt and blend for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure all is mixed in. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. Finally, mix in the sour cream, whipping cream, vanilla and Baileys. Mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the pan into the roasting pan in the pre-heated oven. Carefully pour the hot water from your kettle into the roasting pan. Pour enough water so that there is about an inch of water coming up the foil along the sides of the cheesecake pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes. It should be set to the touch and not jiggly. Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan and let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. When it has cooled, place the pan into the freezer and let the cheesecake freeze completely (4 to 5 hours or overnight).

Prepare the cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Spray two 9-inch round pans with nonstick spray and line each pan with a round of parchment paper (see *Tips). In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. In a large bowl, combine the oil and sugar together and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla, and beat for an additional 2 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and baking soda and stir to dissolve. Add the vinegar to the bowl, along with the buttermilk and food coloring. Beat on medium-low speed for 1 minute, until blended. Add the dry ingredients and increase speed to medium-high, scraping down the sides of the bowl while mixing, for 2 additional minutes. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cakes cool for 20 minutes. Run a knife along the edge of the pans, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely.

Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, combine the cream cheese and butter and beat until creamy and smooth. Add the marshmallow creme and mix until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar (and food color, if using) and continue to beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until all of the ingredients are mixed in and the frosting is smooth and spreadable.

Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer into the center of a cake plate or platter. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, take off the sides of the pan, and slide a knife under the parchment to remove the cheesecake from the pan. Peel off the parchment. Trim the cheesecake, as needed to match the size of your cake layers (see *Tips). Place the cheesecake layer on top of the first cake layer. Place the second cake layer on top of the cheesecake.

Frost the cake: Apply a crumb coat layer of frosting to the cake (see *Tips), and refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, or until the frosting is set. Apply the second layer of frosting. Add a large scoop of frosting onto the top of the cake. Use a long, thin spatula or knife to spread the frosting evenly across the top and then spread it down the sides of the cake too. Decorate, as desired.

Tips:

*You can certainly bake this cheesecake in the oven without a water bath, but you run the risk of cracking the top of the cheesecake. The water bath is a safeguard against cracking.
*Measure your cheesecake layer against the cake layers. If the cheesecake layer turns out to be slightly larger size round than your cake layers, move it to a cutting board and use a knife to gently shave off some of the exterior of the cheesecake.
*How to apply a crumb coat layer of frosting: use a long, thin spatula or knife to cover the cake completely with a thin and even layer of frosting. Wipe off the spatula each time you’re about to dip it back into the bowl to get more frosting (this way you won’t be transferring any green crumbs into the bowl of frosting). Don’t worry at this point about the crumbs being visible in the frosting on the cake. When your cake has a thin layer of frosting all over it, place it into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to “set” the frosting. Once the first layer of frosting is set, apply the second layer.
*If you are serving this cake at a party, it’s perfectly okay to leave the cake at room temperature for a couple of hours (the cheesecake thaws very quickly). Otherwise, keep it stored in the refrigerator. It also freezes perfectly. Freeze it as is, then wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in the freezer until it is needed. Leftover slices may also be wrapped and frozen.

Enjoy!

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Guinness Pretzel Truffles

March 12, 2014

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Time for more candy in this St. Patrick’s Day countdown I say! And who doesn’t like truffles? Better yet, who doesn’t like boozy truffles?!! These Guinness Pretzel Truffles will knock your socks off!

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You know how some truffles are just so tooth-achingly sweet you can’t manage to take more than one nibble? Not these little devils. You see they have a reduced Guinness syrup added to the chocolate. That Guinness reduction adds an earthy, slightly bitter stout flavour to the chocolate and also serves to temper the sweetness. I’m sure that sounds great to those of you with a bit more subdued sweet tooth. But wait…there’s more. These tasty treats are then rolled in crunchy, salty crushed pretzels.

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So there you have it – malty Guinness, rich dark chocolate and salty pretzels combined to make an irresistible St. Patrick’s Day confection. You can have a batch done in no time flat. So what are you waiting for?! You’ll absolutely drive folks wild with these!

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Guinness Pretzel Truffles

recipe from: SprinkleBakes

yield: 18 – 21 truffles

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. bottle Guinness Extra Stout (divided)
  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup finely pulverized pretzel rods (you want these really pulverized – best to use a food processor)
  • 3/4 cup crushed pretzels for rolling truffles
Directions:
Place 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. Guinness Stout in a 2 cup saucepan.  Set aside.
Pour the remaining Guinness Stout in a separate small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cook until reduced to 1 tablespoon, about 15- 20 minutes.  Be sure to keep an eye on this because it can be tricky. You’ll notice it will foam up quite a bit at first. Don’t let it boil over as it will be quite the sticky mess to clean up! (Not that I have first hand knowledge of that or anything. :) Also, once reduced considerably, the syrup can burn easily. So – don’t get distracted!
Chop the chocolate into pieces and place in the saucepan with the Guinness Stout. Place the saucepan over medium- low heat and let stand until the chocolate starts to melt.  Stir with a wire whisk to blend together the chocolate pieces, but don’t whisk vigorously – we’re not trying to incorporate air.
When the chocolate is melted and smooth, begin to add butter 1 tbsp.  at a time. Whisk gently until butter is melted, and then add the 1 tbsp. Guinness Stout reduction.  Stir in the pulverized pretzels.
Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator until firm (or overnight).
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Scoop the Guinness ganache out by the heaping tablespoon and quickly roll between your palms.
Once all the chocolate is used up, chill the truffles in an air-tight container in the fridge until ready to roll in crushed pretzels. These chocolates will keep for 7 days when stored properly in the refrigerator.  Roll truffles in crushed pretzels just before serving (so they’ll be crunchy!). If crushed pretzels resist sticking to the chilled truffles, roll the truffles between your palms to warm them up, and then roll in the pretzels. The pieces should stick.
Enjoy!
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Baileys Irish Potato Candy

March 10, 2014

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Only seven more days to go until St. Patrick’s Day! Phew….I can’t believe I’ve made it this far with the daily blogs. Hope folks have been enjoying it. I’ve got a fun, sort of silly recipe for you today. Baileys Irish Potato Candy! Truth be told, no potatoes are actually involved in making these delicious little devils, but they’ve got the look of tiny spuds down huh? What they actually are is a candy made of confectioners sugar, butter, pecans and cream cheese. They get their color from a dusting of cinnamon and cocoa powder and their eyes from slivered almonds.

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Irish Potato Candy originated in Philadelphia and has been a tradition there for over 100 years. The version you will find there in the “City of Brotherly Love” includes coconut flakes and forgoes the cocoa powder coating, using only cinnamon. I couldn’t resist throwing a bit of chocolate into the mix and while I was at it, I decided a bit of Baileys would go a long way here as well. This sweet and creamy candy is very easy to make, no baking involved, just a bit of chill time. I don’t know about you, but believe me, a bit of chill time sounds great right about now! Adorable, tasty spuds… who could ask for more? Whip up a sack of these potatoes for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations today.

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Baileys Irish Potato Candy

recipe slightly adapted from: Bake at 350

yield:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pecans (or you could substitute in your favourite nut)
  • 4 Tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 lb. powdered (confectioners) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sweetened cocoa
  • slivered almonds

Directions:

Heat oven to 350° F.  Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 4-6 minutes, until fragrant and toasted.  Remove from the baking sheet and let cool.  Once cool, finely chop

Beat the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, Baileys and salt until light and fluffy.

Mix in the sugar and pecans until combined and a dough forms.

Place in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.

Place the cinnamon and cocoa in a shallow bowl.  Use a 2 tablespoon scoop, and form the dough into small potato shapes.  Roll in the cinnamon/cocoa mixture, using a pastry brush to brush off the excess.

Break the slivered almonds into small pieces, and press into the cookies to make the eyes.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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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Epic Chocolate, Porter & Potato Cake

March 7, 2014

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Anyone have any leftover mashed potatoes? It is rare that we have them leftover, usually gobbling them all up without a second thought. Yet it does occasionally happen. Truth be told I have started making ridiculous amounts of mashed potatoes when I actually do make them, for a couple of reasons. First of all, we have bee known to eat a whole bunch of mashed potatoes in one sitting. Second reason, I am always hoping there will be leftovers so that I can make them into potato farls the next day. And now I have another reason to scheme for leftovers. Believe it or not, I used leftover mashed potatoes in this Epic Chocolate, Porter & Potato Cake. Epic is the perfect word to sum up how I feel about this cake. Rich, chocolatey, moist and delicious! And with spuds and porter as featured ingredients, what cake could better boast of its Irish origins.

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I found this recipe at Bibliocook, the blog of award-winning Irish food writer and broadcaster, Caroline Hennessey. If you haven’t stopped by this great blog, you really must go take a peek. Caroline’s husband is one of the owners and brewers at Eight Degrees Brewing.  I first tasted one of their beers a couple of years ago at the Dingle Food Festival . My friend Theresa, being a fan of that craft brew, had brought along several of their beers for my husband and I to sample and we were instantly hooked. We are eagerly awaiting Eight Degrees arrival in the States. Make sure you keep it in mind if you are planning a trip over to Ireland. Indeed Caroline recommends that their Knockmealdown Porter, be the porter used in this Epic cake. And believe you me, I really wish I could have gotten ahold of a bottle, but alas, none was to be found in Virginia. So I decided to go with a locally brewed porter, looked to Baltimore Maryland (only about 1 hr or so away) and settled on DuClaw Brewing Company’s Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter, a decision which I am not second guessing after tasting this amazing cake. All of the malty, chocolate, espresso and peanut butter notes of that porter really shine through in every decadent forkful.

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I love that this cake is really no fuss/no-nonsense. It comes together quickly and easily. And since Caroline had mentioned that its taste improves a bit with age, I made it the day before I was planning to serve it and then just frosted it before folks arrived. And even though I frosted the entire cake, it really isn’t necessary. I think simply spreading a thick pillowy cloud of that cocoa dusted cream cheese filling would be sheer perfection. So why did I frost the entire cake? Well, it looks like it is time for a true confessions moment. The original recipe called for a 23cm round cake tin. Of course here in the States, we never really got into that metric system thing and still do everything in inches. I quickly figured out that 23 cm is a 9″ pan. However, I grabbed a cake pan that was only 1 1/2″ tall. It really needed to be at least 2″, so there was a bit of batter overflow happening when I baked it. No big deal as I had the cake tin sitting on a baking sheet, which caught the spillage. However, the edge of my cake ended up looking a bit raggedy. So I made the executive decision of covering my mistake with that scrumptious frosting and no one would be the wiser. Which they weren’t…until I spilled the beans here. Oh well, live and learn and always use taller cake tins when possible!

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I served this substantial cake up at one of my husband’s band rehearsals and it easily fed a flock of hungry musicians, some of whom had seconds, raving about it all the while. I guess I do have even more of a reason to make extra mashed potatoes now. I’m going to have to arrange to have 20 lb. sacks delivered to my home soon if I’m not careful. The 5 lb. ones just won’t do anymore!

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Epic Chocolate, Porter & Potato Cake

recipe slightly adapted from: Bibliocook

Ingredients:

  • 75 grams dark chocolate – it’s worth using 70% here
  • 225 grams butter, at room temperature
  • 200 grams caster sugar (caster sugar is the same as superfine sugar)
  • 220 grams light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 75 grams mashed potato (either cook some potatoes and mash them or used leftover mashed potatoes)
  • 250 grams all-purpose flour
  • 25 grams unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 150mls porter – I wish I could have used Eight Degrees Brewing Company’s Knockmealdown Porter, but I used Duclaw Brewing Company’s Sweet Baby Jesus! Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter

For the Cream cheese icing:

  • 200 grams cream cheese
  • 50 grams butter
  • 50 grams confectioners sugar, sifted

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 ° F and line the base of a 9 X 2″ round baking tin.

Melt the chocolate and allow to cool.

Cream the butter and sugars together in a large bowl then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

Mix in the melted chocolate and mashed potato.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda together. Gently mix into the cake batter in three additions, alternating with the porter.

Spoon into the prepared tin, leveling the surface with the back of the spoon, and bake for 1 hour – 1 hour, 10 minutes or until the cake feels springy and a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then remove to a cooling rack.

To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth, then mix in the confectioners sugar. Spread over the cold cake, dusting with a little sweetened cocoa.

Enjoy!


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!


White Chocolate Skyramisu & our annual Iceland in December Adventure

February 27, 2014

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I bet I’ve got a few folks scratching their heads with the title of this blog post, wondering what is “skyramisu” and who goes, nevermind goes annually, to Iceland in December? Well, let me begin by saying Skyramisu is not a misspelling of Tiramisu, the coffee flavoured Italian dessert. It is an adaptation of that popular treat using Icelandic Skyr and cream cheese instead of mascarpone cheese. Tiramisu with an Icelandic twist if you will. The resulting dessert is simply divine! There are a few other differences between the two as well. Instead of using coffee soaked ladyfingers, wafer cookies are used here. Prince Polo, a very popular chocolate bar in Iceland, was the ingredient called for in the original recipe, but since I couldn’t find Prince Polo here in the States, I went with Quadratini biscuits, little bite sized wafer cookies in dark chocolate and cappuccino flavours made by Loacker. These worked perfectly. (You can find them at World Market or online at Amazon.) At this point you may be saying “Hold on a second, what exactly is Skyr?” Well, Skyr is Icelandic yogurt, though I believe it is technically not yogurt, but rather strained skim milk cheese. If while reading this you find yourself pulling some horrible face, just stop it! Skyr is delicious! The Vikings brought Skyr to Iceland with them when they settled the country and it has remained in the Icelandic diet since the 9th Century, so you know it must be good! ( And before you start, don’t even mention the rancid shark thing…Everyone should be allowed a few little quirks…)

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Just focus on this delightful dish…stop thinking about the shark!

Skyr is very smooth, rich and creamy and is a sort of cross between ice cream and yogurt. It has 0% fat, has 2-3 times the amount of protein found in regular yogurt and is high in calcium. And unlike the elusive Prince Polo bars, Skyr is now widely available here in the US. Skyr.ie is imported direct from Iceland and there is a company located in New York owned and operated by a fellow from Iceland, Siggi’s. Their delicious products can be found in the yogurt section in Whole Foods and many other chain grocery stores. See, what’s not to like? If you haven’t tried it, run out today and give it a whirl! I first came across it last December, when I visited Iceland for the first time. My husband and I fell in love with the place and particularly liked being there in December. Contrary to popular belief, the temperatures are generally not that cold, they hover right around freezing, though I will admit there always seems to be wind, ranging from breeze level right up to gale force. Even though there are few hours of daylight, that actually gives you a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Icelandic folks love Christmas, so it’s great to visit in December. Believe me, if you can’t get in a Christmas-y mood there, you really are a terrible Scrooge! Another plus is that there are very few other tourists visiting at this time, which suits me just fine – we got the run of the place along with all sorts of airfare and hotel discounts for going in what is considered the “off season”. This year like last, we stayed at lovely Hotel Rangá for a few days and splurged on the Antarctica Suite.

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We hoped to see the Northern Lights again, after last year’s amazing display,

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but alas we were not so lucky. The weather this year was very snowy, indeed snowing every day. (We actually really loved all of the snow this year) So, with the snow came the clouds and the lights were just not visible. In a last-ditch attempt to chase the Aurora down, we even went out with SuperJeep on one of our last days in Reykjavik, but still it managed to elude us.

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I will say though, the SuperJeep Northern Lights tour was a lot of fun, full of off-roading and vodka spiked hot chocolate. I definitely recommend them if you are in Reykjavik and want to get out of the city for a better chance of seeing the lights. The folks at SuperJeep really put forth a good effort on our part, but the cloud coverage just would give! Oh well, I won’t be too disappointed because it means we’ll just have to go back next year to try again :)

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Another tour that did not disappoint, but was in fact the highlight of the trip this year was our journey to Jökulsárlón with South Iceland Adventure Company.

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We had gone on a tour to Thórsmörk with them last year and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. So I contacted them this year and was able to book a private Jökulsárlón tour with them. They don’t usually offer that tour in December because the limited daylight hours combined with the long travel time and possible dodgy December weather make it a challenge. Nevertheless,  they were willing to give it a try if we were and we are so glad that we decided to give it a go! Now we probably could have just driven there ourselves, but the advantage of having South Iceland Adventure take us was that there was no driving, we could just sit back, relax and take in the gorgeous vistas. And our fantastic tour guide, Stefnir, is from the area right around Jökulsárlón, so he was just a wealth of information and knew all the best places to visit along the way. Nothing like a local’s knowledge! Jökulsárlón is a large lake formed by a glacier located in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Bits of the Vatnajökull glacier break off (calve) into the lake and these icebergs float around until they melt enough to fit through the narrow opening of the lake and drift out into the ocean, though some do wash up on the nearby black sand beach.

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This place is stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful! Completely surreal, haunting and magical. Simply a must-see if you visit Iceland. And if you can, leave the driving and the expert guiding to the folks at South Iceland Adventure Company. You won’t regret it.  Pictures really don’t do Jökulsárlón justice, but here are a few for you.

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The black lines in some of the icebergs are caused by ash from past volcanic eruptions.

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In the summer you can zoom around the lake in Zodiac boats for a upclose view of the icebergs. As you can see, December proves a bit too icy for that.

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Over at the black sand beach…

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Now we did manage to drive around  south Iceland on our own a bit and after getting turned back by a snowstorm one day, we persevered and made it out to the tiny fishing village of Vík and the Dyrhólaey peninsula the following day. I’ll just let our pictures do the talking here…

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After our stay in the countryside, we headed into Reykjavik for a few days. We hiked up to Hallgrímskirkja to take in the views.

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Reykjavik bird’s-eye view

We took a day trip out to The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal pool and Spa located in a lava field in Grindavík about 40 minutes from Reykjavik.We simply wouldn’t miss it. This year was interesting because the winds were just insane. I kid you not there were literally white caps forming in the pool! As a consequence we tended to shelter under bridges and behind rocks and were still able to really enjoy the waters.

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Otherwise we had a great time just hanging out in the city.

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Once again, we couldn’t stay away from Bæjarins beztu pylsur! Best hot dogs in the country.

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Believe me, we ate at least one every day we were in Reykjavik!

This is where I have to give a huge shout out to a superb Icelandic travel blog, I Heart Reykjavik , written by Auður Ösp. I found her site after our visit last year and have followed it ever since. If you are headed to Iceland, you really must take a look this blog. Come to think of it, you should really check it out whether or not you have plans to visit Iceland. Not only is this blog very entertaining and witty but it is also chock full of honest expert advice from a local on all the sights and natural wonders to be seen in Iceland.  You will also find savvy travel tips, bar and restaurant recommendations and reviews, notes about Icelandic history and culture and even a few lessons on how to say useful phrases in  the Icelandic language. And for a bonus, Auður is a wonderful photographer and Iceland is a gorgeous subject. If her stunning photos can’t tempt you to visit, I don’t know what could! This year we followed lots of her recommendations and can say it sure beat the tired old tourist guide we were dragging around with us last year. Thanks to I Heart Reykjavik we found Ölstofan, a great down to earth bar which not only serves up delicious beer – such as Bríó, their own German pilsner- but does it with music played at a level which is conducive to actually being able to have a conversation with the other folks there who, like us, tend to be a few years past their 25th birthday, she led us to

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Chillin at Ölstofan

The Noodle Station which served up some truly spicy (not often found in Icelandic cuisine) Thai Noodle Soup that I’m still craving, ate the best french fries in Reykjavik at the Laundromat Cafe (and yes you can really do your laundry there while eating fries, reading a book, drinking a beer and surfing the internet) and had one of the best meals of our lives at Grillmarkaðurinn. This top-notch restaurant serves up the freshest local ingredients in exquisitely prepared traditional Icelandic dishes with a modern twist. And it is one of the most beautifully designed restaurants in which we’ve ever had the pleasure of dining. The decor was a blend of chic modern and natural organic outdoorsiness (I think I just invented this word). Our experience there was superb from start to finish! We give it our highest recommendations. So our heartfelt thanks go out to I Heart Reykjavik! We couldn’t have done it without you!

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But I suppose I should get back on the subject of this White Chocolate Skyramisu. Icelandic folks love their Skyr and I noticed that it was featured in quite a few desserts. This one really tempted me in particular because of the inclusion of coffee and white chocolate. Yum!  This tasty dessert comes together very quickly and is sure to please. It is a bit heavier than its inspiration, Tiramisu, but believe me you will savour every thick, rich, creamy decadent spoonful.

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All the while thinking of just how good for you Skyr is. Yeah…you could even say you were being virtuous by gobbling up this dish…At least that’s what I was able to convince myself of! I’m just sitting around, scarfing down dish after dish, thinking about our recent Icelandic break and planning out some adventures for this coming December! (Anyone up for a jaunt into the magma chamber of a volcano?)

PS. Just a reminder – my annual St. Patrick’s Day blog-stravaganza is going to start this Saturday March 1st! I will be posting one Irish-y recipe a day all the way up to March 17th! The Baileys, Guinness and Jameson will be flowing! Check back in to see all the fun! (And wish me luck! – 17 days in a row is a lot of blogging!)

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White Chocolate Skyramisu

recipe adapted from skyr.is

Ingredients:

for the base:

  •  2 – 250 gram bag of bite sized wafer cookies
  • 3/4 cup strong black coffee

for the filling:

  • 400 grams cream cheese
  • 2 containers (300 grams) vanilla skyr
  • 1 tablespoon milk or cream
  • 1 cup (150 grams) White Chocolate
  • 2 Tablespoons brandy or coffee liquor (I used Kahlua)
  • 1 cup (100 grams) icing sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • white chocolate shavings for decoration
  • cocoa powder for decoration
  • rolled wafer cookies

Directions:

Layer the wafer biscuits (cookies) on the bottom of a 9 X 13″ dish. Pour coffee over wafers and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine cream cheese and skyr mixing until smooth. Add icing sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, to cream cheese/skyr mixture and continue to mix until fully incorporated. Add egg yolks to the cream cheese mixture mixing until combined.

Place chopped white chocolate in microwave proof bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of milk to chocolate. Microwave in 15 second increments until melted, stirring often. Add liquor into melted chocolate and mix until combined.

Gently fold the melted chocolate/liquor mixture into the skyr mixture.

Spoon filling over the soaked wafer cookies and chill.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with cocoa powder and grated white chocolate. Garnish further with a rolled wafer cookie.

Enjoy!


Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin for my Valentine

February 14, 2014

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So here it is, Valentine’s Day yet again. And this one had quite an exciting meteorological lead up to it around here. Folks have been pretty much hysterical all week over the HUGE snow storm that was slated to commence clobbering us on Wednesday evening. Didn’t I say Winter wasn’t done with us yet…dang that old Punxsutawney varmint! (Just kidding…Sorry Phil, I won’t shoot the messenger!) Usually when there is that much hype about a storm here, nothing actually happens. But this time we did end up with about 10 inches in the wee hours of Thursday and sleety rain/snow throughout the entire day. Luckily I was prepared to make a gorgeous treat for my Valentine and had all of my ingredients ready right here in my cozy warm home and did not need to go out to brave the grocery stores, which if they were even open, I’m sure were in a quite a state to say the least! This year I will be sticking to my usual template when making Valentine’s Day Treats for my sweetie. I think the first one I ever blogged about was Lemon Curd Bread Pudding with a Blackberry Glaze,

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the next year I was on to Luscious Lemon Squares,

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then I whipped up a Poached Pear Tart with Lemony Cream.

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Anyone spot a pattern here? I just noticed that they all had lemon in them, but that isn’t really what is key here. Give up? They are all fruit desserts. No rich, decadent, indulgent, oh so common on Valentine’s Day chocolate in sight! Now I’ve told you that I think the husband’s preference for fruit desserts over chocolate ones is a bit inconceivable for me, though I must say, I don’t necessarily want chocolate…You guys know me by now right? What do I want? CUPCAKES! (just thought I’d make that word really stand out in case my sweetie just happens to be reading this post…hint, hint!) But since I’m such a lovely and thoughtful wife, I did not make my Valentine cupcakes. I made him this fantastic Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin!

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I was lucky enough to receive Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas and immediately knew this Tarte Tatin would be the Valentine’s Day dish this year. If you have not got a copy of the book, what in the world are you waiting for?!! It is chock full of delicious recipes, similar to the ones found on her blog, as well as her stunning photos. And let me tell you, this Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin did not disappoint. It was very quick and easy to make. You really only dirty one pan, the cast iron skillet that you cook it in. You start by cooking the bananas in a boozy butterscotch sauce on the stove top.

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This is where you will lose any element of surprize because the tantalizing aroma of the bubbling banana medley will bring every single person who is in the house into the kitchen to investigate. Next step is to add the buttery puff pastry topper and then pop the whole thing into the oven for about 25 minutes until it is bubbly and golden.

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Are you drooling yet?

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Next you carefully flip it over onto a plate and get ready for folks to swoon!

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I think it looked truly impressive. Not to mention how scrumptious it tasted…and I am not even that big of a fruity dessert fan.

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I did indeed choose wisely for my Valentine. He was over the moon! Hope everyone has a Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Butterscotch Banana Tarte Tatin

Recipe from: Smitten Kitchen Cookbook  by Deb Perelman or you can see recipe online at EatDrink.CA

yield: 6 – 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • All-purpose flour, for work surface
  • 1 sheet frozen puff-pastry dough, thawed in the refrigerator for 1 day
  • 3 Tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes, such as Maldon
  • 5 Large ripe bananas peeled, halved lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon bourbon or Scotch (optional – are you kidding me?! I chose Knob Creek Bourbon)
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Directions:

For this recipe, you’ll need a 9″ skillet heavy enough so you fear dropping it on your toes. Preheat your oven to 400° F. Roll out your puff pastry on a floured surface to a 9″ circle, and trim if necessary. Transfer the pastry to the fridge until needed.

Melt the butter in the 9″ skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the sugar and salt. Cook, swirling the skillet occasionally, until the mixture turns medium amber, about 3 minutes.

Arrange the bananas in the skillet, overlapping them slightly. Cook, without stirring, for 3 minutes. Drizzle the vanilla and the alcohol of you choice over the bananas and cook them until most of the liquor has evaporated and liquid has thickened, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove the bananas from heat.

Place the pastry round on top of the bananas and transfer it to the oven. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and puffed, about 25 minutes. Remove the tarte from the oven, and carefully invert the tarte onto a serving plate. Don’t even think about serving this without vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!


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