Black Velvet Frankenstein Cupcakes

October 26, 2018

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So woooo-hooo! This year I am on it! I am actually blogging about a Halloween recipe, prior to the actual date of the holiday. Last year I didn’t get my Halloween Cupcakes up on my blog until November, so quite an improvement. Now just look at these adorable Frankenstein Cupcakes I have for you this year!

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And these cupcakes aren’t only cute…no siree! They are absolutely delish! The cupcake portion is a decadent Black Velvet cupcake, which is so moist it practically melts in your mouth and it is frosted with Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting, which is my all time favorite frosting. Unlike American or Simple Buttercream icing which can be very heavy and taste somewhat greasy – this frosting is perfectly sweet light and fluffy.

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Halloween is my favorite holiday! I mean, think about it…You get to dress weird, drink booze and eat candy for dinner. In fact all of that fun stuff is encouraged. How could you go wrong on such a day! Halloween actually has Irish origins. Our modern Halloween celebrations are derived from the Celtic holiday of Samhain. Samhain was Celtic New Year. It was a harvest festival which marked the dying of the sun-god and a turning to the colder, dormant half of the year. On this night, the Celts believed the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at its lowest point. The dead could more easily travel back over to our side, and if we weren’t careful, we could accidentally wander over in to their world and be trapped-a good reason to stay close to home and bonfires, no doubt! This belief likely gave rise to our Halloween legends of ghosts, ghouls and witches wandering about on this night in particular. I’ve posted some great Halloween recipes in past years ranging from the historically based traditional recipes such as:

Soul Cakes (Traditional Halloween/ Samhain)

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Yeasted Irish Barmbrack Bread (traditional Halloween/Samhain)

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Irish Tea Barmbrack with a Whiskey Honey Glaze (traditional Halloween/Samhain)

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To the more whimsical offerings such as:

White Chocolate Mummy Pretzels

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Halloween Cookies & Cream Owl Cupcakes

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Mini Mummy Brownie Bite Cupcakes

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As well as some wonderful boozy libations to kick your celebrations into high gear:

Fireball Cider Cocktail

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Roasty Toasty Cocktail

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And last year’s Halloween treat which combined whimsical and boozy altogether with these adorable – I mean terribly frightening – Itsy-Bitsy Tipsy Spider Cupcakes.

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But let me get back to what’s on the Halloween treat menu this year: Black Velvet Frankenstein Cupcakes.

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I was inspired to make these when I saw Your Cup of Cake’s blog featuring them. You should definitely take a look at her blog before you decorate these little monsters. She has a video that shows exactly how she did it. However, she used a different cupcake for her cake portion, as well as a different frosting. I really adore these Black Velvet Cupcakes. Not only are they the perfect darkest of dark shade of black, but they simply taste amazing. And I’ve already told you how I love Swiss Meringue Frosting, so smooth and silky! So I made a few changes to the ingredients to suit my taste, but credit Your Cup of Cake for the perfect design!

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All if all, these cupcakes are pretty easy to make. Decorating them is a bit fiddly. Getting the frosting smoothed to the correct shape for the Frankenstein head took some attention. The candy scars took a bit of time the way I did them, but I like the taste of white chocolate better than that gel frosting you find in a tube in the supermarket. Unwrapping all of the Rolo candies was a bit of a pain….But just look at these little monsters! The end, without a doubt, justifies the means here. Folks will go mad for these and you’ll be the belle of the Halloween ball! Sooo…I’ve actually given you enough time this year…what are you waiting for? Get into your laboratory – errr kitchen – and create a batch of these Black Velvet Frankenstein Cupcakes today! Happy Halloween!!!

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Black Velvet Frankenstein Cupcakes

  • Servings: 18 cupcakes
  • Print

recipe: Frankenstein Design by Your Cup of Cake, Black Velvet Cupcake recipe: Craftsy

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1½ cups butter (room temperature)
  • 2 1/2 cups superfine sugar
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons black gel food color
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking cocoa powder (dutch process)
  • 2 pinches of salt (approx. 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons of white vinegar (distilled)
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder

For the frosting:

  • 5 large (150 grams) egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • green gel food coloring

For the decorations:

  • Wilton googly candy eyes – unless you want to make eyes with Ghirardelli white chocolate melts and M&M’s as described below.
  • Rolo Candy
  • Chocolate Jimmy Sprinkles
  • Ghirardelli White Chocolate Candy Melts
  • Red gel food color

Directions:

For the Cupcakes:

Preheat the oven to 350° F and fill the wells of a cupcake pan with liners. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy. Add black food color until desired shade is reached. Remember – once baked the cupcakes will have a darker color. My batter looked more grey than black, but once baked the cupcakes were very dark.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla paste and mix to incorporate.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa and salt together.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in thirds, adding buttermilk between each addition. Mix until just combined.

In a small bowl, mix the baking powder and vinegar together. It will bubble and fizz. Add it to the batter and mix until just incorporated.

Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup scoop, fill the lined cupcake tins.

Bake for  20 – 25 minutes

Cool completely on wire rack.

For the Frosting:

Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice or vinegar to remove any trace of grease. Make a double boiler by placing the mixer bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl, whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140°F, or until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl no longer feels warm, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low-speed, add the butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated. Continue beating until it has reached a silky smooth texture. If the buttercream curdles simply keep mixing and it will come back to smooth. If the buttercream is too thin and runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes before continuing mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. Add the vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.

Add green food coloring gel to frosting until it reaches desired hue.

If you would like to make this frosting ahead of time, keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Let come to room temperature and rewhip in the mixer with the paddle attachment before using.

When you are ready to assemble the cupcakes, place frosting in pastry bag fitted with a large round tip & pipe a swirl of frosting on top of each cupcake. Use a knife or offset spatula to flatten the frosting. Turn the cupcake upside down and press into a bowl/plate filled with chocolate Jimmy sprinkles. Press on the eyes (see note below) and use an extra sprinkles to make the eyebrows and mouth . Use Rolo candies to make the bolts. You could also use chocolate chips, bits of a Tootsie Roll or maybe even a mini marshmallows. Press the bolts into the side of his head. Put on a little “stitch” (You can use red store-bought frosting, I used a gel food color to color Ghirardelli white candy melts.

I used Wilton Candy eyes on these Frankenstein cupcakes, mostly because I was a bit pressed for time. There is certainly nothing wrong with those candy eyes, and they don’t really taste bad, but for more tasty eyes you can melt some of the Ghirardelli white candy melts. Place the melted candy into a piping bag and then pipe out little white eyes onto parchment paper. Place M&M candies into the white chocolate before it hardens to make the “iris” of the eye and voila – There you have it – tasty candy eyes. For the “stitches” I colored the white chocolate with red gel food color and then piped it onto parchment paper. Once it hardened, I transferred the stitches to the Frankensteins.

Enjoy!

Black Velvet Frankenstein Cupcakes brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Black Velvet Frankenstein Cupcakes:
Wilton Mini Candy Eyes 
Wilton Large Red Candy Eyes
King Arthur Double Dutch Process Dark Cocoa Powder
Ghirardelli White Candy Melts
Wilton Icing Color – Gel Food Color

 

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Apple Cider Donut Cake

October 18, 2018

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It looks like Fall weather has finally arrived! I can not tell you how exceedingly happy that makes me!!! This is definitely my kind of weather. There is a crisp chill to the day, the leaves are changing, and there is often a whiff of bonfire smoke in the air. Time for toasting marshmallows, making s’mores and over indulging in every kind of apple, cinnamon, pumpkin-y type of dessert that exists. Which leads me to do something I have never done before. I am going to re-blog a recipe. And not just any recipe…Oh no. This is the recipe that has received the highest number of views EVER in the history of my blog. That’s right! With over 500,00 views, I am choosing to share the recipe for this Apple Cider Donut Cake with all you kind folks once again. I originally published this back in 2014 and its popularity is still going strong! And I want to tell you about a new feature I have added to my blog. Now, when you click on the Runcible Eats/Recipes tab you will notice that I have added a “Favorites” category. What you will find here are recipes that folks have said are their favorites. Many had mentioned to me that they often had difficulty finding their favorite recipes among the plethora of recipes that I have published. So now here they are, easy-peasy to find, right at the beginning of the recipe lists. If you don’t see your favorite there, drop me a line and let me know. So without further ado, I give you: Apple Cider Donut Cake (which you will find at the top of the favorites category)! Could I have crammed any more deliciousness into that recipe title? I’ve already told you how I love apples. And Apple Cider…especially the type that is a bit more medicinal…if you know what I’m saying…is exciting. Donuts! Who doesn’t love cinnamon sugar laden apple cider donuts?! Well you get all of those mouthwateringly yummy flavours all wrapped up in one gorgeous big old bundt cake.

IMG_9804This cake is amazingly moist and tender, just bursting with apple flavour. It would be delicious simply unadorned, but it is completely over the top when brushed with some boozy cider glaze and dusted, quite liberally with crunchy cinnamon sugar.

IMG_9750It is great anytime of the day, for breakfast, tea-time snack, dessert or even when eaten in the dark in the middle of the night while everyone else is sleeping. What? Like you haven’t done that?

IMG_9735And I must say, this cake is a breeze to make. I love Apple Cider Donuts, let there be no doubt. But a gotta say, they are a bit fiddly to make, what with the rising and the frying etc. Definitely a labour of love. Now, this cake will lead folks to believe you slaved away all day….when really you were outside enjoying the beautiful Fall weather. And I won’t tell them otherwise. Mum’s the word.

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Apple Cider Donut Cake

  • Servings: 15 -18 slices - depending on how you cut them
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: Two In the Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider *(see information below)
  • 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (you can substitute vegetable oil – but coconut tastes better!)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste (can substitute in extract if you don’t have paste…put get some paste, you won’t regret it!)

For the Cider Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup hard cider *(see below for substitutions)

For the Cinnamon Sugar Coating:

  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and spray a bundt pan with baking spray. (Recently I have had a couple of folks mention that they haven’t had much success with the baking spray saying that the cake stuck to the pan. Then I recently experienced the same thing myself. When I made the cake again the following day and greased the pan with butter & flour and the cake came out perfectly. Don’t know why this is, but just thought I’d share.)

In a medium saucepan, bring chopped apples and cider to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until apples are fork tender. About 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cool for a few minutes, then pulse in a food processor or blender until pureed. Measure out 1 cup apple mixture and stir the milk into it. Set the apple/milk mixture aside for later. (As for the remaining cider/apple puree, it is left over. I usually save it and put it over yogurt, or oatmeal. It is also fabulous heated slightly and drizzled over ice cream.)

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Add the oil and mix well. CAUTION: If you are planning on using coconut oil, make sure those eggs are at room temperature or slightly warmer if your house is chilly. If the eggs are cold and you add coconut oil to the mixture, the coconut oil will solidify and you will end up with a clumpy mess!

Add the flour mixture and apple/milk mixture alternatively in three additions, scraping the bowl as needed and mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat once more, just to combine.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the cake in its pan on a cooling rack for ten minutes before removing the cake itself to a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes.

While cake is baking, prepare Cider Glaze. Melt butter, sugar and water over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil and let boil for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately add the cider, stirring to combine.

Place baking sheet under wire rack. Using a pastry brush or marinate brush, cover cake with glaze. I usually do this in several passes, letting one application of glaze sink in and then going back over the cake with another.

Prepare the Cinnamon Sugar Coating. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Sprinkle the warm, glazed cake with cinnamon sugar, using fingers to rub it onto the sides of the cake. (I usually place my cinnamon sugar mixture in an empty spice bottle, or salt shaker and then sprinkle it over the cake.)

*Since I originally posted this recipe, I have had quite a few questions about hard cider vs. fresh cider. So let me just start out by saying fresh cider is the juice from pressed apples. It is unfiltered and often appears cloudy. Unless you buy it directly from an orchard it has likely also been pasteurized. Hard Cider occurs when unpasteurized fresh cider is allowed to ferment. It becomes carbonated and alcoholic. This cider can be found wherever beer is sold. Now as far as substitutions: If you do not wish to use hard cider in the glaze, you can substitute in fresh cider. However, fresh cider is often sweeter than hard cider and the glaze will be a bit sweeter, but still delicious I’m sure. You can also just leave the cider out of the glaze, which would then just be a sweet buttery glaze, but lack apple flavor. Another possibility for a substitution that lacks alcohol, but still gives you an intense apple flavor is boiled cider. Boiled Cider is fresh cider which has been boiled down to produce an intensely flavored apple cider syrup. I have provided a link below if you wish to try that ingredient. I always use hard cider for my glaze, so I’m not sure how much boiled cider you should use as a substitution. I would start with 1/2 Tablespoon and taste it until it reaches your desired level of apple-y goodness.

Enjoy!

Apple Cider Donut Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links to Useful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Apple Cider Donut Cake:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Microplane Grate & Shake Nutmeg Grater

Oxo Silicone Pastry Brush

Nordic Ware Bundt Cake Pan

Oxo Dusting Wand for Sugar

Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste

Boiled Cider


Skúffukaka – Icelandic Chocolate Cake

August 24, 2018

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I can’t believe that I didn’t experience Skúffukaka until our 7th visit to Iceland, considering it is a traditional dessert. Indeed nearly every Icelandic family has their own version of the recipe, complete with closely guarded secret ingredients. Basically it is a dark chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, sprinkled with coconut flakes. It isn’t fancy per se – in fact skúffukaka means “oven pan cake” or “baking tray cake”. They have a similar version of this recipe in Sweden which is called Kärleksmums (love-yums), but folks in Iceland are pretty practical, so they’ve decided to call it Baking Tray Cake. But don’t let its rustic name put you off, this cake is delicious! I was served my first slice at The Garage Apartments by our lovely host Anna. The Husband and I didn’t know we were eating Skúffukaka at the time, we just knew we loved it!

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The Skúffukaka baked for us by our lovely host Anna at the Garage Apartments.

Anna served us wonderful baked goods every day of our visit. The first being that amazing Varmahlíð Apple Cake that I told you about in my previous blog. I was able to search around the internet and figure out that the chocolate cake she served was called Skùffukaka and then I researched a recipe, which I will share here with you today.

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But let me also take this opportunity to both tell you more about that fantastic trip to Iceland that the Husband and I went on last September as well as alert you to a new feature on my blog. If you look up at the top navigation bar, there is now a “travels” section you can choose. I have organized all of our travel posts here. So it will be much easier to find that trip we took to Prague way back in 2013, should you be searching. These posts not only feature a delicious dish that we experienced on our trip, but are also chock full of lovely pictures and recommendations with links for hotels, restaurants, guides, shops etc, should you be inspired to visit the destination yourself. But back to this Iceland trip from 2017. After we had so much fun on the South Coast, we headed towards the East Fjords. The East Fjords are really a hidden gem in Iceland. Well, I guess they aren’t really hidden. They are right there in plain sight. They are just often overlooked by tourists. Most visitors don’t venture that far from Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. That, and the fact that only roughly 3% of Iceland’s population lives in this area of the country, ensures you will be able to experience some peaceful, beautiful isolation.

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On our way north-east, we stopped by the stunning  Jökulsárlón. Actually we stopped by on our way north and then again when we came back south. We just can not get enough of its breathtaking beauty.

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Jökulsárlón is a large lake which was formed by a glacier. It is located in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Bits of the Vatnajökull glacier break off (calve) into the lake, forming icebergs. These icebergs float around until they melt enough to fit through the narrow opening of the lake and drift out into the ocean,

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though some do wash up on the nearby black sand beach, known as Diamond Beach.

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The first time we visited it was in December of 2013. It was really chilly that day, I’m talking like 12°F (-11°C). We braved the temps as long as we could, but we were pretty dang cold! So visiting in September was quite a different experience. It was sunny and warm both days. We really lucked out!

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A couple of seals swimming about

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Once we were able to finally tear ourselves away from Jökulsárlón, we continued on our northeast journey, taking a bit of time out to soak up the beauty that is Vestrahorn. Vestrahorn is one of the most photographed mountains in Iceland. It is located on the Stokksnes peninsula. One of Iceland’s earliest settlement farms was located in this area. The 454 meter high Vestrahorn mountain rises up from the lava dune strewn shore line. Truly a photographer’s paradise!

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We spent the night in an adorable little cabin

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where we were lucky enough to see a quick glimpse of the Northern Lights through the clouds.

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The next day we continued on towards Seyðisfjörður where we would be spending several days. On the way, zigzagging along the fjords on route 1, we saw many sleepy fishing towns surrounded by rugged mountains and dramatic coastlines. When we reached Egilsstaðir, we ventured off the ring road, up and over the Fjarðarheiði mountain pass, descending down into charming Seyðisfjörður (population 675). Nestled at the end of the fjord and surrounded by often snow peaked mountains and cascading waterfalls, picturesque Seyðisfjörður delights. Populated by many artists, musicians and craftspeople, this friendly town feels so welcoming.

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On our second day there we set off on a hike to see Tvísöngur, the sound sculpture created by german artist Lukas Kühne.

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This concrete structure consists of five interconnected domes, each with its own resonance that corresponds to a tone in the five tone harmony of traditional Icelandic singing.

After exploring the structure, we continued hiking on the Tvísöngur loop which took us up onto a plateau where we were treated to a bird’s eye view of the town and the fjord.

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Later that night we were delighted when the Northern Lights again made an appearance.

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After leaving Seyðisfjörður we headed south again, stopping at the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon where the Aurora put on an amazing show. It was so intense, it was actually difficult to get a good picture because rather than a wispy trail of green against the black sky, the entire sky turned green.

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Our final adventure on this action packed trip was going on a glacier walk on Svínafellsjökull glacier in Skaftafell National Park with Icelandic Mountain Guides. They showed us how to use crampons and ice axes and then off we went.

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Svínafellsjökull glacier is where the scenes that took place “beyond the wall” in Game of Thrones were shot.

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So I’m sure you must be really inspired now to plan your own adventure in Iceland. Please take a look at the helpful links below if you need some assistance in planning. And do whip up some moist and decadent Skúffukaka while pouring over maps and booking sights. With a slice of that chocolatey goodness and mug of coffee, hepped up on all that sugar and caffeine, there’ll be no stopping you!

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Skúffukaka

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe adapted from: Belle -ÆÐISLEG SKÚFFUKAKA

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

  • 280 grams sugar
  • 125 grams butter- room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs – room temperature
  • 200 grams flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 50 grams natural unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 100 ml milk

For the Frosting:

  • 130 grams salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 250 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 grams dark chocolate, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons cream
  • 1 -2 Tablespoon strong coffee – cooled
  • coconut flakes to sprinkle over the cake

Directions:

For the Cake;

Preheat the oven to 355° F (180°C).

Butter and flour one 9X9″ baking tray.

In a bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together for 1 -2 minutes. Add the eggs, mixing well after the addition of each egg. Add the vanilla extract. Mix on medium high-speed for 6 -7 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the dry mixture to the butter & sugar. Mix until just combined.

Add the milk and mix until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking tray and spread evenly. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Set on a wire rack to cool before frosting.

For the Frosting:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter and egg together until combined. With the mixer on low-speed, add the confectioners sugar slowly, 1/4 cup  at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the cocoa and vanilla. Add the melted and cooled chocolate and continue mixing.

Mix in the cream and 1 – 2 Tablespoons of the cooled coffee to taste. Continue mixing until the frosting is smooth. If the icing is not the correct consistency for frosting the cake you can either add a bit more confectioner’s sugar or refrigerate for a short time to allow it to set.

Spread frosting over the cooled cake. This recipe makes a good amount of frosting, so you may not use all of it on the cake. Add as thick a layer of frosting as you prefer. Sprinkle with coconut flakes.

Enjoy!

Skúffukaka brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Skúffukaka:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Oxo Good Grips 7 Piece Nesting Measuring Beaker Set

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Links for Planning your vacation in the East Fjords Iceland:

Accommodation:

Bragdavellir Cottages: located 10km from Djúpivogur, just off of Route 1, these cottages are clean, cozy and offer a fantastic view. Our only regret is that we had just one night’s stay.

Lónsleira Apartments: located in Seyðisfjörður these apartments are perfection! Stylishly furnished, sparklingly clean with amazing location and view!

Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon: We loved this hotel! So chic and stylish, not only are the rooms beautiful, but it is also located between Jökulsárlón and Skatafell National Park, two amazing destinations. We can not wait to visit again!

Restaurants/Bars:

Íshúsið Pizzeria: Located in Höfn, right on the harbor, this friendly pizzeria serves up some outstanding pies! We stopped on our way north and again on the way back south.

Kaffi Lára – El Grilló Bar: Located in Seyðisfjörður. Warm and friendly, you will love relaxing in this local bar/restaurant. Everything we tried here was very good, burgers to barbecue, but there was one standout item….they serve the BEST baked potatoes I have ever eaten. I kid you not. One night when we were there, we saw a couple who had just finished their meal. The lady ordered a slice of pie for dessert and her companion ordered another baked potato! Amazing!!!

Tours:

Icelandic Mountain Guides: Want to go on a glacier adventure? Contact these professionals! They won’t let you down!

Rental Cars:

Blue Car Rental: We ALWAYS rent our car from Blue Car Rental. Friendly Icelandic company, well maintained, newer, quality vehicles – they’ve never let us down and at this point we have rented from them on six different visits and have had excellent experiences every time. The price they quote on their website has all of the insurance included so there are no surprizes when you show up at their rental desk. Highly recommend!


Varmahlíð Apple Cake

August 12, 2018

 

 

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Last September the Husband and I went on an amazing trip to Iceland. It was our 7th time visiting and we just can’t get enough of the place! Indeed since this trip we have visited again in February 2018 and are planning another visit this Fall! But let me not get ahead of myself. I’m just going to tell you about the September 2017 visit right now. Believe me, there be more to come. So last September, we were mostly focused on visiting the East Fjords, but we did spend some time revisiting the South Coast. Although we had been there several times, there were still plenty of things in the area that we hadn’t experienced. I first encountered this Varmahlíð Apple Cake

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at The Garage Apartments, which are an absolutely wonderful base of operations if you are visiting that area of the country.

P1010297 (1)These lovely modern rustic apartments are found in former old garage that is located on a family farm belonging to Anna & Siggi. This picturesque homestead is nestled right up to the foot of the mountain topped by the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, under which the famous air traffic interrupting volcano resides.

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Varmahlíð actually means “warm hill”. There is another Varmahlíð in North Iceland. With all the geothermal activity on the island it is easy to see why there would be more than one place known as Varmahlíð. But here I’m referring to an area on the South Coast near the Ejyafjallajökull volcano.

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Siggi’s family has been living on this land for over 200 years. Now Anna & Siggi are operating a “gentleman’s farm” on the site as well as managing several apartments for Iceland’s ever-expanding tourist market.

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Located exactly between the two famous waterfalls Skógafoss

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and Seljalandfoss,

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You can walk behind Seljalandfoss for an alternate view!

these exceptional apartments are the perfect central location for taking in all the South Coast of Iceland has to offer. We of course visited the waterfalls, not our first visit but they never seem to get old. We spent some time on the black sand beach near Vik

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and visited the plane wreck at Sólheimasandur.

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Next we travelled out to the breath-taking Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar).

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Once there we met the adorable Tóti, Vestmannaeyjar’s famous puffin

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and saw the whole town turn out to rescue baby pufflings at night (for more info on the pufflings and Westman islands (see Iceland links below). We went on an exciting rib safari tour around Heimaey.

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The Famous Elephant rock

Drank some local beer at the Brothers Brewery,

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visited the Eldheimar museum which documents the story of the surprise 1973 eruption of the volcano which caused the roughly 5,00 locals to flee on fishing boats in the middle of the night to the safety of the mainland. The eruption, which lasted for 5 months, buried 1/3 of the town in lava and destroyed over 400 houses and businesses. The resilient islanders did return and rebuilt the thriving community you will find today. Fascinating stuff! You really should consider visiting.

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One of the recently uncovered houses which had been buried by lava & ash during the eruption.

And if all the gorgeous scenery hasn’t convinced you, we had the best meal we have ever had in Iceland, which is saying something because the food there is fantastic. The restaurant is Slipurinn. Located in an old machinery shop this family owned eatery features seasonal local sourced dishes often including herbs and seaweed foraged right there on the island. Simply divine food in a friendly and casual environment. Don’t miss it!

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The Husband and I atop the newly formed volcano – Mt. Eldfell

Back on the mainland, we hiked the magnificent Fimmvörðuháls trail, a big accomplishment for us. This challenging 13 mile hike took us up over a mountain (approximately 3,600 feet elevation), past 22 waterfalls,

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past the still warm lava fields from the most recent eruption,

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between two glaciers,

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over the Kattarhryggur (cat’s spine)

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and down the other side through Goðaland (the land of the Gods),

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finishing in Thorsmork (Thor’s Forest).

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It was just jaw dropingly gorgeous and occasionally somewhat terrifying! – Narrow paths with steep drop-offs are not for the faint of heart!

And not only was the Garage Apartments location ideal for all our explorations, but Anna was also such an amazing host, so friendly, warm and welcoming. Her spacious apartments were stylishly decorated, sparklingly clean

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and filled with thoughtful little touches,

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Adorable mice on the bed side table!

and as if all of that was not enough, she served us scrumptious freshly home-baked desserts every day! This delicious Apple Cake was one of them.

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This particular Iceland trip was chock full of activities and I can not tell you how happy we were to come back to find home baked treats waiting for us. What a pleasant surprize! Moist and tender and not too sweet, it was just perfect with a nice hot mug of tea. Anna kindly shared the recipe with me, which I will now share with you.

 

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I must admit, I had to do a few conversions before baking this cake. I don’t have any measuring devices marked with deciliters – but I was able to figure it out pretty quickly. I baked the cake in an 8X8″ pan, but you could also use a 9X9″ – just make sure you adjust the baking time.

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And if you are planning a trip to Iceland anytime in the future and want to visit the South Coast, you’ll know exactly where you should book your accommodation. As a matter of fact, the Husband and I are taking our parents to Iceland this fall. It will be their first trip so we will be playing tour guides for them. And guess where we’ll be staying…That’s right! We are very much looking forward to our upcoming stay at the cozy Garage apartments. For further Iceland recommendations, see my guide at the bottom of this post. In the meantime, try this recipe and enjoy a slice of Varmahlíð Apple Cake while you plan your upcoming adventure.

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Varmahlíð Apple Cake

  • Servings: 9 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Anna, owner of the Garage Apartments

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams soft salted butter
  • 2.5 Deciliter Sugar (1 cup + 1 Tablespoon)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Deciliter Cream (100 ml)
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 -5 green apples – sliced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 355° F (180°C)

Place the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add the cream and vanilla. Stir to combine.

Add the flour/baking powder mix to the batter. Mix until just combined.

Place the batter in a buttered deep 8X8″ baking pan and top with the apples. ( I sprinkled the top of my cake with cinnamon sugar, but this was not included in Anna’s recipe. If you love cinnamon like I do, just mix 1/4 cup sugar with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and sprinkle over the apples before baking.)

Bake for 45 -50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean at 355°F (180°C).

Enjoy!

Varmahlíð Apple Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Varmahlíð Apple Cake:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Oxo Good Grips 7 Piece Nesting Measuring Beaker Set

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Links for Planning your vacation in Iceland:

I have tons of links, as well as some lovely photos, and delicious Icelandic recipes in previous blogs that I have written about our adventures in Iceland. For some inspiration take a look at:

December 2012 Visit to the South Coast & Reykjavik featuring White Chocolate Skyramisu

December 2013 Visit to the South Coast, Jökulsárlón & Reykjavik featuring Kanilsnúðar

July & December Visit to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, The Westfjords & Reykjavik featuring Ástarpungar aka Love Balls 

Here is a fun video that show you some of the beauty Iceland has to offer, which will surely get you excited for any upcoming Iceland visit. And it will teach you a few words in Icelandic as well. It is known as “The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World”! Sing along to Inspired by Iceland’s “A – Ö of Iceland”.

If you enjoyed this video, take a look at Inspired By Iceland’s site. They have great little videos showing you gorgeous scenes from each area of Iceland, while teaching you a few more Icelandic words along the way.

Westman Island links:

To Buy tickets on the Herjólfur Ferry as well as read about all the things to see and do take a look at: Visit Westman Islands.

Hotel Vestmannaeyjar – Great accommodation on the Islands.

Stofan Bakhús – Great bakery! Got the best kanilsnúðars there that I have ever had in Iceland! We also got some great sandwiches to take on a hike. Everything there looks delicious. Go be tempted!

On puffins: If you travel to the Westman Island at the end of August/beginning of September there is a good chance you will see baby puffins (pufflings) being rescued by the local children. At this time of year, the pufflings leave their nests but get confused by the lights of the town and rather than flying out to sea, they end up flying into town. The children go out at night with flashlights to find them. They take them home in cardboard boxes for the night. The next morning they take them to the Saeheimar Aquarium to be measured and weighed and the children can have their pictures taken with their little charges as well. Once done, the kids take the little birds to the shore and release them back into the wild during daylight hours so that they won’t become confused. We were lucky enough to be there when this was happening and it was unforgettable!

*On a sad note: Tóti the Puffin passed away in July. He was a great ambassador for Vestmannaeyjar and brought joy to many. The Husband and I are so glad we were able to meet him. He will be sorely missed.

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Interested in hiking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail? See here:

If you are interested in hiking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, you can go all on your own. However, we strongly recommend going with a guide.  Weather at  the top of the mountain is very unpredictable and many tourists have ended up having to call ICE-SAR to be rescued. Don’t let this happen to you! We absolutely love the tour company Midgard Adventure and have gone out with them on many exciting adventures. They not only provided us with a knowledgeable and engaging guide but when we descended down into Thorsmork after our epic 9 – 10 hour hike, the folks from Midgard had grilled some hot dogs and were waiting for us with a cooler of beer as well as other snacks. It was just perfection! Check out their other tours as well. They are an amazing company! And they now offer cozy accommodation as well. Take a look at their basecamp where you can find a restaurant, cafe and bar as well.

 

 

 

 


Italian Easter Bread

April 3, 2018

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Happy Easter! Yes, I do realize that Easter was back on Sunday, but I really wanted to share this recipe for this beautiful Italian Easter Bread with you, even though I’m doing so a bit late. Truth be told, I had every intention to have this posted on Saturday morning, before Easter, but then life got in the way and it just didn’t happen. But hey, as it turns out, folks celebrate Easter every single year, so with this recipe already in hand you’ll be way ahead of the game for Easter 2019.

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This light and airy Italian Easter bread is similar to brioche. Rich and only slightly sweet, it looks amazing on your Easter brunch table. If you have a real sweet tooth, you can amp up the sugar factor by adding a sweet glaze once it comes out of the oven.  These lovely loaves are also a great way to display your brightly colored Easter Eggs.

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I love trying out Easter breads from around the world. Last year I baked Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread) . Tsoureki also has an egg or eggs baked into it.

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I’ve also made Slovak Paska

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And even tried my hand with the impressive Russian Kulich (Easter bread)

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And of course every year I bake Apple Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday.

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But let me get back to talking about this year’s offering – Italian Easter Bread. It was really very easy to make, rose like a champ and looked so festive on the brunch table. My only disappointment was the egg. The recipe said that you should use RAW eggs that have been dyed, not hard-boiled ones. The claim was that the eggs would cook perfectly as the bread baked. I was skeptical. I thought a baked egg would have a weird rubbery texture, but I was hopeful, so I did use raw eggs. Although it looks like Sprinkle Bakes (the blog on which I found this recipe) eggs came out great, mine did not. They were just not done, very runny. And I could not have left the bread in the oven for any longer than I did as it was perfectly golden. Turns out it wasn’t a disaster, we just ate around the offending egg. In the future I think I will just use a raw egg which has not been dyed, as a place holder in the oven. Once the bread is done baking, I will carefully remove that egg and swap it out for a perfectly hardboiled dyed egg. Another advantage of doing it that was is that you won’t have to worry about any of the eggs coloring bleeding onto the loaves. And don’t forget to rub your finished eggs with a little bit of oil to really make them shine!

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So, once again I hope you will forgive my tardiness with this Easter post. Please keep this Italian Easter Bread at the ready for next year. Happy be-lated Easter!

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Italian Easter Bread

  • Servings: 6 braided loaves
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Sprinkle Bakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups (301 ml.) milk or half and half
  • 1/3 cup (76 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • Pinch of salt (about 1/16 teaspoon)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 3 to 4 cups (408 to 544 grams) bread flour (approximate)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • Rainbow nonpareils
  • 6 raw eggs, room temperature, dyed in rainbow colors *please see my above note on use of raw eggs

Directions:

Combine the milk and butter in a small saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Warm just until the butter is completely melted and remove from the heat. Let cool until just warm.
Combine the yeast, salt, eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the warm milk and half of the flour. Knead with the dough hook until combined. Add more flour gradually until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the mixer. You may not have to use all of the flour (but I did!). Knead the dough about 3-5 minutes longer, or until completely smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn it over once to coat the top. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place, about 1 hour.

Gently deflate the dough with a fist. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and pat it down slightly so that the dough has an even thickness. Cut the dough into 12 even pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1-inch thick rope about 14 inches in length. Take two lengths and twist them together; loop the twist into a circle and pinch the ends together. Place the circle onto parchment lined baking sheets. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and let rise again for 1 hour, or until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the egg and 1 teaspoon water in a small condiment cup. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the loaves with the mixture. Sprinkle on the nonpareils and gently place a dyed egg in the middle of each loaf. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden and fragrant. Let cool on wire racks..

Notes:

  • For a simple milk glaze, mix 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar with 1-2 tablespoons of milk. Whisk together until smooth. A little vanilla extract couldn’t hurt, either.
  • After the dough is raised and turned out onto a work surface, 1/2 cup mixed candied fruit and 1/4 cup blanched almonds can be mixed in.  2 tablespoons of citrus zest may be added to the dough also.

Enjoy!

Italian Easter Bread brought to you by: Runcible Eats www.leaandjay.com

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Italian Easter Bread:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

SAF Instant Yeast

Hand Held Zester

Oxo Good Grips small silicone pastry brush

Oxo Good Grips 7 Piece Nesting Measuring Beaker Set

 


Butterfly Cakes (aka Fairy Cakes) filled with Strawberry Jam & Topped with Baileys Whipped Cream

March 17, 2018

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Woo-hoo! Today is St. Patrick’s Day!!! And as per usual, the last post of my St. Patrick’s Day recipe run features a cupcake. Well, not an American style cupcake, but what is known as a Butterfly Cake or also sometimes as a Fairy Cake in Ireland. Butterfly Cakes consist of a light Victoria sponge style cake that has a circle carved out that top, the resulting hollow has been filled with jam, topped with whipped cream and then had the halved top circle reinserted so as to resemble butterfly or fairy wings. Then the whole shebang is dusted with confectioners sugar. Butterfly Cakes are staples at children’s birthday parties. What I’ve got for you today is the adult version. My whipped cream is heavily laced with Baileys. Yup…these Butterflies are a wee bit tipsy!

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And I did say that you might see that delicious homemade Strawberry Jam that I mentioned in my very first post this St. Patrick’s Day season – Theresa’s Prize-Winning Scones with Strawberry Jam & Clotted Cream. And it has indeed made an appearance again filling these adorable little butterfly gems. The recipe for that Strawberry Jam comes from my friend Theresa’s cookbook Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen.

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Theresa runs, The Green Apron, which is an artisan preserve company. She grows much of the fruit and vegetables she uses in her preserves at her family’s orchards at Derryclough and in the walled vegetable garden at her parents 18th Century castle, Glenwilliam.

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Her award-winning preserves are made in small batches by traditional methods using locally sourced, organic produce where possible and without artificial preservatives, colours or setting agents.

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Theresa definitely knows her way around a jam jar. Every single creation of hers that  I have tasted has been exquisite and her Strawberry Jam is no exception. Simply divine! So I knew that it would be the perfect filling for these Butterfly Cakes.

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It is strange that as popular as these lovely treats are in Ireland, they never really made it across the pond to the States. American cupcakes generally are piled high with very sweet buttercream frosting. Now don’t get me wrong. I love cupcakes, pretty much all of them. But I will say that my least favorite of all of the frostings is American Buttercream. It is often grainy and toothachingly sweet. As I’ve said in many previous posts, Swiss Meringue Buttercream is the way to go. If that is the frosting you’ve got, go ahead and pipe a mini mountain onto each cake! The Husband, who really doesn’t care much for chocolatey type sweets, but loves any fruit based dessert, thought these treats were the bees knees. Not too sweet and just bursting with jam and fresh cream. I’m sure the Baileys presence didn’t hurt either! A delight on St. Patrick’s Day but a great recipe to have in your arsenal for use the entire year through.

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Well it looks like I’ve gotta get going…my blogging is done for a while. I’ve got some Patrick’s Day festivities to attend to. So see you in a week or so, Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daiobh (Happy St. Patrick’s Day)!

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Butterfly Cakes (aka Fairy Cakes) filled with Strawberry Jam & Topped with Baileys Whipped Cream

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 3/4 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 3/4 Cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons, 1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (can substitute vanilla extract)

For the topping:

  • strawberry jam – I just made up a batch! See the recipe here. or use store bought if you are short on time
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) heavy whipping cream, whipped
  • 2 Tablespoons confectioners sugar
  • 1 -2  Tablespoon Baileys (optional)
  • confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Directions:

Line cupcake tin with liners. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C)

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

Whisk egg white and buttermilk together in small bowl. Set aside.

In bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment beat butter until pale and creamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar, scraping down the bowl as needed and continuing to beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add vanilla paste and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in 4 additions alternating with the buttermilk/egg mixture, beating only until just combined.

Using 1/4 cup scoop, divide batter evenly among cupcake wells. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted shows a few moist crumbs.

Cool cupcake tin on wire rack for 5 minutes and then remove cupcakes from pan to finishing cooling on rack.

When ready to decorate, cut out the center of each cupcake, angling the knife at a 45° angle. The piece you remove should look like a cone. Cut the cone top of the cupcake in half so as to resemble butterfly wings. Fill the hollowed out part of the cupcake with strawberry jam. Top the jam with a dollop of Baileys whipped cream, or you can pipe the cream on as I did. Place the “wings” upright at an angle in the cream.

Dust generously with confectioners sugar.

Enjoy!

Butterfly Cakes brought to you by Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Butterfly Cakes filled with Strawberry Jam & Topped with Baileys Whipped Cream:

Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Oxo Good Grips Ice Cream Scoop

Oxo Good Grips Baker’s Dusting Wand


Chef Cathal Armstrong’s Shepherd’s Pie

March 16, 2018

 

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Ahhh…Shepherd’s Pie. Comfort food at its finest. There are many many versions of this dish. Today I am bringing you one from Chef Cathal Armstrong’s cookbook My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve. Chef Armstrong, originally from Dublin Ireland, has a culinary empire here in Northern Virginia  which includes Restaurant Eve, the Majestic Cafe, two branches of Eamonn’s – A Dublin Chipper, PX cocktail lounge and Society Fair a gourmet emporium and wine bar. He is an internationally recognized four-star chef and leader in the sustainable food movement which he attributes firmly to his Irish upbringing. Chef Armstrong has brought forth this cookbook which contains a collection of family recipes and Irish inspired dishes from Restaurant Eve.

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He makes his version of Shepherd’s Pie with a rich stew of diced lamb shoulder and fresh vegetables. It also has double potatoes – Potatoes in the stew and creamy mashed potatoes topping it. That is my kind of dish! I’m one of those folks that seriously considers ordering a baked potato and french fries for my two sides in a restaurant when given a choice. So of course I love the abundance of spuds in this Shepherd’s Pie.

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Interestingly, there is some controversy as to where this dish originated. Chef Armstrong says that it is an interpretation of a French dish called hachis parmentier. Others have claimed it has an English pedigree. No matter where it started, I think you can most assuredly find a version of this casserole in any Irish Pub you might visit. One of the great things about Shepherd’s Pie is that you can make it in stages. The stew part can be made 2 days prior to when you would like to serve it. Then on the day of your dinner all you need to do is make up the mashed potatoes, pipe them over the pie and then bake for 30 – 35 minutes.

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Way back when, the first year that I actually posted St. Patrick’s Day recipes on this blog, I shared Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Shepherd’s Pie, which is a very different dish, so I don’t feel guilty at all blogging about it again. The more the merrier I say. Chef Ramsay uses minced lamb rather than diced lamb shoulder and he advocates grating the carrots and onions rather than chopping them. And his version isn’t really a stew.

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Gordon Ramsay’s Shepherd’s Pie

Which one do I like better? Difficult to say as they are so different from one another. The Husband has weighed in and picked Chef Armstrong’s version as the victor. Me…I’m not so sure. Again, they are very different. I can say without hesitation, that I would be quite happy presented with either one at a St. Patrick’s Day feast. If you’re expecting a crowd for your festivities this year, perhaps you could make both versions and hold a little competition of your own. I’m sure your guests would be thrilled!

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Chef Cathal Armstrong's Shepherd's Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve

Ingredients:

For the Stew:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. lamb shoulder, trimmed of all fat and sinew, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups lamb stock or store-bought beef broth
  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes (2 cups)
  • 2 large fresh bay leaves
  • 2 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

For the Mashed Potatoes:

  • 4 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Brown the lamb: Pat the lamb cubes dry on all sides with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper. In a large slope-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Distribute the meat evenly in the bottom of the pan without crowding it and don’t disturb it for several minutes. If you stir the cubes too soon, they will release water and the meat will boil instead of browning. After 3 or 4 minutes, turn the cubes over and brown them on the other side for another 3 or 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a bowl and return the pan to the heat.

Sweat the vegetables: Add the onion, carrots and celery, stirring with a flat-edged wooden spatula. As the vegetables cook, water will release and deglaze the pan. Use the spatula to scrape up brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Sweat the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes. They should be translucent but still bit firm.

Cook the stew: Stir in the flour and allow it to brown lightly for about 2 minutes. Add the lamb stock, continuing to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and oregano. Return the meat and its collected juices to the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cover the pot. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender. Discard the bay leaves and transfer the stew to an 8 – cup baking dish. ( 9 x 9 or 11×7 would work well).

Boil the Potatoes for mashing: Place the quartered potatoes and salt in a pot and cover them with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and allow the potatoes to simmer uncovered until cooked through, about 40 minutes. To tell if they are cooked, take a piece out and cut it in half to see if it’s soft in the center.

While the potatoes are cooking, preheat the oven to 450°F.

Mash the potatoes: Drain the potatoes, return them to the pot and stir them over the heat for a coupled of minutes. This ensures that they are dry. Rice the potatoes into a mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks, butter and cream, whisking until the mixture is smooth. Work quickly while the potatoes are hot so they don’t become gummy and starchy. Adjust the salt seasoning to taste and allow the potatoes to cool.

Top the pie: First a large pastry bag with a large star tip. Spoon the mashed potatoes into the bag. Moving in one direction, pipe large rosettes of potatoes over the lamb mixture, in neat rows or around the perimeter of baking dish. Go over your work and pipe rosettes wherever you see any holes-you want to create a good seal. Alternatively, you can dollop the potatoes over the stew and spread them with a spatula to seal it.

Bake the Pie: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set the pie on it and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the potatoes are nicely browned and filling is bubbling. Let the casserole rest for 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

Chef Cathal Armstrong’s Shepherd Pie is brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Cathal Armstrong’s Shepherd Pie:

My Irish Table: Recipes from the Homeland and Restaurant Eve by Cathal Armstrong, David Hagedorn

Scanpan Evolution Sunday Pan with Lid – I absolutely love this pan! Cooked the stew in it with no problem.

Le Creuset Stoneware 10.5 x 7″ Baking Dish

Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Potato Ricer

 

 


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