Spooky Ghost Cupcakes

October 31, 2020

Yay! It’s Halloween! And to celebrate the day, I have baked up a batch of these delightfully spooky Ghost Cupcakes! What we’ve got here is a dark as your soul chocolate chip filled fudge cupcake frosted with a silky pale as moonlight vanilla buttercream frosting. I adorned half of the cupcakes that I baked with marbled chocolate curls and the other with black sanding sugar (yeah, I know for some reason it looks green – just think of it as graveyard grass). Next, I topped them with an oh so scary, yet very delicious, little meringue spirits. Yeah, I do realize that these little ghouls lean more towards cute than creepy, but considering all that has gone on this year, I’m ready to take a big ole helping of cute.

Halloween has always been 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! Sadly, this year is definitely going to be a bit different. Don’t get me wrong – there is a whole bunch of downright scary, some would say absolutely terrifying, things lurking about out there. Things you definitely do not want to encounter. Not that we are venturing out. Like everything else so far in 2020, nearly all social Halloween events have been pretty much cancelled. Rightfully so, yet nevertheless disappointing. So, I’ll be staying in with the Husband and we’ll be dressing weird (actually we’ll likely be in our quarantine clothes…i.e. pajamas), boozing it up and binging on candy, all on our lonesomes.

Our modern holiday of Halloween, actually has Irish origins. Today’s 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)

Yeasted Irish Barmbrack Bread (traditional Halloween/Samhain)

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

To the more whimsical offerings such as:

White Chocolate Mummy Pretzels

Halloween Cookies & Cream Owl Cupcakes

Mini Mummy Brownie Bite Cupcakes

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

Fireball Cider Cocktail

Roasty Toasty Cocktail

A few year’s ago I managed to combined whimsical and boozy altogether in my Halloween treats with these adorable – I mean terribly frightening Itsy-Bitsy Tipsy Spider Cupcakes.

Black Velvet Frankenstein Cupcakes.

And last year a had a howling good time making these little rascals:

Reese Cup Werewolf Cupcakes

Which brings me to this year’s offering: Spooky Ghost Cupcakes!

Just look at these ghastly little ghouls! The cupcakes are rich, fudgy and shot through with chocolate chips. They get their dark sinister shade from the black dutch process cocoa that I used. This cocoa gives baked items a REALLY dark chocolate flavor. To tame it down a bit, mix a little of it in with regular dutch process cocoa. That way you will get a deeper darker shade, but less of the bold, intense flavor.

The frosting is a fluffy vanilla buttercream which I have adorned with some marbled chocolate curls for some of the treats and with black sanding sugar on the rest. And finally, those adorable…ahem…frightful fiends perched on top are made from meringue.

Making meringue is pretty easy if you follow some helpful tips. Firstly the bowl and whisk that you use must be super clean. It can have no oily residue or the egg whites simply will refuse to whip up properly. To ensure it is grease free, you can put a bit of vinegar on a paper towel and wipe the inside of the bowl. The egg whites need to be at room temperature when you start to mix them. Begin at a low speed and slowly increase until you reach medium to medium high. Once the egg whites reach soft peak stage, start to slowly add the superfine sugar to the bowl. Stop mixing when you reach the stiff peak stage. Use a piping bag fitted with a round tip to make your ghosts. Once they are completely cooled you can add the eyes and mouth with a food marker, decorating icing or mini chocolate chips. The mini chocolate chips were pretty easy to use. I just gently pushed the pointy end of the chip into the dry meringue. I must say these meringue cookies are pretty fun as well as tasty. If you are short on time, you could even skip the cupcakes and just make a batch of ghost meringue cookies.

I will warn you that humidity is a terrible thing for meringues! They will absorb any moisture in the air and go from delightfully crisp and airy to sticky and chewy abominations! I had quite an issue with this in steamy old Virginia! The regular day to day weather here is not ideal, but I had the adding difficulty of making these meringues while enduring torrential rains from a hurricane that was passing by! I still managed to make it work, but I would be lying if I said no “colorful” language was heard on the day. So for those of you in cooler and drier climes, this should be easy peasy. But to be safe, once your meringues are cool, put them directly into an airtight container and put that container in a cool place out of any direct sunlight. I would recommend not placing the ghosts atop the cupcakes until right before you are ready to serve.

So what are you waiting for? These spooky specters are just perfect for any Halloween gathering. Ooops! Yeah, that’s not happening. But, I have no doubt that your family or quarantine pod will be delighted to be haunted by these little apparitions. Next year you’ll be ahead of the game and can unleash these unearthly revenants on the rest of society. Happy Halloween ya’ll!

Spooky Ghost Cupcakes

  • Servings: 24 cupcakes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: King Arthur Flour for the Bake Sale Fudge cupcakes and Buttercream frosting. Inspired by Baking Addiction for the Ghost Meringue Cookies.

For the Cupcakes:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (85 grams) Dutch-process Cocoa
  • 2 1/3 cups (283 grams) All-purpose Flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (354 grams) brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional but tasty
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (255 grams) chocolate chips
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar, cider or white
  • 1/2 cup (99 grams) vegetable oil (can substitute 1/2 cup butter if you prefer)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper or silicone muffin cups, and grease the cups.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, espresso powder, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup or medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, oil, and vinegar. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing until everything is well combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling the cups about 3/4 full. I always use a 1/4 cup muffin scoop for this.

Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of one of the middle cupcakes comes out clean.

Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and as soon as you can handle them, remove them from the pan, and transfer to a rack to cool. Store cooled cupcakes airtight.

For the Fluffy Buttercream frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup (149 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) boiling water
  • 1/4 cup (28 grams) meringue powder
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (454 grams) sifted confectioners’ sugar or glazing sugar
  • 32 tablespoons (454 grams) unsalted butter
  • black sanding sugar or marbled chocolate curls for the top of the cupcakes (you could also use chocolate jimmies)

Directions:

Dissolve the sugar (and salt, if you’re using it) in the boiling water, and cool to room temperature.

Use a mixer on low speed to beat in the meringue powder, until the powder is dissolved and the mixture is foamy.

Increase the speed and beat until soft peaks form.

Beat in the vanilla, then the confectioners’ or glazing sugar.

Add the soft butter a few tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Frost cake immediately; or store buttercream at room temperature, covered, for a few hours before using.

Once the cupcakes are frosted, add the marbled chocolate curls or sanding sugar as you prefer.

For the Ghost Meringue Cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 4 large Egg Whites (room temperature!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cream Of Tartar
  • 3/4 cup Superfine Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract (can be omitted)
  • mini chocolate chips, melted chocolate or black decorator’s icing for ghost eyes and mouth.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

In a large spotlessly clean bowl of a stand mixer beat egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla. Start with lowest speed and slowly increase until you reach medium speed and the whites hold a soft peak.

Gradually add in sugar and increase mixer to medium-high speed. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Spoon meringue into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.  Pipe swirls of ghost shaped meringue onto prepared baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven for about 1.5 hours or until the meringues are dry and crisp to the touch. Turn off the oven and allow the meringue ghosts to continuing drying in the oven for a few hours.

Decorate meringues with ghostly eyes and mouth and then move immediately to an airtight container for storage.

Wait to top the cupcakes with the ghost meringue cookies until you are ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Spooky Ghost Cupcakes brought to you by Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Spooky Ghost Cupcakes:

 
 
 
King Arthur Double Dutch Process Dark Cocoa Powder
 
Meringue Powder or it is a bit cheaper here: King Arthur Flour
 
Wilton Graveyard Bones
 


Vínarterta – Icelandic Vienna Cake

July 15, 2020

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So wow! Just look at this amazing layered treat! What we’ve got here is Vínarterta, which translates from Icelandic to “Vienna Cake”. This cake boasts multiple thin layers of cardamom flavored shortbread alternating with spiced dried plum jam and is topped with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

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I’m going to not only share this wonderful recipe with you today, but also continue to tell you all about that trip to the South Coast of Iceland that the Husband and I took with our parents back in September 2018. I told you all about visiting the Golden Circle, Seljalandfoss, Skogafoss, Dyrholaey & Vik as well as our stay at the luxurious Hótel Rangá in my previous post. Today I’ll tell you all about the big adventure we had on day four of our holiday. And I’m also delighted to tell you all about one of our absolute favorite places to stay while exploring the South Coast – The Garage Studio Apartments.

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Gorgeous spot huh? But let me tell you about our adventure first. So what was our big adventure? We went on a private Super Jeep day tour of Þórsmörk with Midgard Adventures. Þórsmörk  which translates to Thor’s Valley is a stunning nature reserve located in the Southern Highlands of Iceland between the mountain glaciers of Tindfjallajökull, the world famous Eyjafjallajökull, and Mýrdalsjökull. This lush valley has so much to offer – dramatic volcanic landscapes,

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breathtaking mountain views,

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lush valley scenery

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and amazing hiking opportunities.

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The Husband and I had visited it twice before and knew Þórsmörk is not to be missed. We really wanted the parents to be able to experience it. The thing is though, in order to enter Þórsmörk, you really must have a 4X4 vehicle as you will need to go onto the “F” roads and make several river crossings. And those “F roads” (not sure what the “F” stands for in F roads, but after having been on them, I can think of a possibility…) in the reserve are pretty rough. To be honest, even if you have rented a 4X4 vehicle, you really need to be experienced with this type of driving. And I should also mention that most rental car insurance will not cover you driving through rivers. River crossings can be quite tricky, so if you make a mistake and end up in too deep of a section the river, thus damaging your vehicle in the process, you could potentially be liable to your rental company for thousands of dollars.

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This poor bus required the aid of a tractor once it became stuck trying to cross the river.

Besides the financial burden, folks have actually died trying to cross these potentially dangerous rivers. The solution here is to hire a knowledgeable, experienced local guide. We whole heartedly recommend Midgard Adventures.

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The Husband and I have been out on adventures with Midgard previously. In 2012 we went out with them in December to experience the winter wonderland of Þórsmörk.

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We were back with them in December 2013 on a private tour of Jökulsárlón.

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And in September 2017 we were with Midgard Adventures to hike the magnificent Fimmvörðuháls trail .

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Each time our adventure with them has been one of  the highlights of our trip! And they didn’t let us down this time. The itinerary that they came up with for the Parent’s Day Tour was perfect. Not only did our charming and knowledgeable Midgard guide expertly navigate Þórsmörk, but he also took us to visit a nearby black sand beach

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as well as a couple of stunning, lesser known waterfalls.

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The parents were thrilled with the experience of crossing rivers, rough volcanic terrain and black sand beaches in the Super Jeep. And our guide knew how much the Husband and I enjoyed hiking, so he had planned ahead and dropped us off for a small hike over a mountain while he drove our parents around for some sightseeing and then met up with us on the other side. A win for everyone!

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What an absolutely superb day. Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely! Take a look at this video for all of the river crossings, gorgeous scenery, hiking, blueberry picking and other live action!

After such an exciting day, we were so happy to come back to one of our absolute favorite places to stay on the South Coast – The Garage Studio Apartments. The Husband and I had stayed there previously in 2017 and we were so glad to be back! These lovely modern rustic apartments have been crafted from a 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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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. Located exactly between the two famous waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandfoss, these exceptional apartments are the perfect central location for taking in all the South Coast of Iceland has to offer. The setting is nothing less than magical.

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You are surrounded by the most idyllic scenery – green hills, a private waterfall, a view overlooking the ocean, fields full of Icelandic horses and sheep,

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chickens, a dog (Felix) who never tires of playing fetch

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and a cat, who wouldn’t reveal their name, but was friendly nevertheless,Anna was also such an amazing host, so friendly, warm and welcoming. Her spacious apartments are stylishly decorated, sparklingly clean and filled with thoughtful little touches. And as if all of that was not enough, she served us scrumptious freshly home-baked desserts every day! Hospitality like this is hard to find!

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And the Northern Lights even decided to put on a bit of a show for us to make our stay at the Garage even more delightful.

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Want to see more of the Garage as well as those Northern Lights? Take a peek at this video:

But let me get back to telling you about this Vínarterta – today’s featured recipe.

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Although the name translates to Vienna Cake, it likely did not arrive in Iceland straight from Vienna, but rather came by way of Denmark. This grand looking cake was often served on special occasions, such as Christmas. One of the wonderful things about this cake is not only is it delicious, but it also gets better with age. So you can make this up days and days before you actually plan to serve it. You just keep it wrapped in foil stored in a cool place.

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This cake reached the height of its popularity in the late 19th to early 20th century. Back in the day, the thin layers of this cake could be easily baked in the more primitive ovens of the time or even on the stove top. And when some Icelanders emigrated to parts of Canada and the Northern United States, they brought this recipe with them. Though now a days, it is slightly different in some ways from the original, such as in North America you will often find versions with more layers and with a frosting on top. They have for the most part stayed true to the filling, whereas in present day Iceland, you are likely to find other types of filling such as rhubarb or strawberry jams.

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I baked this Vínartera using Hartshorn or Baker’s Ammonia (Ammonium Carbonate) for the leavener. You will encounter this ingredient in many older, traditional Scandinavian cookie recipes. You can substitute baking powder for it, though the cookie will not have the same crispy texture that it will get from using Hartshorn. I gotta tell you though, man is that ammonia smell strong! It is thankfully completely gone once the cookies/cake is baked, but let me just say, you will not be tempted to nibble the batter before it goes in the oven!

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The original recipe did not call for any Vodka whatsoever, but I liked the idea of a celebration cake being just a bit boozy. And I do know that good Vodka doesn’t really have much of a taste. But somehow it just makes me feel better knowing that it is there. I splurged and added a few glugs of Reyka Vodka to thin my jam just a bit as well as soak the prunes. You can virtuously soak the prunes in plain water if you are a teetotaler.

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Oh, and I guess that brings me to the dreaded “P” word. You might have noticed that I don’t call it “spiced prune filling”. No. No prunes are in this treat. Just some dried plums. I don’t know why folks freak out when they hear prune, but they do. So yeah. Spiced dried plums are what is in this scrumptious Vínarterta – and believe me you are going to love it!

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Vínarterta

  • Servings: 8 -10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly from: Icelandic Food & Cookery by Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Ingredients:

For the Spiced Dried Plum Filling:

  • 1 1/2 Cups Pitted Prunes
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • vodka (for soaking the prunes as well as thinning the jam – optional)

For the Cake Layers

  • 1 Cup Butter, softened
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Cups all-purpose Flour, or as needed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Baker’s Ammonia (you can substitute 1 tsp. baking powder)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground Cardamom
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 1 1/2 Cup Spiced Dried Plum Filling
  • confectioner’s sugar (for sprinkling over the top – optional)

Directions:

Prepare the filling:

The night before you plan to make the filling, place the pitted prunes in a bowl and cover with vodka or warm water. Leave them to plump up overnight. (optional)

Place the prunes, sugar and spices in a saucepan and add 1 cup of water. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until it comes to a boil. Continue to cook until the prunes are soft and the syrup has thickened, about 20 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly. Place it into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

If you would like to thin the jam a bit as well as add a bit of “cheer” to it, add a glug or two of vodka and stir to combine. (optional)

Prepare the shortbread:

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baker’s ammonia and cardamom.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Add the flour mixture and the milk and continue to mix until a smooth dough forms. The dough should be soft and just shy of sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Divide the dough into five equal parts. On a floured work surface, roll each part out into a thin disc about 9″ in diameter. Arrange the circles on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 12 minutes, or until they are just beginning to brown at the edges.

Assembly:

While the layers are still warm, sandwich them with the spiced dried plum filling, leaving the top of the top layer of the cake bare.

Allow cake to cool completely and then wrap in foil. The cake will keep for weeks in a cool place and will improve with age.

Sprinkle top of cake with confectioner’s sugar just prior to serving.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Vínarterta:

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Baker’s Ammonia (ammonium carbonate)

Icelandic Food & Cookery by Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Travel Planning Guide:

Covid-19 InformationPlease make sure you familiarize yourself with all of the Icelandic Government’s travel requirements BEFORE you head out. All of the official information can be found here.

I Heart Reykjavik– An invaluable resource for all things Iceland! I Heart Reykjavik is a small, family run company that offers you personalized service. Planning a holiday can certainly be stressful which has become even more so with rapidly changing safety requirements due to Covid 19. I Heart Reykjavik is keeping up to date with all of the government guidelines and can provide guidance here. Additionally, they can help you plan a fantastic vacation to Iceland in a couple of ways. You can browse and book tours directly on their website. The advantage here is that I Heart Reykjavik has vetted all of the companies on their carefully curated list. Often they have even gone out on the tours and you can read a review of their experience on their blog. Their recommendations can save you a ton of time pouring over tours and reviews online and let you know which company you can best trust with your money . Another advantage is that if you book all of your tours through them and then a unforeseen change due to the weather or some sort of thing, I Heart Reykjavik can suggest changes to your itinerary and assist you with rebooking. And speaking of itineraries, if you are the type of person who likes to plan out everything yourself, I Heart Reykjavik can still be of assistance. They offer an Itinerary Review service, where they can take a look at your upcoming plans and make sure everything makes sense – such as if you have allowed enough travel time. They can give you feedback concerning accommodation and alert you if there is a must see in the area you are visiting which has not found it’s way into your plans. They are truly an invaluable resource!

Getting There: Icelandair! We love Icelandair and have always had great experience with them. Take advantage of their Stopover program on your next flight to Europe.

Car Rental:  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!

Accommodation: The Garage – Studio Apartments – One of our favorite places to stay in Iceland! Located on the South Coast of Iceland, between Seljalandfoss & Skógafoss waterfalls. 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. These lovely modern rustic apartments were originally built from a former old garage that is located on a family farm belonging to Anna & Siggi. Since they built the original apartments, they have expanded and built a few more in a previous cow shed and most recently have remodeled a Haytower. These cozy apartments are studios, some of which are standard and some slightly bigger with a pull out sofa bed to accommodate extra guests. The Haytower is the biggest unit and is a full one bedroom apartment. You can book with The Garage here.(booking.com)

Tour Companies:

Midgard Adventure: I highly recommend you book a tour with Midgard. Midgard is a local family run business located in Hvolsvöllur. They offer single day and multiday tours which can be either private and shared. The shared tours are always with a small group. No massive bus tours here, just thoughtful personal service.They are skilled at helping you plan your whole itinerary as well should you desire and being locals they have first hand knowledge of the area as well as the hidden gems off the beaten path. As I have mentioned we have enjoyed four different tours with them, and on each occasion it has ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. Consistent excellence is hard to find! They are a pleasure to deal with from the first email until your action packed day has come to an end. Everyone I have ever met there is friendly, helpful and professional.  And I should mention that Midgard now has a Basecamp. They can offer both hotel as well as hostel style accommodation in their beautiful facility which also boasts a restaurant, bar, and roof top hot tub and sauna. The Husband and I haven’t had the pleasure of staying with them yet, but we did grab a delicious breakfast in their restaurant before heading out for our adventure. We are planning a Highlands Adventure, which we will of course be booking with Midgard, so we will let you know!

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Restaurants:

Gamla Fjósið (The Old Cow House) – Located just off of Route 1, about 2 km away from the Garage Apartments. Cozy family run restaurant featuring delicious comfort food prepared with locally sourced (often from their own farm) fresh ingredients. Delicious homemade bread, jams and ice cream.

Midgard Basecamp – The Restaurant at Midgard Basecamp has it all! Serving food based on their Icelandic heritage, they offer everything from pasture raised lamb, to fresh caught fish, to juicy burgers. And if you are a vegetarian or vegan there are plenty of delicious offerings to choose from as well.   Check out their wonderful Breakfast Buffet and come back in the evening for a great dinner. They also carry a good selection of the locally crafted brews.

Misc:

The Reykjavik Grapevine: A witty English language Icelandic magazine. Great read whether or not you’re planning a visit! And if you are planning a visit make sure to check out their annual “Best of” edition where they give you a curated list of the best of everything to be found in the country!

Icelandic Meteorologic Office – Great for checking the weather before you go and essential while you are visiting – especially if you are visiting in the Winter! They also have an app you can have on your phone which I definitely recommend. The weather in Iceland can change suddenly. Be prepared!


Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

July 3, 2020

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So here we are, just moments away from Independence Day. Certainly not the 4th of July for this year that I imagined last year. Not that the Husband and I have made a habit out of heading off to big fireworks displays on the 4th, but still…Needless to say, we’ll be spending this one right here at home. Where we have been. For oh – months and months. Perhaps years at this point. 2020 has certainly made months seems like they go on for years. Facing the tedium of yet another social distanced holiday, I thought it might be nice to make the Husband a little treat. Now I’ve told you how he absolutely loves any fruit based dessert and of the many fruit desserts out there, lemon bars hold a special place in his heart. So I was absolutely delighted when I saw that Smitten Kitchen – one of my favorite blogs – had just shared a recipe for Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars. Clearly, it was just meant to be!

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And the whole lemon thing is true. Yup – you actually use a WHOLE lemon in this recipe. Well – you take the seeds out and remove the stem, but otherwise the whole thing – skin and all.

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I was afraid that the whole lemon might have caused the lemon filling to be bitter, so I kind of held my breath a bit when the Husband took his first bite. Hooray! Not bitter at all. I think using the whole lemon actually gave it a much more – well lemony taste. I mean these bars actually tasted perfectly sour and tart and also sweet. But just the right amount of sweet. Sometimes when I’ve gotten lemon bars, they taste very, very cloyingly sweet with only a slight hint of lemon. Like maybe someone had only waved a lemon over the mix. That is certainly not what the Husband is hoping for in a lemon bar. He wants that pucker up sour citrus zing of a real lemon. Let me tell you, these bars definitely delivered in that regard.

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And although I have made lemon bars before, I had never added the meringue layer on top. With these Lemon Meringue Pie Bars the sweet marshmallowy toasted meringue works to perfectly balance the lip puckering intensity of that velvety lemon filling. Both the Husband and I were very well pleased.

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I don’t know what you’ll be getting up to this 4th of July, but I do know that no matter what it is, these Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars will make it better. Make yourself a batch today!

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Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

  • Servings: 12 - 16 bars depending how you slice them
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Smitten Kitchen who sourced it from Susan Spungen’s Open Kitchen 

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 9 whole graham cracker sheets (1 sleeve), broken into pieces or 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the filling:

  • 1 whole (preferably organic) lemon, any variety (see Note below in filling directions), scrubbed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 8 Tablespoons (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • Pinch of salt

For the meringue:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

Make the crust:

Heat your oven to 350°F [180°C]. Line an 8-by-8-inch [20-by-20-cm] baking pan with two pieces of parchment trimmed to fit, going in both directions, with some extra hanging over the edge so that you can easily remove the bars later.

Place the graham crackers, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the fine crumbs form. Add the cold butter and pulse until the cold butter blends into the crumbs. It should look and feel like wet sand. Transfer to the prepared pan and mix it up with your hands to make sure the butter is well distributed. Press into the pan, going up the sides a bit, and bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Let cool while you make the filling.

Make the filling:

Note on lemons: Deb Perelmen of Smitten Kitchen advises that you can use any variety of lemon but that you want to stick to a smaller lemon weighing approximately 4 – 4.5 ounces and that you do not want the skin to be too thick. The pith (white bit) should not be over 1/4 inch. If you feel the lemon you have is a bit too thick skinned, simply remove half of the skin from the lemon before proceeding.

Trim the stem end of the whole lemon and cut it into thin slices. Remove any seeds. Add to a food processor or blender jar (preferably a high speed blender) along with the lemon juice, egg yolks, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt and blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour over the crust (it’s ok if it’s still warm) and bake for 30 minutes, or until it is bubbling and browning around the edges. It won’t look at all set, and might even look like a total mess (unevenly browned or bubbly), but it will set up as it cools. Place on a cooling rack. After about 10 minutes, run a small, sharp knife around the edges. Cool completely, then chill until cold (you can speed this up in the freezer). When completely chilled, carefully remove the parchment and, using a spatula, transfer to a small baking sheet.

Make the meringue:

An hour or so before serving, make the topping. Combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the metal bowl of a stand mixer and set over a pan of simmering water. Keep the mixture moving, using a whisk or the whisk attachment, until the sugar is completely melted and it’s hot to the touch (or 160°F). Transfer to a stand mixer and beat on high speed until glossy and very stiff, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the top of the lemon bars, smooth out, and use a large serving fork to create a pattern in the meringue, or the back of a spoon or offset spatula to make swirls.

Finish the bars:

When you’re ready to finish, use a kitchen torch or your oven’s broiler to brown the meringue. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Use a knife dipped into hot water to cut bars into 12 to 16 squares, depending on how large you want them.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks

Breville Fresh & Furious Blender

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Sondiko Butane Torch

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook– This recipe is not in this cookbook, however a ton of other great ones are!

Smitten Kitchen Everyday: Another awesome cookbook by Deb Perelman

 

 


Kanilterta (Icelandic Cinnamon Cake)

May 8, 2020

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Today I would like to share this Icelandic recipe for Kanilterta with you. This delicious treat boasts four layers of cinnamon spiced buttery cake separated by sweet vanilla whipped cream & topped with silky decadent chocolate. I even bet you have all the ingredients necessary to make it in your pantry right now.

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Oh, and I also want to tell you all about our visit to Iceland for an amazing Ice Cave adventure back in February 2018.

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Now I know when folks are planning a get away in February they might be dreaming of a sunny Caribbean island or something. Iceland might not be the country that comes to mind. However, anyone who knows me, or has read my blog at all knows the Husband and I are not beach people at all. We much prefer the colder climes and absolutely love Iceland at anytime of the year. We had taken a trip to Scotland to go to Up Helly Aa– Europe’s largest Viking fire festival, which takes place at the end of January. So we decided to take advantage of Icelandair’s Stopover offer. You see, if you fly to any of their destinations you can add an up to a 7 day stopover in Iceland at no charge! So it was a no brainer for us. We actually ended up spending one night in Iceland on the way to Scotland and then spent an additional 6 nights on the way back to Virginia.

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And in addition to Icelander’s fantastic Stopover offer, on certain flights they also offer the option to “Class Up” from economy seats to Saga Premium. So, how it works is 10 days prior to an eligible flight, you will receive an email asking if you would like to place a bid. You are then able to decide the amount you are willing to pay, in addition to the cost of your original ticket, to have a Saga class seat.

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You should keep in mind that it is per seat. So if you bid $200 and there are two of you on the ticket, then you have actually bid $400. And this is per segment of the flight. So if you have a roundtrip flight, you would be bidding on the flight over as well as the flight back. If your bid is not accepted, nothing changes with your original ticket. You still have the same seats. However if your bid is accepted, you will find yourself in Saga Class. We made a bid and it was accepted!

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Our flight arrived in Iceland around 6:30 am and we were not headed on to Scotland until 7 am the next morning. So we chose to stay close to the airport rather than to travel into Reykjavik. Tired after our overnight flight, we checked into the Silica Hotel at the famous Blue Lagoon.

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The Blue Lagoon is located near the town of Grindavik and is only about a 15 – 20 minute drive from the airport. The Silica Hotel is only about a 3 minute drive, or a short stroll through the beautiful green moss covered lava fields, from the Blue Lagoon. Needless to say, we arrived well before our check-in time, but were able to take advantage of their abundant breakfast buffet while we waited for our room. Since the hotel was not very busy, being February and all, they were able to get us into our room a bit early.

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View from our room at The Silica Hotel

After some shut eye, we took a stroll over to the Blue Lagoon

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Strolling through the lava fields

to enjoy a delicious dinner at the Lava Restaurant.

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We did not spend any time in the actual lagoon at the Blue Lagoon on this trip. We have several times in the past and truly enjoy it and do recommend it, even if it is a bit touristy. There is a reason why folks love it! And I should mention that when you book a room at the Silica Hotel, premium entrance to the Blue Lagoon is included. That is really quite a perk, especially in the summer time. The Blue Lagoon has become so popular at this point, it is unlikely that you could gain entrance without booking in advance. But there is also even another perk to staying at the Silica Hotel – they have their own private lagoon for folks staying with them! How awesome is that!!!

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Now there isn’t a swim up bar, like there is in the main Blue Lagoon, however you can place a drink order with one of the Silica employees and they will deliver it to you while you soak in the Silica Lagoon. The Husband and I loved this little private oasis. Not crowded at all, very quiet. We spent quite a while relaxing and unwinding here on the first night of our trip!

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After all of our adventures in Scotland, we arrived back in Iceland and taxied into Reykjavik. We had been dreaming of visiting an Ice Cave for sometime and February was the perfect time to go on an Ice Cave adventure. You see, it needs to be cold to safely visit an Ice Cave, so most of these tours take place from October – March. February was just perfect! So I booked a two day tour, which would take us and a small number of other guests (no more than 8) out along the South Coast, stopping to visit Seljalandfoss & Skógafoss Waterfalls, the Reynisfjara Black Sand beach, and Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Then we would spend the night at the tour group’s cottage, have a traditional Icelandic dinner and enjoy the Northern Lights if possible. The second day we would visit the Diamond Beach, Jökulsárlón, walk on a glacier, go to an Ice Cave and then be back in Reykjavik by around 21:00 – 22:00. Two full days without a doubt! Even though we had seen a lot of the South Coast, we were happy to see it again. And even happier to sit back and let some other folks do the driving. On the day our tour began it was raining. And I don’t mean just a little drizzly, just spitting a bit…I mean all out, cats and dogs, RAINING! Sure, it will let up soon I thought…HA! If anything it intensified throughout the day! But we didn’t let it stop us! We had all our waterproof gear at the ready.

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Drenched at Seljalandfoss.

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Soggy at Skógafoss

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Soaked before the Basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach

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Drowned at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

 

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We arrived in a big water-logged heap at the cottage, which was quite charming and thankfully warm.

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The tour company had prepared a lovely Icelandic lamb dinner for us. But first they wanted us to try an Icelandic national delicacy – Hákarl, which translates to rotten or putrefied shark. Yup, you read that right. You see Greenlands shark meat is actually poisonous when fresh due to its high levels of urea and trimethylamine oxide. However after it is buried in sand and pressed down by stones, hung to dry for weeks and then cured for a month or so more, it is just fine! Usually eating a bit is followed quickly by taking a shot of Brennivín – an Icelandic liquor also known as Black Death. The Husband is allergic to seafood, so he got a pass on the putrefied shark and merely concentrate on the shots of Death. Lucky me, I got to sample both. Hmmmm… Rotten Shark & Black Death…what could go wrong?

So how did it taste? Well, the smell was worse than the taste. The taste wasn’t great, but probably not the worst thing ever, though I certainly have not found myself craving either. Needless to say, the Northern Lights did not make an appearance that night. Or if they did , the heavy cloud cover and pouring rain obscured them. But, good news, when we woke in the morning the rain had decided to move on. It was cold and windy, but all things considered and knowing what it was like just the day before, not too bad for February in Iceland. We ate breakfast and then set out for the day. First stop, Diamond Beach & Jökulsárlón.

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And finally, the time had arrived! We met up with some local ice cave guides, boarded their modified 4X4 and set off on a very bumpy ride towards Vatnajokull to explore an ice cave!

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Ice caves in Iceland are formed from beneath by the canals of water which run under the glaciers. In the summer these caves are often filled with water and impassible, but with the coming of cold water they freeze and voila – ICE CAVE! Incredibly otherworldly and stunningly beautiful – I’ll just let my pictures do the talking:

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We not only got to see a traditional ice cave, but after a short walk across the glacier, we got to see a convertible type of ice cave – you know…one with the roof off. Really, it was more like a fissure in the glacier. Also, incredibly beautiful.

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And the great news is that new caves form every year, so you could likely go again and again and it would always be different!

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Alas, it was time to head back to Reykjavik. We stopped for a short look see at Svínafellsjökull (the glacier where the scenes from North of the Wall in Game of Thrones were filmed), but then got right on the road.

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I had been monitoring the weather on my phone throughout the day and was worried about a storm that was moving in. Sure enough, the weather soon turned bad. We thought rain was a problem, but not so much. What we ended up with on the way back to the city was much worse – very windy and driving snow. There was little visibility, multiple cars had gone off the road and driving was treacherous!

When we finally arrived in Hveragerði at the foot of the Hellisheidi Mountain Pass, the one that we needed to take to get back into Reykjavik…yeah, that one…we found that it was impassable and closed.

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We sat and waited to see if a plow might make it across the mountain somehow, but after about an hour and some consulting with other stuck tour drivers as well as the police, we realized that we were going to have to go around. Yeah….go around a mountain! Thus turning what should have been about a 40 minute drive over the pass into a 2 hour + blizzard driving odyssey! But I gotta give it to our driver. He was awesome. Calm and confident. We finally showed up back in the city around 2 am! Let me tell you, that was the point where we were really glad we weren’t the ones doing the driving, but rather were in the expert hands of a driver who was experienced driving in Iceland’s tricky, ever-changing winter weather. Although this two day Ice Cave trip turned out a little different than we might have imagined, we ended up having a fantastic time and quite an adventure!

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The rest of our time in Iceland we spent relaxing in Reykjavik. We stayed in an AirBnB which was in a great location and had a lovely view.

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We went shopping and wandered about town

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took in the street art

stopped for coffee at Reykjavik Roasters,

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visited our favorite restaurants like Íslenski Barinn and Snaps,

enjoyed a kanilsnúðar or two from Brauð & Co.

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and stopped by our favorite bars

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and of course, ate a hot dog or two or so…

 We were lucky that the Winter Lights Festival was taking place while we were there. This festival is an annual February event in Reykjavik which celebrates both the Winter world and the growing sunlight after a long period of darkness. Every night during the festival various buildings throughout the city have light installations. You can get a map and stroll through the city to see them all.

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And we got even more snow, which made me a very, very happy camper. So yeah, February is a great time to visit Iceland! To see all the action as it happened, take a look at this video:

But oh yeah, I was supposed to tell you about his Kanilterta. This traditional Icelandic cake was often baked around the Christmas holidays and served with hot chocolate on Christmas Day. However, in recent years it has lost some of its popularity, being seen as rather old fashioned. Old fashioned it may be, and perhaps not very polished or fancy looking, but it is truly delicious!

IMG_0019I know I’ve told you before that the Husband doesn’t really like sweet desserts. Well, he absolutely LOVED this cake. Has asked for multiple slices!

IMG_0109The layers are more like a cookie or soft shortbread than a traditional layer cake. They are incredibly buttery and decadent. The vanilla whipped cream between the layers serves to light each bite.IMG_0024The top layer of silky dark chocolate is absolutely amazing. Where has this cake been all of my life?!!

 

IMG_0135Wonderfully rich and buttery with warm cinnamon and chocolate notes, this Kanilterta is absolutely irresistible! It is welcome all year round in our house. Once you give it a whirl, I’ll bet you’ll be hooked too!IMG_0029

 

Kanilterta - (Icelandic Cinnamon Cake)

  • Servings: 12- 14 slices
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly modified from: Þjóðlegt með kaffinu

Ingredients:

  • 260 grams salted butter
  • 350 grams sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 grams all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4 dl  (400 ml or 13.5 oz) cream
  • 3 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 75 grams dark chocolate
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour and cinnamon together. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until just combined.

Butter four to six 8″ round cake pans and line with parchment. Divide the dough equally between the pans and spread it out into an even layer. Or, if you do not have the round pans, you can draw 4 – 6 circles measuring 8″ in diameter on parchment paper and bake on a cookie sheet.

Bake each layer for 12 -15 minutes or until set. I baked four layers. If you are making six layers, the baking time will likely be closer to 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Whip cream until it starts to thicken. Add confectioners sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla bean paste and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream mixture evenly between each layer of the cake, leaving the top layer bare.

Place layered cake in refrigerator or freezer briefly while you prepare chocolate for the top layer. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat.

Once chocolate has cooled to room temperature, spread chocolate over the top layer of the cake.

Enjoy!

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

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Kanilterta:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

8″ Round non-stick cake pan

Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla Bean Paste

Valhrona French Chocolate Pearls – This is what I used to decorate the top of the cake. It is a crispy bit of cereal coated in dark chocolate. This link if for a much, much bigger bag than you would need for just this dessert, but I wanted to let you know what I had used.

Links for Planning your vacation in February in Iceland:

Getting There: Icelandair! We love Icelandair and have always had great experience with them. Take advantage of their Stopover program on your next flight to Europe.

Accommodation: 

Silica Hotel at Blue Lagoon: Lovely hotel with its own private lagoon for guests. Extensive breakfast buffet and very close to Keflavik Airport as well as (of course) the Blue Lagoon.

Once in Reykjavik, we stayed in an AirBnB on this visit. Planet Apartments were the folks who managed the unit we stayed in. They have several lovely apartments with great views of the sea. Very friendly & helpful folks to work with.

Car Rental – We did not actually rent a car this time, but relied on taxis. When we do rent a car, here is the company we love:

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!

Tours: So visiting an Ice Cave was a lot of fun. We definitely recommend it. I did want to take this time though to impart some advice. Visiting an ice cave is weather dependent in a couple of ways. First of all you need to visit between the months of November – March, when the weather is cold enough that the caves are more stable. Second of all, weather in Iceland is unpredictable. Tours are often cancelled in the winter, so you need to try to remain flexible and go into it knowing your tour might be cancelled due to the weather. That being said, you have to consider how you will be getting to the ice cave. Some of the best caves are located in Vatnjökull, which is about a 5+ hour drive from Reykjavik. You could drive yourself out that way to meet up with a tour – a lot leave from Jökulsárlón. However, keep in mind you will be driving in Iceland during the Winter, so you might end up having to deal with less than favorable to downright dangerous winter driving conditions.  Rather than driving yourself, you could book a tour which leaves from Reykjavik and let a local do the driving, like we did. A word of caution here – although they do offer day tours out to Jökulsárlón, I do not recommend them. You will spend at least 10 hours driving – so that is a long day in a car. And keep in mind, the days have less daylight hours at this time of year, so most of it will be in the dark. I think a two or three day tour is a better option. I bet you think that the two day Ice Cave & South Shore tour that we took looked like a lot of fun. It really was and I would have recommended the tour company that we used with out hesitation. The problem is that they sadly ended up going bankrupt in 2019. However, I know a lot of other tour groups out there do similar tours to this one. Which brings me to my actual recommendation here: I Heart Reykjavik! If you are familiar with my past recommendations for Iceland, you will be familiar with this company. We have gone on a couple of walking tours of Reykjavik with them which were fantastic! It was as if you had a local friend there who was able to give you the inside tip on the best restaurants, pubs and shops while telling you all about the city. And I also follow their blog, which offers just a ton of useful advice and tips for your visit.

I Heart Reykjavik– An invaluable resource for all things Iceland! I Heart Reykjavik is a small, family run company that offers you personalized service. They can help you plan a fantastic vacation to Iceland in a couple of ways. You can browse and book tours directly on their website. The advantage here is that I Heart Reykjavik has vetted all of the companies on their carefully curated list. Often they have even gone out on the tours and you can read a review of their experience on their blog. Their recommendations can save you a ton of time pouring over tours and reviews online and let you know which company you can best trust with your money . Another advantage is that if you book all of your tours through them and then a unforeseen change due to the weather or some sort of thing, I Heart Reykjavik can suggest changes to your itinerary and assist you with rebooking. And speaking of itineraries, if you are the type of person who likes to plan out everything yourself, I Heart Reykjavik can still be of assistance. They offer an Itinerary Review service, where they can take a look at your upcoming plans and make sure everything makes sense – such as if you have allowed enough travel time. They can give you feedback concerning accommodation and alert you if there is a must see in the area you are visiting which has not found it’s way into your plans. They are truly an invaluable resource!

Here is a link to an excellent, informative blog post I Heart Reykjavik wrote about visiting Ice Caves just last year. They can help you find the best tried & tested company to take you on an Ice Cave Adventure, according to your individual needs.

Destinations:

Seljalandfoss – A beautiful waterfall located just off of Route 1 on the South Coast. If the weather is good and you don’t mind getting a bit wet, you can walk behind this waterfall.

Skógafoss – Another beautiful waterfall located just off of Route1 on the South Coast. Due to the amount of spray from the falls, if the sun is out you will likely see a rainbow in front of it.

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach– Famous picturesque black sand beach located near the village of Vík. Please be careful at this beach. The waves and rip currents are quite powerful. There are sneaker waves which can seemingly come out of nowhere and travel much further up the beach than expected, knocking you off your feet and potentially pulling you out to the freezing sea. Never turn your back to the waves. Unfortunately there have been several fatalities at this beach.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon – Stunning canyon located near the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in South Iceland. In Season 8 of Game of Thrones you can see the Dragons fly through this snow covered canyon. The vegetation in the canyon suffered from the amount of tourists and it was closed until June 2019, to allow it to recover.

Svínafellsjökull– An outlet glacier of Vatnajökull located in Skaftafell Nature Reserve. Game of Thrones filmed many of season 7’s North of the Wall scenes here.

Jökulsárlón – is a large lake which was formed by a glacier (glacial lagoon). 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.

Diamond Beach A black sand beach near Jökulsárlón often peppered with icebergs which have calved from the glacier, traveled out to the ocean and then washed back up on the beach.

Restaurant/Bars:

Íslenski Barinn– Love, love, love! Delicious food & local brews in a comfortable, cozy setting.

Kaldi Bar Fun & hip Bar featuring beers from the Kaldi Brewery

Ölstofa Kormáks og Skjaldar (Kormakur’s and Skjöldur’s alehouse) – Or just plain Ölstofan –house brew Brío is not to be missed!

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur – Legendary Icelandic Hot Dog stand in Reykjavik. A one a day must for the Husband while we are visiting the city!

Reykjavik Roasters– Best coffee & vibe. Love the cinnamon scones!

Brauð & Company– Bakes my most favorite in the world kanilsnúðar!

Snaps Bistro– Laid back, French style bistro, serving up delicious cocktails and amazing breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinners. A favorite with locals and tourists a like.

Misc:

Þjóðlegt með kaffinu – Besides being a Facebook page, there is also a cookbook penned by Jón Símonía Bjarnadóttir & Gudfinna Hreidarsdóttir. It is available in English, Danish & German. You can purchase it when you visit Iceland or contact them at icelandiccakes@google.com

The Reykjavik Grapevine: A witty English language Icelandic magazine. Great read whether or not you’re planning a visit! And if you are planning a visit make sure to check out their annual “Best of” edition where they give you a curated list of the best of everything to be found in the country!

Icelandic Meteorologic Office – Great for checking the weather before you go and essential while you are visiting – especially if you are visiting in the Winter! They also have an app you can have on your phone which I definitely recommend. The weather in Iceland can change suddenly. Be prepared!

 

 


Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake

May 1, 2020

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Today is May 1st or May Day as it is known. Now when I say “May Day”, I am not referring to the more modern, political International Worker’s Day type thing. Or the distress call – though given the state of the world currently, I can understand why you might have thought I was calling for help. No, I am talking about the ancient festival of Spring that is/was celebrated throughout many countries. For my part, I’m going to celebrate with this Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake.

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You might be familiar with May Day celebrations held in England. There, a May Queen is crowned and you will likely see Morris Dancers and folks dancing around a Maypole. Today I am looking back in time to Irish traditions.

IMG_9947In Ireland the day is known as Lá Beltaine, which roughly means “the day of the fires of Bel” – Bel being a Celtic God. Halfway between the Spring and the Summer solstice, Beltaine celebrates the arrival of summer and the fertility of the coming year. Yellow flowers such as primrose, rowan, hawthorn, gorse , hazel and marsh marigolds were placed at windows and over doorways. A Maybush, often a hawthorn tree, was decorated with flowers, ribbon and bright shells and sacred wells were visited to pray for health.

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Photo from Facebook Page May Day – Bealtaine

This was also the time in Ireland, back in the day, when cattle were driven to their summer pastures. And quite significantly it was believed that the veil between our world and the world unseen was very thin. It was more likely that you might encounter fairies or other supernatural beings out and about at this time. That notion made folks very nervous. So lots of the Beltaine traditions were done to protect oneself, livestock and crops from any mischief or ill will. Bonfires were lit throughout the country. It was believed that flames, smoke and ashes have protective properties. Livestock were driven between the fires and people walked between them as well, Indeed they sometimes even leap over them. All fires in the house were extinguished and then relit from the communal Beltaine bonfire.

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The festival was associated with fertility, not only of the land, but also the people. Just think about that Maypole…yup, symbol of fertility. In order to have a more youthful and beautiful complexion, women would wash their face in dew, preferably gathered from beneath a hawthorn tree at dawn on May 1st. I have been trying to do this for years here in Virginia, but I don’t have a hawthorn tree. I have a crab apple, which is in the hawthorn family, so that is my go to. Unfortunately, I’m not really an early riser, so the dew is almost nearly all burned off by the time I schlep on out of the house. Furthermore, I’m often quite suspicious of any wetness I do find under the tree. Anybody out there have any idea what washing your face in fox or cat urine accomplishes? But I digress…

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Maybe I should make the effort to get out of bed earlier this year…

Interestingly enough, I had originally considered doing a recipe for little fried honey cakes. I found an article online (so you know it had to be true…) that said they were made for Beltaine and left out as a gift for the fairies the night before. I really did not want to fry any dough, since that would not only use up all my oil (pandemic quarantine concerns….) but would also make my house smell like a chipper. So I reached out to some friends in Ireland to ask if they knew of any traditional Beltaine recipes. They did not, but were horrified to hear that anyone would consider leaving treats out for the fairies. As far as they are concerned, doing anything whatsoever to draw any sort of attention from the fairies was to say, at the very least, quite foolish. Having recently read The Call by Peadar O’Guilin (creepy and somewhat terrifying, Hunger Games-esque modern Irish fairy story – have you read it? You should!) I can definitely see the wisdom in that line of thought!

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So I arrived on the idea of baking, not frying, a honey cake. Honey has long been associated with Beltaine. Not surprising since it is considered to have aphrodisiac qualities and is often associated with fertility. So I figured a honey cake would be a great match for the holiday.

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Truth be told, this recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. Deb calls it the Majestic & Moist Honey Cake and she baked it for Rosh Hashannah – Jewish New Year. In Jewish tradition, honey symbolizes excitement for a sweet New Year. Hey given what 2020 has dished out so far, a “Sweet New Year” sounds really good right about now! Can we just hit reset and have a do over sans deadly pandemic?

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This Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake is quite tasty., filled with spices and incredibly moist with crispy chewy delicious caramelized crust. I used Irish Whiskey in the mix for my Beltaine nod to Ireland. This recipe does make quite a lot of cake. Although I baked it in cutesy little beehive pans, you should probably consider doing a big ole bundt! Happy Beltaine ya’ll!

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Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake

recipe very slightly adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups (440 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  •  teaspoons (about 8 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup (235 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (340 grams) honey
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup warm (235 ml) coffee or strong tea
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Irish whiskey (I think Jack Daniels would work well too)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease pan(s) with non-stick cooking spray. For tube or angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper, cut to fit.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice. Make a well in the center, and add oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, orange juice and rye or whiskey, if using. (If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be easier to get all of the honey out.)

Mix on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom.

Spoon batter into prepared pan(s). Place cake pan(s) on two baking sheets, stacked together (this will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top).

Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center. For angel and tube cake pans, this will take 60 to 75 minutes, loaf cakes, about 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet style cakes, baking time is 40 to 45 minutes.

Let cake stand fifteen minutes before removing from pan.

Enjoy!

Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Useful links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer
Nordic Ware Bundt Pan
Nordic Ware Bee Hive Cakelet Pan – This is the pan I used for the cakes in my pictures. However, this pan only makes 6 cakes at a time and they are pretty small. With the amount of batter this recipe makes you will be baking these for hours with just the one pan! You might also want to use a bundt pan or 9″x13″ pan in addition to this pan.
The Call by Peadar O’Guilin – creepy modern day Irish fairy store I mentioned above. Technically you do not need this to make the Beltaine Spiced Honey Cake, but it really is a good read if you like scary fairy stories, Hunger Game, Game of Thrones type things.
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman – This recipe is not actually in the book, but I have never been disappointed in a Smitten Kitchen recipe, so you might want to get a copy!

Baileys Bite Sized Cheesecakes

March 17, 2020

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Woo-hoo! Today is St. Patrick’s Day!!! It is here, it is here! And to finish off my annual St. Patrick’s Day recipe run I give you: Baileys Bite Sized Cheesecakes!

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These little luxurious gems might be small, but they are big on taste. I mean I really don’t have to describe it much at all – I can just say Baileys Cheesecake. Nuff said really. Everyone knows cheesecake is scrumptious and when you add some silky smooth Baileys into the mix – well  – sheer perfection. I should mention that I have also topped these little tempters with a Baileys whipped cream as well. You know, once you’ve got the Baileys out, why stop?

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Folks absolutely love Baileys. In fact, on December 3rd, 2007, the manufacturers of the beloved liqueur, announced the sale of the billionth bottle of Baileys since it was first introduced. A billion is a lot right? But you’re probably thinking, yeah but Baileys has been around for ever. They’ve had a lot of time to get to 1 billion. You’d be wrong. Baileys wasn’t introduced until 1973! Hard to believe! Baileys was the first Irish Cream to go on the market as well. There have certainly been plenty of  imitators since then, but Baileys continues to rule supreme.

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Although a big huge honking Baileys Cheesecake is truly impressive, these decadent little bite sized indulgences have a lot going for them. They are super portable, so if you’re in a rush to get out to the parade or onto the next festivity, you can just pop one in your mouth and grab another to go. (Yeah – I did write that previous line before we all found ourselves in the social distancing situation we are now enduring…I guess I should say you can grab one out of the fridge quickly and get right back to your Netflix-a-thon without missing a thing) Easy-peasy. And you won’t fall into a cheesecake induced sugar coma like you might if you ate a big old slice of cheesecake. Plus they’re so small, I’m sure they barely have any calories at all in them. Not that you should be thinking of calories on St. Patrick’s Day…

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Well I guess that finishes my annual St. Patrick’s Day run. I’ve gotta admit, this is the strangest St. Patrick’s Day I can remember what with all the Covid 19 closures, cancellations and quarantines going on around the world. Definitely scary times. Things will likely be weird for awhile, but hopefully if we can work together we will be able to weather this storm. Friends in Ireland forwarded me an inspiring St. Patrick’s Day message from their President, Michael D. Higgins, which I will leave you with now.

I wish everyone a safe, healthy and happy holiday! Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daiobh (Happy St. Patrick’s Day)!

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Baileys Bite Sized Cheesecakes

  • Servings: 12 mini cheesecakes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

For the Crust:

  • 1 cup (120 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (32 grans) almond flour or 1/3 cup (28 grams) ground almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons (28 grams) brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons (85 grams) butter, cold

For the Batter:

  • 1 cup (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) heavy cream or sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream

Toppings:

For the Baileys Whipped Cream:

  • 3/4 Cup (180 ml) whipping cream
  • 2 Tablespoons confectioners sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
  • Baileys Cookie (optional), Valhrona Dark Chocolate Crunchy Pearls (optional) Chocolate covered espresso beans (optional)

Directions:

For the Crust:

Preheat your oven to 425°F. Whisk together the flour, almond flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives, or rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Or simply pulse the mixture in a food processor until combined. Sprinkle in a teaspoon or two of water if the dough is too crumbly to hold together when squeezed.

Divide the crumbs among the 12 cups of a mini cheesecake pan. Press them firmly into the bottoms and about 1/2″ up the sides. I used a medium sized cookie scoop to fill the wells with crust and then used a cork to tamp the crust down and hollow out a space in the center. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until set and just beginning to color. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

For the Batter:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the cream, egg, vanilla and Baileys; mix well. Spoon the batter into the cooled crusts, using about 2 tablespoons in each. Again the medium sized cookie scoop works well here.

Bake the cheesecakes for 18 to 20 minutes, until just set. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes — the tops will sink slightly. Use a knife to gently loosen the edges. Pick the pan up and gently and carefully push the individual cakes up until you can lift them from the pan. Put them in the fridge to chill. To remove the metal plates before serving, run the blade of a table knife under hot water to warm it, then run the knife between the crust and the metal disk to free up the cheesecake. I was actually able to easily pop the metal plates off the bottom of the cakes when I first removed them from the pan.

Make the Baileys Whipped Cream: Place the cold whipping cream in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attached. While whisking the cream, slowly add the sugar and the Baileys. Continue to mix until glossy peaks form.

Just before serving, pipe some Bailey’s Whipped cream on the top and garnish with Baileys cookie or chocolate shavings if desired.

Enjoy!

Baileys Bite Sized Cheesecakes brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Useful links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Baileys Bite Sized Cheesecakes:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Series 5 Qt. Stand Mixer

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

OXO Good Grips Medium Cookie Scoop

Norpro Nonstick Mini Cheesecake Pan

 


Leprechaun Bait

March 16, 2020

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So tell me, are you hoping to catch a Leprechaun this St. Patrick’s Day? Have you ever indulged in so many adult beverages on a St. Patrick’s Day past that you thought you saw one? Well, let me tell you about today’s recipe: Leprechaun Bait!

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What we’ve got going on here is a magically delicious combination of chex cereal, Lucky Charms, salty pretzels, pistachios, cashews, M&Ms and Lucky Charms marshmallows, addictively coated with a silky white chocolate. Leprechaun bait? More like Leprechaun crack if you ask me!

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But perhaps I’ve gotten ahead of myself. You can’t really conduct a Leprechaun hunt if you aren’t familiar with the wee fellows.

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Old world Leprechaun as pictured in Spiderwick Chronicles

A Leprechaun is one of the fairy folk that live in Ireland. Cobblers by trade, these diminutive fellows (no taller than 3 feet) live a solitary life.  They are very focused on their appearance, dressed to the nines in a green suit, top hat and buckled shoes. Their love for green fashion apparently developed sometime in the 20th Century. Prior to that, they were fond of wearing red. Yeats explained that solitary fairies wore red, whereas trooping fairies tended to wear green.

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There seems to be a bit of controversy about where the name “leprechaun” comes from. In middle Irish there is the word luchrupán which means small body or it could derive from the word leithbrágan translating to half shoe which eludes to their profession. Or if you are a fan of the Artemis Fowl series of books, you are well aware that Leprechaun is from Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance – LEPrecon for short. (OMG – If you have not read this young adult series put it to the top of your to read list!!! And a movie is coming out soon!)

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Dame Judi Dench as Commander Root of LEP-Recon.

But wait….let me get back to the traditional folklore Leprechaun. Leprechauns love music and dancing, having ceilis which have been known to last for days. Perhaps these fairy raves are how they all wore their shoes out. Because apparently shoe making/mending is quite lucrative. It is well know that each leprechaun has a pot of gold which they have hidden somewhere. It is that pot of gold that has caused them to have such a troubling history with humans, which we know tend to be very greedy – always after the poor Leprechauns pot of gold or lucky charms.

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Making matters worse, there is that rumor that if you catch a Leprechaun they will grant you three wishes. You know, like a little green genie. This relentless pursuit is perhaps why leprechauns are know to be tricksy or even sometimes grumpy or distrustful. If you had to put up with being constantly hassled for money and favors, you’d be grumpy too. Kind of like the long suffering denizens of New York City. However if folks chose to be nice to them, Leprechauns have been know to bestow huge rewards, like a castle full of gold, to such good samaritans. Now I should point out what with St. Patrick’s Day upon us, there is a fairy known as a clurichaun which is said to be a cousin of the Leprechaun. Clurichauns, which tend to hang around breweries, pubs and wine cellars, are know to be often drunk. And rather than happy drunks, they are the surly, boisterous, fighting type of drunk. They raise all kinds of ruckus at night, keeping good folk awake with all the commotion. They have even been know to go on wild joyrides on unsuspecting dogs, cats or sheep. Terrible altogether! Though I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is some thought that these aren’t two different types of fairies, but that Clurichauns are actually just Leprechauns out on a bender!

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But wait just a second! I have really gotten off track here. I was supposed to be telling you about this Leprechaun Bait. This addictive snack is really very easy to make and will be a perfect addition to your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

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In the spirit of full disclosure, my Mom always makes this at Christmas with some red and green M&M’s and craisins thrown into the mix. I love the stuff and look forward to it every year, so I decided to give it a St. Patrick’s Day spin by using green, white and orange M&M’s (colors of the Irish flag) green pistachios and Lucky Charms Marshmallows. Feel free to customize it as you see fit, cuz I gotta tell you – once you taste this delicious mix you’re going to be making it all the time. Yup – Leprechaun crack I tell you!

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And if you do see a Leprechaun this year, don’t be trying to abduct him, rob him or nag him for favors. Just pour him a drink and share this snack with him. You never know, perhaps he’ll forego his tricksy ways and you’ll be rewarded!

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Leprechaun Bait

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups Rice Chex cereal
  • 3 cups Lucky Charms cereal sans marshmallow bits (usually I use Cheerios, but since you’ve already got a box of Lucky Charms opened…Though this will make the mix a bit sweeter since Lucky Charms is frosted)
  • 2 cups broken pretzels ( I used Snyder’s Snaps but you could use small stix)
  • 1 cup pistachios
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 12 oz. M&M’s candy (I ordered specific color’s from the M&M store which does a St. Patrick’s Day mix as well* see disclaimer at bottom of post. Though you could just pick through regular M&M’s to get the green and orange ones)
  • 27 oz. White Chocolate chips
  • 1 cup marshmallows from Lucky Charms (I was able to get ahold of a limited edition box that had green clover & gold coin marshmallows)

Directions: 

In a large bowl, combine the Chex, Lucky Charms cereal (without marshmallows), pretzels, pistachios, cashews and M&M’s.

Cover counter with parchment paper.

Place white chocolate chips in top of double boiler and heat until melted through.

Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal mixture.

Stir quickly but carefully, taking care not to crush the Chex cereal, but to ensure that the mixture is completely coated with the white chocolate.

Turn the mixture out onto the parchment paper, spread it out and sprinkle evenly with the Lucky Charms marshmallows. Press down gently to get the marshmallows to adhere.

Allow the white chocolate to set. Break into smaller pieces and store in air-tight containers.

Enjoy!

Leprechaun Bait brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www. leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Leprechaun Bait:

Double Boiler Pot

Snyder’s Snap Pretzels

Lucky Charms Cereal – Limited Edition

Artemis Fowl set – Books 1-3

St. Patrick’s Day M&M mix – I feel rather nit picky about mentioning this, but it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. The M&M’s store St. Patrick’s Day mix is made up of green and white M&M’s which have been stamped with some lovely shamrocks – which is great. However, some are also marked with “Happy St. Patty’s Day” Arrrrghhhhh! Who is “St. Patty” Did Peppermint Patty from the Peanuts cartoon strip perform a couple of miracles I was unaware of which got her canonized? If I had noticed that slip up, I would not have purchased them. Deal breaker! I would have just bought some plain green and white M&M’s. Patrick in Irish is Pádraig and the nickname for that is Paddy. Not Patty, which is a nickname for Patricia. Come on M&M’s folks – surely you can do better!

 

 


Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding

March 13, 2020

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Mmmmmm. Did someone say Bread Pudding? Comfort food at its finest if you ask me. It is enjoyed all over the world with each country putting its own special spin on it. Like in Canada it is often made with maple syrup and in Puerto Rico you will find it with coconut milk and a rum guava sauce. So for St. Patrick’s Day I thought this Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding would be perfection!

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Bread Pudding started out as a pretty rustic dish and folks have been enjoying it for some time. It can be traced all the way back to the 11th century. It was a pretty frugal dish, made to use up bread that was going stale. In 13th century England it was referred to as ‘poor man’s pudding”. How far it has come. Not so humble anymore you can find it offered up in some of the most posh and trendy restaurants.

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A couple of years ago I shared a recipe for Irish Whiskey Marmalade. I thought the bright  citrus goodness of that marmalade would be a perfect complement to my pudding. I originally got this award winning Irish Whiskey Marmalade recipe from my friend Theresa’s cookbook  Fruit on the Table: Seasonal Recipes from the Green Apron Kitchen by Theresa Storey.

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Theresa and I met in college when she was finishing up her degree in botany. After college, Theresa moved back to rural County Limerick and started her own business, The Green Apron, which is an artisan preserve company. Theresa 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. The Green Apron has won 15 Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards, 7 International Great Taste awards and is listed not only in McKenna’s Guide, but also in Georgina Campbell’s Guide. The Green Apron is also now offering workshops on sustainable living, preserving and bee keeping.

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But let me get back to today’s recipe. The Irish Whiskey Marmalade I made to brighten my bread pudding is a three fruit marmalade consisting of grapefruit, oranges and lemons and a good glug of Irish Whiskey. It is one of The Green Apron’s best-selling jams and won a bronze Blas na h’Eireann (Taste of Ireland Competition) in 2015. I have included the recipe for it which makes about 5 pints. That is quite a bit more than you need for this recipe. But I will say, it is amazing stuff. You will be delighted to have extra on hand. I have used  it to enhance other dishes in the past such as these Irish Whiskey Marmalade Tarts 

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as well as this Irish Whiskey Marmalade Cocktail

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And this scrumptious Batley Cake

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Great recipes to be sure and this Bread Pudding is right at home with them. So warming, cozy and comforting and a bit boozy I must say with the whiskey in the marmalade and well as the pudding. The bright citrus flourish will remind you that Spring is right around the corner. Serve it warm with some whipped cream or ice cream. But I’ve got to tell you, this Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding is so delicious it stands fine all on its own.

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Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding

  • Servings: 4 -6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 6 – 8 slices of day old bread (I used challah, brioche would also be great, or plain white bread)
  • 50 grams butter, room temperature
  • 4 – 6 Tablespoon Irish Whiskey Marmalade (recipe noted below)
  • 250 ml heavy cream
  • 50 ml milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 4 Tablespoons demerara sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Irish Whiskey
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting over top

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325° F (160° C)

Butter the bread on both sides. Spread half of the pieces with marmalade. Cover with the remaining slices of bread to make marmalade sandwiches. Cut the sandwiches into quarters or halves depending on the bread size and your chosen baking dish and arrange them in the dish. I used an oval casserole measuring about 10″ x 8″. A 9″x 9″ would also work well.

Combine the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, sugar and whiskey. Pour the mixture over the marmalade sandwiches. Set aside for 30 minutes or so to allow the bread to absorb all of that goodness.

Dot the remaining marmalade over the top of the bread. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until set. Remove from oven and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Serve warm with whipped cream, ice cream or simply plain.

For the Irish Whiskey Marmalade:

Ingredients:

  • 1 ruby grapefruit
  • 2 medium sweet oranges
  • 4 lemons
  • 3.4 kg (6 pints) water
  • 2.7 kg (6 lbs) sugar
  • 60 ml (2 fl. oz.) good Irish Whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice (Please note, mixed spice is different from all-spice. Mixed spice, sometimes also called pudding spice is a British spice similar to pumpkin pie spice, containing cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. I have a link for it below, or hereis a recipe for it.)

Directions:

Place a saucer into the refrigerator to chill.

Wash the grapefruit, oranges and lemons. Remove any blemishes from the skin and cut them into quarters. Place in the food processor and process on high speed until the peel is reduced to 6-mm (1/4″) pieces. If you like a bigger peel in your marmalade, don’t process it for so long, and if you like very little peel, process it for longer.

Put the processed citrus in a preserving pot with the water, stir well and cook on a high heat, stirring occasionally, until the peel is cooked and smooshes to wee pieces between your fingers. This usually takes an hour.

Add the sugar, stir well and cook over a high heat, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade reaches setting point, with a marmalade this usually takes 20 -40 minutes.

Spoon a little of the boiling preserve onto the cold saucer. Let it cool and then push it with your finger. If it has reached setting point, the top of the blob of marmalade will wrinkle. Marmalades should have wrinkles at least 2 -3 mm hight.

Remove from heat. Skim off any seeds and sugar foam.

Add 60 ml (2 fl oz) of good Irish Whiskey and 1 teaspoon of ground mixed spice.

Pour into warm sterilized jars to within 6 mm (1/4″) of the top. Wipe any drips off the rims of the jars to make sure there is a good seal between the jar and lid. A dampened paper towel works well for this. Place the lids on and seal.

Enjoy!

Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful kitchen tools & ingredients for Irish Whiskey Marmalade Bread Pudding:

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

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Kilner Stainless Steel Jam Pan

Ball Mason 4 oz quilted jelly jars

Canning Magnetic Lid Wand

Norpro 600 Jar Lifter

Ball Canning Funnel

Mixed Spice

Oxo Good Grips Baker’s Dusting Wand

Folláin Irish Whiskey Marmalade – If you don’t have the time to make up a batch of marmalade before St. Patrick’s Day, nor can you travel to the Limerick Milk Market to buy a jar from The Green Apron, here is an option for Irish Whiskey Marmalade that will show up on your doorstep!

 


Sponge Cake with Cranberry Curd

February 14, 2020

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Happy Valentine’s Day! This year I made my Valentine this gorgeous light & airy sponge cake which is layered with cranberry curd and frosted with a delicate whipped cream. The Husband (who also happens to be my Valentine… come on! You know that isn’t always the case with all married folks out there….) generally doesn’t like any chocolatey super sweet sugar bombs that seem to be all the rage for this holiday.  Which is totally unlike me. That is exactly what I would want. Truth be told…in a the shape of a cupcake if all were going my way. Just saying…He, on the other hand, prefers fruit forward desserts such as this lovely Cashew Crusted Blackberry & Lime Tart:

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Or these Luscious Lemon Squares,

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And then there was that Poached Pear Tart with Lemony Cream.

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You see…being a good wife, I make him thing that I know he will enjoy the most. I do not bake cupcakes for him on Valentine’s Day…generally that is. You see one year I did manage to get away with it. He loves a good Gin & Tonic so I made him Pink Grapefruit Gin & Tonic Cupcakes:

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Pretty sly huh? This year I decided on this cake because of that Cranberry Curd. He does love cranberries. He raves about my Boozy Orange Cranberry Sauce which shows up at Thanksgiving every year.

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And was thrilled when I took some of that leftover Cranberry Sauce and made the cranberry butter to go on these Popovers:

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So I figured this cake was a pretty good bet. And luckily I was right!

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The sponge, being full of whipped egg whites, had a very delicate crumb and was light and fluffy. The cranberry curd was amazing – buttery and velvety with just the perfect amount of tartness to balance the sweet.

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The one piece of advice I would give, having made the cake, is that if I were to make it again, I would forego slicing the cakes in half to make four layers. I would simply spread about 1/2 cup of the curd between the two layers of cake and be done with it. The cake is wonderfully delicate and the curd very heavy. I am not very good at splitting cake layers in half and I think the thinner delicate cake layers had a hard time holding up to the heavy curd. Not to mention, I wouldn’t mind having a bit of that curd left over to spread over toast and scones. Just saying… If you are great with splitting cake layers in half and want that impressive four layer appearance – proceed with the recipe as noted. However, if you might be a bit more like me….well….. you know what I’m saying!

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This cake would look great on your Thanksgiving or Christmas table as well, when fresh cranberries are plentiful. But believe me, it would be welcome by all year round. I must say, both the Husband and myself were well pleased with it! Happy Valentines Day!

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Sponge Cake with Cranberry Curd

  • Servings: one 8
  • Difficulty: easy - but several steps - perhaps make over a couple of days
  • Print

recipe from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

For the curd:

  • 3 cups (298g/ 10 1/2 oz) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup (198g/7 oz) granulated sugar
  • juice and grated rind (zest) of 1 orange
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary, optional
  • 6 tablespoons (85g/3 oz) unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks

For the Cake:

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (198g/ 7 oz.) superfine sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (120g/4 1/4 oz) unbleached cake flour

For the Whipped Cream Frosting:

  • 2 cups (454 g/16 oz.) heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup (28g/1 oz) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Sugared Cranberries:

  • 3/4 cup (149g/5 1/4) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (113g/4 oz) water
  • 1/2 cup (50g/1 3/4 oz.) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • superfine sugar, for rolling

Directions:

To make the curd: Place the cranberries, sugar, orange juice and zest, salt, and rosemary (if using) in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries pop and start to break down, abut 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, remove and discard the rosemary sprig, and purée with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Strain the purée into a clean medium saucepan.

Whisk in the butter, eggs, and egg yolks. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the curd from the heat and transfer it to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap that touches the surface, and refrigerate until cold.

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease your choice of two 8″ (at least 2″ deep) or 9″ round pans. Line the bottoms with parchment, then butter and flour the parchment.

Combine the egg yolks and 3/4 cup of the sugar in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes pale and thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and salt.

In a clean bowl with a clean whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating on medium-high speed until the whites are stiff and glossy, about 2 minutes. Fold the yolk mixture, one third at a time, into the whites.

Sift the flour over the mixture and fold gently until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges just begin to pull away from the pan and the center springs back when lightly touched.

Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans on a rack for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes turn the layers out of the pans, peel off the paper, and return to the rack to finish cooling right side up.

To make the whipped cream: In a large mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream with the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.

To make the sugared cranberries: Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, cooking until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries and return to a boil; simmer for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and, with a slotted spoon, take the cranberries out of the syrup and roll them in superfine (Baker’s Special) sugar until coated. Place on a rack to dry.

To assemble: Split the cake layers horizontally (see my comments above… basically I would go with a simple two layer cake, spreading 1/2 cup of the curd between the layers and reserving the rest for scones or toast) and place half of one on a serving plate. Spread with 1/2 cup cranberry curd.

Place the other half of the layer on top and spread with another 1/2 cup of curd. Repeat with half of the second layer. Top with the remaining curd and cake, then frost the top and sides with whipped cream. Garnish with the sugared cranberries. (optional)

Store the cake, covered in the refrigerator, for up to four days. Freeze for longer storage.

Enjoy!

Sponge Cake with Cranberry Curd brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Sponge Cake with Cranberry Curd:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Oxo Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Wilton Cake Leveler


Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte

February 5, 2020

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So I gotta ask….are there any Nutella fans out there? Cause let me tell you I love me some Nutella! I actually didn’t even know it existed until I was living in Ireland and my friend Theresa had a jar. I watched with amazement as she spread it over her toast. I was like “What! You can eat chocolate on toast!” I had no idea it was a thing. Yup, love at first bite. And Biscoff? Well I first encountered those little Biscoff cookies when an air host handed me a packet for a snack when I was on a flight. I loved them. At first I thought maybe it was just because I didn’t have very high expectations for any snack given out on a flight, but then they magically appeared in grocery stores and I found that I also enjoyed them when I wasn’t a captive audience, shoehorned into a tiny uncomfortable little seat.

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When I found out that there was a cookie butter version that I could spread on toast, I cannot tell you how excited I was! This amazing treat that I’m going to tell you about today features both Nutella and Biscoff – both the cookies and the cookie butter AND it is not only malted but it is also salted!!! GET. OUT!!! So without further ado (insert drum roll here) – I present the magnificent Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte! Just look at this big boy!

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This treat has got it all going on – Three – that’s right I said THREE – layers of oooey, gooey chocolatey brownies interspersed with malted Nutella & Biscoff-y goodness, all frosted with salted Biscoff frosting, further adorned with malted milk balls

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and Biscoff cookie crumbs

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It is not by chance that I’m blogging a recipe which features Nutella today. Today February 5th is World Nutella Day. This celebration of all things Nutella was started in 2007 by Sara at Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle at Bleeding Espresso as a day to celebrate, get creative with and most importantly, to EAT Nutella.

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A couple of years ago, the founders have transferred Nutella Day to Ferrero the companywho owns that most beloved spread. Take a peek at their Facebook page and see how folks are celebrating the day! I love Nutella so I usually try to participate with a Nutella laden recipe every year. One of my favorite Nutella creations was this Nutella, Double Chocolate & Banana Tart which was quite stunning if I do say so myself.

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Last year I gave you this gorgeous Nutella Star Bread:

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And there was the amazing Nutella Chocolate Chip Babka:

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And for quite a few years I was on a cookie streak. I made some Nutella Sea Salt Stuffies:

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And there were these irresistible Salted Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies – sweet salty bliss I tell you!

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I was still loving the salty / sweet thing when I blogged about  Salted & Malted Nutella Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies. These cookies feature silky, decadent Nutella, creamy caramel, nostalgic malted goodness and rich chocolate chips, all rolled up together in a crunchy chewy salted cookie.

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Yeah quite obviously I have a malted, as well as a sweet salty flavor obsession. So it is easy to see why I chose this year’s Nutella Day offering: Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte. This is undeniably one impressive looking cake!

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Needless to say, this decadent treat is truly rich. So slice it thinly and serve with whipped cream and maybe a tall glass of milk. There will be enough to feed an army I tell you!

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Although there are several steps, this amazing creation comes together quite easily. You can make up the various components over several days and then put them all together rather quickly right before whatever gathering at which you hoping to amaze folks with your baking prowess. So what are you waiting for? Step one – eat some Nutella. Step two –  eat even more Nutella while making this jaw-dropping indulgence! And have a Happy Nutella Day!

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Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte

  • Servings: 0ne 8
  • Difficulty: easy - but several steps
  • Print

recipe from: Heather Baird of Sprinkle Bakes

Ingredients:

For the Brownie Layers;

  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 6 ounces unsweetened baker’s chocolate, chopped
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

For the Malted Nutella & Biscoff Layers:

  • 6 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1 cup (about 9 oz.) Biscoff spread
  • 1 cup (about 9 oz.) Nutella spread
  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted, divided
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, divided

For the Salted Biscoff Frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (about 9 oz.) Biscoff spread
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk or cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

For the Nutella Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup (about 9 oz.) Nutella spread
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream

For Assembly:

  • 15 chocolate malt balls
  • 6 Biscoff cookies, pulverized
  • Maldon flake salt for garnish

Directions:

For the Brownie Layers:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter and chocolate; stir until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk in sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla, flour, salt and baking soda.
Pour into three greased and floured 9-inch (or 8″) round baking pans. Bake for 23-25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans; remove from pans to a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap or store in air-tight containers until needed.

For the Malted Nutella & Biscoff Layers:

Line two round 9-inch (or 8″) pans with plastic wrap (the same ones used to make the brownie layers, if possible).

Biscoff Layer: Mix together 3 cups of the powdered sugar, 1 cup Biscoff and 4 tablespoons melted butter in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mixture will be crumbly. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture becomes consistent workable dough. It should not be crumbly or stick to your fingers. The mixture should hold together easily when a small amount is squeezed tight in the palm of your hand. Press the dough evenly into one of the lined pans. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Malted Nutella Layer: Mix together 1 cup Nutella, malted milk and remaining 4 tablespoons melted butter in a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar slowly. About 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Mixture will be crumbly. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture becomes consistent workable dough. It should not be crumbly or stick to your fingers. The mixture should hold together easily when a small amount is squeezed tight in the palm of your hand. Press the dough evenly into the remaining lined pan. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

For the Salted Biscoff Frosting: Combine the butter and Biscoff in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar slowly, about 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until each addition is incorporated before adding the next. Add cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is thick and fluffy; add the salt and whip again. Scrape down the bowl and beat for 2 minutes longer, or until the salt is well dispersed throughout the batter.

For the Nutella Frosting: Beat the butter and Nutella in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar slowly – no more than 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until it is incorporated before adding the next 1/4 cup. Add cream 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed. Transfer the frosting to a large piping bag fitted with a large closed star piping tip.

For the Assembly: Place a brownie layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Turn out the Nutella candy layer on top of the brownie; top with another brownie layer. Turn out the Biscoff layer onto the brownie layer and top with the final brownie layer. Frost the entire cake with the salted Biscoff frosting, using an offset spatula to swirl the icing. Pipe 12 to 14 rosettes of Nutella frosting on the top edge of the cake. Garnish each with a malt ball. Place the cake on a baking sheet and gently toss pulverized cookies onto the bottom edge of the cake, allowing the excess to fall onto the baking sheet. Finally garnish the top of the cake with Maldon flake salt.

Store the cake covered at room temperature

Enjoy!

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Biscoff Cookie Butter Spread

Biscoff Cookies

Nutella Spread

Maldon Sea Salt Flakes

Premium Dark Chocolate Malt Balls – these look great, but truth be told I used Whoppers on my cake.

Sea Salt Sweet by Heather Baird – The recipe for Malted Nutella & Biscoff Brownie Torte is from the Sprinkle Bakes blog by Heather Baird. If you love that salty/sweet flavor combination like I do, you will love Heather’s “Sea Salt Sweet” cookbook. This book is a treasure trove of recipes for the salty sweet lover!

 

 

 


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