Nashville “Hot” Chicken & Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter

March 1, 2019

IMG_7138

Anyone out there heard of Nashville Hot Chicken? If you have, I’ll give you a couple of minutes to finish that happy dance you must be doing at the mention of it right now, for those of you who haven’t … Oh, good Lord child, hold onto your hat! Nashville Hot Chicken is the local specialty of Nashville. You see in Nashville, they don’t just have fried chicken, which is awesome all on its lonesome, I must say. No, they have a very special, spicy hot chicken. Served up atop a piece of white bread and topped with pickles, the chicken there is marinated in a hot, spicy buttermilk brine, dredged in a spicy hot flour dredge, fried and then slathered with a fiery cayenne glaze – and that’s the mild version! Folks in Nashville are not playing! This chicken is a taste sensation that will truly light up all of your senses! The husband and I love us some spicy food, so this is right up our alley.

IMG_7665

As is Nashville. The chicken isn’t the only thing that’s hot there! Obviously if you love country music, you should make a bee line for this destination. But country music isn’t the only thing on the menu – we’ve pretty much come across every genre of music when visiting there. They don’t call it Music City for nothing! Not to mention, if you love food – the dynamic food scene you will find in Nashville is amazing! The signature hot chicken isn’t all there is to be had, so those of you with more tender taste buds do not need to despair.

IMG_7729

The husband and I have visited two times and are always planning for our next trip there. We’ve enjoyed all sorts of music entertainment – from beloved bluegrass at the iconic Station Inn to all that the honky tonks of Broadway have to offer! And food wise – yes we have sampled the Nashville Hot Chicken (more on that to come…) but we’ve also enjoyed inspired mexican dishes at St. Anjeo

IMG_7674and to die for fusion Indian/American southern dishes at the Chauhan Ale & Masala House

IMG_7704

as well as all the barbecue, biscuits,

IMG_5344

rooftop cocktails

IMG_7673

and fine dining you can shake a stick at. Nashville has it all going on ya’ll! And where should one stay while experiencing this bustling town? Well both times we’ve visited, we’ve stayed in a lovely suite at the Thompson Nashville in the Gulch.

P1080235

The Gulch is a very trendy, hip neighborhood on the southwest fringe of downtown Nashville. It is only blocks from Music City Central and just steps to the downtown honky tonks. This luxury hotel shares the block with the aforementioned Station Inn and boasts a fantastic rooftop bar & lounge as well as an award winning restaurant. While I’m sure all of their rooms are lovely, the Thompson suite is absolutely decadent. So spacious, boasting floor to ceiling windows, wet bars, clawfoot bathtubs, rain showers and Nashville inspired finishes – such as sliding barn doors and Marshall bluetooth speakers – this room is a destination in itself.

P1080236

But let me get back to that Hot Chicken. On our last visit to Nashville, the Husband and I decided to go sample some of the city’s hot chicken. Although the African-American community in the area had been enjoying spicy chicken for generations, Nashville Hot Chicken as it is now known was likely introduced in 1930. Apparently, there was a gentleman who was quite a womanizer. After a late night out, after which he was unable, or unwilling to provide the details of which to his current girlfriend, she saw fit to exact a little revenge on him and fried him up a special batch of chicken on which she quite liberally applied the cayenne. In a twist of fate, the victim here ended up really loving this fiery chicken. The gentleman for whom this revenge chicken was prepared was from the family of Andre Prince Jeffries – the proprietor of Prince’s Hot Chicken Shacks, one of the better known hot chicken places in Nashville. They’ve been serving up this signature dish since the 1930s. Currently there are over two dozen establishments in Nashville serving up their own versions of Hot Chicken. The husband and I chose to check out Hattie B’s Nashville Hot Chicken.

IMG_7654Hattie B’s is a no frills kind of place, we dined on a wooden picnic table on a screened in porch, but that doesn’t seem to stop folks from lining up around the block to get ahold of some of their molten gold. We stood in line for about 30 minutes on the day we visited, but it was so worth it!IMG_7655They offer several spice levels for their chicken – southern, mild, medium, hot, damn hot and shut the cluck up! So, as I’ve mentioned, we like spicy and consider ourselves somewhat spice experienced. Spice aficionados. So I decided to go for the hot chicken. The husband he went for damn hot. And we couldn’t resist ordering one chicken tender that was designated at the “shut the cluck up” level.

IMG_7656Well, all I can say is by Nashville Hot Chicken standards, we are pretty much novices. I could eat my “hot” chicken – but it took quite a good portion of that pitcher of beer we ordered to get it down. I’m telling you this was a brow mopping, slightly sweating experience. There was absolutely no way I was going to even attempt one small taste of the “shut the cluck up’ tender that had been sitting there mocking us as we persevered through our chicken choices. But the Husband, although his mouth was already on fire, was not one to back down to a challenge. So, God help him, he took a bite!

Yup…..just as I suspected. It was pretty much life changing! There are ghost peppers rumored to be in play here. What it taught us is respect. We respect Nashville Hot Chicken now. Oh we still order it, but are always careful to get a more descriptive explanation of the spice level involved, using Hattie B’s as a baseline. That chicken hurts so good, but is not for the faint of heart!

But back to this recipe I’m sharing with you today. Do not be scared. Although I am calling this Nashville Hot Chicken, it is very very mild to what I just described.

IMG_7110

And if you really don’t like a lot of spice, don’t bother with the spicy glaze. What you must do is the brine. This chicken is so moist, tender and flavorful, which I think is mostly due to that brine. You don’t want to miss out on that. And just know going into this that chickens now a days are so bred to be so huge, more like turkeys really, it is unlikely you will be able to get the larger pieces like the breast and thighs done when deep-frying. You should plan to finish the chicken in the oven.

IMG_7116

And although it is traditional to serve Nashville Hot Chicken with a piece of white bread and pickles, I served mine up with some soft, tender buttermilk biscuits which we slathered with honey butter.

IMG_7145

Quite the treat I must say.  The chicken is delicious, but these biscuits are pretty amazing all on their own. Soft and airy, but with a bit of a crispy crust on the outside. Sturdy enough to hold up as a sandwich. And out of this world simply smeared with honey butter!

IMG_7155

So if you are ready for a taste adventure, book that trip to Nashville and give Prince’s or Hattie B’s a whirl. For an introduction to the cuisine, or to start your taste bud training, whip up this recipe!

IMG_7123

Nashville Hot Chicken & Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: easy - but does involve deep-frying & all the mess that goes along with it...
  • Print

recipe from: Chef Marion Anderson with Sur La Table Cooking Classes

Ingredients:

Nashville Spice Mix:

  • 2 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 Tablespoons granulated garlic
  • 4 Tablespoons paprika
  • 4 Tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Sea Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Marinade:

  • 1 (3 – 4 pound) whole chicken cut into 10 serving pieces
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar-based hot sauce, such as Frank’s
  • 1/4 cup Nashville spice-mix

For the Seasoned Flour Dredge:

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Nashville Spice Mix

For the dip:

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 cup Nashville Spice Mix
  • 1 cup reserved oil from frying
  • sea salt for seasoning

Directions:

Whisk all of the ingredients for the Nashville Spice Mix together until combined and set aside.

Place the chicken in a large dish. Combine 4 cups of the buttermilk, hot sauce and the Nashville Spice Mix. Mix thoroughly and then pour over the chicken. Cover and allow chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for 3 – 8 hours. I prefer a longer marinade and just let the chicken marinate overnight.

About 30 minutes before you are ready to fry the chicken, remove it from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Then leave it to rest on a wire rack which has been placed over a baking sheet. Allow the chicken to drain and come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven the 350° F. Place a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in the oven.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and spice mix and set aside.

In another large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 cup buttermilk, egg, baking power and baking soda for the dip.

Place a large, heavy Dutch oven on the stove. Clip a deep-fry thermometer to the side and fill with about 3 inches of oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches a temperature of 350°F.

Pick up a piece of the chicken, dredge it in the seasoned flour. Shake any excess flour from the chicken and then dip it into the egg mixture. Give it a shake and then dip it once more into the seasoned flour. Shake off the excess again.

Slide the coated chicken, skin side down into the hot oil. Once all of the chicken you are cooking in that batch has been added to the pan, adjust the flame as necessary. Cook for about  8-10 minutes and then check the chicken. It should be golden brown. Remove the chicken from the oil to baking tray lined with paper towels. Check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. It should register 165°F, if it has not reached this level, but is a perfect shade of golden brown, place the chicken into the preheated oven to finish cooking. Continue frying the chicken, remembering to allow the oil to return to 350°F between batches.

Once all of the chicken is cooked, move it from the paper towels to a wire cooling rack which has been set over a rimmed baking sheet. Add some of the hot cooking oil to the remaining Nashville Spice Mix and whisk until a paste forms. You want the paste to be thin enough to brush over the chicken as a glaze, so add as much oil as you need to achieve this consistency. Generously glaze the chicken and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Serve over a piece of white bread, along with some pickle chips if you want to be truly authentic. Or serve with some lovely Buttermilk Biscuits which have been slathered with Honey Butter, as I did. (Biscuit recipe noted below.)

Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter

servings: 8 – 16 biscuits depending on how you cut them!

Ingredients:

For the biscuits:

  • 2 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) frozen unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, beaten

For the Honey Butter:

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Grate the frozen butter over the flour mixture and toss until all the butter is coated. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Using a fork, mix until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just one or two times. The less touching the better. Pat the dough out to a 1″ thickness. Using a biscuit cutter, cut the biscuits out, taking care not to twist the cutter. Just push straight down and pull straight up, otherwise your biscuits will not rise as high as you might hope.

Place the biscuits on the prepared tray and brush with the beaten egg. Bake until golden-brown, about 12 -14 minutes.

Transfer biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the softened butter, honey and salt. Mix until the butter is light and fluffy. Serve with warm biscuits and spicy chicken.

Enjoy!

Nashville Hot Chicken & Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

Links for helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Nashville Hot Chicken & Buttermilk Biscuits with Honey Butter:

Le Creuset Signature 5 1/2 quart Round Dutch Oven

Instant Read Deep Fry Thermometer

Solid Stainless Steel Spider Skimmer Ladle

Stainless Steel Cooling Rack

Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Rimmed Sheet

Silicone basting brush set

Mason Cash Into the Forest mixing bowl

Stainless Steel Box Grater

Stainless Steel Biscuit Cutters

Links for Planning your vacation in Nashville:

Accommodation:

Thompson Nashville – This boutique hotel is located in the hip and trendy Gulch neighborhood of downtown Nashville, just a few minutes walk from  It boasts a rooftop lounge, a cozy cafe and contemporary seafood restaurant. The cozy rooms feature floor to ceiling windows, sliding barn doors and premium linens.

Restaurants/Bars:

St. Añejo

Chauhan Ale & Masala House

Whiskey Kitchen

Hattie B’s -Get your Nashville Hot Chicken here! Go ahead…try the Shut the Cluck Up level…I dare you!

Biscuit Love

L.A. Jackson – Rooftop Bar at the Thompson Nashville hotel featuring sweeping views of downtown Nashville, creative cocktails and delicious small plates.

Acme Feed & Seed 

Shopping:

Vincent Peach – Gorgeous jewelry featuring tahitian pearls, tusks, leather, vintage coins, fossils and pave diamonds as far as the eye can see. Worn by the likes of Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Stephen Tyler.

Carter Vintage Guitars – Very friendly guitar store chock full of quality vintage instruments and accessories as well as a laid back and knowledgeable staff.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Scottish Pies with Mushy Peas

January 26, 2019

img_7304

The Husband and I went on an amazing trip this time last year and seeings how yesterday was Robbie Burns Day, I’ve just got to tell you about it. That’s right- January 25th is the birthday of Robert Burns. Robert Burns was born in 1759 and is regarded as the National Poet of Scotland. On January 25th folks throughout the world, though especially in Scotland, will be remembering him with a Burns Night Supper. Robbie Burns has indeed inspired me to share this recipe for these delicious Scottish Pies, sometimes also called “Scotch Pies” which is perfect for a casual Burns night supper.

img_7289

I’m often inspired by our travels to come home and make one of the dishes from the area we visited. Although I have done a few of these blogs in the past, I am woefully behind on them. But I am really going to be doing some backtracking and telling you about our past travels, boring you with our vacation photos, offering a few recommendations on hotels, tours etc. and sharing a recipe or two in the process. So let me get on with it! At the end of January 2018, we set out for the Shetland Islands via Glasgow and with a stopover in Iceland on the way back. The Shetland Islands are a group of islands which lie between the north Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, 104 miles north of Scottish mainland. It is the same latitude as southern Greenland and closer to Norway than Scotland. Now I bet you’re wondering, “Why exactly did you go there in the middle of winter? Wasn’t it cold?” Well, truth be told it wasn’t really much colder than it is in Virginia in the winter, temperatures hovering slightly above freezing. However it was a whole lot more windy and wet. The precipitation did come down as rain vs. snow, but oh my Gawd was it windy! And why January? Because that is when the town of Lerwick, the largest in the Shetlands with a population of about 7,500, holds its annual Up Helly Aa, a viking festival, which we had been itching to go to for years. But before I get into the big event, our first stop was Glasgow.

p1010946

Spoiler! Keep tuned for next post about this amazing Viking fire festival!

I had actually visited Glasgow previously. It was the husband’s first visit. Glasgow has been overlooked as a destination for years, losing tourists to the fancier, more posh Edinburgh. And while I think Edinburgh is a gorgeous city, I have always been partial to Glasgow. To me, Glasgow felt much more laid back, friendly and comfortable. In recent years, the city has undergone a revitalization, seeing a large influx of bars, restaurants and shops. The place is absolutely buzzing with excitement. We were lucky enough to have ended up there during the annual Celtic Connections music festival. The husband and I love going out to see live music, so this was right up our alley. We saw the Deslondes, one of our favorite bands which hails from New Orleans,

img_6610

in an amazing venue – Òran Mór. Located in Glasgow’s vibrant West End, Oran Mór was formerly the Kelvinside Parish Church, but has now been transformed into a truly unique venue, offering up two bars, a restaurant, a nightclub as well as a live music hall.

img_6628

We also saw ever enduring (celebrating 30 years together this year) English folk/punk band The Levellers at Glasgows Old Fruitmarket – another unbelievably cool music venue tucked away in Glasgow’s stylish Merchant City.

Version 2

The Fruitmarket, was as the name suggests, originally a market where fresh fruit and vegetables were sold up until the 1970’s. The amazing renovation manages to retain all of the period charm of the original building including all of the ironwork, balconies and beautiful vaulted ceiling.

img_7145

Although we didn’t have a lot of time in Glasgow before venturing further north, we were able to visit Glasgow’s stunning cathedral,

img_3259

stroll through the Necropolis (Glasgow’s large Victorian cemetery),

img_6820

visit the iconic Cloisters of the University of Glasgow,

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1314.JPG

 

explore the extensive Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum

img_3329 (1)

spend a luxurious afternoon at Blythswood Square Spa

img_7233

and relax in one or two (or so….) of the local pubs.

img_6626

We also did manage to get out of the city for one day. Frank Jones, the owner of Wee Adventours, picked us up in his very luxurious Land Rover and whisked us away from Glasgow out on an action packed day of adventure. We knew that we did not want to get crammed onto a big bus full of tourists to be rushed from stop to stop. We wanted something a bit more personalized and relaxing and that is what we got with Wee Adventours. The lovely Frank was an absolute pleasure to spend the day with, so friendly, funny and charming, it felt as though we had known him for years. Having worked in the tourism industry for some time, he was very knowledgeable about the history, customs and landmarks of Scotland and enthusiastic to share it with us. He spent a little time before the day of the tour finding out what our interests were and then customized an itinerary just for us. We did a small hike around Loch Lomond

img_3232 (3)and visited the town of Sterling. We had a great time at Doune Castle which is not only where Monty Python’s Holy Grail was filmed, it is also Castle Leoch from The Outlander television show and was further used as the set for Winterfell in Game of Thrones pilot.

 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1909.JPG

monty-python-and-the-holy-grail-french-taunter (1)

Last but not least, we visited charming Glengoyne Distillery for a tour and a Whisky & Chocolate tasting. Just an amazing day!

img_6657

img_6735

Already an action packed holiday and we hadn’t even got to the main event! Turns out, much to my delight, the Husband absolutely loved Glasgow and said he couldn’t wait to return. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that we really made an excellent choice when we decided to stay at The Dakota Deluxe Hotel. The Dakota was fantastic! They offer free airport transfer during the week, which was so nice. Everyone we met who worked there was so friendly, charming and ready to help in any way they were able. The spacious rooms were decorated tastefully and the beds were very comfortable. The location was perfect, we were able to easily walk to most everything that we wanted to do. We look forward to our next stay, which will definitely be happening!

img_7236

Funky rope dog found in the Dakota’s reception.

So this is how we actually found ourselves in Scotland, Glasgow is particular, on Robbie Burn’s birthday. In the past I’ve shared lots of recipes with you that would be great for your own Burns Night celebration. There were these Cranberry Bannocks:

img_5401

And these Drop Scones – which might be better for Burns Breakfast – perhaps served around 2 am after a wee too much indulgence in the pubs.

IMG_3583

There was Steak Auld Reekie served over Crispy Tatties & Neeps:

IMG_1188

Dundee Cake with Hot Whiskey Marmalade:

IMG_0976

Scotch Egg Pie:

IMG_4832

Cock-a-Leekie soup:

IMG_9242

Which I always serve with this Scottish Harvest Bread, called Struan:

IMG_7088 - Version 2

And who could forget thyme impressive and delectable Scotch Eggs!

IMG_5115

Which I have also done deviled:

IMG_0768

Last year, we did not attend a big, formal Burns Night Supper, but did enjoy a lovely dinner in Fault & Blame – a fantastic, laid back pub located on in Glasgow.

img_6737

It was there that was we were served these delicious Scottish Pies with mushy peas and mashed potatoes. Absolute heaven I tell you!

img_6736

Now I know I’ve told you how we absolutely love meat pies. This blog is chock full of recipes for them. I’m pleased to say that the Scottish Pie (sometimes called Scotch Pie) is no exception to our pro-pie stance. A Scottish Pie is a small, personal sized double crust meat pie, usually made with mutton or minced lamb. Very popular in Scotland, and actually throughout the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Canada & Australia, these pies are often found at football matches resulting in the nickname – “football pies”. But these pies are not a modern invention, oh no no no. In the middle ages the Scottish church really had it in for these little treats. They viewed them as decadent luxurious English style food, cautioned their parishioners against the perils of indulging in them and advised them to stay clear. Thank goodness these little delights were able to endure the test of time! The pastry is a hot water crust pastry, the lid of which is placed 1cm or so lower than the edges of the pie. This recessed space is often topped with mashed potatoes, baked beans, brown gravy or even an egg. Very portable and quite tasty served hot or cold, they are the perfect fast food!

img_7266

I served my Scottish Pies with mashed potatoes and Mushy Peas. Mushy Peas are a traditional side dish and are pretty much exactly what they sound like – peas which have been cooked until they are mushy. Anyone who is from the American South should be familiar with this vegetable preparation method. There is one difference though. The peas traditionally used for Mushy Peas are marrowfat peas, not the usual pea you would find in an American grocery store. Marrowfat peas are peas which have been allowed to dry naturally in the field rather than be harvested whilst young. The resulting peas are larger and have a much higher starch content than your regular pea. This gives them a smoother, creamier consistency which is desired in properly prepared Mushy Peas. Now, you can use a regular pea to make this dish, but if you’d like to try for a more authentic experience, use marrowfat peas for sure. You can find these type of peas in British specialty shops or simply on Amazon. I have supplied the link below. And do remember that since you are using dried peas, an overnight soak in salted water is required to soften the peas prior to cooking. Don’t forget to put them into soak before you head off to bed the night before!

img_7300

I will admit, the hot water crust pastry used to make the pie casing is a bit of a challenge if you’ve never done it. Before you ever get started, you’ve got to go find some lard. I would’ve thought it would have been no problem. I started searching around my local grocery store and when I couldn’t find it, I asked one of the employees, ‘Sorry – could you tell me where the lard is?” The reply I got was “What is lard?”. Hmmmm…..so that is what we’ve come to…folks don’t know what lard is anymore! After a few different stops at a few different stores, I was able to get ahold of some. Lard is absolutely necessary in the hot water crust recipe as it is what makes that crust strong enough to stand up to the filling. Then, I had to actually shape the little pie cases while that pastry was warm. I used some mini cheesecake springform pans ( 4″ diameter pans – not the really really small cheesecake pans) that I had, but you can also shape them over a canning jar, ramekin, or even the bottom of a glass. This method is a bit more tricky as you have to thoroughly grease the item you are using for a mold and then once the pastry has hardened you have to gently tease it off of the mold. I tried each method and the springform pans are much, much easier. I have supplied an Amazon link for them below.

img_7278

All that fiddly work was so worth it in the end! These pies were crisp, juicy savory perfection! And I think it was quite appropriate that while writing this post, I was also able to reminisce about our lovely time in Glasgow one year ago. Sure didn’t Robbie Burns write Auld Lange Syne in 1788. He definitely understood the pleasure in remembering the fun times past that we’ve shared with our friends and loved ones. I did intend to have this post on my blog for January 25th. However as Rabbie so knowingly said “The best laid schemes o’ mice an men, gang aft a-gley” (translated “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”). I can definitely say my plans did go a-gley, but here it is, a day late. I will say, you can enjoy Scottish Pies and Mushy Peas year round. And just think you’ll be so prepared for Burns Night next year! So remember to raise a wee dram on January 25th for Scotland’s National Poet on his birthday. And by all means, make yourself some of these indulgent Scottish pies. Don’t worry for your soul, you can repent tomorrow. (PS – Don’t forget to check back soon to see all the action from the second leg of this journey – The Shetland Viking Fire Festival Up Helly Aa!)

img_7294 (2)

Scottish Pies with Mushy Peas

  • Servings: 4 -8 Pies depending on the diameter
  • Difficulty: moderate - in making the pie casings
  • Print

recipe from: Mother Earth News (for the Hot Water Pastry) 

Ingredients:

For the Pastry:

  • 450 grams (3 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten and at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (200ml) water
  • 80 grams (3/4 stick) butter
  • 80 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) lard

For the Filling:

  • 450 grams (1 lb.) minced lamb (I couldn’t find lamb and used ground beef)
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 3 -4 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 1 Tablespoon flour

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F. First make the pastry.

Mix the flour, salt, and confectioner’s sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle, pour in the egg and toss a liberal covering of flour over the egg.

Place the water, butter, and lard into a saucepan and bring slowly to a boil. When the liquid boils, pour it on to the flour, mixing with a spatula as you go.

When cool enough to handle, gently knead the pastry until all the egg streaks have gone and it is smooth.

Separate 1/4 of the pastry and set aside to use to make the pie lids. Make sure it remains warm.

Thoroughly grease the jelly jars, ramekins or mini cheesecake springform pans that you will be using to form the pastry cases.

Roll the pastry out to 1/4″ thickness. Measure the diameter of the cases you will be using and add twice the depth to the diameter. This will give you the appropriate size of the circle of pastry you will need to cut to fit your cases. The pastry cases should have sides approximately 2 – 21/2″ tall or can be taller as you prefer. Once you have finished shaping your pie shells, place them in the refrigerator for 30 minutes so that they can firm up.

In the meantime, prepare your filling. Heat a small amount of oil in a large sauté pan until hot. Add the lamb or beef to the pan and fry in the oil over moderate to high heat for 2-3 minutes. If the meat has released a lot of grease, drain off at this point and reserve. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Sautee the minced onion in 1 Tablespoon of the reserved drippings until it is soft. Add the minced garlic and sautée for 1 minute. Return the meat to the pan and mix to combine. Add the thyme leaves, nutmeg, beef broth, & Worcestershire sauce and stir until combined. Simmer for 1 -2 minutes and then add salt and pepper to taste. Finally sprinkle the 1 Tablespoon of flour over the meat mixture. Stir to combine and allow it to simmer for a few more minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Remove the pastry cases from the refrigerator. Gently slide them from the jelly jars or ramekins if you are using them. Place your cases onto a parchment lined baking sheet to be filled.

Divide the meat mixture between the pastry cases, pressing it down well.

Roll out the reserved pastry dough to form the lids. The lid should be cut using the diameter of the case as a guide. Paint the edges of the pastry case with a bit of egg wash and them fit the lids on top, crimping the edges with your fingers to seal the pies.

Brush pies with the remaining egg wash. Cut a hole in the lid of each pie to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve hot or cold as you prefer. If you are serving hot, consider topping the pies with mashed potatoes & gravy with a side of mushy peas!

Mushy Peas

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces dried Marrowfat peas
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 200 ml boiling water
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • lemon zest to taste
  • salt, pepper and sugar to taste

Directions:

As I mentioned, these peas need an overnight soak. So the evening prior to which you want to serve them, dissolve two teaspoons of baking soda in boiling water.  Place the dried marrowfat peas in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them so that they are covered by at least 3 inches of water.  Give the peas a stir then leave them to soak for at least 12 hours.
On serving day, drain and rinse the peas. Place them in a large pot with 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low and allow the peas come to a simmer.
Continue to cook for 30 minutes or so until the peas are broken down. Add the butter, lemon juice and zest. Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste.
Serve immediately as the peas will continue to thicken the longer they sit. Should you need to reheat them, adding a bit of water will help.
Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Scottish Pies with Mushy Peas:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Batchelor’s Marrowfat Peas

Wilton 4″ Mini Springform Pans

Links for Planning your vacation in Glasgow, Scotland:

Accommodation:

The Dakota Deluxe Hotel – Luxurious & stylish boutique hotel in a superb location in the city. Absolutely love our stay here!

Tours:

Wee Adventours – Specializes in exclusive personal tour services for small tourist groups. Owner Frank Jones has over 10 year guiding experience and is passionate about his country. For all you Outlander fans, he does an amazing Outlander tour which will take you to many locations around Glasgow & its environs were the popular series has filmed. Frank is available for day tours or multi-day journeys. For a luxury custom experience, give him a call!

Restaurants & Pubs:

Òran Mór – Formerly the Kelvinside Parish Church, this is a truly unique live music venue which also boasts two bars, a restaurant, and a nightclub as well.

Fault & Blame – Sad to report, as of November 29, 2018 Fault & Blame has closed. It was a wonderful venue.

Slouch Bar – Our favorite pub in Glasgow thus far. Fantastic, comfortable pub serving homemade food every night until 2 a.m. Burgers, wings, pizzas as far as the eye can see. And one of the meats on their meat-lover’s pizza is haggis! You can’t pass that up!

Mother India Cafe – Glasgow has been voted Britain’s curry capital many times. So if you visit Glasgow you have to try out one of their many south asian restaurants. Glaswegians definitely like it hot, so if you do as well, you’ll be in good company. We asked several locals where their favorite place for a curry was and Mother India kept coming up. A stalwart for many years, Mother India has several locations in Glasgow. We went to the Cafe located just opposite the Kelvingrove Museum. It did not disappoint! The tapas sized portions were spectacularly spiced and the service impeccable. Definitely a must!

Things to See:

Glasgow Cathedral – A fine example of Scottish gothic architecture, with a breathtaking array of stained glass, this Cathedral is the oldest building in Glasgow

Necropolis – Approximately 50,000 folks are buried in the 37 acres of Glasgow’s Victorian city of the dead. It is located on a hill just adjacent to Glasgow Cathedral.

The Cloisters at the University of Glasgow – The Cloisters, also know as The Undercroft are a group of impressive archways and are an iconic part of the University of Glasgow. They have made appearances in many television shows and movies, such as Outlander. And although Harry Potter movies were not filmed at the University, certainly it was the inspiration for that School of Wizardry. Surrounded by the beautiful castle like architecture and soaring spires, you will feel like you have actually set foot on the campus of a real life Hogwarts!

Kelvingrove Art Museum & Gallery – Free to enter, The Kelvingrove boasts 22 themed galleries. You can find it all here – with over 8,000 items on display there is plenty to explore!

Doune Castle – You probably don’t know it, but you have likely seen Doune Castle many times. This 14th Century castle is featured in Monty Python & The Holy Grail, it was Winterfell, home of the Stark Clan, in Game of Thrones and is also Castle Leoch, home to Colm MacKenzie and his clan, in the Outlander television show. Highly recommend a visit here!

Loch Lomond – Located in The Trossachs National Park this picturesque (The Bonnie Shores o’ Loch Lomond) freshwater lake (or Loch) contains many islands and is surrounded by hill, including Ben Lomond. You will find many hiking and cycling paths there.

Glengoyne Whisky Distillery – Located in Dumgoyne, a short bit north of Glasgow (approx. 40 minute drive), this picture perfect whisky distillery has been in continuous operation since 1833. It is unique in that it produces Highland single malt whisky that is matured in the Lowlands. The Distillery is located on the border with its stills in the Highlands. The whisky is then sent across the road, to the Lowlands, to mature. They offer many fun & informative tours, classes and tastings.

Things to Do:

Blythswood Square Spa – Housed in the luxurious Blythswood Square Hotel, this 10,000 square foot facility boasts a thermal suite, two relaxation pools, nine treatment rooms, lounge and cafe. All right there in Glasgow’s city center.

Celtic Connections Music Festival – Annual music festival held every January in Glasgow since 1994. Features over 300 concerts, ceilidhs, talks, late night sessions and workshops. Whilst the focus is on Scottish music, you will also find international folk, roots and world music artists.

 

 

 

 


Skúffukaka – Icelandic Chocolate Cake

August 24, 2018

IMG_7101

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

P1010286

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

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

IMG_7093

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

P1000515

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

GOPR1071_1505512917704_high 2

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

P1010025

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

C3BAF06C731D6FF4AC3277C60761CF80

P1000427

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

20170915_170300

P1000437

A couple of seals swimming about

P1010036

GOPR1075-1

P1010046

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

P1000448

GOPR0912

P1000459

We spent the night in an adorable little cabin

P1000507 2

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

P1000489

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

P1000824

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

GOPR0937

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

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

P1000820

GOPR0944

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

P1000831

P1000904

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

GOPR1125_1505556937176_high

GOPR1169_1505556813462_high

GOPR1078_1505512830156_high

GOPR1160_1505556850774_high

P1010170

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

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1746.JPG

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

DCIM100GOPROG0361738.JPG

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

IMG_7090

 

Skúffukaka

  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe adapted from: Belle -ÆÐISLEG SKÚFFUKAKA

Ingredients:

For the Cake:

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

For the Frosting:

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

Directions:

For the Cake;

Preheat the oven to 355° F (180°C).

Butter and flour one 9X9″ baking tray.

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

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

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

Add the milk and mix until just combined.

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

Set on a wire rack to cool before frosting.

For the Frosting:

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Skúffukaka:

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Oxo Good Grips 7 Piece Nesting Measuring Beaker Set

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Links for Planning your vacation in the East Fjords Iceland:

Accommodation:

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

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

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

Restaurants/Bars:

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

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

Tours:

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

Rental Cars:

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


Varmahlíð Apple Cake

August 12, 2018

 

 

P1010271

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

IMG_7032

 

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

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

P1010312

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

P1010280

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

P1010304

Located exactly between the two famous waterfalls Skógafoss

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1606.JPG

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1776.JPG

and Seljalandfoss,

GOPR1203

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1790.JPG

You can walk behind Seljalandfoss for an alternate view!

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

P1000394

GOPR0866_1505178759372_high

and visited the plane wreck at Sólheimasandur.

DCIM100GOPROG0421762.JPG

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

P1000233

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

P1000223

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

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1562.JPG

The Famous Elephant rock

Drank some local beer at the Brothers Brewery,

IMG_5957

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

P1000385

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

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

GOPR0779

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

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

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1618.JPG

GOPR0812_1505125477410_high

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

20170910_155858

between two glaciers,

Lea and Jay

over the Kattarhryggur (cat’s spine)

DCIM100GOPROG0181645.JPG

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

DCIM100GOPROG0221664.JPG

 

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1653.JPG

finishing in Thorsmork (Thor’s Forest).

GOPR0850

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

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

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1804.JPG

and filled with thoughtful little touches,

P1010309

Adorable mice on the bed side table!

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

P1010277

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

 

P1010260

 

P1010269

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

IMG_7022

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

IMG_7031

 

Varmahlíð Apple Cake

  • Servings: 9 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Anna, owner of the Garage Apartments

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

Preheat oven to 355° F (180°C)

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

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

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

Add the cream and vanilla. Stir to combine.

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

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

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Oxo Good Grips 7 Piece Nesting Measuring Beaker Set

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Links for Planning your vacation in Iceland:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Westman Island links:

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

Hotel Vestmannaeyjar – Great accommodation on the Islands.

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

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

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

P1000245

Interested in hiking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail? See here:

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

 

 

 

 


Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread)

April 15, 2017

IMG_6357

Happy Easter or since I’m going to go with Greek traditions this year, I should say Kali Anastasi (Happy Resurrection)! This year I’ve got quite a delicious treat to share with you: Tsoureki or Greek Easter Bread. Traditionally served at Easter, its three stranded braid represents the holy trinity and the red egg symbolizes Christ’s blood. This lovely enriched yeast bread is very similar to brioche or challah, but is spiced with Mahlep which is derived from cherry pits. This is what gives it a very distinct cherry/almond flavor. Yup…soft, moist & fluffy with an unforgettable sweet nutty flavor… now that is an Easter brunch winner if ever I’ve heard of one! But truth be told, what really sold the Husband on this recipe was the promise that it would make a superb french toast!

IMG_6359

I’ve done some really tasty Easter recipes over the years. Like this amazing Italian Easter Pie from last year:

IMG_4651

And I don’t want to forget this lovely Slovak Paska from a couple of years ago:

IMG_2710

Keeping up the International Easter theme, remember way back in 2012 I made this Russian Kulich (Easter Bread):

IMG_2724

And then there is that Easter classic Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns:

IMG_2431

There are just so many delicious Easter recipes to choose from. You just can’t go wrong! And this year’s offering is no exception. Now I will say, you do need to plan a bit ahead to make Tsoureki. You need to get ahold of some Mahleb. I have provided you with an amazon link below and I hear that Penzey’s Spices might also carry it. Luckily there is an amazing Greek Deli that we love, located right around the corner from our place in Richmond Virginia: Nick’s International Foods. They had an abundance of Mahleb available as well as some great greek easter egg dye which enabled me to get the loveliest red eggs out there! Nick’s authentic Mediterranean Market has been proudly serving Richmond since the late 1950’s and from its current location at Broad & Monroe since 1980. Not only do the carry your average small grocery store items but they also boast a huge selection of imported cheeses and specialty European ingredients not easily found elsewhere. And don’t even get me going about their deli! Delicious sandwiches and fantastic soups. Not to mention all the folks who work there are so friendly and helpful. You just feel right at home. So if you are in the area, make sure you check it out!

IMG_5554

But let me get back to this Tsoureki. This bread is pretty easy to make, especially since you break it up over the course of two days. On the first day you mix up the starter, make the dough and then you pop it into your fridge overnight so that it can have a long, slow rise. On the second day all you have to do is shape your dough, let it rise once again and then pop it in the oven to bake. Traditionally this bread is decorated with hard-boiled eggs which have been dyed red, symbolizing the blood of Christ. After the hard boiled eggs bake in the oven along with the bread, they are pretty much inedible, so although some folks decorate their Tsoureki with multiple evenly spaced eggs, I chose to only use one egg at the end of the braid. The way the Husband loves eggs, he would have cried if I had sacrificed any more eggs than necessary!

IMG_6394

Also, if you use a dyed egg when you bake the loaf, a bit of that red color will bleed onto the surrounding bread. If you are worried with the appearance, you can simply use an egg which has not been dyed as a sort of place holder. Then once the bread is out of the oven and cooled, simply swap it out for that vibrant red egg. And don’t skip rubbing the eggs with a bit of oil once they’ve been dyed. It really makes them look amazing!

IMG_6367

Once your dough is ready to be shaped, there are several ways to proceed. You can make one long braid as I did in the recipe shown below. Though I will say this makes a huge loaf of bread. I think the next time I make it I will divide it in half and make a couple smaller loaves. You can also shape the braid into a circle and put it into a 9″ cake tin to bake. Or you could make several smaller personal sized circular braids, which would be fun for a smaller Easter brunch. But definitely give this terrific bread a try. I can tell you right now that it is simply heavenly just slathered with butter. I’m sure the french toast we have tomorrow will be nothing short of divine! Happy Easter!

IMG_6355

Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread)

  • Servings: 1 large loaf or 2 -3 smaller ones
  • Difficulty: easy - but you need to plan ahead!
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

Starter:

  • 1 1/2 cups (177 grams) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup (227 grams) lukewarm (95°F) water
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

Dough:

  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups (298 grams – 418 grams) Unbleached all-purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup (99 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (18 grams) Baker’s Special Dried Milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground mahlep, or the same amount of vanilla extract
  • zest from 1 orange
  • 3 large eggs — 2 for the dough, 1 to brush over the loaf before baking

Optional Decoration:

  • 1 -6 hard-boiled eggs, dyed red
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, for brushing the hard-boiled eggs
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup halved almond (optional)
  • cinnamon/sugar (for dusting – optional)
  • honey (for glazing – optional)

Directions:

To make the starter: Mix the starter ingredients in a large bowl. Cover the bowl and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour. The mixture will initially be the consistency of thick pancake batter; after an hour it should be very bubbly, airy, and doubled in size.

While the starter rests, ready the dough. Melt the butter over low heat and set it aside to cool. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with the sugar, dry milk, salt, mahlep and zest from one orange.

Mix 2 of the eggs into the risen starter. Stir in the cooled melted butter.

If you’re substituting vanilla extract for mahlep, stir it in. Add the flour/sugar mixture and stir until everything is incorporated.

Add the remaining 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups flour 1 cup at a time, as needed to make dough that’s stiff enough to form a ball but is also soft and slightly sticky.

Knead the dough — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — until it springs back when pressed gently with a floured finger. If kneading by hand, try to use only the lightest dusting of flour on the counter and on your hands. The more gently you knead, the less sticky the dough will seem. When done, place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours, or overnight.

The next morning, remove the dough from the fridge and knead it gently a few times, to deflate it.

Decide whether you want to make one braided loaf, two loaves, or a round braid. If you want to make the round braid, liberally butter a 9″ round cake pan. For the braided loaves, line a baking sheet with parchment.

Divide the dough into three pieces for the 9″ round or the single braided loaf. Divide dough into 6 pieces for the two loaves. Set them aside, covered with lightly greased plastic wrap.

If you’re using the dyed eggs, rub each one with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil and set them aside. 

Make three 16″ strands with the dough; pinch the ends together at one end. Braid for 4″ to 5″; tuck an egg into the braid. Continue to braid, placing another egg into the braid at 2″ intervals. 

Cover the shaped loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature for 2 to 2 1/2 hours; if you’re using the round pan, the top of the loaf should be just barely level with the top rim of the pan. During the last 45 minutes of the rise, preheat your oven to 350°F.

To bake the bread: Lightly beat the remaining egg. Brush it over the loaf. (Alternatively, omit the egg wash if you’d prefer to brush the loaf with honey when it comes out of the oven.) Or brush the loaf with egg wash, sprinkle cinnamon/sugar over the bread and top with halved almond. If you’re baking a round loaf, press the last hard-boiled egg firmly into the center of the risen loaf. 

Bake the bread for 20 minutes. Open the oven door, reach in, and carefully press each egg farther down into the bread.

Continue to bake the bread for an additional 40 to 50 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 190°F. Tent the bread with aluminum foil for the last 30 minutes, to prevent over-browning. 

Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack. If desired, heat 1/4 cup honey with 1 tablespoon water until warm, and brush over the loaf. Let the bread cool completely before serving.

Enjoy!

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

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Tsoureki:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

6 Quart Dough Rising Bucket

SAF Instant Yeast

Mahlab Spice

Hand Held Zester

Greek Red Easter Egg Dye

Whole Milk Powder or here from King Arthur


Ástarpungar ( Love Balls) & Our Icelandic Holidays in July and December

February 27, 2016

IMG_3942

So I’m not sure if you know it or not, but I am pretty much obsessed with Iceland. I absolutely love it there. I just can’t seem to get enough of it! The husband and I originally visited in December of 2012 and we have been back three more times since then. In fact we went twice last year and I must confess, I’m in the midst of planning our next visit! But it wasn’t until our third trip around the country that I discovered Ástarpungar aka Love Balls. A Love Ball is the Icelandic version of a doughnut, though they are completely round (ball shaped in fact) and do not have a hole in the center. I’ve read that they get their quirky name from an odd legend. Seems once upon a time there was a very beautiful, but rather unfaithful woman who was married to a very jealous and vengeful husband. And, oh yeah, there is also a very unfortunate lover involved who soon found himself to be missing bits of his anatomy! Yeah, I’ve also heard these little delicacies referred to as “Lover Balls”. Hmmm…So there you go!  I’m not sure how I missed out on them in previous visits, but now I’m in the know. So, being a fan of all things Icelandic, and these pastries are no exception, I thought I might share the recipe with you as well as some pictures from both of last year’s trips. (At this point, if you hate looking a vacation photos, you can scroll down to the end and just get the recipe. I’ll get over it, I’m sure. But if you think you might want to visit Iceland someday, and I highly recommend it, I hope that I can give you some useful tips and inspiration for your upcoming trip!)

IMG_3919

It was on our July 2015 visit that I first encountered Ástarpungar. We were on our way up to the Westfjords and stopped at the Geirabakarí in Borgarnes. (I’ve just gotta say here, if you are visiting Iceland and are in the Borgarnes neighborhood, this bakery & cafe should be a must for you. Everything I have tried there is out of this world. The husband and I were able to stop by twice in July, once on the way north and we made a point to stop again of the way back to Reykjavik. Really top notch pastries, bread, sandwiches, coffee…etc. And if you are at all interested in movie trivia, the Geirabakari is disguised as the Papa Johns in the Secret Life of Walter Mitty). I already knew that I loved Kanilsnúðar and had read that Geirabakeri did snúðar that could not be beaten. So of course, I ordered up one of those, but rather than the cinnamon variety, I had one with chocolate topping. It was superb! As I was trying to decide what other of the delicious looking pastries I was going to sample, one of the helpful folks working in the bakery suggested the Ástarpungar (Love Balls) and I am so glad they did.

Geirabakari Astarpungar

Geirabakari Astarpungar

Basically it is a slightly sweet, deep-fried ball of dough shot through with plump juicy raisins and a hint of cardamom. It was crispy on the outside with a light fluffy center. Yum! We found ourselves wishing we had gotten a bunch to go as we continued our journey up to the Westfjords.

Gerðuberg Basalt Columns

Gerðuberg Basalt Columns

IMG_2547

IMG_2563

Stykkishólmur harbor

Stykkishólmur harbor

Stykkishólmur harbour

P1050232

And the Westfjords? The husband and I were completely smitten. Absolutely stunning no matter which way we turned!

Crazy Icelandic fog!

Dynjandi Waterfall

Dynjandi Waterfall

Dyandi heights

Westfjords Church

One of the highlights of the visit was The Under the Cliffs tour that we took with Wild Westfjords. This tour took us way off the beaten track along the rugged Svalvogar Peninsula trail. This road is inaccessible for most of the year and we certainly would not want to have attempted it on our own, even though we had rented a 4×4.

Skinny trail!

Skinny trail!

So we were very happy to have our experienced tour guide, Magnus, take over the driving. Friendly and entertaining, he imparted a local’s knowledge of the area to us and told us all about the history of the road, the local wildlife, legends and tales of the area, while we sat back and enjoyed all of the inspiring beauty surrounding us. Quite an unforgettable day! (O.k. – time for another endorsement. If you are planning to visit this area of Iceland, I can not recommend the folks at Wild Westfjords travel agency (especially Halldor) highly enough. Not only was their Under the Cliffs tour breathtaking, but Halldor helped arrange most of the details of our Westfjords visit, from the hotels, to ferry bookings, to the daytours. He gave us advice on driving times between areas and the sights to see along the way. His attention to detail was amazing, all of his recommendations were right on target. I found him simply indispensable!)

On the Svalvogur Trail

On the Svalvogur Trail

P1050198

P1050227

P1050213 (1)

DCIM100GOPRO

Another fun stop for us in the Wesfjords was the town of Hólmavík. Talk about quirky! This town’s claim to fame is that it is the home of the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft. Fascinating!

The Husband casting spells

The Husband casting spells

We stayed just outside of the town in Hotel Laugarholl. The hotel is a converted school and that school-house vibe is still charmingly present. There is a Sorcerer’s Cottage on the grounds of the hotel which is part of the afore-mentioned museum. But hands down, the highlight of our stay here was the dip we took in the geothermal swimming pool as well as the time we spent soaking in the natural geothermal spring.

Hótel Laugarhóll hot pot

Hótel Laugarhóll hot pot

But our adventures in July were not over yet. We headed back to Reykjavik and on the Inside the Volcano tour were able to actually able to descend into the magma chamber of a dormant volcano! Iceland’s Thríhnúkagígur volcano is the only place in the world that you will find this unique natural phenomenon. After a short, relatively easy hike across a lava field, we arrived at base camp, where we were served a delicious and welcome traditional Icelandic lamb soup while we waited our turn to descend 120 meters (395 feet) down into the volcano.

Geared up & ready to go!

Geared up & ready to go!

Long way back up to the surface!

Long way back up to the surface!

volcano colors

The experience was awesome and I mean that in the truest sense of the word. There was a dazzling array of colors on the walls of the chamber from the mineral deposits which formed when the lava was present. We were lucky enough to actually meet Árni B. Stefánsson, the man who originally discovered Thríhnúkagígur, in the lava field on our hike out that day. He told us that he wanted everyone to have the opportunity to “feel small”. And standing there in such epic grandeur, we certainly did!

Jay & Lea inside volcano 2

The husband and I certainly enjoy heading off into the Icelandic countryside, but we also actually love the city of Reykjavik.

Reykjavik Street view - bike – Version 2

In July I was able to book a walking tour of the city with I Heart Reykjavik. I have been following Auður who writes the I Heart Reykjavik blog for a couple of years now. Not only is she witty and entertaining, but her blog provides a wealth of information to anyone planning a visit to Iceland. When she started offering tours, I couldn’t wait to sign up for one! So, even though this was our third visit to Reykjavik, we took the tour and learned quite a bit from our fantastic tour guide, Ásta. Not only did she tell us about the history of the city but she also imparted a local’s insight on the best bars, restaurants and shopping that Reykjavik has to offer. She took us off the beaten tourist routes and back into the neighborhood streets to get a glimpse of a local’s life and to reveal some of the wonderful hidden street art.

IMG_2770

IMG_2459

We loved the tour so much that when we returned in December, we took the Christmas Version of the I Heart Reykjavik walking tour and were actually able to meet Auður who was guiding the tour that evening. This special edition Christmas tour was full of valuable tidbits for the holiday season. Not only did we hear about the Yule Lads and my favorite – the Jólakötturinn (the yule cat who eats children who do not receive new clothes for Christmas),

Version 2

but we also got great insight into how average Icelandic families celebrate the holidays. We also received a wealth of information on all of the Christmas events happening around the city such as concerts, where to taste Christmas beers (For those of you not familiar with Christmas Beers, the breweries in Iceland produce a limited edition Christmas Beer every holiday season. The beers are generally a little darker, a bit spicier and somewhat higher in alcohol content.

pint

They are available in liquor stores starting November 15th, but are usually for sale in bars a bit earlier. Once January 6th rolls around, the Christmas beers are no longer sold and any beers left in the liquor store are shipped back to their manufacturer, at which point they are usually destroyed. Seems like definite alcohol abuse to me….just saying!) and the best restaurants for feasting on traditional Icelandic Christmas Dinners.

IMG_3630

 

Version 2

And for those of you thinking….hmmmm…Iceland in December?! We actually love visiting in December. Folks in Iceland definitely get into the holiday spirit. Everything is decorated beautifully and if you don’t find yourself in the Christmas mood after a few days there, I must say, there is no hope for you. You’re a certified Scrooge!  Although we had visited twice before in December, the weather on this particular trip was remarkable. Reykjavik had just received a record amount of snow in the days just preceding our arrival and the snow just kept on coming!

IMG_3596

We even had a Winter hurricane show up while we were there with winds topping 65 mph in the city (30 mps)!

Sorry for the blurry pic, but I think it captures the moment & wind speed perfectly!

Sorry for the blurry pic, but I think it captures the moment & wind speed perfectly!

And I can’t forget to mention that most elusive of natural phenomena – the Northern Lights. We were actually lucky enough to get a glimpse of them one evening. It was a bit cloudy and the lights were not as strong as the first time we saw them back in 2012, but it was still an amazing experience.

lights – Version 2

lights – Version 2

So there you have it! A recap of our 2015 Iceland adventures! And it is true, I am in the midst of planning the first of our 2016 visits. So I hope you will stay tuned to see what we’ll get up to in Iceland this year. For those of you interested in experiencing Iceland for yourselves, at the bottom of this post, I have listed some other links to our favorite Icelandic businesses which may be useful in planning your trip. In the meantime, perhaps you can whip up a batch of these tasty little Love Balls to inspire you!

IMG_3933

P.S. On Tuesday March 1st, I will begin my annual St. Patrick’s Day blog-a-thon of Irish-y recipes. I hope you’ll check back in to join in on all the fun!

Ástarpungar aka Love Balls or Icelandic Doughnuts

  • Servings: 15
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe adapted from: Tasty Trix

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped with Brennivín (Having no Brennivín on hand, I actually used Rum)
  • zest of one lemon
  • canola oil for frying

Directions:

Place raisins in a small bowl. Cover with boiling water or if you’d like to add a bit more flavour to the fruit, you can add some liquor to the water, or replace the water for liquor all together, depending on the day you are having. If you want to be very Icelandic, you can use Brennivín (Icelandic Schnapps, also known as “Black Death”). I went with good old dark Rum. Let the raisins soak for 15 minutes. Drain liquid away and gently pat raisins dry with paper towels.

Combine the pastry flour, baking powder, cardamom, caster sugar and salt in medium mixing bowl.

In another small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until they just come together. Gently fold in the plumped raisins and the lemon zest.

Heat 2″ of oil in a deep pan to 350°F. Drop large cookie scoop (size #30, approximately 2 tablespoons) full of Ástarpungar batter into the oil. Fry, occasionally turning the balls so that all sides cook, for about 5 – 6 minutes.

Remove Ástarpungar from oil with slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

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

Links to Useful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Ástarpungar:

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Sauce Pan

Thermoworks Super-Fast Thermapen Cooking Thermometer

Norpro 2 Tablespoon Cookie Scoop

Additional Links for Planning your vacation in Iceland:

Blue Car Rental: The husband and I have rented our car from Blue on three different trips now and wouldn’t consider renting from any other company at this point. Every single time, their service has been fantastic from the first email until we drop the car back off to them. The cars have always been very clean, low mileage, newer models. We also love that the quote you get from them on their website includes everything: unlimited mileage, taxes and all of those pesky insurances like CDW, TP, GP etc.

The Black Pearl Reykjavik – Reykjavik’s Finest Apartments – We have stayed in their luxurious apartments twice and love them! The apartments are fantastic, location perfect and the service is absolutely top-notch.

I Heart Reykjavik: I know I have already linked to this blog above, but I can’t emphasize enough how helpful this travel blog is in planning your Icelandic vacation. Such a wealth of information it is an essential!

Grillmarkaðurinn – (The Grill Market) Our favourite special occasion restaurant in Reykjavik!

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

Sandholt Bakery – If you are not headed out of Reykjavik – get your Ástarpungar here! Along with a plethora of other tasty treats!

SuperJeep – These folks will whisk you away from Reykjavik’s city lights into the darkness of the countryside to chase down the elusive Aurora Borealis. We have been on two of their Northern Lights Tours and were very pleased!

Kraum & Foa – Great shops in Reykjavik for quality, unique handmade Icelandic souvenirs.

Laundromat Cafe (yup…there really is a laundromat here in addition to all the great food and drink),

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!)

The Reykjavik Grapevine: A witty English language Icelandic magazine. Great read whether or not you’re planning a visit!

Our December 2012 visit blog – Full of useful links, pretty pics & a recipe for Kanilsnúðar

Our December 2013 visit blog – Full of useful links, pretty pics & a recipe for White Chocolate Skyramisu

 


Pretzel Dogs!

August 6, 2015

IMG_9891

I’mmmmmmmmm back! Good Lord above, I can not believe that I haven’t written one tiny little thing on this blog since April 3rd!  And that post was written after I had taken a sizeable break after my St. Patrick’s Day blog-a-thon. Yup…back then I said I’d be getting right back into the kitchen. I don’t know what got into me. Wellll….I kinda do. You see I’ve been busy planning a big bathroom renovation. I’m not sure if I mentioned it or not, but about 1 1/2 years ago we had a bathroom fire that was started by a faulty bathroom exhaust fan. (Here’s a tip for all you readers out there…Do NOT leave your exhaust fan running over night. The motor in our’s heated up and because our bathroom had last been renovated sometime in the 70’s, the fan did not have a thermal fuse, so it just kept getting hotter and hotter until it caught the insulation in the ceiling on fire. We were very lucky that the bathroom was all that burned up.) So yeah, you did read that right…the fire happened all that time ago and we are just now getting around to doing something about it. How pathetic is that? Seriously, we just sealed that bathroom off with plywood, moved to the guest bathroom down the hall and have been doing our best to ignore it. But I’m happy to report that we’ve finally got our act together and have hired a contractor and have nearly finished the design. Construction is nigh I tell you!

IMG_1340 - Version 2

Big gaping hole which we unbelievably ignored for over 1 year!!!

And then we just purchased a condo down in Richmond Virginia. Yes….I did say “down”. That is because Richmond is even further south in Virginia than we currently are now. I’m sure you all know how I loathe summer weather in Virginia and what did we do? Went further south! Must be stone cold crazeeee! So that has taken a bit of doing. The good news is as it turns out, Richmond is quite the hidden foodie destination. So I’m looking forward to telling you about some of our future dining exploits. But here is a sneak preview pic:

IMG_2931

Green Eggs & Lamb & Non-Huevos Rancheros with Griddled Jalapeno Grits, Black Bean Chili & Carnitas at Black Sheep brunch! #RVA#BlackSheepRVA

And last but not least, we just returned from a completely fantastic holiday in Iceland. Yup, we’ve been there before, three times now counting this visit and I am completely smitten! I’ve got a post coming up about a delicious Icelandic doughnut I sampled there.

IMG_2554 - Version 2

Icelandic Doughnut or ástarpungar from the Geirabakarí in Borgarnes…stay tuned for the recipe!

So anyhoo…..I should probably make you some sort of assurances that I’ll settle down again and blog faithfully, but I’m not sure it would be prudent to make such pledges. I do have good intentions….but I am the person that walked around with a boarded up bathroom for almost two years. So there you have it. I can be a bit negligent. But I beg your forgiveness and will try to be better. I’m going to start out fresh today with a great recipe for Pretzel Dogs!

IMG_9850

At this point, I don’t know if I even need to say one other word, their name says it all. Who doesn’t love those big soft chewy salty pretzels? And hot dogs? We loooove hot dogs in this house. I’ve posted quite a few hot dog blogs in the past, like how ’bout those Bacon Wrapped Dogs,

IMG_8314

or those tasty little Mini Corn Dogs?

IMG_6772

Yup, we’re big fans. I just told you we were recently off visiting Iceland. Well, as it turns out Icelanders love hot dogs too. There is this famous hot dog stand, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, in downtown Reykjavik and the husband and I made it a point to stop there every single day for one of their hot dogs with everything (“eina með öllu.” – they have a whole bunch of delicious toppings like mustard, raw onions, crispy onions and some sort of special hot dog remoulade).

IMG_2836

Day one….

IMG_2837

Day two….

And I can truly say the husband and I have never met a pretzel we didn’t like. Usually we nibble on the hard and crunchy store-bought variety, but certainly do love the big soft and chewy ones. So when I came across a recipe for  Pretzel Dogs, I knew without a doubt I would be giving it a whirl. Basically you just make up a yeast dough, similar to what you would do for bread. The thing that magically transforms it into a pretzel is the alkaline bath that it is dipped into prior to baking. That magical soak is crucial for both the texture as well as the color of pretzels. Once that yeast dough is introduced to this bath, the outside of the dough is gelatinized which prevents the usual “springing” of the dough which occurs during baking, giving you the chewy texture, distinct pretzel-y flavour and lovely brown colour. Once upon a time, pretzels were a noticeably darker brown color. This was achieved with a dip in a lye bath – albeit a food grade lye ( sodium hydroxide) bath. Now that stuff, “food grade” or not, is actually quite the hazardous chemical. I’m serious….you can still use it but you’re going to have to go all “Breakin Bad” and wear big rubber gloves and safety goggles when you’re doing your cooking. Personally, I don’t think I need to be that authentic. I’m happy to go with the old tried and true baking soda as a substitute. Everyone has a box of that lingering on their shelves at home. It will definitely give you that lovely soft and chewy brown pretzel crust that you’re longing for without any hazardous chemical concerns.

IMG_9883

And now that we’ve covered the pretzel bit, lets not forget that oh so important dog that it is wrapped around. So everyone has their favourite brand, and far be it from me to tell you what you should buy. However I will say, I like a dog that has a bit of flavour and a little snap when you bite into it. Usually we buy Hebrew Nationals, Nathan’s or Boar’s Head brands, but I’ll leave that choice up to you. As far as I’m concerned, you really can’t go wrong with these. Straightforward and easy to make….not to mention so delish! Comfort food extraordinaire! With a little side dish of good ole yellow mustard for dipping, you’re totally set. Don’t even get me started thinking about the spicy nacho cheese dip possibilities. So don’t be a proscrastinator – like yours truly – jump right on this and make up a batch of these comfort food gems today!

IMG_9885

 

Pretzel Dogs

  • Servings: 8 pretzel dogs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Bake with Christina

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups warm (110 to 115° F) water
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
  • 4½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pans
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 8 hot dogs (we love Hebrew National, Nathans and Boars Head)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Kosher salt, for sprinkling

Directions:

Combine the water, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over top. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to foam. In the meantime, lightly oil a large bowl and set aside.

Using a dough hook, add the flour and melted butter to the yeast mixture on low-speed until well combined. Increase speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl (about 4 to 5 minutes).

Place the dough in the lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area for an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Pour 10 cups of water in an 8 quart pot which has deep sides. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Carefully add the baking soda. The mixture will foam up quite a bit, hence the deep sided pot recommendation. Stir until the soda has dissolved and then lower the heat to medium and keep the solution simmering.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a rope that’s about 24-inches long. Starting at one end, wrap the dough around the hot dog, pinching each end together so that it’s sealed and stays in place. Take care to make sure you have a good seal or your pretzel dogs will begin to unravel in the baking soda bath. Place onto the baking sheets and repeat with the remaining dough and hot dogs.

Lower the pretzel dogs into the boiling water two at a time and boil for 30 seconds. Using a large flat slotted spatula, remove them from the water and place on the baking sheets. Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with the coarse kosher salt. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

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

 

 


%d bloggers like this: