Banana Yellowman Bundt Cake

March 4, 2015

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Banana Yellowman Cake…Wow! The recipes have great eye-catching names this year. Chicken Skink yesterday and now Banana Yellowman. So what is a Banana Yellowman Cake? Well, it is a delicious moist banana cake that is shot through with little sticky nuggets of Yellowman and glazed with a caramel frosting. But what is Yellowman? Oh, right, unless you’re from Ireland, the term is probably not one you are familiar with. Yellowman is what Honeycomb is called in Ireland. It is also known as Cinder Toffee in Britain and Hokey Pokey in New Zealand and Cornwall. (I was tempted to call this cake a Hokey Pokey Cake because after I took one bite I was fairly certain that this cake could be “what it’s all about”, but since I’m including it in the St. Patrick’s Day countdown, I decided to go with “yellowman”). So, Yellowman is that yellow or golden sugary toffee with a crunchy sponge-like texture. You’ve maybe seen it in the middle of a Crunchie candy bar.

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I’m not sure if you can just go out and buy it in a shop, but the good news is that it is very easy and fun to make. And if you have kids, they can help out and get a quick chemistry lesson as well. You see the reaction between the vinegar and the baking soda produces carbon dioxide gas, which gives the Yellowman its bubbly, crunchy consistency.

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The reaction is quite dramatic  once that baking soda is added. Seriously it foams up to about 4x its original size, so make sure you are using a deep pan. And do exercise caution because you have to heat it to 300°F (150°C) before you add that baking soda, so there is potential there for some serious burns. Once you have a batch of Yellowman made up, you can use some of it in this cake, of course, but you can also dip it in chocolate for a great treat all on its own, or crumble it over ice cream.

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I first came across this recipe on a great blog from the West of Ireland, Warm & Snug & Fat. The husband has never met a banana dessert he didn’t like, so I knew this cake would be a winner. And I am often looking for a way to use up bananas that have crossed over that thin line of ripe enough to way too ripe. This cake takes care of four of those types of casualties. After the Yellowman has been made, the cake comes together quickly and easily. And boy does it deliver on taste. Moist, tender, very notable banana flavour and when you get a bite with one of those bonus golden nuggets of goodness, it is pure bliss.

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This cake would be just fine without the frosting, but the frosting really puts it over the top and provides something to which even more of that crumbled Yellowman can cling on to. And as far as Yellowman is concerned, the more the merrier!

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Banana Yellowman Bundt Cake

  • Servings: 1 bundt cake
  • Difficulty: easy
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recipe from: Warm & Snug & Fat

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 225 grams (8oz) plain flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 heaped tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 110 grams (4oz) caster sugar (can substitute granulated sugar)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75 grams (3oz) butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 65 grams (2½ oz) yellowman/ honeycomb, smashed (recipe for yellowman/honeycomb below)
  • 4 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed

For the caramel frosting:

  • 115 grams butter
  • 115 grams light muscovado sugar
  • 140 ml heavy cream

Directions:

 Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl and stir in the sugar.

Mix in the egg, melted butter and vanilla but do not beat.

Fold in the honeycomb and mashed bananas, using a fork. Again, do not beat.

Spoon into a buttered and floured bundt tin or lined (3½ inch x 8 inch) 900 gram/2lb loaf tin and bake in an oven preheated to 350° F ( 180° C, gas mark 4) for 50-60 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and springs back when prodded gently with your finger.

Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Once cake is completely cool, drizzle caramel frosting over the top. You can also add some extra crumbled honeycomb to garnish.

Enjoy!

Yellowman, Honeycomb, Cinder toffee, Hokey Pokey

recipe from: Nigella.com

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams caster sugar (can substitute granulated, but you should probably give it a couple of pulses in the food processor to make the sugar “superfine”)
  • tablespoons Lyle’s golden syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 25 ml water

Directions:

Put the sugar and syrup into a saucepan and stir together to mix. If you notice that sugar is clinging to the sides of the pan, you can paint the sides with a pastry brush dipped in water. Once you turn on the heat, it is very important that you do not touch it! That’s right, no stirring.

Place the pan on the heat and let the mixture first melt. Continue watching the pan closely. You will notice that it will liquefy and then turn a dark amber color. It should reach a temperature of 150°C/300°F. Or you can drop a bit of it in a small bowl of water and if it forms a hard ball when it hits the water, it is done. I think the thermometer version is easier. It will take about 3 minutes or so, depending on how high you have the heat.

Take the pan off the heat, whisk in the bicarbonate of soda. Take care because the mixture will bubble up crazily, like a volcano comes to mind. Turn this immediately onto a piece of baking parchment or greased foil. Don’t try to smooth it out. Just pour it and leave it alone.

Once it has cooled, smash it will a rolling pin or hammer so that it splinters into many pieces.

Store in a air-tight bowl.

Banana Yellow Bundt Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 


Irish Soda Bread Muffins

March 2, 2015

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Yes indeed-y…Day Two of the St. Patrick’s Day count down and today I’m featuring Irish Soda Bread Muffins. Now before you folks in Ireland sneak a peek at the ingredients and start shaking your head, raising your eyebrow and getting a bit huffy…let me explain. I didn’t actually say “traditional Irish Soda Bread” Muffins. I openly admit, these muffins are a departure from “traditional” Irish Soda Bread. Traditional Irish Soda bread is a quick bread, meaning it uses baking soda as a leavener rather than yeast. The only other ingredients involved are flour, either whole meal, used for the every-day, or white, which was used for special occasions, buttermilk and salt. That’s it! Back in the day, currants were a luxury item which again might have been used along with a bit of sugar or an egg if the bread was being made for a special occasion, but not on a daily basis.

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Soda bread was traditionally cooked in a lidded cast iron pan which was placed directly on the coals of a fire. Irish immigrants brought the recipe for this bread with them when they came to America. This is the point where things begin to change, or I suppose you could say evolved if you had a friendly eye to the changes. Clever folks are quick to adapt to new situations and that is just what these immigrants did. Finding themselves in a new land where the availability and cost of ingredients were very different from what they had found at home, they had to improvise. And these modifications were often reflected in the dishes that were cooked. That is why an Irish-American might have a very different idea of what “traditional Irish” food is. Soda Bread is a great example of that phenomena, as is Corned Beef (shock…horror…but more on that later). I love traditional Irish Soda Bread and make it myself all the time. I also like the thoroughly Americanized versions, for the most part…. (Cue the ominous sounding music here)

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Once in America the flour used in soda bread became almost exclusively white, butter was not only slathered over the slices of bread but was also added into the dough, as was sugar, eggs, raisins and often caraway seeds. I have to stop right here and say that while I’m ok with all of the other modifications to this bread, I HATE caraway seeds in my soda bread. I’m actually glad you can’t see the face I’m making right now, but it is a cross between disgust and outrage. Wait…perhaps I do have a picture that I can share that will convey my feelings adequately…

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Me upon finding out there are caraway seeds in my soda bread. Should I be troubled that this is one of the husband’s favorite pics of me?!!

I’m serious, I don’t know how folks could ruin perfectly good bread with those dastardly little seeds. Just say NO! Ahem…So back to these lovely Americanized Irish Soda Bread Muffins we have here. Gone is the big round soda bread loaf, replaced with perfect serving sized muffins. Needless to say, there are no caraway seeds, but there are Irish Whiskey plumped currants, as well as a blend of All-purpose flour and King Arthur Irish Wholemeal flour, which gives them a pleasant toothsome texture over those made with white flour alone. Though if you don’t have Irish Wholemeal flour, you could use regular whole meal flour, or just use 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose in a pinch. The muffins are just perfect with a nice cup of tea, moist, tender, slightly sweet, but not too sweet. Just enough to satisfy any tea time cravings. They are delicious all on their own, with a bit of jam spread over the top, or my favourite…covered with lashings of butter! Certainly a crowd pleaser for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

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Irish Soda Bread Muffins

  • Servings: 12 Muffins
  • Difficulty: easy
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recipe slightly adapted from: King Arthur Flour

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces, 177 grams)  All purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces, 85 grams) King Arthur Irish Wholemeal flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces, 74 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces, 170 grams) currants (first choice) or raisins
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (8 ounces, 227 grams) buttermilk yogurt, or sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85 grams) butter, melted; or 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • sparkling white sugar, for topping

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin pan; or line with papers, and grease the papers.

Place currants/raisins in bowl and cover with boiling water, adding 1 tablespoon irish whiskey to the mix if you’re feeling a bit devilish. Let raisins steep for about 10 minutes to plump. Thoroughly drain before incorporating into the batter.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk (or equivalent) and melted butter (or equivalent).

Quickly and gently combine the dry and wet ingredients; honestly, this won’t take more than a few stirs with a bowl scraper or large spoon. As soon as everything is evenly moistened, quickly and gently fold in the plumped currants or raisins and then quit; further stirring will cause the muffins to be tough.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full; the stiff batter will look mounded in the cups. Top with sparkling white sugar, if desired.

Bake the muffins for 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove them from the oven. Tip the muffins in the pan, so their bottoms don’t get soggy. Wait 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool. Serve them plain, or with butter and/or jam.

Enjoy!

Irish Soda Bread Muffins brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


Guinness Hot Chocolate topped with Guinness Marshmallows

March 1, 2015

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Hello, hello, hello! Today is March 1st, which means that starting today I will be posting one Irish-y recipe every day all the way up to the big day…March 17th….St. Patrick’s Day! I’ve been inexplicably doing this for a few years now, so I’ve got quite a lot of great St. Patrick’s Day food ideas for you from past years as well. Just click Runcible Eat/Recipes up at the top navigation bar and scroll down to the St. Patrick’s Day category. There are over 50 recipes to choose from there. Not to mention all those that I will be adding this year. Which brings me back to today. I wanted to start my St. Patrick’s Day blog-a-thon off right and I thought I’d go for something boozy and decadent! That is just what I’ve got going on here with this Guinness Hot Chocolate topped with Guinness Marshmallows.

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And let me be clear….this is homemade Guinness Hot Chocolate…no powders here…with homemade Guinness Marshmallows bobbing around on top! Whaaaaat?!! Before I did it, I didn’t know marshmallows could be made at home…well that’s a bit of a fib…I should say I didn’t think I would ever do it.

Homemade Marshmallows waiting to be dusted

Homemade Marshmallows waiting to be dusted

Woooweee! They can and I sure did. And once you taste them, you’ll be spoiled for those little plasticy nuggets that come in bags at your local grocery.

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You’re kind of getting two recipes today as well. Of course, they can be served together. Gooey Homemade Marshmallows melting on top of a big mug of piping hot silky smooth liquid chocolate and Guinness blend is a no-brainer for sure, especially in light of the lovely weather we have been graced with this winter. But you can also just serve these marshmallows as a treat all on their own. Once you’ve accessorized them to meet whatever your tastes might be, they simply look divine and taste pretty heavenly as well!

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I’ve provided you with a couple of toppings options, but really you can add whatever you like. Get creative! But definitely try your hand at a batch of these Guinness Marshmallows today!

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But let’s not forget that rich, thick and creamy Guinness Hot Chocolate with all of the Guinness Marshmallow excitement. It will be exactly what the doctor called for to warm you once you’re back inside after the parades. Cold weather simply calls for the comfort of Hot Chocolate and the addition of the Guinness, which adds a bit of a nutty depth of flavour, really ups its game.

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Yup, this Hot Chocolate with an Irish twist is pretty special all on its own, but when you pop a couple of the marshmallows on top, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven! So there you have it…day one of this years St. Patrick’s Day blog-a-polooza done and dusted. Only 16 more to go! Hope you’ll stick around for all the fun!

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Guinness Hot Chocolate topped with Guinness Marshmallows

  • Servings: 3 cups or 24 ounces for the hot chocolate. Number of servings will vary according to the mug size you plan to use and anywhere from 9 - 120 Marshmallows -depending how you slice them
  • Difficulty: easy
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recipes from: Guinness Marshmallows: Yes, More Please! Guinness Hot Chocolate: The Beeroness

Ingredients:

For the Marshmallows:

  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin /approx. 21 grams (I used powder, you’re welcome to use gelatin sheets )
  • 1 cup cold, flat Guinness Stout
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 2 pinches of sea salt
  • 2 large egg whites beaten until stiff peaks.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To dust:

  • ½ cup confectioners sugar
  • ½ cup cornstarch

For Toppings:

  • 1 cup dark chocolate for melting.
  • caramel sauce
  • 3-4 tablespoons roasted salted pistachios crushed.
  • Salty, pretzels
  • Maldon flaky salt

Directions:

For the Marshmallows:

Whisk the Guinness to flatten. Or just crack one open and leave it sitting the night before you plan to make the marshmallows. Remove some of the foam if necessary.

Lightly oil your 8×8 pan and generously dust with the confectioners sugar and cornstarch mixture. Reserve the rest for use when cutting the marshmallows.

Using the mixing bowl of your stand mixer, place ½ cup of Guinness and sprinkle the 3 envelopes of gelatin powder. Leave to bloom.

In a separate bowl, whisk your egg whites until stiff peaks set aside.

In a medium saucepan (and when I say medium, I mean you want to have sides at least 4″ high – if you’re nervous like me, go for an even deeper pan!) over medium high heat mix the sugar, corn syrup, and the other ½ cup of flat beer until the sugar is dissolved. At this point attach the candy thermometer to your saucepan and bring this sugary mixture to a slow boil until it reaches 240°F/ 116°C . This sticky, lava-like syrup will bubble up and foam like mad before it reaches 240°F. Stay calm! And stay back…it also pops and spits and burns like the dickens if any of that molten stuff lands on you! Remove from heat.

Fitted with the whisk, start your stand mixer on the slowest speed. Being very careful, start adding the hot syrup in a low stream to incorporate with the bloomed gelatine.

Once you pour in all the syrup, mix for 2 minutes and then proceed to add the egg whites along with the vanilla extract.

Mix  on high for about 10-12 minutes, until the mixture has double or tripled in size, it turns an off-white color, it has a nice shine to it and it holds stiff peaks.

At this point with the help of a spatula (lightly spray the spatula with some nonstick spray), Pour all this fluffy and highly sticky gooey goodness into your greased and powdery pan.

 Flatten the top and allow the marshmallow to dry for at least 4-6 hours. Overnight is best. The marshmallow should fill springy and soft  to the  touch.

Once dry, over a piece of parchment paper generously dusted with powder sugar and cornstarch mixture, un-mold the marshmallow sheet with a little spatula pulling from one corner and place the big square on top of the paper. With the help of a dusted knife, pastry cutter, pizza cutter or scissors, cut your marshmallows into squares.

Once they are cut, place the remainder of the confectioners sugar and cornstarch mixture in a bowl and toss the squares, so every side is covered with powder to avoid sticking. Shake the excess powder, and place the marshmallows on a clean cookie rack.

At this point, you will need to decide how many of these marshmallow are going to be used in hot chocolate and how many will simply be devoured all on their lonesome. The only reason I say this is that I prefer to have non-pretzelfied/pistachio’ed marshmallows on my hot chocolate, but to each his own. Proceed with toppings as you see fit!

Melt the dark chocolate, and warm any other sauces you plan to use. Drizzle the marshmallows, sprinkle with toppings of your choice.

Devour!

Guinness Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • ½ cup Milk
  • ½ cup Dark Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar (if desired – remember those marshmallows will add quite a bit of sweetness as well)

Directions:

In a pan over medium high heat, add the cream, milk and chocolate chips. Stir until melted, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in the Guinness. Depending on your personal preference, add in the 2 tbs of sugar for a higher level of sweetness.

Return to heat and stir until desired temperature is reached (Usually between 140 and 160 degrees F).

Serve hot chocolate topped with Guinness Marshmallows.

Enjoy!

Guinness Hot Chocolate Topped with Guinness Marshmallows brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 


Pears with Pecorino, Pistachios & Honey

February 21, 2015

 

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Holy frozen tundra has it been COLD for the past week. I know, I know…it’s winter. It is supposed to be cold. And yes, I am the person who detests hot weather. And yes I will be complaining much more loudly and often once that sultry Virginia weather kicks in this summer. Still…it was been awful freaking, record-breakingly, bitter cold recently. Perhaps that is why I have found myself thinking fondly back on a trip that we took to Italy last October. That was where I had my first taste of Pears with Pecorino & Honey. I saw it served both as an appetizer and as a light dessert. The juicy ripe pears combined with the salty Pecorino cheese and the sweet honey was just sublime.

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Fresh, simple. locally sourced…seems to describe everything we ate on that holiday. And I can truly say, we didn’t have a bad meal the whole time we were there, whether we were dining in a fancy pants restaurant or a little local trattoria. Except for the bread that is…what a disappointment. In my visions of Italy I would always be sipping wine at a little table with some lovely cheese and a loaf of bread. Well, truth be told, I did have a few where I was zipping around on a Vespa with a bottle of wine and a fresh loaf of bread in tow (Ciao!) … but anyway, my expectation for the bread was way high and it tasted pretty abysmal. Well, in Tuscany proper anyway. Tuscan bread does not have any salt in it. Bleck! Apparently back in the day, their old enemy Pisa, set up a blockade of sorts which made it difficult to acquire salt. So the Tuscans started making bread without it and have kept up the daft practice even though salt is readily available. Talk about fearing change… But besides the bread, it was a fantastic trip. I have been dying to tell you all about, so I think I will take advantage of this weather which certainly brings hibernation to mind, to stay put (under a mound of blankets…) for a few moments and take the time to do just that over the next few posts.

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We arrived in Florence mid-October which meant the majority of the flood of summer tourists had subsided. The weather was absolutely fantastic, still warm during the day but a bit chilly in the evenings, though in light of recent weather around here, perhaps I will revise my opinion to say it was a bit “balmy” in the evenings. We rented a car and drove north to the Italian Riviera portion of the Ligurian region where we planned to spend 3 days visiting Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre, the “five lands”, is made up of the five towns of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare which seem to cling precariously to steep cliffs jutting up from the sea.

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The towns, along with the surrounding hillsides and coastline make up The Cinque Terre National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No car traffic is allowed in the villages but no worries, it is easy to travel between them by train or boat taxi. We had booked a room in the lovely Luna di Marzo hotel which is located in Volastra, a really small village, still in the park, located just up the cliff from Manarola. The views from the room were simply breathtaking!

 

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The husband and I were really psyched because not only was Cinque Terre amazingly beautiful, but the park has hundreds of miles of hiking paths which shoot dramatically skyward, wind through the hillside vineyards and olive groves and descend steeply to twist along rugged coastal footpaths. We love hiking and couldn’t wait to hit the trails and take in all of that the area had to offer.

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Luckily I had heard about Pall Forloney, the Trekguyd and was able to hire him to take us on a trek of all five towns and I’ve got to tell you this was the highlight of our holiday! Originally from Rhode Island, Pall has been living in Riomaggiore for over 10 years. I would say that he has all the knowledge of a “local”, which he certainly does, but it is more than that. He is so enthusiastic about the area and has been traversing it for so long, he certainly knows more than the average local. He proved invaluable to us during our visit.  Not only did he expertly guide us (and yes there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to hike it…or perhaps I should say a “savvy” vs. a “clueless” way…) on a small, personal, day long trek through all five towns and the surrounding hillsides,

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but he was also a fount of information on everything from local history,

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Saw lots of churches in Italy. But when Pall took us to The Black Church in Monterossa al Mare, it definitely stood out.

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It is the chapel of the Brotherhood of Death and Prayer and is filled with “momento mori”.

 

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The Brotherhood saw to the welfare of orphans, widows, shipwreck victims and the destitute.

 

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You could also have a burial mass said for folks who had been excommunicated here as well.

 

to Sciacchetrà wine production,

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on to general hiking tips and even recommendations for the best restaurants that the 5 towns had to offer. He took us to the best gelateria in all of the five towns! Not to mention he is a truly fascinating guy and great fun to hang around with. All park passes, train tickets and boat taxi fares were included in the price of his tour.

Relaxing on the boat taxi headed back to Riomaggiore after our trek.

Relaxing on the boat taxi headed back to Riomaggiore after our trek.

 

Having booked with Pall on our first day in Cinque Terre, we were able to benefit from all of his knowledge and make the most of our next two days there. Even after Pall’s tour was officially over, he was still trying to make sure we had a great visit. So, when the husband and I let him know we had never tried the local Sciacchetrà wine, he arranged to have us meet a friend of his, Roberto  who owns the Terra di Bargòn vineyard.

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For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Sciacchetrà wine, it is the white wine that has been cultivated and produced in Cinque Terre for many years. It is odd that there even is wine production in this area. Remember, the towns are situated on rather steep cliffs. Those industrious Cinque Terre dwellers from long ago literally carved out the terraces on which the vineyards grow and then undertook the backbreaking challenge of harvesting the grapes, carrying them on their backs down along the narrow, cliff’s-edge paths to town.

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But that wasn’t the end of the hard work for them. Then they had to dry the grapes. Sciacchetrà is a straw wine meaning that the grapes are dried to concentrate their juice. Though often thought of as a dessert wine, Sciacchetrà is considered a wine of meditation and is excellent paired with cheeses. We were very curious about it to say the least after hiking through the vineyards all day. With hardly any notice, just a quick phone call from Pall, Roberto was able to come meet us at his Cantina where the Terra di Bargòn Sciacchetrà is produced and cellared. What a treat! Roberto is quite a character. He told us all about the history of that rare wine, how his family came to produce it and gave us a first hand account of the labor intensive cycle of production.

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But better yet, he let us taste the Sciacchetrà of the year (there is a two-year fermentation) as well as a 2009 reserve and a 2003 reserve. It is difficult to describe the taste, but I would say sweet but not too sweet and silky smooth with hints of honey and apricot. All I can say is that it is unique, delicious and definitely something you should sample. (Sciacchetrà is not widely imported to the US. Terra di  Bargòn will ship to the US through their website if you are interested. Better yet….go visit them in Cinque Terre.) There are not a lot of folks in Cinque Terre today that are willing to do the kind of work that is required to make Sciacchetrà. Roberto is perhaps one of a dying breed. He offered us keen insight into a way of life which has been handed down for generations in Cinque Terre. Unfortunately this way of life and this special wine is in danger of being lost forever, but not if Roberto has anything to do with it. The authentic cultural experience of tasting the wine and meeting Roberto was essentially priceless!

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Cinque Terre was absolutely amazing. I am so glad that we decided to give it the time it deserved and did not try to do it as a “day trip” from Florence. It would not have done the slow-paced vibe of the place justice. Now, that being said, I do understand that in the Summer months, especially August, the place is over-run with tourists, so you might want to plan accordingly. What you must do is book a trek with Pall Forloney, the Trekguyd. While you are traversing the hills, he will have you up to speed and CT savvy in no time flat. And make sure you sample that Sciacchetrà wine while you still can. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy this simple, yet elegant dish of Pears with Pecorino, Pistachios & Honey.

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It will have you dreaming of long and lazy, sun drenched days. When you gaze out your window, you won’t see a frozen, barren, arctic waste land. No. You’ll see a beautiful green and rugged coastline framed by the turquoise sea. Just make sure you don’t shatter the illusion by sneaking a peek at your thermometer!

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Pears with Pecorino, Pistachios & Honey

  • Servings: 2 - 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 pears
  • 3 Tablespoons Honey
  • 1/4 cup shaved Pecorino Cheese
  • handful of roughly chopped pistachios
  • freshly ground pepper

Directions:

For a Fresh & Light Spring/Summer Dish:

Core and slice pears. Scattered shaved Pecorino over pear slices. Warm honey and drizzle over pears and cheese. Sprinkle pistachios over the top. Season with freshly ground pepper if desired.

For a Warm & Comforting Fall/Winter Dish:

Core and slice pears. Place on broiler rack. Scatter shaved Pecorino over pear slices. Broil until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Warm honey and drizzle over pears and cheese. Sprinkle pistachios over the top. Season with freshly ground pepper if desired.

Pears with Pecorino, Pistachios & Honey brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)


Icelandic Bolludagur Cream Buns

February 16, 2015

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Bolla, Bolla, Bolla! Bet you didn’t know it, but today is Bolludagur (Bun Day) in Iceland. Bolludagur always falls on the monday before Ash Wednesday. On this day, the children of Iceland try to sneak into their parents bedroom, while they are still sleeping and whip them awake with brightly colored wands or paddles (bolludagsvöndur) while shouting Bolla, Bolla, Bolla! The number of spanks the child is able to land before the parent rises from bed, likely to land a few spanks of their own, is the number of Cream Buns they will be able to scarf down that day.

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Apparently this holiday came to Iceland via Denmark in the 19th Century, but Iceland has of course put its own spin on it. The husband and I have gone on holiday to Iceland for the past couple years and plan to visit again this Spring. We just can’t seem to get enough of it.

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Iceberg on black sand beach near Jökulsárlón.

Shortly after our first visit, I started to follow the blog I heart Reykjavik written by Reykjavik local Auður Ösp. It is an icelandic travel blog, but even if you aren’t planning a visit, you should take a peek. It is quite interesting, full of Auður’s recommendations to make your stay in Reykjavik the best it can be, along with her beautiful photography of the stunning country and all peppered with her witty commentary. And if you are planning a visit, this blog is simply a must! (Auður not only guides walking tours of Reykjavik, but also provides other unique opportunities for visitors such as a crash course in the Icelandic language and even home cooked dinners with the locals.) It was on her blog that I first learned about Bolludagur. What a great holiday! One I stand absolutely ready to incorporate into my yearly celebrations. And since I have no children, won’t the husband be surprized when I show up bright and early with my bolludagsvöndur at the ready !

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Now although you can find these Bolludagur Buns everywhere in Iceland right now, they were pretty thin on the ground here in Virginia, so I made my own.

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These buns are very similar to profiteroles or eclairs, made with a choux pastry. And one of the many great things about them is that they are very customizable. Just make up the buns and fill them with sweetened whipped cream. After that, the sky’s the limit! Stuff a bit of extra jam in with the cream, or maybe you have some Lime Curd left over from that Blackberry & Lime Tart I just told you about. Put some of that it there, with some of the leftover blackberries. I did some of the buns filled with that scrumptious, award-winning Chocolate & Raspberry Preserves from the Green Apron that I’ve told you about in the past (remember those Chocolate & Raspberry Buttermilk Doughnuts I made…) and topped it with more chocolate…because why wouldn’t you? These buns are supposed to be a bit decadent!

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I also did a salted caramel filled bun, again topped with chocolate.

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Like I said, it is completely up to you. Just make sure you eat your fill today…I’ll even make the spanking bit optional for you adults….Bolla, Bolla, Bolla!

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Icelandic Bolludagur Cream Buns

  • Servings: 12 -15 cream buns
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: Icelandic Roots

Ingredients:

For the buns:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 large eggs

For the cream and filling:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
  • raspberry jam, salted caramel, melted chocolate

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375ºF. In a large saucepan, stir together water, butter, salt and sugar on stove medium-high until butter melts. Add the flour and beat until thick. Remove pan from heat and let cool slightly.

Move flour butter mixture to bowl of stand mixer. Add the eggs and quickly beat them into the batter until it is smooth.

At this point, you can drop the batter onto a greased baking sheet using two spoons. Or you can place the dough in a pastry bag and pipe it onto a parchment lined baking sheet. This is the method I used as I was hoping to have the buns all be consistent in size. I drew 2″ circles on the parchment as a guide and then flipped it over and piped the dough to fit the circles.

Bake 30 minutes until golden brown. And here is where it gets really difficult. Do not open the oven during baking. Not at all. Not even a for a quick peek. You will cause those buns to fall flat! Turn the oven off and let the buns cool undisturbed within the oven.

Whip cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar to stiff peaks. Slice cooled buns in half. Fill with cream (again, I piped it in, but you could just spoon them full…) and anything else you would like…say like Chocolate Raspberry Jam, or salted caramel. Top with a little sprinkling of confectioners sugar or with melted chocolate or any other frosting or glaze that your heart desires!

Enjoy!

Icelandic Bolludagur Cream Buns brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 


Cashew Crusted Blackberry & Lime Tart

February 13, 2015

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Here it is…the day before Valentine’s Day! Oh and it also happens to be Friday the 13th, which is a bit disconcerting. Anyhoo… Have you baked up a little something special for your sweetie? I know some folks were suspicious that my Valentine would be getting those irresistible Salted Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies that I blogged about a few days ago. Now those were right up my alley! Alas, as I mentioned, the husband does not have any trouble resisting Peanut Butter treats whatsoever. (Yay! More for me…) No. Definitely. NOT up his alley. Nor likely anywhere on his map! So I’d have been a pretty horrible wifey to offer those up to him. Luckily I’m not that clueless and know exactly what he likes. Believe you me I have earned some serious Valentine’s Day points from him by making this Cashew Crusted Blackberry & Lime Tart. For the husband, and perhaps some other of you fruit dessert loving folks out there, this is the dessert that is irresistible.

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So what we’ve got here is a crispy graham cracker/cashew crust holding a creamy, sweet and tart lime curd filling, all crowned with the husband’s favourite fruit, fresh blackberries. Yup…this might possibly be the confection of his dreams!

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And the big win for me, besides my darlin’s everlasting devotion (just imagine the fluttering cupids), is that it was really pretty easy to make. Truth be told, I made this over a couple of days, lime curd first, crust the next and saved the final assembly until I was ready to surprize him.

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Though I will say that the crust and filling are both pretty quick and low impact to make, so this tart could easily be made on the day you need it. Like maybe tomorrow?

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So if you’ve got a significant other like mine who will shun the chocolate dessert to make a beeline straight for the fruit filled offering, take note of this Valentine’s Day indulgence. You know what they say…the way to a man’s heart and all that!

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Cashew Crusted Blackberry & Lime Tart

  • Servings: One 9 inch Tart
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe adapted from: My Cup is Full and Food Network (for the Cashew/Graham Crust)

Ingredients:

For the Cashewed Graham Cracker Crust:

  • 2 cups cashews, finely ground
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (digestive biscuits are a good substitute for grahams)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup melted and cooled butter

For the Lime Curd Filling:

  •  1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temp
  • 2 egg yolks, at room temp
  • 1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons (5 oz.) fresh lime juice

For the Topping:

12 ounces fresh blackberries

Fresh whipped cream for serving

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9-inch tart pan and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the cashews, graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup sugar, and the melted butter. Press crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of the tart pan.

Bake the crust for 8 -10 minutes until it is set. Set aside to cool on wire rack.

Next, make the lime curd (just a note, you could make up the lime curd a day or two beforehand and store in the fridge covered with plastic wrap).

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next.

Pour in the lime juice and continue to mix until combined (you may need to scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl). This is the point at which I have to tell you not to freak out, because I might have, just a bit. Once you add the lime juice, your lovely creamy sugar/butter/egg mixture will go all curdled. Just take a deep breath and say “All will be fine.” As you heat and whisk the mixture in the next step, the lovely creamy mixture will once again appear.

Pour the curd mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring continually with a whisk until the mix is smooth.

Increase the heat a touch and keep whisking until the mixture has thickened and has reached a temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit

Remove the curd from the heat and transfer to a heat-resistant bowl (such as glass), and cover with plastic wrap pressed to the top of the curd. Allow it to come to room temperature and then chill it in the refrigerator before putting in the crust.

Once the crust is cooled and your curd is chilled, scoop the curd into the center of the crust, spreading evenly to the edges with the back of a spoon.

Finally, arrange your berries over the top of the tart.

Enjoy!

Cashew Crusted Blackberry & Lime Curd Tart brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 


Salted Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies

February 5, 2015

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I love Peanut Butter. It’s true. I really love it. I mean I love it in baked goods, I love it on bread and I even love to just stand there with a spoon eating it straight from the jar. I love creamy peanut butter. I love crunchy peanut butter. I think the only one I know who might just love peanut butter more than I do is my dog.

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He also loves to roll in the sand at the beach!

Yup I love peanut butter, but it is not the only thing that I have been known to eat straight from the jar….Nutella springs to mind. And I’m talking about big honking tablespoonfuls, not little proper teaspoons! I do love me some Nutella. I can’t believe I didn’t discover it until I was in college!

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And you know what else… I love it when peanut butter and chocolate come together. And if you throw in some flaky salt so that you get that great salty/sweet taste sensation….well, I’m just in heaven! So you can just imagine how I feel about these Salted Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies.

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These little devils have got it all going on! Listen up, what you’ve got is two salted chewy peanut butter cookies with a gooey, chocolate-y ribbon of Nutella nestled between them. The perfect cookie for me!

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Now, you might be thinking that what with all this talk of “love” in the air and Valentine’s Day being right around the corner, that I made these cookies for my sweetie. You would be wrong. These cookies would be a dreadful Valentine’s gift for him. If I were to make him these particular cookies as a prezzie, it would be a sign that our relationship was in peril. I know that he couldn’t care less about peanut butter, doesn’t pay much attention to cookies at all, and is lukewarm about chocolate desserts all together. Nope. These are decidedly not for him. (Don’t worry over him…I’ve got his Valentine’s Day treat all picked out. Just you wait and see…) These cookies are all about ME. The only thing that might tempt me more is a cupcake. Hmmm…note to self….try to make a cupcake version of these cookies.

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Another thing these incredibly tasty Salted Peanut Butter & Nutella Cookies are about is World Nutella Day. That’s right, today February 5th is World Nutella Day.

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This celebration of all things Nutella was started in 2007 by Sara at Ms. Adventures in Italy and Michelle at Bleeding Espresso as a day to celebrate, get creative with and most importantly, to EAT Nutella. I love Nutella so I usually try to participate with a Nutella laden recipe every year. Last year I made cookies as well, Salted & Malted Nutella Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies. These cookies feature silky, decadent Nutella, creamy caramel, nostalgic malted goodness and rich chocolate chips, all rolled up together in a crunchy chewy salted cookie. 

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A couple of years ago, I made a Nutella, Double Chocolate & Banana Tart which was quite stunning if I do say so myself.

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And I have also shared the recipe for Nutella & Banana Filled Peanut Butter Ebelskivers.

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Just can’t get enough of that Peanut Butter & Nutella combo! I will admit, this year’s Salted Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies are a bit on the large side. They are more the size of whoopie pies than regular cookies. But you see, I had gotten these wonderful cookie stamps and was just dying to try them out,

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so I definitely increased their size. However, I did not ever hear anyone say “Oh no! That cookie is just too big. I couldn’t possibly eat it all.” Well, now that I think about it, I did hear that once or twice. But when I looked back over, there was nothing left but crumbs…Heck a couple of times, even the crumbs were gone! As if they had been magically hoovered up. So I’ll leave the size of the cookie up to you. Make whatever size cookie suits your needs, but believe me you need to make a batch and soon! Folks, with the exception of my husband that is, will go wild!

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Salted Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies

  • Servings: 8 - 10 large sandwich cookies or 16 smaller ones
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Sweet Peas and Saffron (I did not change a thing about the ingredients, but made the cookies larger so that I could use my new cookie stamps!)

Ingredients:

For the Cookies:

  • ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup peanut butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (110 grams) packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1½ cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • granulated sugar (for rolling)
  • coarse sea salt (for sprinkling)

Nutella for the ooey-gooey ever so chocolatey middle part

Directions:

In a large bowl, beat butter and peanut butter until well combined. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla.

In a separate small bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda. Mix into wet ingredients.

Scrape down from sides of bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Do not skip this part or your cookies will spread!

Pre-heat oven to 375° F. Line cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

Roll dough into 1 tbsp sized balls, roll in the granulated sugar to coat. Place on baking mat and press down slightly with a fork. Sprinkle with sea salt. If you would like to use a cookie stamp like I did you will need to use about 2 tablespoons of dough. Lightly grease your cookie stamp and push straight down on dough. Gently pull stamp away from cookie and then sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 7-9 minutes until bottoms are golden brown. Cookies will look under-baked when removed from the oven but will set up on baking sheet. Cool for 5 minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Now for the assembly: Place Nutella in a pastry bag and pipe it out onto the bottom of one cookie. Top with another cookie and gently press down. These sandwich cookies are best when assembled just prior to eating. If you wish to assemble them in advance, they can be kept in the refrigerator, just remember to let them come to room temperature before serving.

Enjoy!

Salted Peanut Butter & Nutella Sandwich Cookies brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)

 


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