So if I said “Jambon”, what would you think of? You might be thinking “That’s French for ham right?” You would be correct, but I’m not really talking about ham. Perhaps I should’ve said “Irish Jambon”. Ahhh! Now it might be getting clearer. The Irish Jambon is the much beloved, ubiquitous deli offering found in gas stations and convenience stores throughout the Emerald Isle. But what is it? It is puff pastry filled with béchamel sauce, cheese (usually Emmental) and diced ham. Kind of like a Danish pastry but with savory filling rather than fruit. So that is the technical definition. But what you need to know is they are comfort food at its finest!
I first read all about these little delights in that cookbook “Bake” by Graham Herterich that I told you about in the post from a couple of days ago – Malted Coffee, Chocolate & Pecan Brack. He had a recipe for jambons and claimed that they are “now as Irish as soda bread”. I was mystified. I had never once come across a Jambon anywhere at all while I was studying in Ireland. Seems like just the thing a student would’ve lived on. I felt very cheated and when quizzed about them, my Irish friends assure me that I should indeed feel that way. Not to date myself, but i turns out they didn’t actually become widespread and popular in Ireland until the late ’90’s. It’s fairly meteoric rise in popularity is a testament to how addictively good these little dickens are!
Previous to that, quick food on the go wasn’t really a thing in Ireland. However in the 90’s compact bakery ovens became available which allowed petrol stations, small supermarkets and convenience stores to offer “freshly baked” (usually from frozen Cuisine de France) hot items such as croissants, breakfast rolls and jambons from their deli counters.
These jambons were very portable, undeniably tasty and quite economical. I could not wait to taste one, but since I was no longer visiting Ireland by the time I discovered how deprived I’d been, I decided to make my own to tide me over until I could get back there!
My homemade versions are pretty easy to make. Although the authentic ones in Ireland usually use Emmentaler Cheese, I went with a mixture of Kerry Gold Irish Cheddar and Kerry Gold Blarney Cheese, which is a bit like Gouda.
And speaking of Blarney, Blarney Castle is one of the places I visited on my most recent trip to Ireland.
The Husband had never kissed the good old Blarney Stone. For anyone who knows him, I’m sure you’d find that hard to believe. He has already in firm possession of the “gift of gab” as they say. I was worried how even more eloquence for him would play out.
Nevertheless I considered it a must do, so off we went. For those of you who don’t know, the Blarney Stone is a block of limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle. Legend has it that if one kisses the stone, which is no easy task, they will be given great eloquence or the skill of flattery or beguiling talk. To get to this magical stone, you have to climb to the top of the castle,
lay down and lean over backwards from the parapets ledge. A bit nerve wracking to say the least!
But let me get back to the Irish Jambons. My homemade Jambons did not disappoint. Crispy crunchy puff pastry filled with a gooey, squidgy cheese sauce that is shot through with salty ham. Chock full of salt and carbs, I can see why they are considered a sure fire hangover cure. Now I’ve just got to get back to Ireland to get the real authentic jambon from a petrol station experience. I’ve been told Centras have the best there are to offer. Until then, these homemade ones will have you addicted and will be just the thing for your pre and post St. Patrick’s Day festivities!
Bake: Traditional Irish Baking with Modern Twists by Graham Herterich – It does not appear that this book is available on Amazon, but you can get it here at the Book Depository. I love this cookbook! Visually it is gorgeous, but it doesn’t rely on looks alone. This book is chock full of fantastic recipes. Graham Herterich, better known in Ireland as the Cupcake Bloke, initially trained as a chef and then went on to open The Bakery in Rialto Dublin. In this, his first cookbook, he offers a traditional recipe followed by a modern twist on that recipe. It also contains a brief history of Irish baking as well as a guide to baking essentials and lesser known ingredients.
Travel Planning Guide:
Getting there:Icelandair! We love Icelandair and have always had great experience with them. Icelandair flies to Dublin, Ireland. Take advantage of their Stopover program on your next flight to Europe.
Car Rental: New Way Car Hire – Love the all-inclusive pricing on these cars as well as the Dublin Airport pickup!
Blarney Castle -Official site. You can book tickets here or when you arrive. The actual castle and stone are of course a big attraction, but the gardens are really lovely as well.
Blarney Woolen Mills – You can’t visit the castle without heading right across the street to do a bit of shopping at the flagship store of Blarney Woolen Mills. This store is HUGE and has everything. Not just sweaters, but china, crystal, homewares – you name it! It is housed in one of Ireland’s oldest and most authentic Irish Woolen Mills. This family owned business is not only brimful of the best Irish designers but also offers their wares at a good price.
Now here we go! Comfort food at it’s finest! Today I give you – Vegetarian Cottage Pie! This mouthwatering pie is chock full of a savory mix of Guinness drenched french lentils, leeks, mushrooms, carrots and peas and topped with dreamy creamy crunchy tangy mashed potatoes! I swear you will not miss the meat at all!
You can pretty much find Shepherd’s Pie on most menus of any Irish pub you visit. Technically Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb. If it doesn’t have lamb, such as the lamb shoulder found in Chef Cathal Armstrong’s pie that I shared with you a few years ago:
Today’s dish gets rid of the meat altogether, instead letting a melange of mushrooms and hearty thyme flavored Le Puy lentils stand in, and might I add, steal the show!
The Mashed Potato topping used here is superb as well, with sour cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese providing a delightful tangy umami taste. Those flavor packed potatoes get even more magical when baked as you get a crispy crunch, followed with the creamy interior in every forkful.
Just so you know, the Husband has proclaimed this his favorite, over all of the Shepherd/cottage pies he has every sampled. High praise ya’ll! You simply must make this for your St. Patrick’s Day party!
recipe adapted from: Samantha Seneviratne via New York Times Cooking
For the mash topping:
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered (about 3 large)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup whole milk
½ cup sour cream
½ cup packed grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano is not vegetarian, so if you are strict vegetarian and not just doing a Meatless Monday, make sure you use a vegetarian cheese) or vegetarian Parmesan, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
For the filling:
3/4 cup french lentils (you can use other lentils, but I prefer Le Puy, which hold their shape with cooking)
4 sprigs of thyme
2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
4 tablespoons butter
8 ounces sliced mixed mushrooms, such as button, cremini, and shitaake
1 large leek, white part only, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons flour
1 can of Guinness Beer (14.9 ounces)
1 can of le sueur small peas (8 ounce) drained
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
In a large pot, bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes to boiling water and boil for about 15 to 20 minutes, until fork tender. Drain potatoes well. Using a potato ricer, rice the potatoes into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium low for one minute. In a small saucepan or a microwave oven, heat 6 tablespoons of the butter and milk together until butter melts. Add the hot butter mixture to the potatoes and beat until just combined. Add the sour cream and beat until smooth. Set aside 1 Tablespoon of the 1/2 cup of Parmigiano, then add the remaining amount to the potatoes. Mix on medium high until creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.
Place the lentils, thyme and 2 cups of the broth in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer with 1 teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat and continue to cook the lentils, partly covered, until they are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Transfer the lentils to a bowl and set aside.
Melt the butter in the 10-inch skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until they are deep golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add leeks, carrots and garlic, and continue to cook until tender, another 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the tomato paste and stir, cooking until it is well combined, another 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the mixture, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the can of Guinness, cooked lentils and drained can of peas. Cook until thickened. Remove thyme stems.
Transfer lentil filling to a 2 quart casserole dish or 11″x7″ baking dish. You could use a 13″x9″ dish if you prefer but I prefer to use a smaller pan so the the filling layer is deeper. Dollop the mashed potato topping over the filling and spread into an even layer. Or add the potatoes to a piping bag with a star tip and pipe a fancy design over the top as I did. Sprinkle the 1 Tablespoon of remaining Parmigiano over the top. Place the dish on a parchment paper lined baking tray and transfer to the oven. Bake the pie until the potatoes have begun to brown and the edges are bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
Ha! It turns out that varmint was correct. Punxsutawney Phil for the win! It has been quite chilly around here, though if the weather forecasters are to be believed, we’re going to get a taste of Spring next week. But I’d be willing to bet it will just be a brief little sample and then it will turn cold again. No way winter is done with us yet. So ya’ll will be so happy you have this recipe to warm you up on those cold damp days to come – Quick Chicken & Dumplings. Comfort food at its finest and much easier to make than the traditional dish. What’s the secret? Store bought rotisserie chicken & gnocchi! You’ll have this hearty flavorful creamy dinner on the table in about 30 minutes.
Now I have made the traditional Chicken & Dumplings dish many times. It is kind of an all day affair to make, but it is so tasty with big, fluffy cornmeal dumplings The husband absolutely loves it!
So I wasn’t sure how he was going to feel about this shortcut version. But there was no need to fear. He loved this dish as well.
Those soft pillowy gnocchi do a wonderful job standing in for dumplings. And the good news is, it is not only absolutely delicious, but it is also very quick and easy to make. Meaning there is a good chance it will make it to the table much more frequently. So when the weather turns chilly again, as I know it will, you’ll be ready with a big pot of Chicken & Dumplings to lift folks spirits. You don’t even need to let them in on the secret “quick” bit. Winner, winner! Quick Chicken & Dumplings Dinner!
2 medium carrots or 8 ounces butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 medium leek, trimmed, white and pale green portion halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 medium celery stalks, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 2/3 cup)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (optional)
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 (16-ounce) package fresh or shelf-stable store-bought gnocchi
½ small (3-pound) store-bought rotisserie chicken, skin and bones discarded, meat torn into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups shredded meat)
Fresh tarragon, parsley or dill, for garnish
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium. Add the carrots, leek, celery, garlic, rosemary, thyme and poultry seasoning, if using. Season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle with the flour, then cook, stirring, 2 minutes. (This cooks the flour to soften its raw flavor.) Gradually stir in the stock and cream, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Once the mixture boils, stir in the gnocchi, reduce the heat to medium and cook until gnocchi and vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken in the last couple of minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among bowls and top with fresh tarragon and more black pepper, if desired.
Quick Chicken & Dumplings brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)
So did I get your attention with that recipe title? I mean “Chili” will always make me look. We love chili around here. But when followed by Chocolate…hmmm that struck me as a bit strange. But then the wheels completely fell of my cart when I saw peanut butter. Peanut Butter?!!! Really?!!! Yup. Totally serious. Peanut. Butter. I could not wait to cook up a pot. And I’m very happy to share the recipe with you today. It is absolutely delicious! The mixture of spices and chocolate give it such a depth of flavor, a real richness and umami. And that peanut butter acts not only as a thickener, but also gives the most silky creamy texture. Comfort food perfection on a cold snowy day!
Today is February 1st. This particular day lies half way between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It is St. Brigid’s Day. Brigid is one of Ireland’s patron saints. According to Irish hagiography, she was an early Christian nun & abbess who preformed many miracles. She also shares the name with an important Celtic goddess which suggests that the early church might have adopted the legends of the goddess and transformed them into the Christian persona. Interesting huh? I don’t know how many of you folks out there remembered to put a scarf out last night. You see on St. Brigid’s Eve you should always place a scarf or other piece of fabric outside.
When Brigid passes over the land that night she will bless it. You then can fetch it back inside the next day and thanks to Brigid, it has the power to protect and heal headaches, sore throats and fevers throughout the coming year! What with all the Covid still rampaging around, I wasn’t going to take any chances. My little scarf was frozen solid this morning, but is happily thawing away now, freshly imbued with healing powers. Today also marks the festivals of Imbolc and Candlemas, both of which are associated with fertility, fire, purification and weather divination. And tomorrow, my favourite varmint, Punxsutawney Phil, will be stepping out of his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob and letting everyone know if there will be 6 more weeks of winter or if instead Spring is on the way.
Right up until yesterday, much to my dismay, we really had not had any winter at all. But I woke up to snow yesterday! It snowed all day, all night and it is still snowing as I write this. Hooray! So if good ole Phil sees his shadow and we get more winter I’m fine, but even if he says Spring is coming, I will have at least had a tiny taste of winter. So this is quite an auspicious time of year! I’m very happy to be marking an event today as well. February 1st just happens to be the 10th year anniversary of the my cooking blog! Yup… Ten years ago today I posted my first recipe. It was for Cream Tea Scones with Currants.
I’ve managed to do an anniversary post nearly every year since. Pretty impressive considering how slack I can be. Last year I posted about these scrumptious Morning Buns!
And who can forget that magical “caviar of the South” – Pasture’s Pimento Cheese. Keep this one in mind for the Super Bowl!
And speaking of the Big Game, today’s Ground Beef Chili with Chocolate & Peanut Butter would certainly be a most welcome addition to your game day spread. You can even play a fun game with folks where you make them try to guess what the secret ingredients are in the chili. The whole time I was making it, I hid the recipe from The Husband. I just called it the “odd chili” with some mysterious ingredients. He did pretty well with his guesses. He got the chocolate pretty quickly. Not that it tastes like chocolate. It doesn’t. But he got that it was a dark richness to the dish. And although he did not guess peanut butter, he did comment on how creamy it was.
Although you can eat this chili on the day you make it, I usually try to allow it to sit in the fridge for a day or two after I make it. I find that the extra chill time allows the flavors to really blend and meld. I guess I always knew chocolate & peanut butter were two great tastes that taste great together. I mean Reese Cups have been telling us so for years. However, I would never have considered smashing a Reese Cup up and stirring it into my chili. But there you have it! So. Dang. Good.
recipe from: Aaron Hutcherson via New York Times Cooking
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 8 ounces)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
3 canned chiles in adobo, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional – we like it hot!)
2 pounds ground beef or ground dark turkey
1 (15-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 cup stout beer (I suggest Guinness…)
1 cup unsalted or low-sodium beef stock or chicken stock
2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed
4 ounces good dark chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
fresh lime juice ( 1 – 2 Tablespoons – optional)
Any combination of tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro and diced avocado, for garnish (optional)
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and salt and sautée until the onion starts to become translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add Chiles, cocoa powder and spices. Stir to mix ingredients together and cook for 1 – 2 minutes, just until the spices become fragrant.
Add ground meat and cook until cooked through, 5 – 7 minutes.
Add tomatoes and their juices, beer and stock to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the temperature to a simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the flavors meld.
Reduce heat to low and stir in the beans, chocolate and peanut butter. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the peanut butter is completely integrated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you think it is too sweet, you can add a bit of freshly squeezed lime juice.
Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, avocado, sour cream, fresh cilantro or perhaps white onion. Whatever toppings you prefer. I always make up a batch of Skillet Cornbread as well when I serve chili.
Useful links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Ground Beef Chili with Chocolate & Peanut Butter:
Crafty Celts – Love that spoon in the chili pics above? You can get one for yourself at Crafty Celts where you will find handcrafted historically inspired bronze and silver jewelry, as well as gorgeous silverware. You might recognize some of their jewelry as it was featured in the Vikings television show.
Oh my gosh! Where has the time gone? I haven’t posted one little morsel since Halloween! How has that happened? It isn’t like I’ve been off traveling or even out of the house really – Thank you Covid! Yet somehow I’ve been busy. And here we are at January 25th, 2021! Well, at least I’m here now – whatever that may count for and I’m back with a delicious recipe! Cock-a-leekie Pie is Scottish comfort food at its finest.
This big hearty pie boasts a creamy chicken and leek filling which is shot through with savory crumbles of bacon all wrapped up in a perfect buttery flaky crust. Be still my heart!
And January 25th is perfect timing for a Scottish recipe. That’s right- today 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. Indeed, this Cock-a-Leekie Pie would be a very welcome addition to any Burns Night Supper. I’ve actually posted quite a few tasty Burns Night dishes in the past. Like remember my Steak Auld Reekie served over Crispy Tatties & Neeps:
Or how about these Scottish Pies with Mushy Peas? This post is really fun because it is one of my travel postings telling you all about a fun trip (remember when we used to be able to travel…) we took to Glasgow a few years ago.
And if you are intrigued by Scottish travel – just take a look at these Scottish Oat Cakes which are featured in my post about our journey to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands for their annual Up Helly Aa celebration, which is a Viking Fire Festival. How exciting it that?!! (Sadly, yet understandably, Up Helly Aa 2021 has been cancelled. Yup…thanks once again Covid.)
Back to more Burns Night recipes, how about some infamous Scotch Eggs:
If pie is not your thing (and I have no idea what you’re like if it isn’t…), how about this Cock-a-leekie Soup:
which I served with delicious, crusty Struan. Struan, also known as Celtic Harvest Bread, is thought to have taken its name from a town in Western Scotland called Struanmoor, on the Isle of Skye. It was originally enjoyed once a year as a harvest bread, using whatever grains were available from the previous day’s harvest. This is my absolute favourite bread, so it is almost always available in my house. It toasts up particularly brilliantly.
And for dessert, could I possibly tempt you with Chranachan. (My Chranachan recipe has a more Irish bent, but that is easy to change. Just use a good Scottish Malt Whiskey rather than the Jamesons and skip the Bailey’s drizzle. This dessert is typically served in a tall glass, though I served it in little chocolate cordial glasses topped with raspberries once, which was quite fun.)
I think you get the picture. My blog is chock full of inspirational tasty Scottish dishes! But let me get back to today’s offering: Cock-a-Leekie Pie.
The husband loves every sort of pie, but prefers the savory ones to the sweet. And he is over the moon for anything with leeks in it (must be his Welsh blood). So this pie is right up his alley. So hearty and filling. So creamy and savory. You might pause when you notice that prunes are in the ingredients, but don’t leave them out whatever you do. Their sweetness is a wonderful compliment to the silky leek chicken mixture and salty bacon.
Now I realize, I didn’t give you much time to get this recipe done for this evening. Sorry about that. I believe it was Robbie Burns who said:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley –
(Translation: The best laid plans of Mice and Men often go awry)
So please do forgive me that once again my best laid plans have gang aft agley! If you can’t whip this up this evening, please do bake it when you can. Believe me, you won’t be sorry. And tonight, no matter what your dinner plans might be, join me in raising a wee dram and toast to Robert Burns, Scotlands favorite son.
3 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced into rounds
2 sprigs thyme, leaves stripped
½ cup quartered pitted prunes
⅓ cup all-purpose flour, plus more
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 batch of Perfect Flaky Pie Crust – recipe follows
1 egg – for brushing over top crust
Make one batch of Perfect Flaky Pie Crust (recipe noted below). Place dough in refrigerator for at least one hour or up to two days.
Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 375°. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook bacon until crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook in same skillet until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Add a splash of water to skillet. Cover, reduce heat, and cook until chicken is cooked through, 10–12 minutes, or internal temperature 165°. Transfer to a plate.
Add leeks to skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add a splash of water, cover, and cook until leeks are very soft, 5–7 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Shred chicken and add to leeks along with thyme leaves, prunes, and reserved bacon.
Melt remaining 4 Tbsp. butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in ⅓ cup flour and cook, whisking constantly, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Whisk in broth, adding a little at a time, until smooth. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5–7 minutes. Mix sauce into leek mixture; season with salt and pepper. Let cool.
Remove pie dough from refrigerator. Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to a 14” round. Transfer to a 10” cast-iron skillet or a 9½”-diameter deep pie dish. Lift up edge and let dough slump down into dish. Trim, leaving a 1” overhang. Spoon filling into skillet. Roll out second disk of dough to 11” round. Drape over filling and trim to a 1” overhang. Fold overhang under; crimp with a fork or roll crust as I did. Cut a few vents in top; brush with egg.
Bake until crust is golden brown, 50–60 minutes. Let pie cool slightly.
Perfect Flaky Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (227 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 sticks)
6 tablespoons vodka (chilled)
2 Tablespoons ice water
Mix 6 tablespoons of vodka and 2 tablespoons of water. Put in fridge or freezer (don’t forget it) to chill.
Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and salt to a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until combined.
Scatter butter cubes over flour and process until a dough or paste begins to form, about 15 seconds. (There should be no uncoated flour).
Scrape bowl, redistribute the flour-butter mixture then add remaining 1 cup of flour. Pulse 4 to 5 times until flour is evenly distributed. (Dough should look broken up and a little crumbly).
Transfer to a medium bowl then sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water/vodka over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough falls apart, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra water/vodka and continue to press until dough comes together.
Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball. Cut ball in half then form each half into discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using).
So here is something a bit different for you – Today’s featured recipe is for Brauðterta. Brauðterta is kind of like a big old multi layered sandwich masquerading as a cake! In English I suppose you can just call it Bread Cake or perhaps Icelandic Party Sandwich Loaf if you were being less literal. How fun is this!
And I’m not only going to tell you all about this delicious dish, but I am also going to finish telling you all about that fantastic trip we took with the Parents to Iceland in September 2018. So just to recap, I’ve told you all about the beginning of this trip where we toured the Golden Circle and various other South Coast gems. And then I told you about our big adventure touring Þórsmork in a Super Jeep. Now, I’m going to fill you in on the rest of the trip. On day 5 we set out to visit the Westman Islands (Vestmannaejyar). The Westman Islands are located just off the south coast of Iceland.
The Husband and I were there in September 2017 and absolutely LOVED it! I am originally from a small island in the Chesapeake Bay myself and my father has made his living as commercial fisherman, so I really wanted him to experience Vestmannaeyjar. Turns out it was the highlight of the trip for him. These islands are often overlooked by tourists in Iceland because you do need to either fly over or take the ferry. But in my opinion, it is so worth the effort! I probably shouldn’t let you in on the secret, but I can’t help myself!
The Vestmannaeyjar are absolutely gorgeous!
This archipelago consists of about 15 islands, but most folks live on Heimaey, which is the largest island. We booked a day tour with Eyja Tours to make sure the parents were able to see as much of it as possible
House at the not to be missed Eldheimar Museum which documents the story of the surprise 1973 volcanic eruption.
Since we were there at the end of August/early September, we not only were able to see the adult puffin colonies,
but we were also able to experience the pufflings (baby puffins) flying into town.
You see, puffins nest in clifftop colonies, digging a burrow in which a single egg is laid. The puffin chicks, or pufflings, are then cared for by their parents for about 6 weeks. At this point the fledgling makes its way out of its burrow at night and flies toward the sea. However, many get confused by the lights of the town and rather than flying out to sea, they end up flying into town. The Vestmannaeyjar children, or Puffin Patrol as they are known, go out at night with flashlights to rescue them. The pufflings are then taken home in cardboard boxes for the night. The next morning their rescuers take them to the Saeheimar Aquarium (*since our visit in 2018, the aquarium has closed and its residents have moved to the Puffin Rescue Center at the Beluga Whale Sanctuary – see note below) to be measured and weighed. The children can have their pictures taken with their little charges as well. Once done, the little birds are taken to the shore and released back into the wild during daylight hours so that they won’t become confused. The Husband and I had seen this in 2017. But this year we unexpectedly got to participate!
Let me explain. After an action packed day exploring, we took the Parents to one of our favorite restaurants in the whole world – Slippurinn,
we headed back to our lovely apartment accommodations for some well deserved sleep.
However, I was hoping to get another Northern Lights show. I was on watch. So while everyone else was snoozing – I was setting my alarm every 30 minutes to run outside and see if the Aurora was doing its thing. It was a beautiful, clear night. Not a cloud in the sky. So it should have been perfect conditions. But the elusive lights were not cooperating. I was really getting pretty frustrated around 2am, when I heard this strange slap, slap slap noise. I looked down from the sky to see a tiny puffling running full out at me, with a cat close on his tail. The puffling literally ran right into my ankles. I reached down and scooped him up telling the kitty “No, no, no! Not today!” And voila, I had a puffling! I promptly woke everyone up. Look-y here! Hurray! I have a puffling! But it quickly turned to – “OMG! I have a puffling!” We had an early ferry to catch back to the mainland. A ferry that left before the aquarium opened. So the Husband and I decided we would get in the car and go find some locals that were rescuing pufflings. We would just hand ours over to them. Sadly, at around 2:30 in the morning, we did not find families out looking for pufflings, but rather groups of folks staggering home from the pub. No way I was going to entrust my puffling to them! And to make matters worse, about 5 minutes into our drive into town, we had to pull over because there was another puffling in the road. Now we had two of them! No box to put them in. And whereas my puffling was somewhat sedate, though a little bite-y (doesn’t really hurt….its a baby…), the Husband’s puffling was a little devil puffling – biting and scratching like a champ! Talk about driving while impaired! Thankfully we did find two non-drunk locals who had just rescued a puffling themselves and were willing to take our two on as well. What a crazy night! So although the Lights were not willing to show, it was still unforgettable!
The next morning we were up early, caught the ferry back to the mainland and set off for Reykjavík! You can see all of the live action on Vestmannaeyjar in this video:
We arrived in Reykjavík after a short drive. We had booked into The Black Pearl and as a surprise for the Parents, we had reserved the luxurious Penthouse suite for them, which had a great wrap around balcony with lovely views over the city.
The Black Pearl has been one of our favorite places to stay in Reykjavik. The apartments are fantastic, location perfect and the service is absolutely top-notch every single time. I should mention that they offer an absolutely amazing and plentiful in-suite breakfast service consisting of freshly baked bread, pastries, skyr, various cold cuts, salmon, bacon and eggs.
Once settled in, we set out to explore. We showed them the old harbor area,
went up in Hallgrimskirkja for amazing city views,
recharged with a cup of coffee and a visit with the kitties at Kattakaffihúsið
We were so sad to leave. But there was one more big surprise for everyone. As I have mentioned in a previous post, Icelandair offer the option to “Class Up” from economy seats to Saga Premium. So, how it works is 10 days prior to an eligible flight, you will receive an email asking if you would like to place a bid. You are then able to decide the amount you are willing to pay, in addition to the cost of your original ticket, to have a Saga class seat. All 5 of us had our bids accepted and were able to fly home first class!
It was truly such a fun, unforgettable trip!
But don’t leave yet. You have simply got to hear all about this Brauðterta. In Iceland, you will likely find Brauðterta at any celebrations where you would find a gathering of extended family such as a birthday party or graduation. At these events, an elaborate coffee table is often laid out for guests featuring all sorts of sweet desserts. And there you will find the Brauðterta, dressed up to look just like a cake, but filled with all sorts of savory fillings. Certainly a welcome break and somewhat of a palate cleanser against the avalanche of sugary treats.
So it isn’t really a cake, but a multilayered sandwich. The bread for making Brauðterta are sold in stores in Iceland and can either be a loaf of bread which has been sliced horizontally or a large sheet of bread similar to the cake you would use in a jelly roll. With this type of bread you can either roll it up like a jelly roll or use multiple pieces of it stacked on top of each other to create a really large Brauðterta. I used a loaf of Soft Sandwich Bread which I had baked myself. I have seen folks use regular store bought, sliced sandwich bread with the crusts removed, but I have not tried that and would fear that store bought bread might not hold up as well.
These layers of bread are interspersed with creamy fillings. Some versions have the same filling repeated with each layer. Others have a different filling on each layer, which is what I have done. The fillings can be anything that you would use in a regular sandwich, though the salad type fillings – i.e. egg salad, shrimp salad – seem to strike the right level of not too dry but not too wet that is required. In Iceland you will often find seafood based fillings, but since the Husband has a seafood allergy and I did not fancy having to go the the ER during a pandemic, I steered clear of that choosing instead to do a layer of egg salad, ham said and a layer of bacon/scallion salad.
The sandwich is then “frosted” with cream cheese or mayonnaise and decorated with meats/vegetables that you might find within.
Brauðterta is considered very traditional, yet it didn’t really become popular in Iceland until the 1950’s. In the past, a lot of mayonnaise was used for the filling as well as the frosting. Now a days you will find not as much mayonnaise but perhaps more sour cream or cream cheese mixtures. Brauðterta’s popularity may have waned for a bit, but recently it has started to make a comeback. The Facebook group Brauðtertufélag Erlu Og Erlu has over 11,000 members. It was founded to exchange recipes, tips and pictures of perfect Brauðtertas. Check it out for some inspiration!
We loved our Brauðterta! I was afraid we would only get one meal out of it and then the bread would go soggy. Not so! We happily snacked on it for the whole week! Surprise folks at your next party or potluck and treat them to this Icelandic Party Sandwich Loaf!
2 1/2 cups cream cheese (I used Philadelphia’s Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese), softened
freshly ground pepper
6 hardboiled eggs
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
6 ounces cooked, finely diced ham
8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup green onion, diced
1 loaf of white or whole wheat sandwich bread, crusts removed, sliced lengthwise into four slices (I used a loaf of Soft Sandwich bread which I had baked the day before)
cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, red & yellow peppers, chives, red onion, cilantro or parsley – for decorating
Combine the sour cream with the softened cream cheese in a medium sized bowls. Take three additional bowls and divide the mixture equally among the four bowls. Set one bowl aside for the “frosting’.
Slice the hardboiled eggs crosswise. Reserve one center slice from one of the eggs for decoration. Chop the remaining eggs and add to one bowl with the sour cream/cream cheese combo. Set aside. Combine the finely diced ham with the sour cream/cream cheese mixture in another bowl. And finally add the bacon and diced green onion to the third bowl and mix to combine.
Take the loaf of bread and remove the crust. Slice the loaf horizontally into four slices. Spread the bottom slice evenly with one of filling mixtures. Top with another slice of bread and spread that evenly with the second filling combination. Top with the third slice of bread. Spread that evenly with the last filling combination. Place the final slice of bread on top of that. Press down evenly on the top. Wrap the entire “sandwich” in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.
Unwrap the loaf and place it on a large tray or cutting board. “Frost” the sandwich with the last bowl of reserved sour cream/cream cheese mixture.
Now for the fun part! Decorate your Bread Cake as you see fit! You can get creative here. I used chopped yellow and red peppers, red onion, cilantro, cucumber and an egg slice for my decoration, but feel free to improvise. Do another garden type scene as I have done or maybe do a geometric pattern. The sky’s the limit!
Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Brauðterta:
Covid-19 Information: Please make sure you familiarize yourself with all of the Icelandic Government’s travel requirements BEFORE you head out. All of the official information can be found here.
I Heart Reykjavik– An invaluable resource for all things Iceland! I Heart Reykjavik is a small, family run company that offers you personalized service. Planning a holiday can certainly be stressful which has become even more so with rapidly changing safety requirements due to Covid 19. I Heart Reykjavik is keeping up to date with all of the government guidelines and can provide guidance here. Additionally, they can help you plan a fantastic vacation to Iceland in a couple of ways. You can browse and book tours directly on their website. The advantage here is that I Heart Reykjavik has vetted all of the companies on their carefully curated list. Often they have even gone out on the tours and you can read a review of their experience on their blog. Their recommendations can save you a ton of time pouring over tours and reviews online and let you know which company you can best trust with your money . Another advantage is that if you book all of your tours through them and then a unforeseen change due to the weather or some sort of thing, I Heart Reykjavik can suggest changes to your itinerary and assist you with rebooking. And speaking of itineraries, if you are the type of person who likes to plan out everything yourself, I Heart Reykjavik can still be of assistance. They offer an Itinerary Review service, where they can take a look at your upcoming plans and make sure everything makes sense – such as if you have allowed enough travel time. They can give you feedback concerning accommodation and alert you if there is a must see in the area you are visiting which has not found it’s way into your plans. They are truly an invaluable resource!
Getting There: Icelandair! We love Icelandair and have always had great experience with them. Take advantage of their Stopover program on your next flight to Europe.
Car Rental: Blue Car Rental: We ALWAYS rent our car from Blue Car Rental. Friendly Icelandic company, well maintained, newer, quality vehicles – they’ve never let us down and at this point we have rented from them on six different visits and have had excellent experiences every time. The price they quote on their website has all of the insurance included so there are no surprizes when you show up at their rental desk. Highly recommend!
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.
Slippurinn – Our favorite restaurant – not only in Iceland. Hands. Down. Favorite! 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!
Stofan Bakhús – Great bakery! Delicious kanilsnúðars – which are a weakness of mine. Fantastic sandwiches as well. Everything there looks delicious. Go be tempted!
Eyja Tours: Do the Puffin & Volcano Tour! Eyja Tours offers small group (minibus) tours of Heimaey guided by friendly locals who are very knowledgeable about their island home. You’ll learn all about the history and culture of the island, see the major sights and actually get to visit a puffin sanctuary where you can see a live puffin up close! This experience is exclusive to Eyja Tours – though if you go in late August, perhaps you’ll get your own up close and personal experience with a Puffling like we did!
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 Puffin Rescue Centre 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!
Eldheimar museum – This museum 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! A must visit!
Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary/Puffin Rescue Centre – Back in 2018, when we visited the Vestmannaeyjar, the kids took their rescued pufflings to the Saeheimar Aquarium. The aquarium closed in 2019 and their residents moved to the new Sea Life Trust Beluga Whale Sanctuary. Now when you visit, you will be able to see two rescued beluga whales, Little Grey and Little White, in addition to the rescued and resident puffins at the Puffin Rescue Centre!
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 Private Walking Tour – Do this tour when you first arrive in Reykjavík and you will be set! Auður will not only tell you about the history of the city but she will also impart a local’s insight on the best bars, restaurants and shopping that Reykjavik has to offer. She will guide you 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. Fabulous tours catered just for you!
Mink Viking Portrait Studio: Unleash your inner Viking at Mink! This photo session was an absolute blast and we came away with a fantastic, lasting memento from Iceland!
Hallgrímskirkja – Reykjavík’s main landmark. Go up in the tower for breathtaking views of the city!
The Settlement Exhibition – Museum built around the remains of a home from around 871. Great interactive displays of Viking Age history.
Baktus the Cat – Yes, I’m talking about an actual cat here. But not any old cat – this cat if a Reykjavík celebrity! He has over 7,000 followers on Instagram. You might be able to catch a glimpse of him at his hooman’s store, Gyllti Kötturinn, where he lives. Or perhaps you can see him at one of his favorite hangouts – the Icewear store, which is located across the street, which is where we found him.
Restaurants/ Cafés/ Bakeries/ Bars:
Íslenski Barinn– Love, love, love! Delicious food & local brews in a comfortable, cozy setting.
Baejarins Beztu Pylsur – Legendary Icelandic Hot Dog stand in Reykjavik. A one a day must for the Husband while we are visiting the city!
Kattakaffihúsið – Iceland’s First Cat Café. Here you can not only enjoy a fantastic cup of coffee, delicious pastries and sandwiches (all vegan), but you can also pet some adorable kitties while you are at it! This cat café usually has three cat residents at all times. And even better, these adorable kitties are all available for adoption. An absolute must for cat lovers!
Thorvaldsen’s Bazar – Icelandic Sweaters (Lopapeysa) knitted in Iceland by Icelanders. All profits go to charity!
The Reykjavik Grapevine: A witty English language Icelandic magazine. Great read whether or not you’re planning a visit! And if you are planning a visit make sure to check out their annual “Best of” edition where they give you a curated list of the best of everything to be found in the country!
Icelandic Meteorologic Office – Great for checking the weather before you go and essential while you are visiting – especially if you are visiting in the Winter! They also have an app you can have on your phone which I definitely recommend. The weather in Iceland can change suddenly. Be prepared!
If you are planning a trip to Iceland, I have written a bunch of posts about our travels there, which you might find helpful.
Woohoo! It’s Cinco de Mayo! And we’re still on lockdown! No drinking margaritas in the cantina for the Husband and I. Nope – looks like it might have to be shots of tequila on the couch. I guess we better get some food on the stomach if that’s the way it’s gonna go today. And I have just the thing: Spicy Taco Egg Cups!
These little firecrackers pack quite a punch! At least they do when I make ’em, ’cause we do love our spicy food. But don’t despair if you don’t – you can tame them down accordingly. Just don’t use any cayenne and use a very mild salsa. They will still have tons of flavor, just not as much of the “burns so good-ness” that we love.
While I’ve got you here I’d like to take the opportunity to remind you of some other great recipes that would be perfect for today such as my favorite Guacamole (there is a secret ingredient in it!)
But let me get back to these little Taco Egg Cups. Here is another fantastic piece of information – they can actually be pretty low in calories if you concerned with the Covid 19 pounds that I’ve mentioned gaining while in quarantine. Just use lean ground beef and reduced fat cheese. There you have it, low calorie (around 100 -ish per cup) and tasty! They come together pretty quickly as well. So while you’re making a batch of these, have your quarantine buddy fire up the blender for some frozen Margaritas. Nine in the a.m. isn’t too early to start with the festivities is it? Cinco de Mayo will turn out just fine at home after all!
So yup…still in lock-down. I don’t know about you, but not only have my workouts suffered over the past two months, but my stress eating and drinking have definitely increased. I hear folks talking about the “Covid 19” just like they do about the “Freshman 15” and considering the state of me, I think a gain of 19 pounds is a serious possibility! Yikes! So I thought maybe today I would offer up a recipe that is a bit kinder on your waistline while still being delicious – Cauliflower Fried Rice!
That’s right! Carbs be gone!!! This Cauliflower Fried Rice is just bursting with flavor with none of those pesky carbs. Will you be fooled into thinking you’re eating rice? Nope. You won’t. Buuuuut – your pants might fit better. And this dish is actually delicious. The cauliflower does take on all of the flavor from those lovely seasonings. You won’t actually miss the rice, all things being considered.
This dish comes together quickly. Just have everything all prepped before you begin cooking. Just perfect for a Meatless Monday or a “I better lose some weight before quarantine is lifted and I have to waddle out into the light of day”, moment of reckoning. Just saying…
64 gramschopped scallions, light and green parts separated (you’ll need 5-6 scallions)
3garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoonfinely chopped fresh ginger
One900-g head cauliflower (or 900 grams ready to cook cauliflower)
4-5 Tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten-free if needed)
1/4 teaspoonred pepper flakes
130 gramsfrozen peas and carrots
1 teaspoonrice vinegar
1 teaspoonAsian sesame oil
30 grams chopped cashews or peanuts (optional)
Given that riced cauliflower is so easy to find in grocery stores, I urge you to save yourself a lot of trouble and just buy it “ready to cook”. However, if you truly love to grate things, see the following instructions. Grate the cauliflower in a food processor fitted with the grating disc. Alternatively, grate on the large holes of box or hand-held grater. Set aside.
Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a large (10 or 12-inch) nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs and a pinch of salt and scramble until the eggs are cooked. Transfer to a small plate and set aside. Wipe the pan clean.
Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan and set over medium heat. Add the light green scallions, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the grated cauliflower, 4 tablespoons of the soy sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Add the peas and carrots. Stir to combine and continue cooking until the cauliflower “rice” is tender-crisp and the vegetables are warmed through, a few minutes. Stir in the rice vinegar, sesame oil, dark green scallions, nuts (if using) and eggs. Taste and adjust seasoning (adding the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce if necessary). Serve hot.
Cauliflower Fried Rice brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)
Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Cauliflower Fried Rice:
Once Upon a Chef, the Cookbook by Jennifer Segal – You will not find the recipe for Cauliflower Fried Rice in this cookbook, but will fin da bunch of other awesome tasty recipes. I love this cookbook, as well as the Once Upon a Chef blog. All of Jennifer’s recipes are easy to make and absolutely delicious!
So yeah…I told you all about how motivated I was in Stage I of our lockdown. Just an amazing little cleaning whirlwind. Full of energy, and raring to beat everything into a shining perfection of organization. Well, that anomaly has passed and I’ve moved into Stage II – complete lethargy. There is definitely still a lot that could be cleaned and organized around here, it isn’t like I’ve run out of things to do. It is just at this point I don’t really care to do them. I mostly just get up in the morning and start reading all of the depressing news from around the world. And even once I tear myself away from the old computer, I obsessively go back to those news sites again and again throughout the day to check for updates. Definitely not good. As a fun diversion, I’m trying to refocus on planning a trip for us when this is over.
Yup. You were right – I’m not dreaming of a beach vacation. I’m looking at the Arctic again!
And speaking of trips, I have a bunch of blogs in the works from trips we’ve taken in the past which I have yet to write up. You know the thing, the Husband and I take a trip and then I will cook up a recipe which is inspired from the locale and share that along with some lovely photos. I also give you recommendations for accommodations, activities, restaurants and tours, should you be inspired to visit on your own. you can see the ones I’ve done previously by clicking on “Travels” in the top navigation bar. So be on the look out for a few of those in the future. But for today, I would like to share this amazing recipe for Spinach Croissants!
These Spinach Croissants are also made with Baker’s Croissant Dough. This type of dough is a yeasted laminated dough. Basically you mix up a yeasted dough, roll it out and place a layer of butter on top of it. You then enclose the butter within the dough and proceed to roll it out and fold it over and over again. This creates a dough which has multiple alternating layers of dough and butter. The butter evaporates when baked and that is what forms all those lovely flaky layers in a croissant.
Once the dough is ready, rather than filling it with anything sweet, these little devils are stuffed full of a savory filling made up of spinach, cheeses & roasted red peppers. And no meat in sight, so perfect for Meatless Monday.
These Spinach Croissants are amazing! That buttery, flaky pastry dough simply melts in your mouth and the savory filling is just delicious. These croissants are conveniently portable and are great at room temperature but also crisp up well if you are reheating them. While it is a bit time consuming to make up that laminated dough, it is 100% worth it! Make a batch up today!
10 ounces (283 grams) chopped frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
1/2 cup (3/4 ounce/21 grams) fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup (2 ounces/57 grams) crumbled feta
1/2 cup (1 3/4 ounces/50 grams) grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (2 ounces/57 grams) diced roasted red peppers
salt and pepper to taste
For the egg wash:
1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water
For the Filling:
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the spinach and bread crumbs and stir until well combined. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl, and let cool to lukewarm.
Stir in the cheeses and peppers and season with salt and pepper.
Note* This amount of filling is enough for a full batch of the Baker’s Croissant Dough. So, you can either use all of the dough, halve the filling ingredient or just save the other half of the filling for later. The spinach filling is great as a topping for pizza as well!
Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Roll the dough into a 12″ x 18″ rectangle. Trim 1/4″ of dough from the edges; this will give you a higher puff in the oven.
Cut the dough in thirds in both directions, to make nine 4″ x 6″ rectangles. Place 2 tablespoons of the filling on one side of each rectangle.
Fold the dough over twice to enclose the filling, with the seam ending up on the bottom. Press the croissant down slightly to flatten it.
Place the croissants on the prepared baking sheets and let them rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours at room temperature. They should expand noticeably, and when you gently press one with your finger, the indentation should remain.
Partway through the rise time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
When the croissants are not quite doubled, brush with the egg wash and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 15 minutes more, until the croissants are a deep golden brown, even where the dough overlaps (that’s where you want to look when checking for doneness).
Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 20 minutes before serving. Watch out, the filling will be hot!
Store, wrapped in the refrigerator, for up to two days. Refresh for 10 minutes in a 350°F oven before serving.
Baker’s Croissants Dough
For the dough:
2 large eggs + enough warm water to make 2 cups (454g) of liquid
1/4 cup (50g) sugar, divided
5 1/2 to 6 cups (659g to 723g) All purpose Flour
2 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons (28g) butter, melted
1/2 cup (71g) Bakers Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk, optional
1 scant tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional; for sweet pastry)
For the Butter:
1 7/8 cups (425g) unsalted butter, cool to the touch
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (60g) All purpose flour
For the dough: Put the eggs and water in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar, 3 cups (362g) of the flour, and the yeast. Mix until well blended; set aside to let the sponge work.
For the butter: Cut the butter into 1˝ chunks and combine with the salt and flour at low speed in a stand mixer just until smooth, with no lumps. Be careful not to beat too much; you don’t want to incorporate any air.
Spread the butter on a piece of plastic wrap and shape into an 8˝ square. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Finish the dough: Add the melted butter to the sponge. Whisk together the remaining sugar, 2 1/2 cups (298g) of the flour, the dry milk, and salt and add to the sponge. Mix until the dough forms. Knead for 5 minutes; touch the dough lightly with your finger. If it’s still sticky, add the remaining flour 2 tablespoons at a time until the dough is the desired consistency. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, pat it into a 9˝ square, then wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Laminate the dough: Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and gently roll it to a 12″ square.
Unwrap the butter square and place it in the center of the dough at a 45° angle, so it looks like a diamond in a square. Pull the corners of the dough into the center of the butter diamond. Moisten the edges with a little water and pinch the seams together well to enclose the butter. Dust the top with flour and turn the packet over.
Tap the dough all over with a rolling pin, encouraging it into a rectangular shape. Once it’s pliable, roll it to a 20˝ x 10˝ rectangle, picking it up and dusting lightly with flour as needed.
When you’ve reached the proper size, use a dry brush to sweep off any excess flour and fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter. Take care to keep the edges straight and line them up directly over each other. If the dough slides around, use a little water at the corners to tack them in place. This is your first turn.
Rotate the dough out so it looks like a book about to be opened. Roll the dough out once more to 20˝ x 10˝ and fold it as before. This is the second turn. Wrap the dough and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to allow the gluten in the dough to relax.
Give the dough two more turns after its rest, then wrap the dough well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight before using. You can also freeze the dough at this point.
Useful links for Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Spinach Croissants:
Ok…so things have really changed…for everyone…everywhere! And these changes are not going to be changing back anytime soon from the looks of it. Covid-19 has hijacked life as we know it. The world is pretty much on pause and folks everywhere are sheltering in place. At first, what I will call Stage I of my quarantine/lockdown, I was very motivated. I went on a cleaning spree, did loads of paperwork I had procrastinated on and finished our taxes. Then I totally organized my pantry, making an inventory of all that we had available and then sat down to plan out what meals were possible with the ingredients we had on hand.
I wondered how easily it would be to have groceries delivered, so I signed up for Peapod through Giant groceries stores. Well, I found out that Giant did have quite a few items, no toilet paper mind you, but fairly well stocked all things considered. The a-ha moment came when I went to schedule a delivery. Not one time slot was available for three weeks! Yes. Three! Luckily our pantry was pretty full to begin with so three weeks was actually not a problem for us. Now, just because I put those items in my cart, doesn’t actually guarantee that I will get them. Giant does let you know that they may remove items from your cart if they are not available at the time of your delivery. So I don’t actually know what I will be getting. It will be a surprise. You know, kind of like opening Christmas gifts. So wish me luck! But let me get on with today’s recipe: Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans). This dish is also known as Pasta e Fasule (pasta fazool), which is its Neapolitan name.
My pantry held almost all of the ingredients needed to make this hearty and filling traditional Italian soup. What I did not have, I was able to easily sub in alternatives. For instance, I did not have a yellow onion, but did have a package of pearl onions. Problem solved! Not to mention, there are many variations of this soup found in Italy. Sometimes it is completely vegetarian, sometimes it is made with sausage or beef, sometimes it has a tomato base and sometimes it doesn’t. So feel free to cook up your own versions depending on the ingredients you have on hand.
This recipe that I’m sharing today makes a flavorful, fresh, creamy, and somewhat thicker soup with pancetta, white wine, carrots, cannelleni beans, lentils and pasta.
And good news! This soup freezes very well. So if you are quarantined alone, you can freeze the soup prior to adding the pasta, which once added, tends to soak up a lot of the broth. When you are ready to eat it, just defrost and add the pasta before serving. It is a wonderfully delicious and comforting meal to warm you up on these still chilly Spring days! Stay safe out there and remember to wash your hands!
2 tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
110 gramspancetta, diced (could sub in bacon)
1medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 medium ribs celery, finely diced
2cloves garlic, minced
120 mlwhite wine
1.5 Llow sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
2(439 gram) cans cannelleni beans or chickpeas (or combination), rinsed and drained
50 gramsdried lentils, rinsed (preferably French green lentils, but any green or brown lentils are fine)
230 gramsdiced or chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices (I only had a really spicy chili blend on chopped tomatoes – so our soup had quite a kick to it!)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoonminced fresh rosemary (I did not have any rosemary, so substituted in fresh basil)
105 gramsdried pasta, such as ditalini (or whatever you might have in the pantry)
35 gramsfreshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat begins to render, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot and celery and increase the heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
Add the wine and cook until it has nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, salt, pepper, beans, lentils, diced tomatoes, bay leaves and rosemary. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are just tender, 15-30 minutes, depending on the type of lentils you used.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer 240 ml of the bean mixture and a little liquid to a blender. Remove the center knob so steam can escape. Hold a paper towel or kitchen towel over the opening to prevent splatters. Purée until smooth and set aside. An immersion blender would work here as well.
Add the dried pasta to the pot and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat up to a gentle boil and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on the type of pasta you used. The soup will thicken a bit by the time the pasta is cooked. Fish out and discard the bay leaves.
Stir the reserved puréed bean mixture into the soup. (If you’re having a hard time getting the mixture out of the blender, remove as much as you can with a rubber spatula, then add some of the hot soup broth to it and swirl around to loosen it up; it should come right out.) Cook briefly, until the soup is heated through.
Remove the soup from heat and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano. If the soup seems too thick, gradually add 240-480 ml of water or more chicken broth and thin to desired consistency (note: the longer it sits on the stove, the thicker it will get). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle each portion with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired.
Note: This soup is best served immediately; as it sits, the pasta and beans soak up the broth. If the soup gets too thick, you can thin it with a bit of broth or water.
Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The soup can be frozen, without the pasta, for up to 3 months. Defrost the soup in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until simmering, add the pasta, and cook until the pasta is tender. (The beans may have soaked up some of the broth while frozen, so add more broth to thin out the soup, if desired.)
Pasta e Fagioli brought to you today by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)
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