Halloween was always one of my favorite times of the year growing up in Ireland, and it should come as no surprise that my best memories are related to home baking and fun traditions shared around the dinner table. My mother would always hide hidden charms in our favorite Halloween baked goods as a tradition, and amongst those treats she always included a wee home made BarmBrack loaf and an apple tart.
Barmbrack is a traditional warm and spicy fruit loaf that is absolutely delicious hot from the oven with loads of creamy Irish butter – and of course, apple tart is an apple pie here in America! So now you know!
So, here is it to share – my family recipe that’s enjoyed in Ireland this time of year.
This name “brack” comes from the Irish word “breac” meaning speckled (the speckles are the fruits and candied peel baked in the bread). I used to be so excited to wrap tiny items in silver foil for my mother to hide in the sweet bread. All of the items we would bury in our baking had a hidden meaning, for example a ring (for love), money (for good fortune), a button (bachelor), a thimble (spinster), rag (poverty). I always wanted to get the ring for love and was devastated if I had the slice with a rag or thimble! It was all in good fun and made great memories shared together around the kitchen table. Hope you enjoy this recipe and maybe even event your own ‘lucky charms’
4 cups of all purpose flour
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp of salt
½ cup soft brown sugar
4 ½ tsp of dry active yeast (2 packets)
4 oz unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups of warm milk
1 egg (beaten)
1 cup of golden sultanas (golden raisins)
1 cup of dried currants
¼ cup of candied orange or lemon peel (finely chopped)
(for the glaze)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp warm water
How to make it
Butter a 9’ round cake pan and set aside.
Measure and combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl including the flour, spices, salt brown sugar, dry active yeast and the dried fruits and candied peel.
Combine all the wet ingredients in electric bread mixer including the warm milk, melted butter and egg. Slowly add the dry ingredients 1 cup at a time and mix to combine.
Transfer the sticky dough into the prepared pan and pat the dough in place. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside in a warm place for about an hour for the dough to rise.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and then bake for about 30 minutes (to test the bread insert a skewer in the center and should come away clean).
Dissolve the sugar in boiling water to make the glaze and brush over the bread. Return the bread to the oven for a further few minutes until the loaf is glistening.
Transfer to a rack to cool and serve with Irish creamery butter.
Who’s up for a ‘super easy to make’ dessert that’s under 200 calories and tastes awesome? Me you say? How about a shot of Irish Whiskey (80 calories) and some Peachy Irish Whiskey Frozen Yogurt (90 calories)? Tangy, tasty and totally great…
For those of you who are sensitive to dairy products you can switch out the Greek yogurt for coconut milk yogurt, and the pairing will still work a treat. We like to pair this with an Irish whiskey that has a rich and floral fragrance to the nose, and sweet fruity notes of nectarines or citrus with a smooth mellow finish.
Other interesting flavor notes in whiskey that pair well with this peachy little dessert are vanilla & toasted wood, and spicy notes perhaps from flame charred barrels. Just like fine wines it’s all about personal taste and what you like!
Peachy Whiskey Coconut Frozen Yogurt
2 1/2 cups peaches (frozen)
1 cup Greek Yogurt or Dairy Free Coconut Yogurt
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
3 Tbsp Irish Whiskey
(Serve with a dram of Irish Whiskey)
How to make it
If using an ice-cream maker be sure to have the bowl frozen for 24 hours beforehand (an ice-cream maker is preferable but the recipe will work without having one).
Combine the peaches, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a food processor or vita mix until smooth and then add the yogurt.
If using an ice cream maker transfer in to bowl. It takes around 15 minutes in my ice-cream maker and it’s best to eat straight away or transfer to a container and freeze for a few hours. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker you can just freeze after combining in the food processor and enjoy the next day.
To serve spoon the frozen yogurt in to a small bowl and enjoy with a wee dram of Irish Whiskey on the side.
Holding Shamrock and Peach cook book (new addition)
Many thanks for the interview with NPR that took place just time for me to announce my 2nd edition printing of the Shamrock and Peach, which is now available!
It felt so natural to share my passion with Atlanta writer Beth Ware who identified immediately with the Southern connections to Irish cuisine, and it was a joy to share my passions for food and Irish culture with her. – Hopefully you have had a chance to check out the article, but if not see the link below:
So, the new edition is literally hot off the presses, and I would be glad to sign and send out copies through my website, in addition to the book being available through the usual outlets. I am also pleased to share all the recipes that were featured on my recent Kerrygold tour with Aprons Publix cooking schools, which were also posted on the NPR website …enjoy!
Irish Kale Salad
Pan Seared Irish Salmon, Colcannon and Boxty
Sticky Toffee Puddings
So, a belated happy St. Patrick’s day to all my followers and as I always say..
In hope of keeping Irish traditions ‘alive’ at the Feast of the ‘dead’ wishing you all a very Happy Halloween! As as we prepare for tonight’s trick or treating and the family culinary traditions that make this celebration memorable, I am also reflecting on my childhood. In Ireland Oiche Samhain, or Samhain Night , marks the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. Irish Culinary traditions include Colcannon (potatoes and curly Kale and Spring Onions), Barnbrack (yeasty bread with fruit) and apple pie.
The most fun part of our Irish culinary traditions is the hiding of symbolic items in the food we serve. Oh, the suspense of who would receive what? The items included money wrapped in aluminium foil (symbolizing good fortune), a ring (symbolizing an upcoming romance or marriage), and a rag (symbolizing poverty), a thimble (symbolizing the person will not marry). So tonight wherever you are wishing you happy memories with those you love in this ‘feast of the dead’ and beginning of winter. I hope you may even add some Irish culinary traditions to tonight’ Halloween feast?
Last week I hosted a dessert coffee evening (thanks to Oli and Ve) for my Northern Irish friend and outstanding singer-songwriter Warren Attwell , who is on his US tour (he’s amazing…http://www.warrenattwell.com/) and “fifteens” were on the menu. – and what are ‘fifteens’ I can hear you asking? Something more than fourteen, something less than sixteen?
Yes, to my surmise the recipe was unknown to my Atlanta guests; so, I promised to share the recipe on my food blog. The recipe is easy peasy to remember because it’s all about fifteen, hence the name (15 digestive biscuits, 15 marshmallows, 15 cherries and it slices in to 15 pieces)…fifteens, get it? It’s one of those recipes growing up that we always had the ingredients for in the cupboards, and they could be whipped up quite quickly for an impromptu party or a spontaneous supper when the preacher drops by! …Just one tip for my US followers is to purchase the Digestive Biscuits in the British section of your local grocery store or specialized shop (Grahame crackers are not just as tasty). Hope you enjoy a Northern Irish fridge cake classic!
Fifteens…(now you know!)
15 Digestive biscuits (8 Grahame Crackers)
15 Marshmallows (cut in to four)
15 Glaze Cherries (cut in half) (or dried cherries)
200 ml sweetened condensed milk (1/2 tin)
1 Tbsp water
Desiccated coconut (for rolling)
How to make them:
In a food processor crush the digestive biscuits or Grahame crackers.
In a large bowl mix the crushed biscuits, chopped marshmallows and cherries and the sweetened condensed milk and water.
Lay out a large sheet of parchment or plastic wrap and sprinkle with coconut. Spread the prepared mixture along the plastic wrap to form a long sausage shape. Sprinkle more coconut over the top of the mixture and then begin to roll using the parchment paper to form a circular sausage shape. Twist both ends to seal.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or allow to sit overnight before slicing.
If you grew up in the American South, chances are you love Apple Butter and make it every Fall, right? Well, it may also surprise you that even though I am from the Apple County of Ireland (Co. Armagh) the first time I tasted Apple Butter was when I moved to Georgia! So, I have taken the best of both worlds combing Irish butter with Southern style Apple butter. Delicious indeed, and we just love the butter slathered over Oatmeal, Apple and Walnut Scones…(which might be another blog post in the making…)
Irish Butter meets Southern Style Apple butter
So, here is the way I made my Fall Harvest Apple Butter…
Shamrock and Peach Apple Butter
¼ cup of Southern Style Apple Butter
½ cup Kerrygold salted butter
How to make it
Whip the butter and apple butter together by hand or with an electric beater.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to use and bring to room temperature to serve.
Southern Style Apple Butter
(Makes approx 1 1/2 pints of apple butter)
3 Lbs apples
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup water
2 vanilla pods (split with seeds removed)
How to make it
Prepare apples by peeling, coring and roughly chopping.
Combine the apples, 1 cup of water and ½ cup of sugar and cook on low heat in a heavy based saucepan until the apples have softened and are beginning to break down, stirring occasionally
Allow the apples to cool slightly and then place in a blender to puree. Pass the apples through a drum sieve.
Return the apple sauce to the saucepan adding the remaining 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of water.
Cook the apples on medium high heat so the apples begin to caramelize, stirring frequently and being careful the apples do not scorch (this will take at least an hour to achieve a rich dark caramel color. (Add a little extra water if necessary to the sauce as it caramelizes).
Remove from the heat and pour in to hot, sterilized jars.
Happy Fall cooking…and may those apples grow plump and those leaves start turning!