Friday, 29 May 2009

A Grand Day Out

We went off to Newcastle in County Down for the day. To please my little people we went to the beach. Unfortunately it started to rain. We went to my most favourite place Tollymore Forest Park beside the Mountains of Mourne. The sun came out eventually to show it's peaceful beauty. Simply stunning place. Hunger struck after all that fresh air and walking so we had a gorgeous meal in the Buck's Head in Dundrum. Perfect ending to a perfect day

Somebody forgot her wellies

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


A big thank you to Mary for these lovely awards. Mary has a lovely Blog. I love to drop in to see all her wonderful Italian cooking. She has an English translation so please pop in and see.

May Daring Bakers - Apple Strudel

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.
Thank you to Linda and Courtney for hosting this month's challenge. I have never made Strudel before. When I looked at the recipe I thought it was going to be very fiddly. In fact it was a very simple thing to make. In no way am I saying mine was perfect but the dough was simple to put together and apart from the stretching and rolling, didn't require any special treatment. It just needed to sit around for an hour or so in cling film. This gave plenty of time to prepare the other ingredients. Then it was just a case of assembling it and popping into the oven for 20 -30 minutes.

I used cranberries instead of raisins as I prefer them and I thought it would give a bit of colour.
I didn't have walnuts but did have pecan nuts but at the last minute left them out as we are not great nut lovers.
I had no rum as my husband and his brother polished off the last of it on Hubby's birthday. I did find some Calvados so I used that as I thought it would complement the apples.
I also used light Muscavado sugar to give a slightly toffee taste.

I made the dough in the food processor. The instruction were to stretch the dough on a floured cloth. I'm too lazy so used some baking parchment so I could flip it over.
I just rolled it with a rolling pin and then stretched it a bit. It was a breeze to do. The dough was not at all sticky to work with. I managed to get it fairly thin without too much effort although I suspect it was maybe meant to be thinner

It was then a case of adding the filling and flipping the paper over to roll the dough up and that worked very well.

I am not sure if it is exactly right but
it tasted lovely. Thoroughly enjoyed by all

Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Monday, 11 May 2009


I am not a huge maker of desserts as generally we don't eat them very often. When we are having company I usually fall back on old faithfuls like cheese cake or pavlova as they always work so well, are popular and are easy to put together. On my husband's birthday I was having the family round by way of a small celebration..........well maybe not that small as there were fourteen of us. I was browsing through Nigella Lawson's "Christmas" and I spied this. It was a large cake so would be perfect and it is not so much about baking as assembly. I could not find the chocolate cakes she spoke of but used some chocolate chip muffins from my supermarket in store bakery. They worked very well. Highly recommended for a gathering when you have lots of other things to organize as it can be mad well in advance. It looks good on the table and tastes wonderful. Very rich so it stretches a long way.

You Need

3 x 350gm/12oz
300 - 400mls Tia Maria
1-2 teaspoons cocoa for dusting
23cm/9 inch spring form cake tin wrapped with cling film or foil on the outside to prevent any leaks.

For the Filling

2 eggs
75gms/3oz caster sugar
500gms/ 1lb 2oz mascarpone
250 mls double cream
125 mls Tia maria

Slice the cake thinly and pour the 300 mls Tia Maria into a shallow dish ready for soaking the slices as you kneed them.

Before you start layering the cakes, whisk the eggs and sugar, and then beat in the mascarpone and double cream.
Gradually add the 125 mls Tia Maria to make a creamy spreadable layer for the cake

Using approx 1 cake per layer, dunk the slices in Tia Maria before lining the tin with them.
Each layer should not be too thick but juicily compact and solid

Spread a third of the cream mixture over the soaked cake slices.

Repeat with another layer of cake and cream. Finish with a layer of cake and reserve the last third of the cream in a covered bowl.

Press the cake layer down to make it as smooth as possible, then cover it with cling film and put the fridge overnight or for up to four days.

When you are ready take the cake out of the fridge, unmould it onto a plate. Spread with the last of the cream then dust with cocoa.

The cake is too damp to take it off the tin's base but the cake is so good looking you'll never notice the base.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Wheaten Scones

I know I have Blogged about scones/soda bread so many times but there was a scone thread running on Vi's pantry and I made these. The scones that had been made came from Rachel Allen's 'Bake'. Not her own recipe but a friend's. It had a huge mount of butter in the mix 4 oz/100gms. I didn't like the idea of that at all as I thought it would make the scones very biscuity. I don't usually bother with butter in scones at all but that is just sheer laziness. Silly really I mean how much effort does it take to rub in a bit of butter. I rubbed in 1 ounce/25gms. The recipe also called for cream of tartar which I don't normally bother about. I found it made no appreciable difference. Maybe it is required if the large amount of butter is used to aid the rising a bit more. I have recently started adding an egg to my scone mix as it adds a lovely richness. Rachel Allen is an Irish girl. Her recipe is the same as mine. Scones and soda bread are a way of life in Ireland not a treat to be made occasionally so the recipes are much the same all over. The one over riding rule is buttermilk and baking soda. Sweet milk and baking powder just don't give the flavour or the lightness. I find these as light and as soft as can be so I see no reason to change. Even when a day or two old they are lovely split toasted.

Wheaten Scones

225gms/8ozs wholemeal flour
225gms/8oz plain flour
or you can use all plain flour for plain scones.
Approx 250mls/9fl oz buttermilk or fresh milk soured with about 1 tablespoon lemon juice if you don't have buttermilk.
1 beaten egg
1 rounded teaspoon Baking Soda /Bicarbonate of Soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar or honey if you want sweet scones
25gms/1oz butter (optional)


Pre heat oven to 200.C/180.C Fan/400.F/Gas 6

Sieve the plain flour salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.
Add the wholemeal flour and stir to mix
Rub in the butter if using
Add the sugar if using
Pour in the butter milk and beaten egg and combine quickly . You want a soft workable dough.
If it is too wet add a little more flour. If it is too dry add a little more milk.
When it is combined tip out onto a floured worktop and form into a round patting it in shape very gently with your hands You need it to be approx. 2.5cms/1 inch thick.
Cut out with a 2 1/2 inch/5 cm cutter and place on a baking tray.
Pop into the oven for 15-20 mins until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack with a tea towel over them.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Butter Making

I have seen a few posts about this on various blogs I could not resist having a go myself. It was good education for my grand daughter was it not? Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Double cream is required, that is cream with a high fat content, and it is not cheap. If you have a dairy cow to hand it would be. It's fun to do and it's not wasted. I took it a stage further. I was not content with hard butter and added some olive oil to make it spreadable. It worked and spreads straight from the fridge. I have no desire to take up butter making full time as it is just a tad expensive but I think I will be buying the cheap supermarket block butter from now on and whipping in some oil.
I used 500mls/1 pint of cream and it yielded just under 250gms/half a pound of butter.

Put the cream in a stand mixer and whip

It will eventually turn yellow

and then separate into butter and butter milk

Strain off the buttermilk. You can use it for baking or just drink it. It is so lovely.

You have to wash the butter to make sure all the buttermilk is out as it would turn the butter rancid. Just knead until the water is clear.
Return it to the mixer bowl and whip in salt if wanted and two tablespoons of oil to make it fridge spreadable. Then just pop it in a container

That's it.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Old Fashioned Apple Tart

This is a real old fashioned family stand by. I can hear purists say 'It's not a tart it's a pie' but in this small corner of the globe it's Apple Tart and that's that. The pastry , so crisp and light, is a family recipe so has been proven time and time again. Lovely hot from the oven with ice cream or whipped fresh cream. A plain and simple dessert or something nice for afternoon tea with friends. I like to bake it on an old enamel plate I have had forever as it keeps the pastry crisp but any plate will do. A sandwich tin is good too for giving a deep tart


225g /8oz Self Raising flour (If using plain add a teaspoon of baking powder)
100gms/4oz butter
50gms/2 oz white fat
1 tablespoon icing sugar
Milk to bind


Three medium cooking apples
Approximately 2-3 tablespoons soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Beaten egg for glazing
Caster sugar to sprinkle on top of the tart
Lemon juice to stop the apples browning

I do my pastry in the food processor
Whizzing the flour and icing sugar together
Add the fats and whizz until like fine breadcrumbs
Then add a little cold milk to combine (It will form a ball)
Add the milk in very small amounts. Easy to add hard to take away and you don't want soggy pastry dough. It should be quite firm
If doing by hand, rub the fats into the flour with your finger tips until it looks like fine breadcrumbs and then stir in a little milk to combine.
Wrap the dough in a plastic bag or cling film and pop in the fridge to rest for a little while.

Pre-heat your oven to 200.C/180.C fan/400.F/Gas.6

Meanwhile peel the apples and slice finely into a bowl. I have an old fashioned box grater with a fine slicing side and use this.
Squeeze over the lemon juice and stir gently to cover the apples.
Sprinkle over the brown sugar and cinnamon and set to the side.
Retrieve the pastry from the fridge and divide in two. One piece to be slightly smaller than the other for the base of the tart.
Grease your tart plate well
Roll out the smaller piece of pastry and place on the plate.
Spread the apple mix on top.
Use the egg wash round the edge of the pastry
Roll out the bigger disc of pastry and place on the top.
Trim the edges and crimp all round to seal.
Cut a little hole on the top to let the steam escape.
Glaze with the beaten egg and pop in the oven for approx. twenty minutes or until golden brown.
Sprinkle over a little caster sugar when it comes out of the oven.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Scottish Tablet

This is the most wonderful confection. I remember it fondly from my childhood in Scotland. Not to be confused with fudge which is a little softer and chewier. Scottish tablet will make your fillings scream but oh you will truly want another bit and another and another. It is melt in the mouth heaven. I thank Rita ,who lives away up in the highlands, for this lovely recipe. It is very simple and works so well. Don't let working with the boiling sugar put you off. Just be careful.


1 kilo/2.2lbs granulated sugar
Large tin condensed milk - 397gms/14oz
1 cup of milk
50g/2ozs butter
vanilla extract about 1 teaspoon (optional)

Put all but the condensed milk in a heavy bottomed pan, and melt really slowly until there are absolutely no grains of sugar left,

Avoid stirring it vigorously, as you will push grains of sugar up the side of your pan and have gritty tablet.
If you do get grains up the side of the pan sweep them down with a wet silicone pastry brush.

Once it is all melted add the condensed milk and take to a rolling boil,

Now this varies as to how long it takes. It will change colour to a toffee colour but not too dark.

Test a drop of the mixture in a glass of cold water it should form a ball when rubbed between your fingers. If you have a sugar thermometer approx 240.F/12o.C .

Take it off the heat and beat it really well with a wooden spoon, you will feel it thicken as you beat, then pour into 8x10 inch greased swiss roll tin and leave to set.

Mark it before it is totally cold.

Now sit back and enjoy that sugary heaven melt in your mouth