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Irish soda bread muffins,  that is.

On St. Paddy’s day, I am always reminded of the  “holiday” cards my mom would get from the O’Wileys or the O’Gormans. Her friends always adding the “O'” to their last names to get in the spirit of things. I also remember my mom making corned beef and cabbage back when I was in grade school. I haven’t eaten beef since I was 12 yrs old but I was just telling my husband yesterday that I remember it tasting SO good. While he won’t be having that tonight I did just buy some Guinness beer and will make him a beef irish stew. As for me, I have already had a delicious irish soda bread muffin with my morning coffee.

These are super fast and easy to put together. Since they are baked in a muffin tin the baking time is only 20 minutes. The size is perfect. One went in my daughters lunch box, another wrapped up for her teacher.

Back in the day, for a few years I had an office that overlooked 5th Avenue in Manhattan and had the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade pass under my window. The streets would be filled with many drunk folks and after work I am sure I was one of them too. Never green beer though. Now I bake muffins. O’ the times they are a changin’….

Bake On!

IRISH SODA BREAD MUFFINSDSC_0113
Yields 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups (177 g) AP Flour
3/4 cup (85 g) whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (74 g) granulated sugar (I actually used 1/4 c)
1  cup (135g) currants
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, or to taste
1 large egg
1 cup (8 oz)  buttermilk
1/3 cup (2 3/8 oz) canola oil

Preheat your oven to 400 F and line a muffin tin with papers.

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (egg, buttermilk and oil) wet

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and give a few quick stirs with a large spoon to combine everything. Do not overmix! As with all muffin recipes, this only toughens the dough. It will be a thick batter. Fill each muffin tin 3/4 of the way full and sprinkle with some course sugar (I used green).DSC_0115
Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Flip them out of the pan so the bottoms don’t get soggy. Let cool slightly before digging in.

 

 

 

 

 

The leprechaun catcher…….
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Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

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Well, I’m late for posting the Bakers Challenge. Again.  I love to volunteer at my daughters school and the past few weeks have been quite hectic with end of school field trips and activities. Please forgive me.

This  month’s challenge was hosted by Shelley of C Mom Cook. She asked everyone to make cinnamon buns, or one its many variations. And there are tons. I think cinnamon rolls was one of the first breads that I ever made and   there is something so comforting about rich, warm bread filled with sugary goodness and covered in more sugary goodness. If you have never tried making these (or some version of them), please don’t hesitate to try. It’s  really quite simple.

The basic concept of a cinnamon roll is yeasted dough rolled out into a rectangular shape, then brushed with a good dose of butter. A cinnamon sugar mixture is then sprinkled over this and then the dough is rolled up and sliced. the slices are place, cut side up, in a pan to  rise and then baked.

What is the difference between a “cinnamon” bun and a “sticky” bun? The first is drizzled with either a cream cheese or confectioners sugar glaze when still warm from the oven while a sticky bun has a butter/sugar mixture in the bottom of the pan that sliced dough gets placed into for their final rise. basically the extra sugary goodness goes in either before baking or after. In mine I did a little of both!

A variety of doughs can be used. An enriched dough is most common. All that means is that the dough has some butter and eggs in it. Sourdough is ultra tasty. Brioche dough is crazy wonderful for this (lots  of added butter and eggs in the dough). Hell, let all thoughts of calories go out the window and use puff pastry. While this is more like a cronut it still counts as a cinnamon bun to me (and my thighs).  Don’t let the thought of making bread dough frighten you. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do in the kitchen. That being said , I have at times used plain old white bread dough bought from the freezer section at the market and made sticky buns with delicious results. Seriously, all paths lead to the same end. Deliciousness.

I baked a few versions this month. First I went with one with a filling of cinnamon, candied orange peel and walnuts. I know my friend Kathy is cringing right now at the thought of candied orange peel but I love it.  Later in the month I made little mini cinnamon buns for the volunteer appreciation night at the grade school. For these I just made a half batch of dough and rolled a skinnier rectangle so that when I rolled it up it only rolled 1 1/2 turns and then I cut 1/3 inch slices. I hope that makes sense. These were good and went quickly due to their manageable size. Nobody wants to be at a school gathering trying to eat a mammoth sized pastry in front of strangers. That is something better left for home.

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For my final version I went with a rhubarb and custard filled sticky bun. My rhubarb plant outside is gigantic and I need reasons to use it. I used Bird’s custard after reading in a food history book about how Birds came about. It turns out that during WWII families in England were rationed one (yes, 1) egg per week so the manufacturers came up with a product that required no eggs and very little sugar, which was rationed as well. Since I keep a can in the closet for when the urge to make Nanaimo bars strike, this seemed perfect. Well, actually, I used the last of my eggs to make the dough and didn’t feel like going out to get some more….

The best part about making cinnamon/sticky buns? other than eating them, is that you can prepare them the day before and slip the pan of unrisen slices in the fridge until morning. You just wake up, turn your oven on, and let the cold rolls warm up a bit on the counter while your oven heats up. I find that even 15 minutes at room temperature is enough before popping them into the oven.

Please make sure to visit Shelley’s site to see her tasty versions. BAKE ON!

 Dough

3 ¼ to 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
2 ¼ tsp instant yeast (if using active dry yeast make sure to proof it first)
½ tsp salt
1 cup of  milk, heated to just around 100F  (I used 2%)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

 

Stir three cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large mixing bowl.

Add the milk, eggs ,vanilla  and butter to the dry ingredients and continue mixing until the dough comes together.  If necessary, add the remaining flour, a little at a time, until the dough is smooth and not sticky to the sides of the bowl. Continue to knead for about 5 minutes.

Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with cling wrap or a tea towel until it has doubled in bulk. This should take about hour. If it is very hot in your house this might be shorter or if your house is cool it could take a little longer.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Rhubarb:

Take 4-5 stalks of fresh rhubarb and cut them into 1/4 – 1/3 inch slices. Add  1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste) . Mix this together and let it macerate until ready to use.DSC_1193

Custard:

1 1/2 Tablespoons (22 ml) Bird’s custard powder
1 1/2 Tablespoons (22ml) granulated sugar
1 cup  (250ml) milk
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (save the pod for your sugar or salt jar) or 1 teaspoon rum

 

In a small saucepan, mix together the custard powder and the sugar. Over medium high heat, whisk in the milk until well blended. If using the seeds of a vanilla bean, add it now. Bring to a full boil, whisking frequently. Take off the heat. If using rum, add now. Place the hot custard into a bowl and place a piece if cling wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a “skin” forming. Cool in the fridge while the dough is rising.

 

Get your pan ready:

In a 12 hole muffin tin, place 1/2 teaspoon each of butter and brown sugar. Place in a warm oven for a few minutes to slightly melt the two.

Set aside .

June 28, 2014

 

Assembly:

Roll out your dough onto a lightly floured surface. Make a rectangle roughly 12 x 9 inches. Feel free to eyeball this. Spread a layer of cooled custard over the dough leaving about 1/2 inch border all the way around.

Lightly drain your rhubarb, reserving the pink liquid for your glaze (optional)

Sprinkle the rhubarb over the entire surface . With the wide end facing you, start rolling up your dough, jelly roll style. Pinch the seam together and slice into Twelve 1 1/2 inch slices. Place cut side up into each muffin cup.

Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge overnight until morning.

When you are ready to bake, take the cold pan out of the fridge and place on the counter. Remove the cling wrap. Heat your oven to 350F. After about 15 minutes, pop the sticky buns into your oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

May 28 2014

If you are baking the same day: after placing the sliced rolls into your muffin tin, cover them with either plastic wrap or a tea towel and let them rise again for another hour before baking at 350F for 25 minutes.

If you don’t have a muffin tin, place them into a rectangle or round cake pan with a little space around them to expand.

Optional glaze:(since my daughter was having a friend sleepover this was not optional in out house)

Take 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar and mix with 2 tablespoons of the reserved pink rhubarb syrup. If it is too thick, add a tiny bit more until you get a consistency of thick cream. When the sticky buns come out of the oven, take them out of the pan and drizzle the pink icing of each of them.

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This easy dough recipe is from Anna Olsen.

 

 

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The April Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den . She challenged us to Spring into our kitchens and make Easter breads reflecting cultures around the world. Please make sure to visit her blog and see the amazing German (Osterbrot) and Italian (Anello dDi Pasqua Maria Pia) Easter breads  that she made. I so wanted to bake the Osterbrot but I just didn’t have enough time so it goes on the bucket list…

 

Since moving to Canada  10 yrs ago I have been so blessed with not only a luscious husband and amazing daughter, but with extraordinary friends. Both my husband and I have no family out West so to be able to fill our house on holidays with good friends is such a treat for us and helps fill that empty hole in our hearts not being with our moms and family. Over the years our house has become a sort of commune, with one friend or another eating (or sleeping over ) a few nights a week. We always welcome them with open arms and love sharing good times with them. My husbands best friend, who has been living with us a few days a week for the past year while conducting business here in Calgary, now has one of his old friends moving here from back East. And I mean very Greek. He drove out west a month ago not knowing DSC_1218anybody. Since we both know how that is, he has been over for dinner at least 5 times already, with everyone  being extremely welcoming (or trying to be). So with that in mind, I baked Tsouréki , a very traditional Greek Easter bread to help make him feel more at home.

Holiday breads, especially Easter breads, are enriched breads. This means that they contain eggs, and usually also butter and milk, making them more indulgent than “lean” bread. Eggs represent rebirth, or new life. Many holiday breads are braided as well, like this one. If you have never tried baking a braided bread, I can’t express enough how much fun they are to make. You can make anywhere from 3 to 12 strand loaves. Start with 3 strands and move your way up as you get more comfortable. I personally like the look of a 6 strand braid but that is just me. Please look at the  end of my post on challah bread for multiple links on braiding techniques to help you.

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This bread is scented with makhlépi, (also known as mahleb, mahlepi and other spelling variations) is a spice derived from the seed kernels of the Prunus mahaleb, a type of cherry tree (also referred to as a Rock cherry or St. Lucie cherry), and primarily used in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Eurasian cuisines. They are small kernals with a bitter almond kind of flavor. I was very excited when I saw this ingredient since I had some on hand from when I made Assyrian Spinach Pies last year. The kernals are steeped in water, discarded and then the liquid is used to flavor the dough. Now, I realize this might not be easy to find in some areas, so just substitute plain water in its place if you cannot find it.

At one end of the bread a red-dyed egg is inserted into the dough before baking. This represents the blood of Christ. the best way to get a dark red egg is by using commercial red dye as opposed to the little tablets that come in Easter egg dying kits. Bake On!

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Tsouréki 
Makes 2 small loaves

 

1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeastDSC_1199
1 cup (8 oz) warm milk
4-5  cups flour
3/4  cups sugar
2 tsp. makhlépi , also known as Malhab (optional)
1/4 cup water
4 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs, 1 lightly beaten and set aside for the egg wash
Salt
2 teaspoons. grated orange zest
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 hard-cooked eggs, dyed red

pearl sugar or black cumin seeds to decorate, if desired

 

Dissolve yeast in milk in a large bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the sugar, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour. Steep makhlépi, if using, in 1/4 cup simmering water for about 5 minutes. Strain, discard makhlépi, and set aside liquid to cool.

scented liquid into yeast mixture; if you aren’t using the makhlépi then just use plain water instead. Add the butter and 3 of the eggs and mix thoroughly. Sift 4 cups of the flour, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar into mixture. Add orange and lemon zest, and mix thoroughly. Turn out dough onto a floured surface. Knead (adding more flour if necessary) until smooth, about 10 minutes, then form into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Alternatively, knead using a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook, for 10 minutes. Place in a clean, lightly grease bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. Set aside to rise for 2 hours.

Turn the dough back onto the floured surface. Divide into 6 parts, rolling into ropes about 15″ long. For each loaf, tightly braid 3 ropes, then press 1 dyed egg  near the end of each braid. Set bread aside to rise again for 1 hour on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 350˚  thirty minutes before baking.

Brush bread with reserved beaten egg, sprinkle with pearl sugar if desired, and bake until golden, 40–50 minutes .Let cool completely.

Enjoy!

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Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This recipe was adapted from here

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