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Posts from the ‘Pastry’ Category

Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits

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Things are slowing down around here, and just in time, too.

  • The calves are pretty much all born. The eldest are already weaned!
  • The cows are out in the field, loving life (if you’re a cow and you have a choice between luscious, green grass or silage, you choose the grass every time).
  • The weather is brighter. It was chilly this past week, but for the most part Ireland has thawed out from the bitter winter. My garden is growing, we just got our house power-washed (a preemptive move as the house is getting a lovely new coat of paint very soon) and landscaping plans are in motion. We’re hoping for a warm summer with lots of BBQ’s!
  • I’m slowing things down with my small business, The Siúcra Shack. Spending more time with my kids, getting the house cleaned and organized and baking for fun. Just for now!

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This is all because I am totally ready to pop. 38 weeks of pregnancy have flown by, and while I’m thankful for a complication-free pregnancy (and hoping for a complication-free delivery), I am so very ready to not be pregnant anymore.

I’m not being insensitive. I love my babies. I know we’re #soblessed. But three babies in less than four years is a lot for anyone to handle (except for all those women with more kids than me, or moms of multiples, or moms of multiples with other small kids – I’m in awe of those ladies). So, while we are very, very happy, I am also looking forward to a cold beer, getting my body back (in some form), and never being pregnant ever again once we welcome #3 in a few short weeks.

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Did someone say biscuits?

So no cold beer for me just yet, but I have been milking these last weeks of pregnancy for all they’re worth. Entire tubs of ice cream? Yes. Massive bowls of creamy pasta? Absolutely.

An entire pan of these flaky, fluffy buttermilk biscuits?

Um… well… Patrick, Ciara and my father-in-law helped devour these, but I’m pretty sure I ate most of them.

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They were just so good, you see. Especially with a generous schmear of Tipperary butter and a large dollop of strawberry jam. While still warm.

Actually, I made another pan this morning. I forced myself to give half away, but if Patrick is late coming back from work I can’t promise the remaining biscuits will still be here for his tea.

Since I’ve revisited the way I actually make biscuits, I thought I would share this recipe today. I’ve been making biscuits for a long time. I mean… I have no idea what age I was when I made my first pan of biscuits. I’m from Cape Breton. We literally eat these every day. I never thought I could improve on the recipe I already had in my head, but this “stand mixer/fold” method is getting a lot of online traction so I thought I’d give it a try.

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Fold that dough in half!

I can tell you, I won’t be going back to rubbing in the butter with my fingers and rolling out once with a rolling pin. You get better flakes, height, texture and an overall fluffier biscuit with this method!

*For the Irish reading (and anyone else who wouldn’t consider this a biscuit), this is more of a scone for you, I know. BUT it’s not as sweet. You can eat these biscuits with savoury or sweet accompaniments. I like biscuits with fish chowder, casseroles. made into breakfast sandwiches and with baked beans as well as with the traditional jam/butter combo!

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Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients:

4 cups/500g (weight) plain flour

2 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup/60g sugar

1/2 cup/110g cold, cubed butter

1 1/2 cups/400ml cold buttermilk

Directions: 

  • Preheat your oven to 200∘C (400∘F) and line a large baking pan with parchment. Set aside.
  • In your stand mixer, add all dry ingredients and, using the paddle attachment, mix to incorporate.
  • Add the cold, cubed butter to the dry ingredients and, continuing to use the paddle attachment, mix on med-low for 5-8 minutes, until the butter is mostly incorporated into the dry mixture (some chunks of butter are ok, but most of it should be mixed into the flour).
  • Add the buttermilk and mix just until everything comes together.
  • On a lightly floured surface, dump the dough out of the mixing bowl. Using your hands and a pastry cutter, start to shape the dough. Fold it in half, flatten out, then fold again and flatten out.
  • Cut out the biscuits and place them on the baking sheet. You can shape/fold the remaining dough and do a second cut, but I would discard the leftover dough after the second cut.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the tops and bottoms are browned and the bicsuits have risen.
  • Eat the same day, if possible. Even better, eat them hot out of the oven. With tea. And butter and jam.
  • Makes about 14 medium sized biscuits.

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Maple Pecan Cookie Bars

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Today has been a bad day.

It’s not like I didn’t realize it would be a bad day. Ciara’s been cutting her eye teeth for what seems like ages now and has grown fond of 3am, two-hour-long hangouts on the couch. So yeah, when your three-year-old wakes up at 7am and you’ve just managed to get back to sleep you are definitely not starting your day on the right foot.

So we had a slow morning. Luckily I batch-cook pancakes on the weekends so Maeve can have a quick breakfast if need be, but still, by the time I had her, myself and Ciara washed, dressed, breakfasted and out the door it was well past 9am. Maeve was fairly late for playschool.

It had been a frosty night. After dropping Maeve off, Ciara and I went to town (town being Thurles, about 20 minutes away from the farm). On Tuesdays and Thursdays Ciara hangs out with my friend while I make donuts and other goodies to sell at The Green Sheep. On the way in, my car hit a patch of black ice and I was so close to losing control of my car and sliding off into a hedge. I honestly don’t know how I managed to keep the car on the road. Needless to say, I crawled the rest of the way into town.

When I got to The Green Sheep, it was closed because my friend, the owner, thought I had a doctor’s appointment this morning and she had to go to a parent/teacher meeting. I had also thought I had a doctor’s appointment but thankfully called to double-check – it’s actually next week.

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My friend got back from parent/teacher and I managed to make some apple fritters and deep-clean my cooking equipment. Then, someone came into the café and I could hear them say, “Tell Janine to go move her car – the ticket guy is out there!”

Now, before you say anything: I know I should be paying for parking. BUT you get 15 minutes of free parking in Thurles, so I was taking advantage of that (ok, maybe too much advantage).

So I got to my car before the ticket guy gave me a ticket. However; he remembered me from two weeks ago, when he had fined me for having out-of-date car tax. I had just gotten this car a few months ago and with Christmas… well… I knew I was playing with fire. I paid for my tax once he ticketed me, but it was still in the post. He didn’t give me another fine; instead he chewed my ear off.

Combine this with exhaustion from being a parent and the hormones of a crazy pregnant lady and… well, you get the idea of how I’m feeling right now.

I basically want to cry myself to sleep. And then sleep for a really, really long time.

Instead, though, I might make some more of these Maple Pecan Cookie Bars. They’re so easy to put together and taste amazing.

Baking is really therapeutic, isn’t it? You’re in control. Your hands are busy. Your mind is in a zen-like state. This is probably why I liked working in the pastry sections of restaurants so much, even though I’m not really a pastry chef. That section of the restaurant oozes calm while the others get chaotic.

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Anyway, back to these delicious, nutty little morsels. They have a brown sugar cookie base and a maple pecan topping that is soft, chewy and crunchy all at once. The maple flavour really comes through (and I was using the generic maple syrup – even though it claims to be “100% Canadian Pure”, it’s way too inexpensive to be any good).

They were a hit at the café, so I’ll be officially adding them to The Siùcra Shack‘s menu and will put them on rotation at The Green Sheep.

Give them a try; they’re so forgiving. Baking them will make you forget all about your crap day.

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Maple Pecan Cookie Bars

Ingredients:

For the base:

250g/1cup plain flour

110g/2/3 cup brown sugar

110g/1/2 cup butter

For the topping:

1 egg

55g/1/3 cup brown sugar

75ml/1/3 cup maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 bag (about 250g or 1 cup) whole pecan halves

Flaky sea salt

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 180∘C (350∘F). Line a rectangular baking tray with parchment and set aside.
  • In a bowl, (or in your stand mixer; paddle attachment), cream the brown sugar and butter for the base. Then, add the flour and mix until fully incorporated.
  • Press the cookie dough into the baking tray with your fingers. When the dough is evenly spread out, blind bake for about 15 minutes. Check it at 12 minutes; you don’t want it too dark.
  • Take the baked cookie base out of the oven and cool slightly. In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the filling except the sea salt and pecans.
  • Pour the filling over the top of the cookie base. Arrange the pecan halves over the top.
  • Bake the bars, still at 180∘C/350∘F, for another 15 minutes or until it’s just set. If the top seems soft that’s ok. It will set as it cools.
  • Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan. Then, remove the whole thing (parchment and all) and slice into bars or squares.
  • These guys will keep for 5-ish days (they don’t usually make it that long, though)

Irish Midlands Panna Cotta Tartlet

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I’m sitting at the desk in my bedroom at the moment. The sun is shining through the window, I have a cup of (hot!) coffee sitting next to the laptop and my baby is napping in the kitchen. Maeve is watching TV and doing puzzles with my mom. In a week we’ll be taking the girls to Canada for two months so stay tuned for some Canadian posts soon!

I love my babies so much – I really do – but it feels *so* good to sit at a desk and quietly type up a blog post. I miss it.

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I’m usually running around during the day. Ciara sleeps in the car – her daytime naps are short, short, short – and in her sling most days. She only sleeps in her moses basket at night, but when she finally goes down she sleeps for 8-9 hours straight. No complaints there! It just doesn’t leave a lot of time during the day for blogging. Did I mention it feels *so* good to be sitting at a desk?

Since I only get to sit down and blog every once in a while, it’s probably no surprise to you that I’ve been planning this post for, literally, weeks. I made and (quickly) photographed these delicious tartlets 2 or 3 weeks ago and am only now getting around to typing up the recipe! But it’s a really good recipe. I think it’s worth the wait.

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I was recently reading a recipe that combined panna cotta with earl grey tea and thought it was a great idea. What was even cooler was the panna cotta was set in a tartlet shell. At first I thought it was just a nice way to present the dessert, but holy moly, I never knew sweet pâte sablée and panna cotta could bring out the best in each other. The crumbly sweet pastry combined with the just set, barely sweetened cream is a match made in heaven.

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I didn’t flavour the panna cotta with tea, though. In the next county over (Offaly) there is a fabulous little food company called Wild Irish Foragers. They make shrub syrups, sweet syrups, pots and preserves – all from plants and flowers foraged here in the Midlands of Ireland. I love their products, mostly because they make things I don’t have the time or skillset to make myself.

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I flavoured the panna cotta with their Wild Dandelion Preserve, which is otherwise known as Poor Man’s Honey. It’s sweet like honey with just a hint of wild, floral, herbal flavour. I also used a raw cream to make the panna cotta. This one came from Crawford’s Farm in Cloughjordan (home to Tipperary’s only eco-village and where my favourite sourdough is made).

Yes, I could have used our own raw cream to make the panna cotta. I am aware I live on a dairy farm. BUT the cream only settles (floats to the top) in our milk storage unit at certain times of the day. It’s mixed all other times and thereby IMPOSSIBLE to skim. Crawford’s is amazing stuff. It tastes buttery. It’s thick. It makes perfect panna cotta.

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Finally, I topped the tartlet with a blueberry compote. Because I’m from Nova Scotia and I love blueberries. Here’s the recipe! The next time you hear from me I’ll be eating lots of seafood on the East Coast of Canada!

Irish Midlands Panna Cotta Tartlet

Ingredients 

For the Pâte Sablée:

120g/scant 1/2 cup softened butter

75g/1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar)

1 egg yolk

300g/ 1 1/4 cup plain flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

For the Panna Cotta:

500ml/2 cups Crawford’s Farm Raw Cream, or heavy cream

2 heaping Tbsp Wild Irish Foragers Dandelion Preserve

1/2 packet powdered gelatin (about 1 tsp)

Pinch of fine sea salt

For the Blueberry Compote:

250g/1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

60g/1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Zest of one lemon

1 heaping Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 125 ml/1/2 cup water

Directions:

  • Make the pâte sablée: in a bowl or stand mixer, mix the egg yolk, butter and icing sugar until well combined. Add the flour and salt. Mix until it comes together, like a cookie dough. If it’s dry and crumbly, add 1-2 Tbsp of milk. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Roll out the pastry to about 1/4 inch thickness and fit into four small tartlet pans. Don’t worry about tears. Just use extra dough to patch any holes. Do not poke holes in the bottom as you do with some tart shells; the panna cotta will leak through later!
  • Line the tartlet pans with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or dried beans). Bake until the top are golden brown and the bottoms are cooked through (the bottoms will still look pale), about 15-20 minutes. Don’t worry if the bottom of the tartlets seem too soft; they will firm up as they cool.
  • When the tart shells are cool, carefully remove them from the pans and place them on a tray.
  • Make the panna cotta: in a small saucepan, combine the cream, salt and Dandelion preserve. Slowly heat the cream mixture until it’s hot, steamy and the dandelion preserve has dissolved. You do not want to bring it to a boil, but just before it starts to boil.
  • Remove the cream mixture from the heat and sprinkle the gelation over top. Gently whisk the mixture until the gelatin is dissolved completely (this might take a minute or two).
  • Pour the mixture into the tart shells (don’t try to move the tart shells off or around the tray at this point) and put the tray into the fridge to set.
  • Make the compote: in a saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. If you’re using fresh blueberries, add a splash of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, then add the cornstarch/water mixture. Stir until thickened, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  • When the panna cotta has set in the tart shells (about 30 minutes), top it with the cooled blueberry compote. Garnish with mint or lemonbalm. Serve immediately or keep them in the fridge to be served the same day.

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Crossogue Preserves Brandied Mincemeat Oat Squares

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Happy Holidays everyone!

I’m sitting on my new (reclining) couch, still in PJ’s and bathrobe at 10pm (yeah… didn’t bother getting dressed today), my two-year-old is softly singing “Let It Go” in bed along with her new Elsa doll (who also sings – who got her that?!). I love these few days after Christmas and before New Years – there’s nothing to do. Literally!

I don’t have cakes to bake for anyone.

I don’t have any articles to write.

I don’t have a physical job to go to.

With the copious amount of food and snacks in the house, I don’t feel compelled to cook dinner.

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Basically, I can put my feet up for a little while and just relax. Even Maeve seems to be extra chilled out these days, making things like going to bed and getting up in the morning much easier on all of us (8:30am wake-ups are A-OK in my books!).

Of course, this will only last a few days. By New Years Eve I’ll be cooking another massive spread and it will be all hustle and bustle again. But until then I’ll just recline on my new couch, stick my 9-month pregnant belly out and enjoy some quality relaxation time.

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I wanted to share a new recipe with you today – and yes, it’s holiday related – even though Christmas has come and gone. But I’m sure I’m not the only one with lots of leftover mincemeat from making too few pies this year!

Come December in Ireland, mince pies are everywhere. In every bakery, every grocery store, every small shop. They just take over. If you enjoy mince pies, this is a good thing. I’ve never been a fan. Not until I tried Crossogue Preserves‘ Brandied Mincemeat.

Not only is it delicious, it’s made locally in small batches. To me, that’s just quality assurance. Small batches? That means it’s hard to mess up. And I have never had a jam, marmalade or mincemeat from Crossogue Preserves that hasn’t tasted just perfect.

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If you’re ever looking for Crossogue Preserves headquarters, GOOD LUCK. They make their preserves in Ballycahill, Tipperary – a few minutes’ drive outside of Thurles, but still very, very hard to find if you don’t know the area extremely well. And I don’t. I’m still learning. But I got there eventually, and the 5 kilo bucket of mincemeat was so, so worth the struggle.

Because these mincemeat squares are pretty divine. And addictive. And did I mention they’re a great alternative to your average mince pie?

I basically used my old fashioned date square recipe and swapped Crossogue’s Brandied Mincemeat for my usual date filling, making an already easy recipe even easier. 

So even though the season for mince pie is basically over, why don’t we take these few easygoing days between Christmas and New Years to enjoy some crumbly, buttery, brown-sugary squares with a hot cup of tea (or if you’re not pregnant like me, some boozy eggnog!).

Go on. Enjoy your life. Have an extra-boozy drink with me in mind (just a few more days til I can indulge, hopefully!).

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Crossogue Preserves Brandied Mincemeat Oat Squares

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 cup cold butter, cubed

1 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups Crossogue (or homemade) Brandied Mincemeat

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350° (180°C, no fan) and line a rectangular baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a bowl, mix the oats, flour, brown sugar, salt and baking soda. Add the cubed butter and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Take half the mixture and press it firmly into the bottom of the lined baking dish. Evenly spread the mincemeat over and then sprinkle the remaining half of the flour mixture on top (keep the topping crumbly).
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. The top won’t look overly browned, but it will be done.
  • Allow to cool completely (I left mine to cool overnight) before gently removing from the baking dish and cutting into squares.
  • Makes 12-16 squares depending on the size baking dish you use. Keep them in an airtight container for up to a week (but they won’t last that long).

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Taste Porto

Bacalao for sale!

Bacalao for sale!

While in Portugal a few months ago we took part in a Taste Porto food tour.

If you look on Trip Advisor, this tour is very highly rated. If you love history AND food and wine, this is the perfect activity for you. Andre, the guide, will teach you how the city’s culinary scene has been shaped by its vibrant history over several courses in different establishments.

Bolhao Market

Bolhao Market

If you’re budget travelers like us, you might be wary spending €55 on one activity. What if it’s awful? We were concerned about the kind of value we’d be getting for €55.

We’re generally not big into guided tours; we like to explore on our own. But I have to admit, this tour is not only interesting but also good value for the money you pay. By the end of the day I was so full I could hardly walk (and a bit tipsy from all the wine we drank).

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We started at a café specializing in a pastry from a small town in northeast Portugal called Pasteis de Chaves (Chaves being the name of the town). Once it was explained to us, we tasted two types: the traditional pastry of minced, seasoned veal and a sweet version filled with molten dark chocolate. And my mind was blown. But this was just the beginning.

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We made our way to Porto’s open-air Bolhao Market (which is well worth a visit in itself) and tasted a sprightly white moscatel galego paired with spicy sardines and bread. The sardines were so good and went perfectly with the wine.

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Andre then took us, in a roundabout way so he could explain some of the city’s architecture, to a restaurant called Flor dos Congregados. This restaurant is found down a tiny alleyway and has rustic, traditional Portuguese decor. Very cozy. They specialize in a pork loin and cured ham sandwich which we gobbled down with a glass of Douro sparkling red (tasty!).

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Our next stop was for something sweet. I had no idea eclairs were a thing in Porto, but apparently they are! We went to the eclair shop Leitaria da Quinta do Paço where we indulged in both lemon and chocolate, with a massive side of whipped cream.

I was getting full at this point, but we had a good walk through the old part of the city to get to our next and final stop.

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Taberna do Largo is an upscale eatery, wine bar and fine food shop in the heart of Old Porto. This place specializes in the very best of Portuguese terroir – the loveliest vinhos verde and Alentejo wines, the ripest sheep’s and goat cheeses; the most perfectly cured charcuterie and briniest olives. We got to taste a little bit of everything and had a few more sips of wine before saying goodbye and heading to our hotel for an afternoon siesta.

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Andre is such a fabulous food guide. He is so passionate about his hometown and knows Porto’s food, chefs and restaurants inside and out. He even made dinner reservations for us that evening (talk about going above and beyond). If you’re interested in Portuguese cuisine you need to do this tour!

Pat and Andre

Pat and Andre

Jewish Quarter, Old Porto

Jewish Quarter, Old Porto

Tip* Don’t throw out the information sheet he gives you – there are several other great restaurants (not on the tour) listed on the back. Use this for lunches and dinners for the rest of your trip.

Stilton, Pear & Walnut Galette

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It’s February 6th, and my month of paleo is officially over. How did I do?

I don’t know how much weight I lost because we don’t have a scale in our house, but my jacket zips up now when it didn’t before (well, not since I had Maeve). My pre-pregnancy jeans that I bought ages ago at Old Navy are feeling a bit LOOSE – last month, by comparison, I was barely able to squeeze into them. I don’t look in the mirror and notice a significant change, but I think by next month I might.

Yup, we’re going to make this an official lifestyle change. No bread, no grains or legumes, no refined flours or sugars will be allowed in our house. I still cheat a little – we’ve made tweaks to the paleo diet that work for us. Saturdays are fair game for whatever we want to eat, for example, and we’ll have a bottle of wine or a few beers on a Saturday as well. I still eat oats for breakfast. And I still bake regularly.

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That’s my downfall, you see, because I don’t want to bake things that are paleo friendly. This is not a paleo blog. And I like to bring goodies when I meet up with my mommy friends that are indulgent and fun (although I do throw in a healthy muffin or two to the mix). That is when the majority of my cheating happens.

I don’t mind, though. I think those small cheats are a drop in the ocean compared to the amount of sugar, fat, grain and gluten I’ve given up and I have been feeling amazingly good lately. Like, healthy and full of energy. Pushing the buggy no longer tires me out. I’ve been walking home from downtown instead of taking the bus. I bought a new pair of sneakers (my first pair in over six years) and have forgotten how good it feels to walk in a comfortable pair of footwear.

So, we’re stickin’ with this lifestyle change even though I sometimes just want a sandwich for lunch.

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Or this tart…

I mean, galette (getting fancy here).

What is a galette? Well, I’ve already said it. It’s basically a fancy tart. There are some differences in galettes depending on where you’re from (French galettes and French Canadian galettes are different, the former being more of a cake or buckwheat crepe and the latter, more of an open-faced, rustic tart) but I tend to stick with the basic shortcrust version. It’s a great tart to make with leftover fruit that’s about to go off if you have a bit of extra pastry hanging around.

I made this galette with pear (deliciously sweet and juicy pears are available right now), Stilton (which was on sale last week and looked too good to pass up) and walnuts – a classic combination. Combined with the flaky, slightly salty shortcrust pastry, it made cheating on my diet totally worth it.

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Stilton, Pear & Walnut Galette

Ingredients:

1 recipe shortcrust pastry (you can find my recipe here)

3 ripe pears (any type will do)

250 grams whole or roughly chopped walnuts

125 grams Stilton, or any good quality blue cheese

1 egg, lightly mixed

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees (210 degrees Celsius, no fan)
  • Line a baking tray with parchment
  • Roll out shortcrust pastry to about 1/8 of an inch thickness and roll into a rough circular shape (if you want neat lines, use a pizza cutter to make a proper circle by cutting the rough edges)
  • Transfer the pastry circle to the lined baking tray
  • Peel and slice the pear, then spread the pieces out over the pastry (leaving about 1 1/2 inches at the edges, for folding)
  • Crumble the blue cheese over the pear slices, then top with the walnuts
  • Take the pastry edges and fold up and over the filling, making a raised edge. The majority of the filling will remain uncovered
  • Mix one egg in a bowl and lightly brush the egg over the crust
  • Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is browned and bubbly
  • Serve warm with a side salad (also makes a great dessert)

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Bramley Apple Crumble Pie

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Another season, another seasonal fruit – it’s one of the things I love most about living in Ireland. Gone are the days of Wexford strawberries and sun-ripened blackberries; now we’re knee-deep in Bramley apples. At home we have Galas and Granny Smiths. Bramleys, not so much. I hadn’t even heard of them before moving. Now, though, they’re my go-to baking apple – a bit tart for eating on their own, but they make the most amazing crisps, pies, tarts and turnovers.

With an almost-three-month-old to care for I don’t really have that much time to bake – or even plan to bake. I’ve been meaning to start my Christmas cakes for several weeks now – maybe I’ll get them done next week. I’ve been meaning to make jelly for over a month – however I can’t find cheesecloth anywhere (although I am told that I can get muslin in the baby section at Tesco, so maybe I’ll make some next week). I’m pretty worn out, to be honest. Luckily, pie-making can be accomplished with little to no hassle, and since I’ve got so many lovely apples to work with right now, they’re taking centre stage in my pies.

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The key to a good pie is simple. You need a good crust and a good filling (a revelation, I know). I’ve been making pies for a long time, but I’ve only been making them well since I began my career as a cook and had less time to fuss over them.

A good pie crust can be so simple – it needs very few ingredients, a tender but firm hand and time to chill and relax. People tend to be scared of shortcrust pastry, but they needn’t be. The best advice I can give is don’t listen to those who warn not to handle or overwork the dough. Why? Because you won’t work the dough enough, as a result, and it’ll be a crumbly, sandy-textured mess.

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If you’re making shortcrust for the first time, work the dough enough to bring it together into a ball. If it doesn’t come together into a ball, you need either more moisture or you need to knead it a few times on a floured surface. If you overwork it the first time, you’ll know how much to hold back the next time. It’s all about practise.

For my Bramley Apple Crumble Pie, I added a little extra something to the filling. Highbank Orchard Syrup comes from County Kilkenny. I picked up a bottle at the Ballymaloe Garden Festival last August and have been using it in my morning oatmeal ever since. It’s got a really deep, dark apple flavour and is a great substitute for molasses, honey or maple syrup when baking. It’s also great for adding some depth to an apple pie, as you’ll find out if you make this recipe.

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Bramley Apple Crumble Pie

Ingredients:

For the crust:

2 cups AP flour

1 cup cold, cubed, unsalted butter

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup ice water (or less)

For the filling:

5-6 large Bramley apples (or Granny Smiths if you’re in North America)

1/4 cup AP flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 Tbsp Highbank Orchard Syrup

1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the crumble topping:

1/2 cup AP flour

1/2 cup cold, cubed butter

1/2 cup white sugar

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190 degrees Celsius, no fan)
  • Either in a bowl or in your food processor with a dough blade, rub or cut the butter into the salt and flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Slowly add the water a bit at a time until you can form a ball with the dough. If you’re not using a food processor, mix the dough by hand, kneading it a bit, until it forms a ball – you may not need the entire 1/2 cup of water.
  • On a floured surface, knead the dough once or twice, divide it in half, shape each half into a disc and wrap in plastic. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight (or you can freeze it indefinitely at this stage).
  • Peel and thinly slice your Bramley apples. In a bowl, combine the apples with the orchard syrup, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Toss to coat the apple slices and mix the ingredients evenly.
  • Roll out one disc of dough to roughly 1/4 inch thickness. Lay the sheet of pastry over a pie or tart pan and trim/crimp the edges. Pour the apple mixture over the pastry.
  • In a bowl, rub together the sugar, butter and flour with your fingers until you’ve achieved coarse crumbs. Spread the crumb topping evenly over the apples.
  • Put the pie pan on a cookie sheet in case the filling bubbles over the side. Place in the centre rack of the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. The topping will be golden brown and the crust around the edges will be brown and flaky.
  • Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipping cream.

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