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Archive for 2017

RECIPE: Tea Brack, An Irish Sweet Bread

Tea Brack

Barmbrack

Irish Breakfast Tea

[1] Brack, an Irish tea bread, is traditionally round (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour). [2] But it can be a rectangular loaf (photo courtesy Stasty). [3] Enjoy it with a cup of tea (photo AG Photographer | Canstock).

 

Brack is short for barmbrack, a traditional Irish sweet bread.

The original barmbrack was a yeast bread with raisins and sultanas. Barm is a type of yeast and brack is a loaf of bread.

Call it brack for short.

In Ireland it is sometimes called bairín breac, Gaelic for “speckled loaf.” The speckling refers to the raisins and sultanas in the bread.

That’s why it’s also called Irish Freckle Bread, a name which may go over better with kids and uncurious eaters.

Call it what you will, today’s brack has ditched the yeast to become a moist, dense, packed-with-fruit breakfast and snack bread. It’s usually made in flattened rounds, but a loaf pan will do (and is easier to slice, in our opinion).

It’s moderately sweet, like a zucchini bread or a raisin muffin. It is typically served with breakfast and afternoon tea; hence, tea brack. Some people like it toasted with butter.

Barmbrack has also evolved into an Irish Halloween tradition. The Halloween version has fortune-telling trinkets hidden in the bread.

RECIPE: IRISH TEA BRACK

This recipe comes from the award-winning cookbook, The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.

It uses brewed tea as its liquid. You can substitute 2 tablespoons of Irish whiskey for 2 tablespoons of the tea.

Prep time is 10-15 minutes, bake time is 60-70 minutes. Cut to modest size, you can get 16 servings from an 8″ round cake.

Serve it with a cup of tea, of course; and with softened butter if desired.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brewed hot tea; Irish breakfast tea is a good choice
  • 1 cup raisins, packed
  • 1/2 cup currants, packed
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, snipped into small pieces
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 cups Irish-style wholemeal flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons coarse sparkling white sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. POUR the hot tea over the dried fruits in a medium-sized bowl. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm, about 1 hour.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease an 8″ x 2″ round cake pan. If your pan isn’t at least 2″ deep, use a 9″ round pan.

     
    3. STIR together the brown sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Add the dried fruit and any remaining liquid. Stir until thoroughly combined. The batter will be thick and stiff.

    4. ADD the egg, mixing till thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture into the pan. Sprinkle the top evenly with the coarse sparkling sugar. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out moist, but without clinging crumbs.

    5. REMOVE the bread from the oven and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Customize Your St. Patrick’s Day Bagel

    Green bagels are a novelty on St. Patrick’s Day. But here’s a more elegant way to enjoy your bagel, with green fruits and vegetables.

    The concept can be applied to any holiday or occasion with theme colors (see the lists below), and can be part of a bagel buffet for brunch. Bonus: It’s a way to add an extra helping of produce to your daily intake.

    On top of the cream cheese, arrange fruits and/or vegetables in your color theme, as demonstrated by Arla Foods, maker of the cream cheese spreads used on the bagel (photo #1 and photo #6 at the bottom).

    Fruit on bagels beyond a raisin bagel? See photo #5, below—and try it on English muffins, too.

    Pick some fruits and/or vegetables from your color list, and get started. The green group has the most options.

    (Note: Specialty colors, such as yellow watermelon or purple bell peppers, aren’t typically found at supermarkets. Head to a specialty produce store or a farmers market.)

    GREEN FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli (including rabe and rapini)
  • Capers
  • Cucumber
  • Edamame
  • Green apples, figs, grapes, plums
  • Green beans
  • Green bell pepper
  • Green olives
  • Green onion (scallion) tops
  • Green peas
  • Herbs (basil, dill, parsley, etc.)
  • Jalapeño
  • Kiwi
  • Lettuces (everything from arugula to watercress)
  • Pickles/gherkins
  • Sprouts
  • Sugar snap peas, snow peas
  • Zucchini
  •  
    ORANGE FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Chiles (aji amarillo, habanero, Thai yellow chile)
  • Dried apricots
  • Kumquats
  • Mango
  • Orange bell pepper
  • Orange cherry or heirloom tomatoes
  • Orange or mandarin segments
  • Orange watermelon
  • Papaya
  •  
    PURPLE/BLUE FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Berries: blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries
  • Dried blueberries
  • Eggplant (grilled)
  • Purple figs, grapes, plums
  • Purple olives
  • Red cabbage
  • Specialty varieties: purple bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, corn, potatoes, string beans
  •  
    RED FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Jalapeño or other red chile
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Radicchio or red endive
  • Raspberries or strawberries
  • Red apples, grapes, plums
  • Red bell pepper
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Red grapes
  • Red onion
  • Red tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  •  
    YELLOW FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Apples (golden delicious and others)
  • Chiles (aji, banana, golden cayenne, lemon, Hungarian yellow wax, pepperoncini, etc.)
  • Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Yellow bell pepper
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Yellow watermelon
  •  

    Green Bagel Toppings

    Green Bagels

    Green Bagels

    Shamrock Bagels

    Bagel With Fruit Topping

    [1] and [6] The alternative solution from Arla Foods. [2] Conventional green bagels from Einstein Bros Bagels. [3] Fancy (and $6 each!) at the Wynn Las Vegas. [4] The creativity award goes to the shamrock bagels at Sunrise Bagels and Cafe in Wyckoff, New Jersey. [5] Fruit-topped bagel from Number 2 Pencil.

     
    Green Bagel Toppings

    [6] Bagels with a buffet of green fruits and vegetables (photo courtesy Arla Foods).
      

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    FOOD FUN: Birthday Cheesecake Recipe

    Birthday Cheesecake

    Birthday Cheesecake

    Chocolate Ganache Cheesecake

    [1] A birthday cheesecake with sprinkles inside (photo from Wine & Glue). [2] Instead of the standard cheesecake graham cracker crust (like this one from Sally’s Baking Addiction), we used a birthday-like sponge cake layer. [3] We love a chocolate ganache topping on cheesecake (photo courtesy Baked By Nature).

     

    Some birthday boys and girls prefer cheesecake to a birthday cake. Even those who like cake may have tired of the conventional cake with buttercream filling and frosting.

    If the celebrant is a cheesecake lover, make it a special birthday cheesecake with sprinkles or confetti, and an optional chocolate ganache top.

    Plan ahead: the cream cheese needs several hours to soften to room temperature.

    We adapted the recipe below from one by Lisa of Wine & Glue.

    Lisa calls her recipe Cake Batter Cheesecake, but we changed the name to Birthday Cheesecake because there’s no cake batter.

    (On the other hand, if you want to make cake batter ice cream, which does use cake mix for that cake batter taste, head here or here.)

    We also added a cake crust adapted from one by King Arthur Flour, and the chocolate ganache frosting for chocoholics.

    For more dressed-up cheesecake ideas, check out Pimp Your Cheesecake.

    RECIPE: BIRTHDAY CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients

  • 3 eight-ounce bricks quality cream cheese (full fat), softened to room temperature
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles/confetti, plus extra for top if desired
  •  
    For The Sponge Cake Crust

  • Softened unsalted butter, for buttering the pan
  • 1/3 cup sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 drops pure lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  •  
    Plus

  • 9-inch springform pan
  • Foil
  • Birthday candles
  •  
    For A Ganache Top

  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Optional garnish: sprinkles/confetti or chocolate shavings
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust. Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter the bottom and side of a 9- or 8-inch springform pan (preferably nonstick). Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending it all the way up the side (this prevents leakage).

    2. SIFT together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks on high for 3 minutes with an electric mixer. With the mixer running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating until thick, light yellow ribbons form in the bowl, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the extracts.

    3. SIFT the flour mixture over the batter and mix it with a spoon, until there are no remaining white flecks (do not over-mix). Blend in the melted butter. In a clean bowl using clean, dry beaters…

    4. BEAT the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high, until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites will stand up and look glossy, not dry).

    5. FOLD about one-third of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites. If there are still a few white specks, they’ll disappear during baking.

    6. GENTLY SPREAD the batter over the bottom of the pan and bake just until set and golden (not wet or sticky), about 10 minutes. Watch carefully and don’t let the top brown. Touch the cake gently in the center. If it springs back, it’s done. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool.

    7. INCREASE the oven heat to 375°F and prepare the filling. With the mixer on low, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Then beat in the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and almond extract. Finally, beat in the eggs.

    8. CONTINUE mixing until you can no longer see any yolk (it’s O.K. if the batter has a few lumps). Slowly mix in the sprinkles with a spoon.

    9. POUR the batter into a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 40 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake sit for an additional half hour. Remove the pan from the oven, let cool, and chill at least four hours or overnight in the fridge.

    10. MAKE the optional ganache. Place the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl and set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, until it begins to bubble around the edges, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute.

    11. WHISK the mixture until the chocolate melts and a smooth ganache forms; about 2 minutes. Pour the ganache over the cheesecake. Leave plain or garnish as desired. If you don’t use sprinkles to garnish, the birthday cake underneath will be a surprise. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

     
    MORE BIRTHDAY RECIPES FROM LISA

  • Cheesecake Batter Cookie Dip
  • Birthday Cake Bark
  •  
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Stenciled Cheese For Holidays (St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Christmas…)

    Add a little luck of the Irish to cheese and other foods, by creating a shamrock garnish made of herbs.

    You can apply the same technique to other themes: Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day hearts, stars for Christmas, Independence Day and New Year’s, pumpkins for Halloween, and so forth.

    You also can use edible glitter, which provides no flavor but adds gorgeous color.

    Spices allow you to play with the colors of the garnish, for example:

  • For Christmas, make separate stencils for green herbs and red spices.
  • Red spices for hearts: cayenne, chile flakes, kebab masala, paprika, red tandoori spice blend.
  • Yellow spices or gold glitter for stars: coriander seeds, cumin, curry, fenugreek, ras el hanout, turmeric.
  • Orange spices for Halloween and Thanksgiving: Cajun seasoning, tandoori masala.
  •  
    RECIPE: STENCILED CHEESE

    Select any cheese(s) that’s moist enough to hold the herbs: burrata, cream cheese log, goat cheese log, feta, fresh mozzarella, paneer, queso panela or ricotta salata.

    Print out the shamrock stencil (or other design) here. Print out a few copies for cutting practice.

    You can make a regular stencil or a reverse stencil, both shown in the photo.

    Ingredients

  • Assorted fresh herbs, finely chopped
  • Cheese(s) of choice
  • Paper stencil
  • Small piece plastic wrap
  • For serving: bread, crackers, fruit
  •  
    ________________
    *Blend two or three herbs: dill, chervil, chives, parsley or tarragon, etc.

     

    Shamrock Cheese

    Herb & Spice Colors

    [1] Shamrock style with a stencil (photo and recipe idea courtesy Vermont Creamery). [2] Spices and herbs provide colors for any occasion (photo courtesy Renegade Expressions).

     
    Preparation

    1. CUT out the shamrock stencil and press it firmly onto the cheese.

    2. PRESS the herbs into the stencil. You can place a piece of plastic wrap over the herbs for easier pressing.

    3. GENTLY PEEL off the plastic and stencil. Clean the lines with a pointed tweezers, as needed.

    4. SERVE with bread, crackers and fruit (apples, grapes, orange/mandarin segments, pears, etc).
     
     
    TIP FOR SLICED FRUIT

    Instead of coating apples or pears in lemon juice to keep them from browning, coat them in calcium-fortified 100% apple juice.

    Here are more ways to keep fruits from browning.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: The Best Irish Coffee Recipe?

    Irish Coffee

    Irish Coffee Glass

    Irish Espresso

    [1] The Irish Coffee recipe from Tim Herlihy of Tullamore D.E.W.. [2] The traditional stemmed Irish Coffee glass (photo courtesy Barmano). [3]Irish espresso, a riff on Irish Coffee (recipe #3 below, photo courtesy Tullamore D.E.W.)

     

    January 25th is National Irish Coffee Day, and for that occasion we received an Irish Coffee recipe created by Tullamore D.E.W. Brand Ambassador Tim Herlihy.

    Tim may have consumed more, different Irish Coffee recipes than anyone else. So when he created his own recipe, we paid attention. It’s now the off dial Irish Coffee recipe of Tullamore D.E.W., our favorite Irish whiskey, a version of the original

    The first appeared in the U.S. in 1952 when journalist Stan Delaplane tasted it in Ireland and convinced his friend, the owner of the Buena Vista Café in San Francisco, to put Irish Coffee on his menu (it was made with Tullamore D.E.W.).

    Tim crafted his version after the Irish Coffee first made in 1943 thrown together in 1943 for cold travelers in a chilly seaplane terminal in Ireland (the scoop).

    Tim likes it as an after-dinner drink; but it can warm you up anytime. Bartender’s Tip: With all hot drink recipes, preheat the goblet or mug by first rinsing it with hot water (we use the microwave).

    If you don’t like coffee, a recipe for Irish Hot Chocolate follows (recipe #3).

    RECIPE #1: TIM HERLIHY’S TULLAMORE D.E.W. IRISH COFFEE

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1½ parts Tullamore D.E.W. Original
  • 1½ parts strong brewed coffee (Tim’s Pick: any premium dark roast)
  • ½ parts demerara sugar (substitute other raw sugar or light brown sugar)
  • Lightly whipped heavy cream
  • Cinnamon or nutmeg
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT a clear-stemmed glass with very hot water. Add the sugar and brewed coffee and stir well until the sugar has melted. Then stir in the Tullamore D.E.W.

    2. GENTLY WHIP the heavy cream by shaking it in a blender bottle, a.k.a. with a protein shaker with blender ball. We love this shaker, for scrambled eggs, instant soups and drinks, etc. and mixes (Here’s our review).

    You want a still somewhat loose, not stiff consistency. (You can also achieve this with a hand mixer.)

    3. POUR the cream over the back of a hot teaspoon to create the top layer of the drink, and prevent the cream from penetrating the coffee layer.

    4. GARNISH with grated nutmeg or cinnamon.

    Variations From THE NIBBLE

  • For a less sweet drink, don’t add sweeten the whipped cream, as is common in the U.S.
  • Add some “green,” add 2 teaspoons creme de menthe instead of the creme de menthe (or in addition to it, for a very strong drink), mixed in with the coffee; or drizzle some over the whipped cream top.
  • Ditto, Bailey’s Irish Cream or other Irish cream liqueur.
  •  
    RECIPE #2: IRISH ESPRESSO (IRISH COFFEE SHOTS)

    Traditional Irish coffee combines whiskey, brown sugar, black coffee and heavy cream. In these shots, coffee liqueur substitutes for the coffee and sugar, and Irish cream liqueur takes the place of the whiskey and cream.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 4 teaspoons/20ml Tullamore D.E.W. Original Irish Whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons/10ml premium coffee liqueur
  • 2 teaspoons/10ml heavy cream
  • Garnish: coffee beans (we substitute chocolate-covered coffee beans)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD the Tullamore D.E.W. and coffee liqueur to a mixing glass. Stir and pour into shot glasses.

    2. THICKEN the heavy cream slightly with a hand-held mixer or blender bottle. Top each shot with fresh cream and garnish with coffee beans.

    RECIPE #3: IRISH HOT CHOCOLATE

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1-1/2 to 2 ounces Irish Whiskey
  • 6 ounces good quality hot chocolate
  • Garnish: chocolate flakes (shave a chocolate bar)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients in a goblet or mug. Add the whipped cream. Sprinkle with chocolate flakes.

     

    WHAT MAKES IRISH WHISKEY DIFFERENT

    There are several distinct styles of whiskey in the world—American (rye and bourbon), Irish, Canadian and Scotch.

    While all are produced in a broadly similar way, there are substantial differences in the final product that are based on the choice of grains, the type of still, the number of distillations, the maturation period and the type of oak barrels in which the whiskey is matured.

    The end result is that each country’s whiskey has its own distinctive characteristics.

    Irish whiskey is smooth and clean-tasting, a result of triple distillation. It’s the only triple-distilled whiskey in the world. Here’s the scoop.

    Whiskey vs. whisky.

    The word comes from the the Gaelic uisce, pronounced ISH-ka, and the Scottish uisge, pronounced USH-ka. They became isky and usky and then evolved to the modern English whisky.

    Canadians spell “whisky” without the “e,” as do the Scots and most other countries except Ireland and the U.S.

    Scholars can’t determine why the “e” was dropped by the Scots many centuries ago. One theory is that the Irish made whiskey first and pronounced it with a broad “e.” When the Scots began to make it, they dropped the “e” to differentiate their product.

    A 1968 directive of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms specifies “whisky” as the official U.S. spelling, but allows the alternative spelling, “whiskey,” which most U.S. producers prefer.

    Check out the language of whiskey in our Whiskey Glossary.

    ALCOHOL DISTILLATION

    Alcohol distillation was discovered in the late eighth century by an Arab scholar, Abu Masa Jabir ibn Hayyam, “the father of modern chemistry.” Among other discoveries were acetic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid and aqua regia, one of the few substances that can dissolve gold, and crystalization.

    Jabir invented many types of now-basic chemical laboratory equipment. One was the alembic still, the al-ambiq.

    When Jabir distilled wine, he created the world’s first distilled alcohol, and discovered a liquid that had benefits as medicine.

    Since this equipment was often used to boil powdered antimony into a liquid called al-kohl (used to make the cosmetic kohl), the liquid became known as alcohol and the al-ambiq became the modern alembic still.

     

    Abu-Musa-Jabir-ibn-Hayyan

    The First Still

    Early Alembic Still

    [4] A 15th-century portrait of Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan, also known as Geber (courtesy Wikipedia). [5] His early distillation still. [6] A later illustration of the early alembic still (still images courtesy Crystal Links).

     
    Distillation remained a secret process, handed down orally. It was ultimately shared with monks in Spain, who also used it for medicinal purposes, adding herbs and other botanicals to create distillations such as Benedictine and Chartreuse.

    Missionary monks brought the recipe to Ireland.

    The secret process for distilling alcohol from wine was written down for the first time in a European language around 1300. It was accomplished by Arnaldus de Villanova (Arnald of Villanova), a Spanish physician, scholar and professor of medicine in Montpellier, France, who was fluent in several languages including Arabic. (He also discovered carbon dioxide and developed pure alcohol).

    He called the distilled alcohol aqua vitae, water of life. It translated to aquavit (Scandinavia), eau de vie (France) and vodka (Poland and Russia).

    Villanova believed it would “prolong life, clear away ill humors, revive the heart and maintain youth.” Others claimed it also alleviated diseases of the brain, nerves and joints; calmed toothaches; cured blindness, speech defects and paralysis; and warded off the Black Death. (Needless to say, it does none of these things, except perhaps putting one to sleep so as not to feel the tooth ache.)

    In 1478, 48 years after the invention of the printing press, the first book on distillation was published. It became a best-seller, with 14 printings in 20 years.

    [source]

      

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