Luck O’The Irish For St. Patrick’s Day!

four-leaf cloverCongratulations to Linda J., the winner of the Global Kitchen cookbook giveaway! Thank you to all who participated!

While I don’t have a speck of Irish blood in me, I always like making a recipe or two for the holiday. First off, it’s a big mark that spring is coming (although they are predicting 12-20 inches of snow for today! Yikes!) and the food is always delicious and hearty. Who can say no to some corned beef, cabbage, a slice of bread, and a Guinness?

This recipe for Irish Oatmeal Bread is really delicious. You get two big loaves of dense, chewy homemade bread. It makes a great peanut butter sandwich if you are going on a hike or a nice addition to soup for lunch. It also makes great toast!

A standing mixer is suggested since the dough is so dense, but I don’t have one so it’s a lot of elbow grease on my part. I mixed it with my favorite wooden spoon that I’ve had for close to 25 years, but twice in the last week when I was mixing dough, I heard a small crack. So be sure your spoon is a sturdy one!

In terms of changes, I made a couple. I only had dark brown sugar on hand, so I decided to substitute maple syrup. Also, one of my bread pans seems to have disappeared, so I made a nice, round boulé for my second loaf. Just to note, this is time consuming; it took me the better part of four hours from start to finish. So plan to make it on a morning or evening when you don’t have to go anywhere–or during a snowstorm!

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Irish Oatmeal Bread

This recipe first appeared in the January 2004 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

This recipe yields a dense dough, so use a stand mixer for mixing. Make sure the oatmeal mixture is cool before combining with the yeast mixture. If you have oatmeal at breakfast and make a sandwich with this bread for lunch, you can meet the recommended 1 1/2 cups oatmeal per day.

Yield: 2 loaves, 14 servings per loaf (serving size: 1 slice)

2 1/4 cups boiling water
1 3/4 cups steel-cut oats
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
Dash of granulated sugar
2 packages dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons each)
1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3 cups whole wheat flour
Cooking spray
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Combine the first 5 ingredients in the bowl of a stand-up mixer, and let stand 25 minutes.

Dissolve granulated sugar and yeast in warm water; let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Add to oat mixture. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Gradually add 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 3 cups whole wheat flour to oat mixture. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of the remaining all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide in half. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into a 14 x 8-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Roll up each rectangle tightly, starting with a short edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Place each loaf, seam sides down, in a 9-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Uncover dough, and brush egg evenly over loaves. Bake at 350º for 45 minutes or until loaves are browned on bottom and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pan, and cool on wire racks.

A Strawberry Solstice Celebration!

For those of us living in the northern climes, summer can’t get here fast enough. From the crisp cold of November to the warming and mud of March, I feel as if I live in a small cave. It’s dark when I get up in the morning, dusk-ish when I go to work, and dark when I leave work. Lamps that aren’t touched during the summer are all glowing in an effort to bring lightness to our lives. Outdoors on Saturday mornings, I notice things that I bypassed during the week because I’m not at home during the light of day. April and May brings warmer weather, the removal of snow tires from our cars, and a general lightness, both physically and emotionally. The bulky sweaters and turtlenecks are replaced with t-shirts and dresses.

So when the sunny and light-filled day of June 21 comes along, that means two things– the longest day of the year and strawberries! Several afternoons on my way home from work, from the middle to end of June through the first couple of weeks of July, I stop at the store for a quart of strawberries. On the weekends, I go up the road to a farm and buy a couple more. Nothing compares to a fresh Vermont strawberry. Nothing. And since our growing season is short, about a month, I take full advantage of it!

Once a year I make my favorite, strawberry shortcake, and sometimes this is our dinner, our whole dinner. Or breakfast. Or brunch. Or lunch. Or snack. Really, any time is a perfect time for strawberry shortcake! If I’m making it for a crowd, I will make a large biscuit in a cake pan, let it cool, slice it in half horizontally, lay down a layer of whipped cream and strawberries, and put more cream and berries on the top. It is fairly easy and really beautiful and you will get oohs and aahs at the table. Since it was just two of us this evening, I made the biscuit and cut it into eighths, so I can individually wrap each one and stick them in the freezer for another meal.

This biscuit, which comes from The New England Cookbook, by Brooke Dojny, which was given to me as a gift from my dear friend, Sarah, many Christmases ago, is the best one I’ve found so far. Just a little sweet, not crumbly, and really complements the berries and cream. Dojny’s instructions are for using a food processor; Luddite that I am, I did this by hand, but either way will work.

And if you’re watching your weight or are gluten intolerant, a small bowl of berries and whipped cream makes an equally delicious dessert! I’ve had both this week!

Egg Biscuit Cake
From The New England Cookbook, by Brooke Dojny
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into about 10 pieces (Cook’s note: I used salted butter and cut the salt to 1/4 teaspoon)
1 egg
1/2 milk

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dried ingredients. Add the cut butter and with a knife or pastry blender, work it into the flour until it is crumbly. In a small bowl, add the egg and mix in the milk. Make a small well at the bottom of the flour mixture, add the egg and milk, and mix until everything is incorporated. (Cook’s note: The author suggests putting this on a floured surface and kneading together. I did this in the bowl instead.) Place into a greased 8-inch cake pan and pat into a circle.

In terms of baking time, these are Dojny’s instructions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When you put the biscuit in the oven, immediately reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes until the shortcake is pale golden brown on top. (Cook’s note: Since my oven is a bit more fussy, I cooked the shortcake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or so and just kept a watchful eye on it.) 

Homemade Whipped Cream
Take either whipping cream or heavy cream and put it in a bowl with a splash of vanilla and a few teaspoons of sugar (I am always taste testing as I’m whipping it to make sure there is just the right about of sugar.) With a hand mixer, turn to high and continue to move the cream around. Stop when you reach the consistency of whipped cream you like. Beware, if you go too stiff, you’ll make butter!

Molasses Crinkles (or Crisp Ginger Cookies)

When I was growing up, one of my favorite cookies were Molasses Crinkles; deep, dark, moist, spicy cookies. The other day I noticed I had some molasses in the cupboard and although these cookies are better suited for the fall than the spring, I decided to whip up a batch.

The recipe I found in my grandmother’s recipe box calls them Crisp Ginger Cookies–same cookies, different name, yet with a handwritten note at the top calling them “Molasses Crinkles”; somewhere through the years the name changed.

These are super easy to make and inexpensive, too. There is a local bakery that sells similar cookies for $4 for six, but you can make a whole batch for much less. I grew up making these with Crisco, but this time made them with butter. Either way they are delicious. And the less you cook them, the more moist they will be.

Molasses Crinkles (or Crisp Ginger Cookies)
1  cup sugar
3/4 cup Crisco (or butter)
4 TBS molasses
1 egg
2 C. Flour
2 tsp. Soda (scant)
1 tsp. each salt, ginger, cloves, cinnamon (Note, I used 1/2 tsp. of salt)

1. Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the Crisco or butter, molasses, and egg and mix thoroughly.
2. Take a tablespoon and form into small balls. Dip the end into granulated sugar. Set sugar end up on greased tin. Bake at moderate oven (325 degrees for me) for about 10-12 minutes.

Enjoy right out of the oven with a glass of milk! 

PS. They’re also good the next morning with coffee!