Saturday, December 24, 2011

Apple and Cinnamon Flapjacks

T'was the night before Christmas when all through the house, everyone was a-buzz, disturbing the poor mouse.

It's been a hectic day. We have our traditional Christmas Eve get together with our neighbours tonight and the house has been in a state of preparation since 9AM! We've been cleaning, cooking and I've been baking and decorating like a fury and the house is now completely ready for Christmas. I made my traditional cinnamon shortbread, decorated my Christmas cake and was struck by the sudden urge to make something different. As I have previously mentioned I LOVE flapjacks, and I have previously posted a recipe for basic Oatmeal Flapjacks, which forms the basis of these beauties. 

These flapjacks are more moist than the original recipe and the apples give them a very tender texture, the cinnamon lending a slight spice and the raisins giving a burst of sweetness. They don't hold together as well as the other recipe but are perfect served warm with vanilla ice cream! Thanks to the daily spud for the pic :)

Apple and Cinnamon Flapjacks
Makes one 9" pan
  • 175g butter,
  • 225g light brown sugar
  • 2tbsp golden syrup
  • 350g rolled oats (jumbo oats)
  • 2 cooking apples (I use Bramley)
  • 200g raisins
  • 2 tsps cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 150 C and grease a 9" square tin
Melt the butter with the sugar and syrup in a saucepan over a medium-low heat,
stirring to avoid sticking and burning until the butter has melted completely
Remove from the heat and stir in the oats, ensuring they are well coated in the mixture
Grate the apple into the saucepan and throw in the raisins, mixing well
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down with the back of a spoon
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden on the top
Cool completely then cut into squares with a knife and remove from the tin

As I said before these flapjacks are far more prone to fall apart than my original recipe but BOY are they yummy :) They're the perfect way to get away from heavier Christmas treats, and the crumbly bits will taste even BETTER for a light Christmas breakfast served with yoghurt :)

Wherever you are in the world, whether you're at home with your parents, or with people you love, meeting friends for Christmas drinks or spending the evening curled up by the fire reading or watching silly TV, I hope this Christmas is full of magic and wonderful moments for you all.

Merry Christmas from me and my exhausted cookie cutters :) x

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Baking Begins (a month ago)

It's Christmas, which means a bustling buzzing city, silly day time movies and cozying up on the couch with my family. It means turkey and ham, roast potatoes, sherry soaked fruitcake, boozy Christmas pudding, mince pies, Christmas cookies, great conversation, and silly cracker jokes.

I love Christmas, the excitement, the sense of togetherness and family that pervades the air, intertwining with the scent of cinnamon and cloves. I figured I'd start my Christmas baking countdown with my Christmas cake which admittedly was baked in November but I thought I might scare people off if I posted the recipe then :P

This recipe is an old family recipe passed down from my mother's side, originating from Canada and a newspaper from the 50's. The traditional christmas cake contains currants and spices, not this cake. This is a light fruitcake but the effect is a much moister, richer cake with none of that grittiness you often find with darker, more traditional fruitcakes.

WORD OF WARNING! The raisins need to soak for at least 12 hours before going into the mix!

Christmas Cake
  • 4 cups chopped candied orange and lemon peel, pineapple, candied ginger and glacé cherries
  • 2lbs jumbo golden raisins
  • 1.5 cups butter
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsps baking powder
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1-1.5 bottles sweet sherry or Madiera
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 1 cup whipping cream
Place the raisins in a bowl and cover with the sherry
Wrap in cling film and leave overnight

In the morning, transfer them to a saucepan and bring to a boil, simmering over a medium heat for 30 mins until the raisins have swollen.
Drain and reserve the liquid to pour over the cake later, and add the raisins to a large mixing bowl (my aunt traditionally used a baby bath!)

Preheat the oven to 130C and prepare a 9" deep cake tin by lining the sides with stiff brown paper (not cardboard) and lining the sides and base with greased greaseproof paper. Make sure these linings come about 4-6 inches above the rim of the tin.

Sieve the flour and baking powder and salt into a small bowl

Chop the almonds roughly, leaving some whole and add too the raisins, throwing in the glacéd fruit, candied peel, pineapple and ginger.
Add a handful of flour and toss to coat the fruit mixture

Cream the butter and sugar in another bowl until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, plus some flour to prevent the mixture splitting. Beat well.

In yet another bowl whip the cream into stiff peaks

Arrange the smaller bowls around the big bowl full of fruit and alternate adding the cream, batter mixture and flour mixture to the fruit, folding gently.
When all of these piles are well combined in the main bowl transfer the batter into the prepared tin, pushing it to the edges and making sure it is spread evenly and smoothed. Place this tin into a roasting tray with a little water in the base of it to stop the cake drying out.

Bake for 5-6 hours, checking the water leveland topping it up as needed.The cake is done when a skewer comes clean out of the center.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 2 days, then turn out and put tin foil around it.
Make holes with a skewer and pour over the liquid from the raisins.
Cover with the tinoil and wrap tightly in a plastic bag to keep it airtight.
Unwrap and decorate closer to Christmas :D

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thanksgiving and a Kitchen Disaster

Thanksgiving is very much an American thing. Unlike other customs which have travelled across the pond and been copied by Europe and the world, this holiday seems exclusively American; ask any Irish person when Thanksgiving is or what it's about and you'll probably get an answer along the lines of 'Some time in Autumn...ish and something to do with Native Americans and turkey...maybe...'

I've learned a few things about Thanksgiving thanks to my lovely American, Ethan, and I feel that the most important part of it is that it represents a chance to get together as a family and enjoy great food and company. This year is the first year I'm actually going to be experiencing Thanksgiving firsthand so we'll see if my estimation of it has changed by this evening.

I'm bringing dessert this year and without pause for thought Ethan chose Pecan Pie. So I dug out a recipe I've made before with fantastic results. There's no corn syrup in this recipe because it's next to impossible to get over here and when you do manage to find it it's ridiculously expensive. In fact when this recipe was written I doubt corn syrup even existed over this side of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, when I wet to remove it from the oven it was black...ALL THE WAY THROUGH! My oven apparently has a hotspot right in the center, which defies the laws of baking physics but anyway! So I had to improvise and whip up a banoffee pie instead, which is a very American dessert and luckily also one of Ethan's favourites.

Rather than post up the abysmal pie disaster I am going to post the Banoffee recipe, I promise to post my corn syrup free pecan pie next time I make it

Banoffee Pie
Makes one 9" pie

  • 450-500g digestive biscuits 
  • 140g butter, melted
  • 387g tin condensed milk
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 3-4 bananas
  • whipped cream (to decorate)
Put digestives in a sandwich or ziploc bag and crush using a rolling pin, or kitchen mallet, or something similar
Tip into a bowl and add the melted butter, stirring to coat them evenly
Pour this mix into a loose bottomed 9" pie tin and press into the base and sides.
Chill in the fridge for 20-30 mins
Add the condensed milk, brown sugar and butter to a pan and heat over a medium heat, until it thickens and becomes a caramel colour.
Pour into the tin and smooth into an even layer over the base, chill for 45 mins - 1 hour
Slice the bananas into rounds approximately 3-5mm thick and layer over the caramel until it is all covered.
Put the cream into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe around the outside edge of the pie.

Imagine, DESS-aster (:P) saved by bananas, caramel and digestive biscuits! They may be my new kitchen heroes! Many thanks also to Ana over at Pinch of Salt for the photo :) 


Thursday, November 10, 2011


I love flapjacks, the warm buttery flavour and tender crumbly texture of the oats... Just perfect. They're so simple to make too, with basic store cupboard ingredients you probably have on hand right now. This recipe calls for making them stovetop before whacking them in the oven to cook completely which is a totally different method than I used for my Peanut butter and Honey Flapjacks but hey, I'm up for trying anything once.

Makes 9-12

  • 225g butter,
  • 225g light brown sugar
  • 2tbsp golden syrup
  • 350g rolled oats (jumbo oats)
Preheat the oven to 150 C and grease a 9" square tin
Melt the butter with the sugar and syrup in a saucepan over a medium-low heat,
stirring to avoid sticking and burning until the butter has melted completely
Remove from the heat and stir in the oats,ensuring they are well coated in the mixture
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down with the back of a spoon
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden on the top
Cool completely then cut into squares with a knife and remove from the tin (being careful not to break them up)
Enjoy with a glass of cold milk!

Also, if there are crumbs left over they make fantastic granola for your morning yoghurt!

Photo credits go to Arctic Garden Studio

Friday, November 4, 2011

Bonk on the Noggin: Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Asterix Comics

My final year thesis supervisor and prospective PhD supervisor always sends me interesting articles and links, I have yet to be disappointed by something he has given me, and today was no different. I was having a chat with about the next project proposal we are submitting and he handed me this article about neurological dysfunction in the Asterix Comics.

In this study (See link below for the full article) Marcel Kamp and his colleagues analysed all 34 of the Asterix comic books and looked for causes, signs and symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in the characters. They identified 704 instances of TBI measured using the Glasgow Coma Scale and based on physical signs such as raccoon eyes bruising and pinhead pupils. 

Unsuprisingly, the most common victims of these TBIs were the Romans and the most common attackers were the Gauls but no death or permanent disabilities were noted as a result of these injuries.

You have to wonder who funded this, I wonder if they'll send some funding my way :P

Here's the full article (it's written in very accessible language so anyone can read it without a Neuroscience degree, which is a nice change):
Kamp, et al, (2011) Traumatic Brain Injuries in Illustrated Literature

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apple Pie and a Truly Remarkable Nana

I'm so sorry for the lack of updates, my laptop up and died and we moved into our new house (SO much nicer than the last place) so things have been SUPER hectic for the past month. Anyway, our landlord showed up at the door the other day with an armload of windfall apples. So before they all go off and in order to make the best out of this bounty there shall be numerous apple-y recipes on the way.

The one dessert I will always remember is my nana's apple pie. When I was a child and she would visit for dinner or we would go to her house for Sunday lunch there would always be her apple pie. Light, crisp pastry, delicately spiced apple filling...mmm...

She was a wonder in the kitchen, able to make something delicious out of nothing. There was never very much money for day to day expenses when my mum was a child but she'll be first to say that her mum made do and they were never left wanting. My nana cooked all the meals, made clothes, mended clothes, kept the house of 5 in good order, never taking a day off, never asking for special recognition and she did all this despite severe arthritis in both hands and feet.

She used to say that the only way we'd ever get rid of her would be to take her out and shoot her. She was still saying it up to the age of 90 when unfortunately she had a stroke, which, although she survived, took her memory, her speech and her mobility on the left side.

I'll always have my wonderfully fond memories of days spend feeding pigeons and wandering the Moor Street Market in Dublin with a truly remakable, yet unassuming, nana.

Apple Pie
Makes one 9" pie

  • 330g plain flour
  • 150g butter/lard cold and cubed
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 6-7 tbsp cold water
  • 1kg cooking apples
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 handful golden raisins (optional)
  • 2 tsps cinnamon
  • 2 tsps whole cloves
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 50g white sugar
  • 75g golden sugar
Soak the raisins in a little water just so that they plump up and become super juicy
Sift the flour into a bowl and add the butter
Cut the butter into the flour using two round bladed knives, then rub the mixture together using your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
Add the 2 tbsps of sugar and the water and mix with a fork (the mixture should still seem quite crumbly at this stage)
Using your hands, form the mixture into a ball in the bowl. If it doesn't quite come together add a little more water then re form into a ball.
Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 mins

While the dough is chilling we'll make the filling (rhyme points)

Peel and core the apples and thinly slice them lengthways
Put them into a bowl and add the lemon juice, tossing to coat, preventing browning
Drain then raisins and add these, the sugar, orange zest and cinnamon and toss to distribute evenly

Preheat the oven to 200 C and grease a 9" pie dish
Take the pastry out of the fridge and flour your surface. 
Roll 2/3 of the pastry until it's around 3-5mm thick and lay it over the dish, pressing it gently into the corners
Trim off any excess hanging over the edge of the pie dish and add to the remaining pastry ball.
Add half of the filling and scatter 1/2 the cloves over the top then repeat with the remaining filling and cloves
Roll out the rest of your pastry until it's approx 3 mm thick and lay it over the filling, sealing the edges of the pastry with your fingers and trimming any excess again.
Cut slits in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape during cooking
Bake at 200 C for 20 mins, then turn the oven down to 180 C and bake for another 30-35 mins

Serve warm from the oven with custard, cream or ice cream :) Many thanks to Edd, the boy who bakes, and Kat over at Sweet Kat's Kitchen for the pictures!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Apple and Raspberry Crumble

With the weather being positively Autumnal recently I've been dipping into my winter recipes for dessert and baking ideas when I feel the baking itch and the housemates fancy something sweet. I love winter recipes, they're always so warming and comforting and really make the kitchen and the whole house smell inviting and homely. 

Crumbles and crisps are wonderful because they are so versatile, you can have so many fruit and spice combinations, keep it simple and nostalgic or mix and match for new and interesting fillings. One of my favourites is plain rhubarb because it's very nostalgic, beautifully simple and really yummy! I must confess, plain apple crumble, even when it's spiced and well flavoured has always seemed a little bland to me and for that reason I always add berries to augment the taste. 

I came up with this recipe for my Mum's birthday this year, recently rediscovered it and made it to celebrate the end of repeats for my housemates (...basically an excuse to bake something :P). If you fancy it as just an apple crumble just replace the raspberries with an extra cooking apple!

Apple and Raspberry Crumble
  • 565g flour
  • 2tsps baking powder
  • 260g butter (chilled)
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 55g golden caster sugar
  • 9 apples (I tend to use 7 cooking and 3 eating apples but whatevs)
  • 300g raspberries
  • 1 orange, zest
  • 3 tsps cinnamon
Preheat oven to 180 C and grease a medium ceramic oven dish
Peel core and slice apples (not too thin) and lay them in the base of a medium sized lasagna dish or other ceramic oven dish (There should be a pretty damn tall layer of apple :P )
Scatter over the golden sugar, 55g of the white sugar, the cinnamon and the orange zest 

Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl and cut the butter into thumbnail sized cubes.
Using your fingertips rub the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs
Mix in the rest of the sugar and pour over the fruit layer, pressing gently but not packing it in

Bake for 45-50 mins and serve with custard, cream or ice cream (whipped cream is my definite favourite)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Month Long Absence and Playing Catch-Up with Cinnamon Blondies

So I've only realised it's been a month since I posted up my Banana bread recipe...shame on me I know... Unfortunately life has a way of getting in front, behind, above, below and beside blogging and do its best to push it out of the way, for the better in my case.

Over the past month I've been running around the place like a dervish trying to devote my time equally between all the important aspects of my life; Ethan, my friends, exercise, baking and cooking, pole dancing and research (and get over the 'flu :P) and let me tell you it's been an exhausting yet highly fulfilling time :) (...well not the 'flu part).

If I haven;t already mentioned it I found myself a volunteer Research Assistant position with the Trinity College Neuroscience Institute and the project is really interesting; we're looking into exercise and memory using a chemical called Blood Derived Neurotrophic Factor or BDNF. The guy running it hopes to devise a rehab programme for memory impairment using exercise. I took a Phlebotomy course a few weeks ago and have become the study's official blood taker and processor (so I get lots of lab time) as well as the cognitive test administrator. It's a hectic job but I'm really enjoying myself.

My all too real (and a little scary) proper adult life aside, Ethan and I spent a lovely 2 days in Sligo camping with friends (we just got back today actually). It was a great trip despite the horizontal rain and high winds and gave us both the chance to relax after a stressful month. We camped 20 feet from the beach and between the showers we built a fire, toasted marshmallows and stargazed some of the clearest skies I've ever seen, not that that lasted very long! That being said, there's nothing better than cuddling up in what we found to be a double wide sleeping bag listening to a howling gale outside and the sound of rain pelting against the tent... :) <3

ASide from being hard at work in the real world and not so hard at work in other ways, I've been cooking a lot, focusing on the recipes of my Italian heritage and making dishes such  as Pollo alla Cacciatore, Cannellini bean soup, Home-made egg pasta and ragu and Cantuccini (when this recipe is perfected it shall be posted up here). Rest assured I have not been resting on my laurels where baking is concerned and this recipe today is just one of many that I have to share with you :)

Cinnamon Squares
Makes around 16

  • 225g butter, softened
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 150 mls plain yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 180 C, grease and line and 9" square cake tin with baking paper
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy then beat in the eggs a little at a time
Mix the baking powder flour and cinnamon together and fold into the wet ingredients
Gently mix in the yoghurt until well combined then add the mixure to the tin
Bake for 45-50 mins, or until the cake is firm to the touch
Cool for 10 minutes in the tin then cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares

The texture should be smooth thanks to the yoghurt and creaming process and the cinnamon taste should be at the forefront but not overpowering. This recipe yields a light and springy yet rich and very moreish tasting cake square with a tender crumb and should leave your kitchen smelling warm, inviting and mildly Autumnal :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Mammy's Tried and Tested Perfect Banana Bread

Banana bread is a recipe that everyone has and in the same way everyone seems convinced that theirs is the best. Having tried some of these recipes I keep returning to the banana bread I enjoyed as a child and while it may not be the 'best' it's certainly mine and my whole family's favourite. It has more banana that the typical recipe which means that the banana flavour is much more intense and the loaf is super moist and rich. Also in this recipe you will find the addition of orange and lemon zest which gives a certain freshness to it. 

Also, in what appear to e a break with the norm there are no spices in this banana bread. Having messed around with different spices I found that they detract from the taste and I don't otehr with them anymore, banana bread should be simple and this one definitely is

Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf
75g soft butter
110g caster sugar
1 large egg beaten
225g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder level
4 medium bananas peeled
Grated rind 1 orange
Grated rind 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 180.
Butter, sugar and egg in large mixing bowl
Sift in flour and baking powder
In another bowl slice and mash bananas with fork
Whish sugar, butter and flour until thoroughly combined
Add orange and lemon rind
Add mashed bananas
Mix thoroughly
Put in tin and level off top
Centre shelf 50-55 mins until loaf is golden, well risen and springs back

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Turning Yet Another Famous Pie into Cake

Ok, I love Love LOVE experimentation while I'm baking and one of my favourite things to experiment with has to be birthday cakes. Typically I ask the person who's birthday it is what their top 5 favourite desserts are, their 5 favourite chocolate bars, favourite fruit,nuts and colour. Most of these questions are throw away, and have them thinking all kinds of crazy things are going on *insert maniacal laughter and cat*

I always have the most fun with the favourite desserts answers which have resulted in previous experiments involving Chocolate Brownie Chocolate Cheesecake (recipe soon to come) and Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes (also, soon to come). This one was a challenge as it was a 1930's theme party. I toyed with the idea of a white cake decorated as a 1930's hatbox complete with fondant hat. Then I remembered I'm quite useless with fondant. But the final end to that idea came when the birthday girl listed her favourite desserts and Banoffee Pie was there. It was going to happen, I had to make it happen, and so I did :P

Banana cake, Sandwiched with caramel and caramel buttercream frosting and apparently it tasted as good as the real thing. I did cheat a little and used store bought Dulce de Leche, home made caramel will come next.

Banana Cake
Makes 2 10" / 3 9" rounds

  • 180g butter, softened
  • 360g packed light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 medium bananas, mashed
  • 1.5 tsps vanilla extract
  • 360g flour
  • 3tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 250mls buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 180 C
Line/grease and line 2 10" or 3 9" round tins
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Add eggs, beating well after each addition
In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients
Add to the butter and sugar mixture, alternating with buttermilk
Pour into prepared tins and bake for 25-30 mins 
Cool in the tins for 20 mins then cool completely (for 2 hours) on a wire rack

Caramel Buttercream Frosting
Makes 6 cups (enough to frost and then colour and decorate this cake)

  • 750g icing (confectioners) sugar
  • 4 tbsp caramel
  • 320g butter, softened
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
Whip butter until light and creamy
Add vanilla and sugar and beat until fluffy
Add caramel and mix well

For the caramel layer you will need 2 cans of store bought dulce de leche minus the 4tbsp that went into the frosting.

When I went to assemble this cake I suddenly realised (after putting the top layer down) that the thick caramel layer I envisioned for the centre wasn't going to work (it all started to squeeze out the sides). So I had a bit of a think and decided I'd try something. If it worked it worked, if not hey it was gonna be a little messy but still tasty.

I piped a ring of the icing around the edge of the bottom layer and THEN filled it with the caramel and lo and behold I had a slightly thinner caramel centre layer :P. I the covered the outside of the cake in the frosting and coloured the remaining frosting blue and purple and then it was DECORATING TIME :D

Thanks to Evil Shananigans for the picture :)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Nutella Brownies

Yesterday was one of my housemates birthdays and while he's not really into cake he loooves brownies. Also, since his party took the form of a Bring Your Own Food, Booze and Cigars (BYOFBC), they suited perfectly. I also happen to know that Davey has a real love of Nutella so with that I set about tweaking a brownie recipe I got from my mum to make it work. I've made brownies once before and unfortunately they did not end happily. the recipe came from a childrens cookery course I did and they were dire. Needless to say that knocked my brownie confidence a little but I figured now was about time to give this devilishly moreish treat another go.

I scoured the town where I live for the best quality Hazelnut spread I could find and eventually settled on the Choco Nusse spread sold in LIDL. The spread itself is darker in colour and has a richer taste. The cocoa is stronger and the hazelnuts are more flavourful in comparison to the traditional Nutella. The original recipe called for 60-75% cocoa chocolate but I could only get my hands on 50%. As it turns out this was a bit of a blessing because had there been any more cocoa the hazelnut flavour would have been totally overpowered and the brownies too rich.

Roasted Hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 150C
Spread the required amount of hazelnuts onto a baking tray
Roast for 15 mins, turning once.
Allow to cool, then skin them by rubbing them vigorously between your hands

Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies
Makes around 20 medium brownies
  • 180g butter
  • 270g chooclate (50% cocoa)
  • 370g Nutella or chocolate hazelnut spread of your choice + 170g extra
  • 180g light brown sugar
  • 130g roasted hazelnuts
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 120g flour
  • 1.5 tbsps cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 175C
Line a 10x12"/9x13" pan with greaseproof paper
Melt butter and chocolate over a bain marie
Stir in Nutella, remove bowl from the bain marie and cool mix until it reaches room temperature
Mix in brown sugar and vanilla
Add eggs 1 at a time beating well after each addition (the mix should be glossy and smooth)
In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder
Combine with the wet ingredients
Stir in roasted hazelnuts and pour out into the prepared pan, spreading the mix evenly
Heat remaining 170g of Nutella over a bain marie and drizzle over the mix in the tin. 
Swirl throughout the top of the mix using a knife or skewer
bake for 25-35 mins, until a toothpick comes out mostly clean and the texture is still slightly fudgy when touched.

I hope you enjoyed them as much as Davey and the other party goers did! I must say brownies aren't as scary as my previous experience would have lead me to believe; I will definitely be making them more in the future :)

Many thanks to Making Life Delicious for the first picture in this post, my camera's been a little out of sorts lately :/


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies - Take 2

I love OMRCs, the taste, the texture and the warm, inviting smell they leave in the kitchen while they're baking. My very first blog post was a recipe for Slightly Healthier Oatmeal Raisin Cookies because I needed my OMRC fix and am unable to eat the regular kind. But I made a batch for friends the other day and tweaked my recipe a little with apparently good results so I decided I'd post up this recipe too! After all, you can NEVER have too many oatmeal raisin cookie recipes :P

Also, on a sad note, my weighing scales has met an untimely end so I'm using U.S. measurements because I had a mug handy :P

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Makes 12-15 cookies
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsps. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1 1/2 cups jumbo oats (old fashioned oats)
  • 3/4 cup of raisins
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
Preheat the oven to 175 C
Put the raisins in a bowl, add water to cover and add 1 tsp of the vanilla extract.
Allow to plump for 10-15 mins
In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar.
Add eggs and the other tsp of vanilla and beat until creamy

In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and allspice
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined
Stir in the oats
Drain the raisins and stir into the mixture.
Add the milk if the mix is on the dry side

Spoon tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper
Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins, or until the edges of the cookie are golden brown
The centers should remain soft but not too doughy.

Also, my camera's been very dodgy lately so all photo credits for this post go to Dana from The Homesteading Housewife


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mum's Pavlova

We've moved into our new house and we finally have internet which means I can finally post up my pavlova recipe :) It was one of my housemates birthdays last week and his favourite dessert is Pavlova with cream and strawberries so that is what I set about making. 

I used my Mum's pavlova recipe which is the best Pavlova I've ever eaten. It's chewy and pillowy at the same time and tastes absolutely amazing! Slightly abnormally there's custard powder and white vinegar in the recipe which helps give it this consistency. The recipe has no measurements whatsoever so I'm gonna do my best to approximate.

Mum's Pavlova
(Serves 12-16)

  • 6 egg whites
  • 2 mugs of caster sugar
  • 2 heaped tbsp custard powder
  • 2 tsps white vinegar
Preheat the oven to 160 C
Beat egg whites and 1 and 3/4 of the sugar with an electric whisk until they form the stiffest peaks you've ever seen
Fold in the rest of the sugar, custard powder and white vinegar
Pour out onto a rectangular baking tray lined with greaseproof paper
Bake for 35-45 mins, until slightly golden at the edges

Enjoy :) x

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Italian Cooking and a Timballo Recipe

I love Italian food; the simplicity, the flavours and the sense of passion and tradition. Italy and its food also happen to be a big part of my heritage which might explain my love of it also. With that in mind my Mum and I escaped to Italy last weekend for 4 days to learn how to cook traditional Tuscan food. We stayed in a lovely hotel in the little town of Figline Valdarno; a wonderfully typical sleepy Italian town with one main square, a train station and not much else. IT did however, have one of the best Gelatorias I've ever been to and I highly reccommend it for one very specific reason; frozen yoghurt. Unfortunately I find myself unable to eat ice-cream anymore so I was a bit worried there would be nothing there for me... Luckily the Italians have taken pity on the likes of us and I found a small selection of frozen yoghurt flavours including Morello Cherry! I've never been happier to be ice-cream intolerant :P The taste and the texture were fantastic; the cherries weren't overly sweet and the yoghurt was perfectly in balance with them; giving a light and refreshing cherry taste. If anyone is planning on taking a trip to the Florence area this wonderful shop is 30 mins on a train to Figline Valdarno and just on the main square :)

Aside from our morning excursions to Florence and Arezzo (2 other wonderful cities I suggest visiting), we spent 2 afternoons in the kitchen with Paola, the mama, and Daniella, the translator. We learned to cook many delicious things including Chicken Ripieno, Cacciatore, Cantuccini, gniocchi and fresh egg pasta and Ragu. We also learned a very traditional Tuscan starter known as Timballo; similar to a fritatta with a creaminess given by the addition of beschamel sauce. This recipe is very Italian in its preparation which means no measurements but I'll do my best to roughly approximate what they should be :P Obviously if you have a tried and tested Beschamel sauce recipe fell free to replace mine with it :)

Makes 1 9" pie
  • 5 medium red onions
  • 4 eggs
  • nutmeg
  • 100 mls of milk + 50mls extra
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • white wine
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup of stock (beef, veg or chicken)
  • 1-2 tbsp grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 190 C
Chop onions roughly in to medium pieces
Fry gently in some extra virgin olive oil (you can use other oils if you want, I'm just being traditional)
Add oregano and cook until onions begin to go clear
Add 2 tbsps of stock and a glug of wine (no measurements for that, it's really just to your own liking)
Cook for a further 7 mins, until your beschamel is completely finished, adding more wine and stock if the pan dries out too much
For the beschamel sauce, add the cornflour to the 50mls of milk and mix to remove any lumps
Bring 100mls of milk to a near boil in a pot and add the cornflour mixture
Stir quickly to prevent lumps and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Beat your eggs in a medium bowl and add your onions and beschamel and grated parmesan
Mix and turn out into a 9" tin greased or lined with baking paper.
Bake in the oven for 20-30 mins; until golden and quite firm to the touch

You can use many different types of vegetables in this recipe; I'm planning courgettes and grilled peppers next.  Use whatever you fancy and happy Timballo making :D

Sunday, May 29, 2011

White Chocolate Chunk Cookies and the End of an Era

College is over! After three long and exciting years I'm finally finished my Undergraduate degree...*sniff* I'll never forget the time I've spent at NUI Maynooth, they really were the best years of my life (so far) :D. So, I confess, I've been SUPER lazy the past few days about posting and our oven in the apartment is STILL crap so I haven't been able to bake ANYTHING down here... *sad face* But, last Wednesday was my little brothers 17th birthday so I high-tailed it home on Friday morning...very much in the morning (we were up at 6:30) and rushed home to bake him his favourite cookies! I would also like to thank Amy Kelly for the lovely photo at That Winsome Girl and apologise because blogger deleted my link the last time :( I'm very sorry Amy :(

White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes around 12 biggish cookies

  • 245g plain flour
  • 100g butter (melted and cooled)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 180g packed light brown sugar
  • 50g white sugar
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 400g white chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 160 C
Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl
Add the melted butter to the sugars and beat until creamy
Add vanilla essence to the eggs and mix
Add eggs and vanilla mixture into the wet ingredients bowl, beating well.
Add dry ingredients to the wet and combine to form a sticky dough
Throw in chocolate chunks and mix
Roll Tbsp sized blobs of the dough into balls about the size of a ping pong ball
Place them 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper and press to flatten them by about half.
Bake for 16-20 mins until golden at the edges but still quite pale in the middle
Cool for 10 mins on the sheet and then cool completely on a wire rack

According to my brother these are better than M&S and Subway white chocolate cookies. I think that's a pretty solid testimonial from a foody fusspot :P

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Social Conflict - The Robbers Cave

As a Psych student I have learned about some really interesting experiments and human processes over the past 3 years. One of the most interesting courses was Social Psychology where we were taught all about money and it's detrimental effect on happiness and the psychological factors behind our destruction of the environment. Anyway, social conflict was one of the phenomena we studied and over the course of learning about it we learned of the Robbers Cave Experiment done by Sherif and colleagues in 1961.

Social Conflict - The Robbers Cave Experiment

They created and resolved conflict between two groups of young boys in a summer camp style setting using techniques such as co-operation for the benefit of everyone! Really interesting experiment to read

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chocolate Fudge Cake

Sorry for the long time between posts, I'm still not 100% and I've been tirelessly preparing for my college finals...(so scared, so very very scared)... I know immediately what you're thinking, yet another chocolate fudge cake to add to the multitude already out there. But before you lose interest this is a really fantastic chocolate cake. It has yet to fail me and always produces a rich, fudgy cake that still somehow feels light when you're eating it (if that's possible). The aroma of the chocolate is rich and thick and the sponge is fudge but still retains a light spring to remind you that you're actually eating a cake, not a giant sandwich brownie!

I typically fill my cake with plain whipped cream, chocolate cream and crushed raspberries or if that's just too much chocolate raspberry cream (I'll stick this one in a post when I can remember/ work out the measurements) :P

This cake is perfect for kids parties because it's simple and relatively quick. Actually it's a good cake for getting the children involved in baking and decorating...if you don't mind the sprinkle and dragée explosion that will be your kitchen afterwards... :P

It's also a good cake for carving as it doesn't crumble under the knife :)

Chocolate Fudge Cake
Makes 1 9" sandwich cake

  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 125g plain chocolate (see Note)
  • 125g butter
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp greek yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 190 C
Melt chocolate over a bain marie
Cream butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy
Add vanilla and 1 egg at a time, beating after each addition
Stir in chocolate and yoghurt
Sift in flour and fold in
Divide the mixture into 2 9" sandwich tins 
Bake for 25-30 mins
Cool for 10 mins in the tins then turn out onto a wire rack

*Note: I use 39-70% cocoa chocolate depending on who the cake is for. Like for children I use the lower cocoa chocolate.

Chocolate cream
  • 250 - 500 mls ready whipped fresh cream (depends on how much filling you want)
  • 3-5 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 2-3 tsps cocoa powder
Mix all of these ingredients and spread generously over your bottom cake layer, then stick the top cake layer on top and you're done :)

I used plain cream for the one in the picture because my brother requested it  :)

Also, I didn't bake this today, I cheated a little and used one I baked a few months ago before I even had this blog

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Fallability of Human Memory and Manipulation

Most people if you ask them will say that memory is pretty much solid and that you remember things almost exactly as they happen with maybe the odd detail mistaken like the colour of someone's shirt or something else innoccuous. Well, psychological research has shown that memory is far more fragile and open to alteration and mistakes than people think

This experiment by Elizabeth Loftus demonstrated this really nicely using the scenario of a car crash and assessing people's memories of this. she found that memories were altered based on the wording of the passage describing the crash which is really fascinating!

The implications of this research is a bit scary though because it shows that things like Eyewitness accounts aren't as indicative of events as previously thought but yet juries still hold them as almost as important as DNA evidence!!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

All Butter Shortbread and a Rather Long Hiatus

So first off, I'm going to apologise for the lack of posts in a while, I'm very sorry about that :( Unfortunately I was in hospital being poked and prodded by Doctors. On a foody hospital note, I don't understand why people complain about it so much, the food is perfectly edible and can actually be quite nice if you choose wisely. Yes, there are more unhealthy options like battered fish and chips and suchlike but there are also loads of healthier options :) Although maybe I'm wrong and Ireland just happens to have good hospital food, what do you guys think? Anyway, enough hospital talk, I'm out and I have a recipe ready to go!

This shortbread recipe is one I inherited from my nana and have used for years. It has been adapted many times to make different flavours and has yet to fail me. It produces a lovely cookie, crunchy but not too crisp when you bite into it and then crumbly and melt in your mouth with a heavenly buttery aroma and a slight sweetness (I'm drooling slightly). There's no vanilla or any other essence added so the buttery flavour shines right through. My mum loves this shortbread so I bake it quite a lot when I'm at home (which isn't really that often unfortunately).

Makes around 30 cookies
  • 220g butter (room temperature)
  • 100g caster/ superfine sugar (granulated will work but the others are preferable)
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1-3 tbsp milk (more if necessary)
Preheat oven to 170 C
Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
Add flour and mix until the dough has the consistency of breadcrumbs (I always use my hands for this)
Add milk 1tbsp at a time until dough comes together into a ball
Roll dough out to 2-3mm and cut out cookies
Bake for 15 mins, until golden at the edges
Cool on a wire rack

Feel free to add essences and stuff and let me know how they turn out :) x

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is there anything nature can't do?

Being a Psychology student I've been exposed to a lot of research in Social Psychology and this research is highly relevant to everyday life (as you might expect considering it's the study of people and processes). One theory we've learned about is Attention Restoration Theory which proposes that when we are doing an activity which required our direct attention (like studying) we often take study breaks the wrong way; we go on Facebook or text friends. However, A.R.T. suggests we should instead do something like walking in a park or just looking out th window onto a natural scene.

This method of recharging our attention span has been found to be highly effective in both the general population and those diagnosed with ADHD which is a fascinating result!

See Kaplan's (1995) article for more detail :) The Restorative Benefits of Nature

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

I took a break from studying to go and watch a game of Twilight Imperium which, for those who don't know, is a very nerdy space wars game involving the taking over of planets, making peace accords and having space battles :D :D :D! I normally do play but I had waaaaaay too many readings to do for college :(

I decided I'd make something for the game and Ethan requested these muffins. Unfortunately, I've just moved apartments and while the new place is bigger, quieter and much better for studying the oven has NO markings whatsoever!!! So I made the batter and hightailed it over to a friends apartment only to find the same situation! It was a nightmare but I decided to go for it. They were a little overdone but I'm blaming the fact that the oven was probably a tad too high, they should turn out much better for you :)

Apple & Cinnamon Muffins
Makes 12
  • 240g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 60g butter (melted)
  • 110g white sugar
  • 2 medium apples (I used Jonagold)
  • 11/2tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 110mls milk
Preheat oven to 200 C and grease/line a muffin pan
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl
In a separate bowl mix eggs, milk, and melted butter well
Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry mixing just enough to combine
Peel and grate the apples and fold gently into the batter mixture
Add 1.5 tbsp of batter to each hole in the muffin tray, dividing any remaining batter evenly between them
Bake for 20-25 mins
Cool in the tin for 5 mins then cool completely on a wire rack

Enjoy :D x