Bread school at Firehouse Bakery, Heir Island, West Cork

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When I get a few days off from my own small bakery I still enjoy baking but prefer to do it with  the most amazing backdrops. West Cork has some of the most stunning views Ireland has to offer. When the weather cooperates nothing compares to baking bread on Heir Island.

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About a year ago I decided to put my name on a waiting list for the Firebakery’s Bread School . It is ran by Patrick Ryan and his partner Laura Moore.They also have a place in Delgany, Co Wicklow.  If you want more info on their fantastic business and passion for real bread baking here’s a link to their website.

http://www.thefirehouse.ie/about-the-bakery.html

I finally received a message last November to say that 2017 class dates had been released and would I like to book a date. Of course I jumped at this and decided that this would make a lovely birthday present for myself but convinced my husband that this would make a great gift from him. Naturally he loved the idea of not having to worry about what to get me in 4 months time. I am quite certain he was losing sleep worrying about my fast approaching birthday. He was fairly reluctant to join me as he has no interest in baking but decided it was a good opportunity to meet up with some work/ friend colleagues. We drove up the night before the class and met with his lovely business associate who showed us some of the area . He collected us at our Hotel and drove us to Lough Hyne where he went for a  swim around Castle island. It was about 9 degrees outside and it was about 2.5 km swim around the island. My husband and I were just wimpy spectators. What a cool man. After his swim he took us for a drink at Bushes Bar and a bite to eat at Jacob’s Bar both in Baltimore Island. The fish and chips were beautiful. No batter in sight just grilled with butter and seasoning. Pity I was feeling under the weather as I would have lingered longer but we also had an early start to catch the ferry to Heir Island for our full day of bread baking.

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We drove to Cunnamore Pier for the ferry to Heir Island. It would have been a beautiful scenic drive had I not fibbed to my husband and told him the ferry was half an hour earlier than it actually was, so it was like a scene from The Dukes of Hazard. Needless to say my plan backfired for getting me there in plenty of time in order to not becoming stressed by our habitual tardiness.

Once you arrive to the island you are driven up to the house which at different times of the year doubles as a sailing school. We were greeted by Laura and were then showed the wood burning clay oven by Patrick Ryan… head chef and baker of Firehouse Bakery. Many of the breads that will be made on the day are baked outside here in this oven.

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From there you start making  “the king of breads” sourdough loaf. Your sourdough starter has been made for you but everything else is made by you. Once you’ve made your sourdough it goes for it’s first proof and you begin on your next bread, a yeast bread. Each student chooses a different variation of a yeast bread so we made 7 different breads. I picked a courgette, cherry tomato, red onion and feta focaccia. My husband made a potato & rosemary flowerpot bread, which was baked in those inexpensive terracotta pots. I was fairly certain that his wouldn’t turn out as he struggled with a mess of wet dough trying to get his bread to come together. Much to my amazement his bread turned out beautifully baked. We then moved on to different Irish soda breads. I made a honey, walnut, blue cheese, soda. Some of the other varieties we turned out on the day included; thyme,mustard and cheese soda bread, apple and cider soda, Guinness,treacle,oats,walnuts soda and last but not least, traditional buttermilk soda.

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We took a short break and we then knocked back our sourdough loaves and shaped them to fit our proving baskets. We also gave them a second prove and then did the same to our yeast breads. We selected new recipes and everyone began making some desserts. This was the only let down for me. I felt this made the end of day feel quite rushed and it was a lot to take in, there was also not as much direction in this portion of the class. I would have preferred to discuss the bread making a bit more at this stage than try and squeeze in a dessert. I was probably just disgruntled because I ended up with making chocolate chip cookies, which I make almost every week. It was still great fun and they gave us the recipes for everything everyone made so I can’t complain too much. During the preparation of  the dessert section we also nipped outside to have our sourdoughs put in the oven. We all personalized our with individual scoring  on top of the loaf. I wasn’t very original as I just put my initial on mine.

Finally we sat down to eat our breads and a light lunch made by Laura. We were running a bit late so it was a bit rushed hence why I would have preferred the dessert section scrapped. We then divided up all the breads and headed for the ferry. We blew a tire on the way to the ferry which was terrible luck for them but weirdly added to the whole day.

This class has to be added to any baker’s bucket list as it is up there on mine and didn’t fail to surpass my expectations.

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Out of all the recipes we learned, the one I will be certain to recreate is  semi- sourdough baquette and the honey, walnut , blue cheese soda bread.

I’m still unconvinced if I will be making more sourdough as the commitment to maintain and feed the starter is one I just can not fathom in my current situation.  My husband is still a non-convert to baking but I think one baker in the family is enough for the moment. It has definitely converted him into buying more artisan bread for the family even if not made by us.

Viennoiserie

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I’ve only dabbled in viennoiserie since I started baking but it’s been on the top of my baking bucket list to conquer for the last year.Most people who ask would you bother making your own Croissants? I’m obviously a bit mad but I would never think anything is too much work if you want the real thing. I love a challenge and this is a baking challenge. I’m by no means an expert now after completing a 6 hour intensive course but I was super happy with the results and hope to carry on making and experimenting with this beautiful pastry.

It requires a minimum of two days to produce one croissant. The first stage is preparing the dough which then must rest for 18-20 hours in the fridge before you can even start laminating the dough.This is the scary part. Keeping the dough cold enough to fold in the butter will  rolling it out and creating more layers. There are loads of different methods of creating this but I learned a 3-4-4 method. It worked so I am not looking any further.

The most important tips I took from the class and feel are vital to successful croissants is to constantly flour your work top while rolling it out so that you can get even layer without tears. As you are rolling your dough it should always be moving forward and never stick to the surface. Also keep ice packs handy (or bags of frozen peas) to ice down your dough if it gets to warm and avoid touching it with your hands if at all possible. The heat from your hand will turn this dough into an oily brioche in seconds. All that said it was really enjoyable to make my own  pastry and  will be hopefully a a regular product at my markets and the coffee shops I supply. I’m keeping it small scale as it is labour intensive and sadly in Ireland there can be a lack of appreciation of artisan baked goods. Hopefully this will improve with the popularity of home baking. Don’t be afraid of making your own viennoiserie! Pick a cold day and give your self plenty of time. The dough can be be pre-made and frozen up to 6 weeks so you can have it ready for a special weekend treat. Just let in defrost in fridge overnight and the do your final roll and shape and prove for 1-2 hours  the morning you want your fresh baked goods and everyone will be  very impressed!

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Key Lime pie

 

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Once the warm weather hits I start wanting to make one of my all time favourite desserts, Key lime pie. This is an independence day classic that I love making. I love the citrus tang with the creaminess of the condensed milk. Best of all it requires few ingredients just a bit of advance planning to make sure it has chilled enough to set.

I found this recipe a few years ago on the internet:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/15880/key-lime-pie-vii/

I didn’t change very much from the original recipe  with the exception of adding more zest 2 TBSP and I use an 8 inch springform tin. Make sure you chill it overnight after baking so that it holds it shape when slicing up. Living in Ireland we also can’t buy graham crackers for the crust so I used digestive biscuit base.

Ingredients

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius
  2. Combine crushed digestive biscuits with melted butter.Press into bottom of springform tin. Chill for one hour.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, sour cream, lime juice, and lime rind. Mix well and pour into digestive biscuit crust.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie. DO NOT BROWN! Chill pie thoroughly before serving. Garnish with lime slices and whipped cream if desired.

Happy 4th of July!

 

 

Free From ……

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gluten& dairy free sugar cookies, gluten & vegan fairy cakes, gluten free chocolate cake

Regardless of your decision to restrict your dietary choices either due to lifestyle choices or health reasons as a baker I feel challenged  to try and recreate traditional recipes with substitute ingredients.The best compliment I could get is you’d never know this doesn’t have ……

I’ve been dabbling in gluten friendly/ vegan recipes for a few months for my market stall. I have regular customers who really appreciate the effort of including their dietary restrictions in my baking line-up. That’s why I’ve decided to research some more recipes to offer a larger tastier range of baked good for those customers.

The recipes I have stuck with  are ones that can be easily modified to substitute ingredients to suit your restriction.

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Gluten free fairy cakes  

There are loads of gluten free flours on the market and it can all be overwhelming deciding which one to use. I went with with a pre-mixed blend of Dovesfarm self-raising flour.

https://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/flour-and-ingredients/gluten-and-wheat-free-s-r-white-flour-x-1kg/

I would normally never buy self raising flour but I wanted to be sure of the raising agent/xanthan gum balance and found this to be most convenient. They actually have recipes on the back of the package . What better way to start? So that’s what I did. I made the chocolate chip fairy cake recipe on the back of the package. It might seem like cheating but whatever works….and it worked. They came out with a lovely texture. It is a very light tasting treat. The following time I took this same recipe and modified it by replacing the butter with non -dairy butter replacement (I used Stork brand ) and the eggs with flaxseed. Now you have a gluten free/dairy free/egg free fairy cake. Make sure you use good quality dark chocolate chips as they have generally have no dairy. Check the label to be sure. I am fortunate enough to be get my chocolate by ChocOneil for my vegan baking so I know what I am putting in my baking is the best!

http://www.choconeill.ie/index.html

https://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/recipes/free-from-chocolate-chip-fairy-cakes


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Vegan & Gluten Free Sugar Cookies. 

I love traditional sugar cookies. The roll out kind that you can cut out any shape to fit the occassion and decorate with royal icing to your hearts content! When I started the markets this was my first attempt at gluten free. These are so easy . I found the orginal recipe on http://www.marthastewart.com.

Once again I just replaced the butter with dairy free butter replacement (Stork) . These are so easy. Just keep in mind they take while for the dough to come together and leave it in the fridge at least an hour or better yet overnight before rolling out. Don’t make them too thin or use cutters that have too many small parts as they have a tendency of breaking with too much handling.

http://www.marthastewart.com/1046373/gluten-free-holiday-cookies-galore

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Gluten free chocolate cake

Once again I found this on the internet. Kitchen godess Nigella came up with this one.

https://www.nigella.com/recipes/chocolate-olive-oil-cake

It doesn’t require gluten free flour but instead ground almonds and instead of butter it includes olive oil. You could try and replace the eggs with an egg substitute . I tried the flax seed and it was way too dense and didn’t stay together very well. I went back to using eggs. You can’t be all things to all people.

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Vegan chocolate cake 

This recipe from Mary Berry is great. Just replace the eggs with flaxseed and once again I used stork instead of butter! Viola you have a vegan chocolate cake. Vegan cream is easily available in health food stores for the ganache topping. I made  this recently for an 18th birthday cake and it turned out lovely and moist. Only problem I had was that once the cake was larger than 10inches in started to crack in the middle. I don’t mean small cracks that can be hidden with icing but Grand Canyon size cracks that resulted in vegan brownies for the market and coffee shop. After my third attempt I worked out a solution- I popped the cake in the freezer and iced it super fast with raffia ribbon tied around the perimeter. You can see the raffia at bottom of the photo. It was made to look like decoration but believe me it was purely functional.

http://www.lakeland.co.uk/r80566/Mary-Berry’s-Very-Best-Chocolate-Cake

 

 

 

Hot Cross Buns

 

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This Easter I was on a mission to make Hot Cross Buns for the first time. Since taking a yeast bread course last year, I am much more comfortable with this type of project than I was last year. The problem was finding the right recipe. I always start off a new bake by spending endless hours reading of blog after blog of recipes hoping to finding the right one. I decided to play it safe and go with a classic Paul Hollywood recipe. It seemed to have all the right ingredients and he is a  master baker versus a cook who bakes.

 

Paul Hollywood Hot cross buns:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2066661/hot-cross-buns

I made his recipe three times making changes along the road and had mixed success. First time I followed it to the letter and found they browned too quickly and were under baked. The dough was extremely wet and hard to work into a smooth dough. Second attempt I cut out the fresh apple , added the dried fruit and spices at the start versus after first rise as recipe suggests ,cut back to only two proves, lowered the temperature to 180 C and also doubled the cinnamon and added mixed spice. After second bake I found spice and temperature changes were perfect but dough was dense. On my third attempt  I let the dough prove over night in the refrigerator after first rise and helped with the texture but I still would go back to a third prove. All the bakes came out extremely edible and made the kitchen smell like heaven but were they perfect? No ….

So I was back to the recipe search. I found this American recipe by the Pioneer woman that just worked like magic.

Sometimes on paper a recipe seems perfect and maybe I  over complicated it but the Paul Hollywood recipe just never worked for me and this one did first time lucky!

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/hot-cross-buns/

Happy Easter!

 

New Kitchen & New beginnings

 

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The New Kitchen is finally open and operational. We have moved in to a a lovely little space in the back of The Ant-teaque Coffee Shop, Main Street, Clane Co. Kildare. We have  a display cabinet in the coffee shop where you can select freshly made baked goods.Sit down and enjoy with a tea/coffee or as a desert after one of their amazing all day brunches.

 

 

 

You can also pop down to the back of the coffee shop and visit us between 9 -1 Monday-Friday and place special orders directly from San Pasqual Sweets and Pastries to take home and enjoy later.

We will be making patisserie classics such as seasonal tarts, madeleines,  macarons broiches, choux pastry filled with crème patisserie. If you fancy trying something unusual try our one of our Mexican Panaderia range such as Conchas (Mexican sweet bread), Orejas (simple puff pastry covered in cinnamon- sugar), Empandas (fruit filled turnovers). We also have American favourites; baked cheesecake,brownies.

Everything is freshly made at our in house bakery and we use the freshest of in-season ingredients when ever possible.

 

 

Dia de los Reyes

Dia de los Reyes, Three Kings day  or Epiphany is the finale to the Christmas season.  January 6th is a feast day for many European and Latin American cultures. My mother hung on to her Mexican culture heavily during  our childhood but strangely we did not celebrate Dia de Los Reyes. As far as I was concerned it was only another day to attend mass. She did explain the significance of it but that was the full extent of celebrating Kings day.

The main factor for embracing my Mexican roots of late is I miss my family terribly and now that I have 6 kids I want them to know who and where I came from. It has heavily influenced my baking in the last year or two. I want to re-create certain tastes and smells but also investigate ones I would of missed out on by growing up in an  immigrant family trying to integrate to their new environment.

“Rosca de Reyes” or Three Kings Bread is a ring shaped bread adorned with colourful candied fruit and sugary topping. Inside is hidden a plastic figurine of baby Jesus. The tradition is who ever finds the figurine in the bread becomes the guardian who will take care of them until February 2nd and then treat those who they shared the bread with to a traditional fiesta usually with tamales.

I first tried making the Rosca de Reyes over 10 years ago when I first started baking and although it looked great it taste rubbery due to my inexperience working with bread . This is my 3rd attempt and I am fairly pleased. I also feel I could do it better next time.

In my usual fashion I researched loads of traditional recipes until I found one that I really felt I could work with. It is a fusion of a couple of recipes (Fany Gerson’s from My Sweet Mexico http://www.mysweetmexico.com and Mexico in my Kitchen http://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com). Next time I would change a couple of things such as  not using bread flour and using plain flour. I felt the bread or strong flour caused a crack on top and I would add anise seeds to my dough for added flavour. I sprinkled a cinnamon-sugar topping which worked great. I went all out with the candied fruit. I found some beautiful South African ones in Fallon and Byrne http://www.fallonandbyrne.com (gourmet food hall in Dublin) which made it an expensive treat but it is a celebratory bread.

¡Feliz Dia de Los Reyes!