May 2011

Raspberry Blondies à la Stitch and Bear

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Prepartion Time
Total Time

This is the second of the two blondie recipes that I baked last Sunday. This is Stitch and Bear's recipe, this time with the raspberries replacing the chocolate and dried cranberries of the original.

The fresh raspberries were in this set of blondies. They had more flavour than the frozen ones (though that's probably partly due to the amount of time the frozen ones had spent in the freezer).

These were better eaten the day we baked them as they lost some of the crispness on the second day. However, the Beau's kids thought that these were the best of the two, as they had more of a brownie-like texture than the other version.

This recipe may give you a little déjà vu after the last one.

Butter (or margarine)
Brown Sugar
a pinch
Vanilla Essence
1 tsp
Raspberries (fresh weight)
Other Requirements

Large glass bowl, saucepan, spatula, mixer and a Swiss roll pan or other deep baking tray

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease your baking pan.

Measure out the butter into a glass bowl that is large enough to make the blondie batter in and place over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Leave the butter to melt.

While the butter is melting measure out the brown sugar into a bowl. Measure out the flour into a seperate bowl and leave to one side. Break the egg into yet another bowl and beat it, leave this to one side too.

The butter should now be completely melted. Take the it off the heat, add the brown sugar and whisk together.

Once well mixed, add the vanilla essence and beaten egg and whisk together thoroughly.

This time add all the flour at once and the pinch of salt. Mix together with the blender, slowly as first, so you don't get a big cloud of flour.

When the flour is all mixed in, pour the batter into the greased baking tray.

Make sure the mixture is evenly spread oven the pan and sprinkle with the fresh raspberries. Place in the oven and bake for 20 - 25 mins.

When cooked, a skewer should come out from the blondies with a small coating of crumbs. Leave them to cool for 5 minutes and then cut into squares.

Enjoy in the sunshine.

Raspberry Blondies à la Dinner du Jour

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Prepartion Time
Total Time

This is the first of the two blondie recipes that I baked last Sunday. This is Dinner du Jour's recipe only with raspberries instead of the pecans and chocolate chips of the original.

These came out slightly thicker than I had intended due to the baking tray snafu I mentioned and were made with frozen raspberries that I stirred into the mixture while they were still solid.

My mum has reported that these become nicely caramelly the next day, so they would be worth making in advance. But whether you eat them straight out of the pan or leisurely the next day, enjoy!

Butter (or margarine)
Brown Sugar
Baking Powder
1 tsp
¾ tsp
Bicarbonate of Soda
¼ tsp
Vanilla Essence
2 tsps
Raspberries (frozen weight)
Other Requirements

Large glass bowl, saucepan, spatula, mixer and a Swiss roll pan or other deep baking tray

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease your baking pan. I know I've mentioned this before, but I like to use old butter papers to grease things, they're so handy!

Measure out the butter into a glass bowl that is large enough to make the blondie batter in and place over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Leave the butter to melt.

While the butter is melting measure out the brown sugar into a bowl and leave to one side. Measure out the flour.

Add the baking powder, salt and bicarbonate of soda to the flour and leave to one side with the brown sugar.

By now the butter should be completely melted. Take the melted butter off the heat, add the brown sugar and whisk together.

Once the butter is thoroughly blended with the butter, add the vanilla essence and eggs and whisk again. If you're not a big fan of vanilla you could leave it out or cut it down to just 1 tsp. Personally, I loved the flavour it gave.

Again, whisk everything together until they are well mixed. Then add a small amount of flour to the mixture and blend. Repeat these steps until all the flour is mixed in.

Add the frozen raspberries and fold them into the blondie mixture.

Pour the mixture into your greased pan and put in the oven to bake.

They should take between 25 - 35 minutes to bake depending on the depth of the pan you have them in. If they look like they will get singed on top, cover with a sheet of tinfoil. They blondies are down when a skewer comes out with small crumbs on it.

Remove the blondies from the oven once done and allow to cool for 5 mins before cutting them into squares.

Eat them straight away!

Battle of the (Raspberry) Blondies

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

On Sunday just passed I was over at my parents' house, just hanging out, writing blog posts and watching Dollhouse on my laptop, when my mum mentioned that there was a punnet of fresh raspberries in the fridge that I could use.

So I started flicking through cookbooks, looking for something to do with the raspberries. Suddenly I remembered seeing a recipe, years ago, in a ladies' magazine for raspberry blondies, the pale sister of the brownie. These I decided would be the perfect use for the fresh raspberries. Now to find a recipe to work from.

This proved to be much more difficult, as nearly all the recipes I found had the measurements in American cups, which is not a scale that I am very familiar with, or if they were in metric then they contained huge amounts of white chocolate, which was not what I wanted at all. Then I had a brainwave; Kristin from Dinner du Jour is an American, but she also puts metric measurements into her recipes, surely at some point she must have made blondies? A quick search and... Success, she had!

Mentioning on Twitter that I had finally found a blondie recipe with metric measurements after lots of fruitless searches, Joanne of Stitch and Bear said that she also had a blondie recipe on her blog that had the metric measures.

Now I had 2 recipes to pick from and I am very indecisive. So since it was a bank holiday Sunday and I had nothing better to do I decided that I would make both versions of the blondie, both flavoured with raspberry, though one would have fresh and the other would have frozen.

So I whipped up a batch of the Dinner du Jour variety first, these contain 2 raising agents and made slightly more mixture than the Stitch and Bear version, which has no raising agent in it. This version also got the frozen raspberries stirred into it before it was put into the baking pan. With the Stitch and Bear blondies, rather than stir through the raspberries, I dropped them into the top of the mixture so that they wouldn't break up and just sink into the baking blondies.

Unfortunately I made my big mistake of the day while pouring the mixture into the baking pan. As I do not own 2 identical brownie type pans, I had decided that I would put the larger volume of mixture batch into the Swiss roll tin I would generally use for brownies and the smaller volume mixture into a deeper, more brownie like pan. This would hopefully result in blondies that were approximately the same density and size.

Guess what I did instead? I mixed up my mixtures. This resulted in really thick blondies from the Dinner du Jour recipe and quite thin ones from the Stitch and Bear one. Not quite the standardised sizing I'd planned initially.

Still it wasn't a total disaster as both sets of blondies have gained approval from nearly everyone. Here are some of the comments made by the various tasters, who so selflessly agreed to try both finished products.

"The fresh raspberries have a better flavour to the frozen."

"The thin blondies have more crunch than the thick ones and I prefer that."

"Too much vanilla in the thicker blondies and they could have more raspberries in them"

"They're both delicious in different ways."

The thinner blondies from Stitch and Bear came out slightly ahead, but I think that's because they ended up a bit crunchier from being thinner. I think I might just have to make them again and confirm the conclusions!

Cocktail Night in O'Briens

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Last Thursday night, I hurried up to the O'Briens store in the Beacon South Quarter Shopping Centre in Sandyford, to their cocktail masterclass. When I saw it listed on their newsletter about a month ago I knew that I had to attend and at €10 (which you then get knocked off any purchases), it was a bargain!

On arrival I was handed a seabreeze, already we were off to a great start! I was sitting in the front row along with 3 lovely people who made the evening even more enjoyable; Laura, Clare and Stephen. As I was on my own it was nice to be sitting with such good company with whom I could chat and share the experiences.

L - R: Stephen, Clare and Laura

After taking my seat and the introductions to my front row neighbours, things started to get under way. Our teachers for the evening were mixologists Rónán and Adam.

Adam and Rónán

First we heard from Rónán about the different types of cocktail; shaken, stirred, blended, muddled and built. Over the course of the evening we would see everything but a blended cocktail being made. He also went through what you need to make your own cocktails at home; a measure, a Boston can and glass and a Hawthorne strainer.

Rónán explains cocktails

Hawthorne strainer

Cocktail equipment including Boston glass & can, muddler and measure

Rónán went on to explain that ice is the most important ingredient in a cocktail as it keeps the drink chilled and melts into it, all of which is what makes cocktails taste nice. When a cocktail is shaken, that mixes the drink, chills it and starts the ice melting. Flavours in a cocktail should work together and not overpower each other.

Once we had our crash course in the theory behind making cocktails. Adam started to demonstrate to us how to make the cocktails we had received on a hand out sheet. First up was the Seabreeze that we had been greeted with. This is a built cocktail as the ingredients of vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice are layered on top of each and not mixed together.

Adam explaining Seabreezes

Finished Seabreeze

Adam then moved onto making a Cosmopolitan, the drink made famous by Sex and the City. This was the first shaken drink of the evening. Adam informed us that anything served in a martini glass such as a Cosmo or Martini, should be drunk carefully as it's essentially a double measure of alcohol with very little in the way of mixer added. Adam also showed us the traditional garnish for a Cosmopolitan; a flamed slice of orange peel, which adds extra aroma to the finished drink.

Adam pours the Cosmopolitan

Flaming the orange

While Adam was demonstrating the various cocktails, Rónán was making up large batches of them so that we could try each one. As we sampled the finished drink, Adam would get a member of the audience up to try their hand at making the cocktail he had just demoed.

Rónán shaking up some Cosmos

The next cocktail for demonstration was a Whiskey Sour. I was particularly interested in trying this cocktail as when I worked in a bar in college I thought they smelt lovely, but I've never had the courage to try one as I'm not a big whiskey drinker. Interestingly, Whiskey Sours predate the cocktail, being considered "cocktails" in retrospect. They also contain egg whites to produce a foam on the top of the drink.

Shaking up a Whiskey Sour

Finished Whiskey Sour

I can happily report that Whiskey Sours are a revolation! They are incredibly flavoursome without being too sweet. They're definitely going on my future ordering list in cocktail bars.

The next cocktail of the evening, a Gin Bramble, was my second favourite drink of the evening. Again it wasn't something that I had tried before but would certainly order in future. It was also relatively simple to make as it involves no shaking, only stirring. Again, this is quite a strong drink as it contains no mixer, only a dash of Creme de Mure and some lemon juice. For this reason it is served over crushed ice to dilute it slightly.

Adam using a Mexican Elbow to squeeze the lemon

Stirring up the Gin Bramble

Pouring the gin for our Bramble samples

The final two cocktails of the evening were rum based. First up was a classic Mojito, apparently made just the way it was in the Bodega Dominero, where Hemmingway used to knock them back in Cuba. This was made with a rum that had been aged for 3 years in a bourbon oak cask, so it had a pale yellow colour.

Muddling the Mojito

The final cocktail of the evening was a Cuba Libre. This was made with a 5 year aged rum. The colour on this was a lot darker than the 3 year old rum. Our interesting fact at this moment was: while spirits are ageing, they lose between 5 - 10% liquid per year in evaporation and this lost liquid is referred to as the Angels' Share.

Rum measured out for Cuba Libres.

If you're looking to learn more about cocktails I would highly recommend keeping an eye out for one of these classes from O'Briens in the future. I had a marvellous evening, met a lot of lovely people and went home with a bottle of gin for future experiments, not just g&t's.

I also learnt the importance of ice in cocktails, that you should always let the barman know if you didn't like a cocktail, and that you should never, ever shake a martini, no matter what James Bond says.

The line up of finished cocktails (the Whiskey Sour had already been pilfered!)

Food & Wine Magazine Show

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

Yet another better late than never post I'm afraid (don't worry I'm almost all up to date now). During the first batch of snow last year in December, the Beau and I ventured out to the RDS to visit the Food & Wine Magazine Show. We had been kindly provided with passes by Virginie of French Gourmet Food.

We did manage to catch a couple of the cooking demonstrations but what was the best part of the day for me, and what I'm going to write about now, was a chance to meet so many new food producers and learn about their products.

Due to the huge amounts of snow outside, it was relatively quiet inside when we arrived, this gave us a great chance to have a proper chat with the various producers we met. First up was our ticket benefactor, Virginie of French Gourmet Food. She was selling a wide range of delicious French produce, and being the foie gras fiends that we are, we bought a bloc du foie gras to take home and enjoy over Christmas. Unfortunately, I can't find any contact details for her company online anymore, though I did find this post saying they were relocating. I do hope they set up again soon as their selection of goods was fantastic.

My next stop was a chat with Iseult of The Cake Stand, and tried some of her amazing macaroons. If you're looking for tasty macaroons, she's your lady. I brought some home for my mum and she thought they were excellent too.

I then chatted with a lovely lady that I had met before at the Kilkenny Food Camp, Rebecca from Nutritious Nibbles. Rebecca makes the tastiest gluten free cookies that you will ever taste. Unfortunately for me, at the moment she only supplies to Kilkenny and surrounding areas. She was trying out a new recipe at the fair of orange and cranberry cookies; personally I could've eaten all the samples, so I hope she makes more of them next year!

It was more cookies next door and the Kooky Dough stand. You might remember seeing Sophie and Graham on Dragons' Den earlier this year. I love their ready to bake cookie dough as a special treat on days when I don't feel like baking myself, but still want something sweet. They literally take 15 mins from opening the packet of dough to taking them out of the oven and stuffing them in your mouth.

At this point the Beau had wandered off to investigate the beers available and I found him sampling the Dark Arts porter from the Trouble's Brewing stand. I'm fairly sure it was Stephen that we were chatting with. You can find their delicious beers in fine establishments such as L Mulligan Grocer and Against the Grain.

My final stop of the day for a bit of chit chat was with Mark (I think?) from the Donegal Rapeseed Oil Company. He told me all about the benefits of rapeseed oil and how it has a higher smoke point than olive oil. I bought a couple of bottles of this and I've been using it in my cooking ever since, especially for frying.

All in all we had a great time at the show chatting to people and getting to know about new Irish food companies. I would hope to get back to it again next year.