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Posts Tagged ‘Baking’

Top Banana Muffins

This has to be the ultimate banana muffin {or bread} recipe! Soft and delicious and easy to make…these are right up my alley…especially in times like these when the centre of my universe has been in chaos for months! Teenagers will do that to you. 

I also like this recipe because it appeals to my “waste not want not” belief. If you’ve got bananas with skins as black as midnight on your counter or in your fridge…give them a purpose and mix up a batch of these delicious muffins. You’ll be glad you did!

~XoK

Banana Muffins

Makes 18

Ingredients

4oz/ 1/2-cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the muffin tin

6oz/ 1-1/4 cup all purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling in the muffin tin

5 very ripe bananas

1 teaspoon bread soda {baking soda}

1/2 teaspoon salt

8oz/1 cup sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC/350°F.

2. Smear the cups of a muffin tin with oil, sprinkle with a little flour, and shake the muffin tin to distribute the flour. Turn the muffin tin upside down over the sink or waste bin and tap out any excess flour and set aside.

3. Peel the bananas, place them in a large bowl, and beat them well with an electric mixer. The riper the bananas and the more you mush them, the more tender your muffins will be. Don’t expect absolute smoothness; there will always be a few lumps. Set aside.

4. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

5. Add the sugar, oil, and eggs to the bananas and mix well.

6. Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture and stir just until the batter is thoroughly blended.

7. Pour the batter into the muffin tin and fill each cup about two-thirds full.

8. Place the muffin tin into the oven. After 15 minutes, check the muffins for doneness. A toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin should come out clean. If not, cook for 5 minutes more and check again.

9. When the muffins are done, remove the muffin tin from the oven and let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the muffins to release them from the muffin tin.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credit:

* Peeling into the health benefits of bananas over at the Mayo Clinic’s website.

** Did you know there are 500 different types of bananas? Me either! Check out this article on the different types of bananas from the University of California Berkeley Wellness newsletter.

*** One of my girls LOVES jokes…for her and for all of your jokesters out there…here are some silly banana jokes courtesy of funkidsjokes.com.

**** If you love blueberry muffins…these are going to be your new favourite “go to” recipe!

 

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S'mores Cake

 

Kids in the Kitchen…what’s your take on the matter?

My sweet girls have been handy-helpers in our kitchen since they were old enough to stand on a chair without wobbling off…stirring and mixing and measuring.

When they were in primary school (elementary school), I pushed them into the kitchen with their friends whenever we’d host a playdate. My reasoning was purely selfish: it was far easier than heading to the park in the rain and healthier than hanging out in some poorly lit, germ infested, indoor play centre.

Now in secondary school (middle/high school), my girls spend time in the kitchen…on their own, with me, and with friends…because they want to. It has become one of their go-to activities when they need a break from studying or when they’re feeling overwhelmed by school “drama”. They’ve even started to collect recipes and buy cookbooks.

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I never gave much thought to the time our kids have spent in the kitchen, until we were in California over Christmas break. While there, my older daughter and her cousin had great fun in the kitchen one evening making a S’Mores cake. It was really lovely watching them giggle, talk, sing, and take selfies as they measured and mixed and stirred. The time they spent together in the kitchen was relationship building/memory making…and you can’t put a price on that!

So…kids in the kitchen? I’m all for it…but what’s your take? Do you let your kids and their friends mix it up in your kitchen? If not, why not? If you do, feel free to share your fondest memories.

S’Mores Cake

Serves 12-14 

Ingredients

1 box white cake mix

1 container dark chocolate frosting

3/4 cup crushed graham crackers (Digestive Biscuits), plus a little extra for decorating

3 egg whites, room temperature

2 cups light corn syrup (Golden Syrup)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sifted powdered (icing) sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Make up white cake mix as per instructions for two layers.

2. Add 3/4 cup crushed graham crackers and stir.

3. Follow directions on box for baking. Allow to cool completely.***

4. To make the marshmallow fluff: beat the egg whites, corn syrup and salt on the High speed of an electric mixer for approximately 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and the volume has nearly doubled. Slow speed of mixer and add powdered sugar. When fully incorporated, add vanilla extract and beat again to mix well. Set aside until it’s time to assemble the cake

5. To assemble cake, place the first layer of white cake on a plate and cover with chocolate icing. Next, add a layer of marshmallow fluff. Sprinkle a thin layer of crushed graham crackers over the marshmallow fluff. Add the second layer of white cake. Using the chocolate icing, ice the sides of the entire cake. Do not ice the top of the cake with chocolate icing. Pour the remaining marshmallow fluff on top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Dust with crushed graham crackers.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* The girls’ version of this cake was made with a store bought cake mix and store bought icing. They had absolutely no interest in making anything from scratch! As both are readily available in Ireland these days, I didn’t even try to convert this recipe into a homemade version.
** In Ireland, corn syrup is sometimes available at places like Cavistons, Avoca Handweavers, or Fallon & Bryne.
***The girls put their cake into the freezer for about an hour to make it easier when spreading the chocolate icing.
****Saw this on Pinterest.

 

 

 

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I am always on the lookout for Master Recipes. And when I say,  “Master Recipes”, I do not mean “Fundamental Recipes”.

Fundamental Recipes are good building block recipes: think grilled cheese sambos (sandwiches), American-style pancakes, thick-n-hearty Irish soup. You learn to make them by following a series of step-by-step detailed instructions. And, then, once you’ve perfected the basic recipe, you create endless versions of the original recipe. Cookbooks and the internet are chock-full of these dishes.

Master Recipes, on the other hand, are rare and wonderful. Once you find one, you realise it stands out from all the rest. It is exemplar and you wouldn’t dream of changing a thing about it. A Master Recipe becomes a dish you cook for the rest of your life. And, if you are lucky, you hand a collection of Master Recipes down from one generation to the next. They are what Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, the founders of Food52, call “Genius Recipes”.

My whole life (and I have been cooking since the age of twelve!), I have been collecting Master Recipes. For me they are the recipes that tick the following boxes:

1) They are easy to make.

2) They taste great.

3) They look impressive and can be served to family, friends, and dinner party guests or taken to a special event.

4) Once tasted they almost always elicit a response like “Oh…my…that is delicious! Can I have the recipe?”

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A few weeks ago, I found and made my first chocolate cake Master Recipe. I think I may have danced a little jig across the kitchen after taking the first bite of this delicious cake.

The ingredients include pepper, whiskey and cloves…these really play up the chocolate flavour of this cake. It is incredibly decadent but, surprisingly, not heavy. I like that. And, oh is it moist! (That word cracks my kids up…”moist”.) So many homemade cakes are dry and need cream, ice cream, or icing to make them palatable…not so with this cake. Truly, a dusting of powdered sugar is all that is needed: though, if you really wanted to go all out, some Irish Whiskey caramel sauce might be nice or some sugared red berries.

In the weeks that have passed since I found this recipe, I have made the cake for family, friends, and even taken it to a board meeting. Everyone has loved it. So…get out your springform pan and your Magimix (food processor)…and get baking! I’m sure after trying it, you’ll add this recipe to your collection of Master Recipes too.

Chocolate Whiskey Cake

Serves Eight to Ten

Ingredients

174g/12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, more for pan

85 grams/about 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

12oz/1 ½ cups brewed strong coffee

4 oz/½ cup Irish whiskey

200 grams/about 1 cup granulated sugar

156 grams/about 1 cup light brown sugar

240 grams/about 2 cups all-purpose flour

8 grams/2 level teaspoons baking soda

3 grams/about 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

172g/1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Powdered sugar, for serving (optional)

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C/325°F. Butter a 10-inch spring form pan. Dust with 2 tablespoons cocoa powder.

2. In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm coffee, Irish Whiskey, 12 tablespoons butter and remaining cocoa powder, whiskey occasionally, until butter is melted. Whisk in sugars until dissolved. Remove from heat and cool completely.

3. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Slowly whisk egg mixture into chocolate mixture. Add dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in chocolate chips.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Transfer to oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, then remove sides of pan. Dust with powdered sugar before serving, if you like. 

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* The New York Times is my go-to place when I’m looking for really great recipes to try. Here is a list of 30 Fundamental recipes, courtesy of The New York Times, everyone should have in their recipe folder.

** I found today’s recipe (where else?) over at the New York Times. They got it from Marti Buckley Kilpatrick, who adapted it from Dol Miles, the pastry chef at Frank Stitt’s Bottega restaurant in Birmingham, Ala.

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In our Irish home there are three of us who love frittatas and quiches…and one who does not.

The one who “does not” is the one we’ve always called “littlest”…even though she is now as tall as myself!. She is also the one in our family who is known as the “pickiest”! So…as long as she doesn’t like frittatas and quiches…I don’t make them and we don’t eat them.

Tired of waiting for my baby girl to change her mind, I decided last week to take a new approach: instead of a frittata or quiche…I baked a savoury tart!

I found a recipe for Yotam Ottolenghi’s Tomato and Almond Tart this summer over at theguardian.com. It looked so yummy that I knew it would eventually appear on our Irish dinner table. I was just hoping we wouldn’t have to wait until “littlest” went to college and her tastebuds grew up.

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As it turned out…my sweet girl LOVED it! And, how could she not? The almond paste soaks up the juice of the tomato and creates the most luscious layer of rich, nutty sweetness…ohhh, so good! It’s the ideal savoury take on “the classic French fruit and frangipane tart”.

The best part, aside from the fact that I can now serve a frittata/quiche/tart-like main with a huge side salad for dinner, is this recipe is easy to make. Healthy, tasty, and easy-to-make (and looks good enough to serve at a dinner party)…this recipe ticks all the right boxes in our Irish home. Give it a try! I think even your “pickiest” child (or adult) will love it too.

Tomato & Almond Tart

Serves 8

Ingredients

140g unsalted butter*, at room temperature

2 large eggs (each 60g net weight), beaten

65g fresh breadcrumbs

80g ground almonds

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

15g picked thyme leaves

100g ricotta

20g parmesan, finely grated

Malden sea salt* and black pepper

320g puff pastry*

sunflower oil*, for greasing

1kg medium tomatoes, cut into 1cm-tick slices (about 10 tomatoes)

12 anchovies in oil, roughly torn (optional)

2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas mark 7.

2. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and aerated. With the machine running on medium speed, slowly incorporate the eggs. If the mix splits, add some breadcrumbs to bring it back together, then carry on adding the remaining eggs.

3. Stop the machine, and work in the breadcrumbs, almonds, and garlic just until everything is combined. Remove from the mixer and, using your hands, gently fold in half the thyme, the ricotta, parmesan and half a teaspoon of sea salt. Set aside.

4. Roll the pastry into two 20cm x 30cm rectangular sheets about 2mm thick. Grease two baking trays with a little sunflower oil and lay the pastry rectangles on top. Spread the almond mixture evenly over the pastries with a palette knife, leaving a 2cm boarder around the edge.

5. Lay the tomato slices on top of each sheet in three long rows, with a fair amount of overlap between the rows (tomatoes shrink a fair bit when exposed to heat).

6. Sprinkle over the anchovies, if using, and remaining thyme. Drizzle the tomatoes with half the olive oil and season with some sea salt and a generous grind of black pepper.

7. Bake the tarts for 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 and carry on cooking for another 10 minutes, until the base is nice and brown. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly, then dribble over the remaining olive oil and serve.

Additional Notes & Credits:

* This recipe appeared in The Guardian online on 10 August 2012.

** I used salted butter for this recipe, only one roll of puff pastry, and olive oil because that’s what was in my larder. This recipe still worked beautifully.

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We are smack in the middle of apple season in Ireland…

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And Halloween is just a few days away…

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In our Irish home that can mean only one thing…it’s Apple Cake time! 

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Oh yes…Ireland+Halloween+Apples = Apple Cake in our Irish home and today’s gorgeous recipe comes from the Allen family…Rachel+Darina+Myrtle Allen. This recipe has been in their family for generations and it is delicious to the very core! (Sorry…I could’t help myself!)

For a change, I deconstructed the Allen recipe and turned it into these adorable single-servings for our brekkie this morning. They would be absolutely lovely served, hot out of the oven, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream immediately following dinner.

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While I prepped and baked this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder how many Irish people remember that Ireland+Halloween+Apples have been closely linked for centuries. Probably not too many anymore.

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In my mother-and-father-in-law’s time, everyone knew: they hadn’t yet succumbed to the ways of other places. In our time, however, we have been snookered into looking at the world globally and taking on board the commercialism of our celebrations…this means Halloween-a-la-America in many places around the world.

But I digress…

A few years ago, while researching my second book, Irish love & Wedding Customs, I came across a collection of handwritten manuscripts from the last century at the U.C.D. Folklore Library. On the pages were story after story about how apples were used on Halloween in celebratory games and for marriage divination.

Weeks later, I came across a painting called Snap Apple Night. It was painted by Cork-born artist Daniel Maclise in 1832. It is said Maclise was inspired to create the painting after attending a Halloween barn party in Blarney, County Cork.

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Look closely at the painting…do you see the young couple sitting on the floor in front of the fire? The young man has his arm possessively around the dark-haired girl’s waist and just near her left hand is a bright green apple. To the right of the two love birds are a group of young men and women bobbing for apples. And, to the left of dead-centre, a man is trying to take a bite of an apple hanging from a string…he’s playing Snap Apple.

The people in the painting are “trick or treating” in an incredibly voluptuous way…a uniquely Irish way…a way we’ve lost sight of. (Sigh.) Can’t you just feel the tension of the lust and love and happiness between the people in Maclise’s painting? Fantastic…don’t you think?

Another Ireland+Halloween+Apples tradition from long ago, one not shown in Snap Apple Night, is a game of marriage divination whereby a person would peel an apple carefully in order to get one long piece of the skin. Then they would throw the skin over their shoulder and check to see what letter it formed on the ground. The letter was meant to signify the first initial of a future spouse.

I adore the old Irish ways and it is such fun to share the traditions and memories of long ago with my children. Much like the Allen girls handing down of a favourite family recipe, I hope that through my cooking and writing, I am handing down something from the past to the current and, one day, the future generations of our family. From our Irish home to you and yours wherever you call home…we wish you Oíche Shamhna Shona Daoibh (Happy Halloween)!

Irish Apple Cake

Serves 6

Ingredients

22g white flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

110g butter

125g caster sugar

1 (organic) egg, lightly beaten

about 50-125ml milk

1-2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped into bit sized pieces (Note: I suggest using 3-4 apples)

2-3 cloves, optional (Note: if serving in ramekins you will need 1 clove per ramekin)

egg wash

Directions

1. Preheat the oven t0 180C/350F.

2. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl.

3. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs.

4. Add 75g of the caster sugar.

5. Make a well in the centre and add the egg and enough milk to form a soft dough.

6. Divide dough in two. Put one half into an ovenproof plate and press it out with floured fingers to cover the base.

7.  Add the apples and the cloves.

8. Sprinkle over some or all over the remaining sugar, depending on the sweetness of the apples.

9. Roll out the remaining dough and put on top of the apples – easier said than done as this “pastry dough” is more like scone dough. (Note: my dough was too sticky to roll out so I just flattened it with my hands and then put it on top of the apples in the ramekins.)

10. Press the sides together, cut a slit through the lid, egg wash and bake for about 40 minutes or until cooked through and nicely browned on top.

11. Dredge with caster sugar and serve warm with Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream.

* From Living Library blog: “Lady Wilde, in her book Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms & Superstitions of Ireland wrote: “It is said by time-wise women and fairy doctors that the roots of the elder tree, and the roots of an apple tree that bears red apples, if boiled together and drunk fasting, will expel any evil living thing or spirit that may have taken up abode in the body of a man.”

* From The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids: “In a Medieval Irish story Connla the Fair, an Irish prince, fell in love with a beautiful Faerie woman, who arrived on the Irish shore in a crystal boat. She offered him an apple from the world of Faerie; he took the fatal bite, and was hers forever. They set sail for her magical island where the trees bore both fruit and blossom, and winter never came. There they ate an ever replenishing stock of apples, which kept them young forever. An Otherworldly apple tree magically makes music which can dispel ‘all want or woe or weariness of the soul’. In Irish lore, the God Óengus offered three miraculous apple trees from the magical woods, Bruig na Bóinde (New Grange), as a wedding gift for one of the Milesians. One was full in bloom, one shedding its blossoms, and one in fruit. The deliberate felling of an apple tree was punishable by death in ancient law).

* The old Irish tree list here and a brief history by Irish forester, Fergus Kelly, speaks directly to the history of old Irish trees, including the apple tree.

* The secret steamy history of Halloween apples over at NPR.og.

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A few weeks ago, my dad telephoned from America to ask if I had a favourite scone recipe I could share.

You see, where he lives, a scone is a plate-size, golden-fried roll served with honey-butter, syrup, or powdered sugar.

Tis true.

In his neck of the woods, a scone is like a beignet..a sopapilla…a doughnut even. In Ireland they’re nothing of the sort. An Irish scone is a light, moist, baked pastry that falls somewhere between a cake and a well-made muffin.

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The differences don’t stop there, however. Irish scones have far less butter and sugar in them. Though, with the salty Irish butter and the sweet raspberry jam we load them up with, this may be a moot point! Also, Irish scones rarely have fancy add-ins: Craisins, chocolate chips, crystallised ginger, for example, just don’t make the cut here. Currants or raisins are about as “crazy” as scones get in Ireland…and even then some people feel those muck up a perfectly plain scone. And finally, Irish scones are never fried or shaped into fussy triangles. What is it about triangle-shaped scones my fellow countrymen/countrywomen like?!

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But don’t start thinking there is only one way to make scones in Ireland! There are many, many different ways to make them. For example, in a basic Irish Master Recipe, some bakers will use vegetable oil, others prefer lard, but most use butter. When using butter, there is a debate as to which is better: chilled or room temperature. Milk is nearly always used in making scones, but there are people who swear buttermilk is the only way to go, and there are others still who use cream. And where flour is concerned there are at least three options to choose: self-raising flour (self-rising if you are Stateside); cream flour (All Purpose); and cake flour.

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Ok…I have digressed…let me circle back to the beginning…my dad asked me for a scone recipe. Today I am offering him the one below. It is my favourite recipe which makes up the loveliest mixed berry scones. This recipe calls for self-raising flour, milk and chilled butter…in case you’re wondering. It works well if you omit the berries (or substitute them with raisins/currants). And, I suppose, you could change them out for something else…cherries perhaps or lemon rosemary…but why bother? Real Irish scones are simply delicious.

Irish Mixed Berry Scones

Makes about 18-20

Ingredients

For the Scones

900g/2lb/7 1/4 cups self-rising flour

50g/2oz/1/3 cup caster sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

175g/6oz/12.5 tablespoons butter, chopped & chilled

3 room temperature eggs

450ml/15fl oz/2 cups milk

2 handfuls raspberries, 2 handfuls blueberries or 4 oz raisins or currants

For Glaze

1 egg white, whisked with a fork

2 teaspoons water

granulated sugar for sprinkling

Directions

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 230ºC/450ºF.

2. Mix the 1 egg white and 2 teaspoons water together to make an egg wash.

3. Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

4. Whisk the 3 eggs, add to the milk, and set aside.

5. Rub butter into the flour until it’s well incorporated and the mixture resembles bread crumbs.

6. Add the mixed berries (or raisins/currants) and mix lightly.

7. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add the milk and eggs. Mix quickly into a soft dough: do not over mix.

8. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead just enough to shape the dough into a circle about 2cm (1 inch) thick.

9. Using a scone cutter (a tall cookie cutter will do), stamp the dough into round scones. Place scones onto an ungreased baking sheet. Brush tops with the egg wash and sprinkle on some sugar.

10. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top.

11. Cool on a wire rack.

12. Gather up the remaining dough into another circle and stamp out more round scones until you’ve used up all the dough. Finish as directed above.

Additional Notes, Related Articles & Credits:

* http://bakerette.com/homemade-utah-scones

* Scones do not keep well for more than a day, but for best results place in an airtight container.

* Read Sarah Kate Gillingham’s article over at thekitchn.com about a trip she took to Ireland where she learned, first-hand, how to make Real Irish Scones.

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In our Irish home we believe there’s something magical about receiving a gift at Christmas that has been lovingly made by someone you know. Which is why we make edible handmade treats every year to give close friends, neighbours and teachers.

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These “Naughty & Nice” sweet treats are sure to make our friends smile this year (clearly the Irish Cream Liqueur is for adults only!). The granola recipe, originally posted here at In an Irish Home, was modified slightly: we added several handfuls of dried red cranberries to give it a real Christmassy-look. The Irish Cream Liqueur recipe, passed down by my father-in-law, Dan McGuire, is amazingly good and may be found at the end of this post.

And who doesn’t love an authentic Irish Shortbread Biscuit? With the addition of some gorgeous crystalised ginger, they’re perfect this time of year with a freshly brewed cup of tea. The recipe may be found here.

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Once tasted, I dare anyone to say they don’t love these Irish Mars Bars treats! Not only are they incredibly “moreish”, they are super easy to make. Even better, there’s no baking required. The recipe, posted at In an Irish Home, may be found here.

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Guinness Gingerbread is something we can’t get enough of in our Irish home. The ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg really smell like Christmas. Wrapped simply in some parchment paper and tied with a festive red bow, this is the perfect Irish edible gift.

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And finally, these Rocky Road Biscuits, which I first shared with you two years ago, are totally delicious and give off a real Christmas vibe if you grate in a bit of orange zest and top with a drizzle of melted white chocolate. They are an Irish childhood favourite and sure to be enjoyed by whomever you make them for.

Now, with less than a week to go before Christmas day, we wish you and your loved ones some very happy times in the kitchen ~ slan abhaile!

Dan McGuire’s Irish Cream Liqueur

Ingredients

14oz condensed milk

14oz evaporated milk

1 1/2 teaspoon coffee essence (or 1 teaspoon instant espresso)

1 teaspoon glycerine

6oz/3/4 cup Irish whiskey

Directions

1. Mix all the above ingredients in a large measuring cup and stir with a small whisk until well blended.

2. Put into clean, sterilised, glass jars, close and store in the fridge.

Related Articles:

Darina Allen’s delicious homemade edible gift ideas here.

Donal Skehan’s blog post on edible Christmas gives may be read here.

This Irish Times article on edible gifts from 2011 is still very useful.

An Edible Ireland blogpost on Chocolate Bark with Almonds & Candied Bacon was reviewed at I Can Has Cook? These are two great Irish food blogs!

Ireland’s Catherine Fulvio, of Ballyknocken House, offers this Almond Liqueur recipe and delicious brownie recipe to her readers this year.

Check out those free, downloadable, gifts tags here and here and here to use with your homemade edible gifts.

 

 

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