Oktoberfest in Germany begins Saturday, September 22, 2012, and ends Sunday, October 7, 2012...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Barmbrack Bread ~~ a traditional Irish Halloween treat

Barmbrack is the center of an Irish “All-Hallows-Eve” custom, and traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread as a sort of fortune-telling game.  In the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a thimble, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring.  If you want to add these items to your bread, you could bundle them in a piece of parchment paper and hide it in the loaf, or include them helter-skelter ~~ I am just in it for the delicious bread and do not add the trinkets.    Anyway, here is some more lore ~~ The word “barm“ comes from an old English word beorma, which means yeasted fermented liquor.   This was used to raise the cake or bread and is now replaced by yeast.  “Brack” comes from the Irish word brac, meaning speckled – which is exactly what this bread is, with dried fruit. 

This recipe is inspired by my favorite Irish teacher/chef, Darina Allen, and is included in her “Irish Traditional Cooking” cookbook.   I tweaked the recipe a bit.  The following is my adaptation.


3 ½ cups bread flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup super fine granulated sugar plus 1 extra teaspoon for the yeast sponge
1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast
3 Tablespoons softened butter
1 cup tepid milk (divided)
1 egg – whisked
¾  cup dried currants
½ cup dried cherries

To glaze:
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water or milk


First, add ½ cup of milk to a 1 cup container.   Set in microwave for 15 seconds.   Then add 1 teaspoon sugar to the warmed milk and stir.   Test the temp – if it is just tepid (or lukewarm) sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir with a plastic spoon.  Set the container in a warm place to rest for about 10 minutes.   I usually use the interior of my microwave oven as the temperature remains constant.

Then, to the bowl of a food processor add the flour, the spices, ½ cup sugar and salt.   Run on low for a few seconds to evenly distribute the spices and aerate the flour.

Now, top the flour mixture with the other ½ cup of milk, softened butter, whisked egg, and the yeast mixture.   Run on low until a dough ball forms – about a minute.

Then, to a lightly floured work surface place the dough ball and spread it out, then top it with the dried fruit.  

Now, knead the dried fruit into the dough.   When the fruit is evenly distributed, shape dough into a ball.

Place the dough ball into an oiled bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap.

Place the covered bowl in a warm place to rest and rise.   I use the interior of my microwave oven for this.   

When the dough has doubled in size (usually takes an hour or so) punch it down. Then, knead well for two or three minutes, and divide it into two equal portions.  

Place each portion into a greased or lined 7-inch loaf pan.  If you have lined the loaf pans, as I do, fold the flaps over the top of the dough and then roll over it with a small roller.   This will help give the dough portions a nice shape for the loaf pan and the dough will raise evenly.   Allow the dough to raise again in the pans – for about an hour.

About 15 minutes before you are set to bake, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Place loaves in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden and fully cooked.

As soon as you remove the loaves, dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in 2 tablespoons of warm milk and brush this mixture over the loaves to glaze them.   Put them back into the oven for about 2 minutes.  

Then, remove and place the loaves on a wire rack to cool.   In about 5 minutes remove the bread from the pans and continue to cool them on the wire rack.

When cool, serve thick cut slices with butter.

Enjoy !!

If you receive any of the following trinkets in your slice of Barmbrack it will mean this for you…..
Pea = you will know poverty
Ring =  you shall marry
Stick =  your marriage will be unhappy  (your husband will beat you)
Thimble = you will be a spinster
Cloth = bad luck or poverty
Coin = you will have wealth
Hey, I didn't write the trinket rules :)
 Link for the cookbook:   Irish Traditional Cooking

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rosemary and Olive Oil Rye Crackers

By Kerrie
I love Rosemary and Olive Oil crackers, and I have been playing around with different ingredient combinations all week trying to achieve the taste and texture I crave.   Anyway, I think I finally have it.   If you love the pungent aroma of Rosemary and Olive Oil, and desire their taste mingled with flecks of sea salt, give this recipe a try and let me know your thoughts….


1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½  teaspoon baking powder
½  teaspoon salt – fine grain
½  teaspoon garlic powder
¼  teaspoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon dried Rosemary
1  Tablespoon fresh minced Rosemary
1/3  cup extra virgin olive oil
2  egg whites
¼ cup cold water
A pinch of coarse ground sea salt to sprinkle over the top


First,  rinse and then mince 1 Tablespoon of Rosemary leaves.   Set aside.

Then, to the bowl of a food processor add the flours and baking powder.   Run on low for a few seconds to mix and aerate the flour and combine the baking powder.  

Now, add the fresh and dried rosemary, garlic powder, salt and pepper.   Run on low for a few seconds to combine.  

Next, separate the eggs and top the flour mixture in the food processor with the whites only and the olive oil.   Run on low until the mixture looks like sand.

Now, through the chute add the water in small increments until the texture looks moist and well combined.

Dump the contents of the food processor over some plastic wrap and bring the ends together.   Press the dough into a disc and refrigerate for an hour or more.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Then, lightly flour a piece of parchment paper cut about the size of a 14 x 16 inch baking sheet and place the chilled disc of dough on it.    

Then sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and place another cutting of parchment paper over it.  

Now, using a rolling pin, roll over the parchment paper covered dough slowly.  With each pass of the rolling pin the dough will get flatter.  When the dough is “cracker thin” use a pizza cutter to cut vertical and horizontal lines – the size you cut the crackers will be the size you get.   These crackers will not spread.  Then, pierce the flattened and cut dough all over with the tines of a fork.

Then, sprinkle with coarse ground sea salt, and place the parchment paper over a 14 x 16 baking sheet.   By the way, cook up the ragged edges too.   They are your treat.

Place in the pre-heated oven for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until they are brown.   You may have to remove the outer edges first as they will get brown and crispy before the middle.   Just keep an eye on them.   After you remove the crispy edges, continue to bake until the center cuts are also brown and crispy.   If you do not allow the center to cook until they are crispy, the texture will not be as crackery. 

Cool on a wire rack until cool.

Enjoy with some hard dry cheese such as Irish Dubliner.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Peach & Praline Cakelets

I have a Pampered Chef cookbook that includes the most clever and delicious recipes.   The recipe I would like to share is easy and produces an elegant dessert, perfect for the pièce de résistance of your next dinner party.   I tweaked the recipe a bit.   Try my adaptation, and let me know what you think…

Note:    You will need 9 small prep bowls.  An alternative would be ramekins or maybe even large muffin tins.  The small prep bowls, however give a perfect presentation, so try to borrow some if you don’t own any.   Also, be sure to purchase firm peaches for this recipe.  Softer peaches will not only be difficult to slice but will make the cakes soggy.   And lastly, the best tool for slicing the peaches with perfect uniformity is a mandoline slicer. 


½ stick butter – melted
9 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1/3  cup coarsely chopped pecans – more or less
3 medium firm peaches
1 package yellow cake mix
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
¼ cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tablespoons canola oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Brush each prep bowl with butter from top to bottom (Butter will pool in bottoms). 

Then divide the chopped pecans evenly among the bowls.  Sprinkle a teaspoon of brown sugar over the top of the pecans.

Then, slice each peach in half and remove pits.  Slice each peach half with the mandoline and then slice each ring in half.   

Arrange peach slices in an overlapping pattern around insides of bowls. 

Place bowls on large sheet pan.   Set aside.

Then,  combine cake mix, cream cheese, eggs, water, oil and vanilla.  Beat on medium-high speed of an electric hand mixer for 2 to 3 minutes or until smooth.  Using a large cookie scoop, spoon batter evenly among the prepared prep bowls.  

Place in oven and bake 30 – 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean.

Remove sheet pan from oven and place the bowls on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.   Then, carefully invert cakes onto serving plates.   Serve warm.

 Enjoy !!

Inspiration for this recipe comes from a Pampered Chef Cookbook :   " Simply Sweet"
The Pampered Chef published recipe is “Praline-Peach Upside-Down Cakes”.
I tweaked the recipe with the addition of canola oil for moisture, and an additional egg.

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

Inspired by Bon Appétit “Tastes of the World” cookbook

Well, I finally cooked up something I have been wanting to try my hand at, and I have to say, the recipe was easy and the result was sublime.   If you like clams, fresh noodles, and a light wine sauce, this dish is for you.   You can use packaged noodles, or make them from scratch.   If you have time for the scratch recipe, I will show you how.   Anyway, give this recipe a go and let me know your thoughts…..

1 pound linguine, packaged or freshly cooked, see recipe: Fresh Egg Noodles 
2 Tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped fresh parsley (preferably Italian)
8 garlic cloves, pressed
4 six ounce cans chopped clams, drained, juices reserved   
2/3  cup heavy cream
1/3  cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste


Heat olive oil in a large cooking pan over medium-high heat.  Add chopped parsley and pressed garlic and sauté until garlic just begins to color, about 45 seconds.

Then, add the white wine and scrape the pan.  Next, add the reserved clam juices, heavy cream, garlic salt and white pepper.   Simmer until mixture is reduced to a thin sauce consistency, about 10 minutes. 

Now, add the chopped clams to the sauce and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Then, add the cooked linguine to the pot and toss until the sauce coats pasta thickly, about 5 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.   Serve with Parmesan if desired.

Link for the cookbooks:  
The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles
Bon Appetit Tastes of the World

Fresh Egg Noodles

This recipe is inspired by “The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles”.   

Fresh egg pasta is surprisingly easy to make, and is the best pasta for cream and butter-based sauces.  Tonight these silky noodles will be paired with a White Clam Sauce.  You could use them, however with any sauce you can dream of.

By the way, my method will employ the use of a food processor for mixing the dough, and pasta rollers.  If you do not have a hand crank or automatic roller you can roll the dough out by hand and then cut the dough into strips.


2 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, beaten


Pulse the flour in the work bowl of a food processor to evenly distribute and aerate.  

Now, in a small bowl, whisk the eggs until well mixed.

Then add the eggs, and process on low until the dough forms a rough ball, about 30 seconds. 

If the dough does not come together, add water ½ teaspoon at a time. If the dough sticks to the side of the bowl, add flour, 1 teaspoon at a time and process until the dough forms the desired rough ball.

Turn the dough ball and small bits out onto a dry work surface.  Press together, making a smooth ball. 

Press down to create a tight disk.   Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 15 minutes.

Now, cut about one-sixth of the dough from the ball and flatten into a small disk.  Re-cover the remaining dough.

Run the dough through the widest setting of a manual or automatic pasta machine.  Bring the ends of the dough toward the middle and press down to seal.  Now, repeat and run the dough through the machine again.  Repeat the process using a more narrow setting each time until you can see the outline of your hand through the dough.

Next, change the roller and run the dough through the cutter.    Hold a plate under the cutter to catch and drape the noodles.   Then, hang the noodles on a dryer rack, or whatever you have to hang the noodles to dry.

Repeat this process for each section of the dough.

When all of the noodles have been cut, add them to a sauce to cook immediately, or allow them to dry and add to boiling water later in the day.  If boiling, they should be done in 8 to 10 minutes.