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Kitchen Index Irish Kitchen Library

Christmas Desserts One

Baked Apples
Contributed by Hartson Dowd

One of the most popular desserts in Ireland, here are two recipes from our farmhouse recipe collection - and a third from my grandmother's files.

Classic Baked Apples
Butter or margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Chopped nuts
1/4 cup water

Core apple. Butter skin. Combine sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a bowl. Roll buttered apple in spiced sugar mixture. Place in oven-proof serving bowl. Fill hollow with raisins and chopped nuts. Add water. Bake at 325 degrees until skin has opened, about 45 to 60 minutes. Serve hot.

Farmhouse Baked Apples
A delicious fall or winter treat and perfect as an easy, low-fat dessert.

1/2 cup dried dates (raisins may be substituted)
6 Rome apples
1 lemon cut in half
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup apple cider

1.Rinse the dates and soften in boiling hot water for one hour, changing the water twice. Drain, and remove the pits with a paring knife. Cut into rings.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. Cut a slice 1/2-inch thick off the top of each apple and set aside. Trim the bottom of each apple so that it will sit upright.
4. Core and seed the apples.
5. Squeeze a little lemon juice inside each apple. Arrange the apples in a baking dish.
6. Mix the honey, cinnamon and sliced dates. Spoon some of the mixture into each apple. Cover the apple with the sliced-off top.
7. Pour the apple cider in the baking dish around the apples.
8. Cover the top of the baking dish with aluminum foil, sealing the edges. Place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake the apples 50 to 60 minutes, or until very tender when pierced with a knife. Uncover and serve warm.

Old-fashioned Baked Apples with Mincemeat
You can alter the filling to suit the season. Nowadays roast or baked apples are often stuffed with various mixtures, which may include dried fruit, lemon rind, nuts or spices. While this is nice occasionally, my favorite is the following recipe from my grandmother's collection.

4 Crimson Bramley apples (McIntosh or Red Delicious are good substitutes)
1/2 cup prepared mincemeat*
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup apple cider

Preheat the oven to 375 F
1. Core the apples
2. Peel one-quarter inch of apple skin from the upper half of each apple to prevent splitting
3. Place each apple upright in an 8-inch baking dish
4. Fill the apple cavities with mincemeat and dot with butter
5. Pour the apple cider around the apples and bake, basting with the pan juices several times during the cooking, until the apples are tender - about 30 to 40 minutes.

Note: Check out our recipe for Traditional Mincemeat.

Images: Apples - All Posters

Contributed by Hartson Dowd

Christmas is the most important holiday in the Irish calendar. Everything seems to come to a halt for most of December, with celebrations that range from parties and fancy dress balls to races and reveling on St. Stephen's Day. The centerpiece at every event is the spicy fruitcake known as ca'ca Nollaig.

NOTE: This cake is made several weeks (early in November) before serving. The marzipan is added the day before the cake is frosted and served.

1 cup butter
1 cup diced fruit
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon nuts
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup brown sugar
1 bottle of Irish whiskey
1 cup of sugar

Sample whiskey to check for quality. Set out a large bowl.Check the whiskey again to be sure it is of the highest Irish quality. Pour one level cupful and drink. Repeat. Turn on electric mixer, beat 1 cupful of butter in a large fluffy bowl, add one spoon tea of sugar and beat again. Make sure the whiskey is still O.K. Turn off the mixer. Break two legs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fruit gets stuck in the beaters, pry loose with a drewscriver. Next, sift 2 cups of salt-or something. Check the whiskey. Now sift the lemon juice and strain the nuts. Turn the cake pan to 350 degrees. Don't forget to burn off the turner. Throw the bowl out the window. Check the whiskey once again and then go to bed.

Note: This silly seasonal story has been making the rounds for many years.
Here's another amusing seasonal offering: Miss Fogarty's Christmas Cake within our article An Irish Christmas Then and Now.
Enough of the silly stuff; if you're interested, here's an authentic recipe - Homeland Christmas Cake which was also contributed by Hartson.

Brandied Pumpkin Pie
Contributed by Hartson Dowd

Shrinking days, golden leaves and a brisk chill in the air are sure signs that our Canadian Thanksgiving is but a few days away. In this rich agricultural region of southwest British Columbia there's abundant reason to be thankful. Wander through a farmers market, stop at a farm-gate stand, or carefully survey a produce market spilling on the street - there's ample evidence of the harvest that merits celebration.

Holiday meals anchor the culinary calendar, providing the base of comforting, familiar experience from which we set off in exploration at other times of the year. When it comes to Thanksgiving, what would be more traditional than pumpkin pie for dessert? Here is a recipe we brought back from a trip to Ireland, time-tested, and as good as they come.

At this time of year, mid-October, we also enjoy the bounty of the cranberry harvest in our district, so I will also share a new version of an old favorite: sauce made with the new white cranberry juice that's being widely touted.

Relax, enjoy, give thanks.

Brandied Pumpkin Pie
This pie does stray a little from what Grandma might have made, because it includes a little brandy. If you prefer not to have the alcohol, simply increase the amount of evaporated milk by 1/2 cup.

Pastry for 9-inch single crust pie
1 can pumpkin (19 fluid ounces)
1-1/4 cups evaporated milk
3 large eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup brandy
Whipped cream for garnish

1. Line pie plate with pastry. Trim pastry edge leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fold overhang under; pinch to form a high fluted edge.
2. In large bowl with a pouring spout, beat together pumpkin, milk, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and nutmeg with mixer at low speed. Beat until well mixed. Stir in the brandy.
3. Place pie plate on bottom oven rack; pour pumpkin mixture into the pie shell. Bake at 400 F for 35 minutes.
4. Cover pastry edges with foil if the pastry browns too quickly.
Reduce heat to 325 F (160 C) and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Cool pie completely on wire rack. Refrigerate.
Before serving, garnish with whipped cream. Makes 8 servings.

White and Red Cranberry Sauce
We couldn't get our hands on any fresh white cranberries {they all seem destined for the bottle}, so we used Ocean Spray's new white cranberry beverage now available at supermarkets.

1 cup white cranberry cocktail
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 cups fresh cranberries

In medium saucepan, combine cranberry cocktail, sugar and orange zest. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and return to a boil, Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes or until the berries pop.
Makes about 2-1/2 cups
Tip: A 340g bag of fresh cranberries yields about 3 cups

Image: Thanksgiving - All Posters

Traditional Mincemeat
Contributed by Hartson Dowd

If you enjoy Mince Pie during the holidays, October is when you should be making your mincemeat filling and storing it away in a cool, dry place for the flavors to mellow.

Mince pies are indelibly associated with Christmas. Indeed, until the mid-17th Century, they were known exclusively as Christmas Pies; they were usually rectangular, to represent the cradle of Jesus, and the dried fruits and spices were supposed to symbolize the Gifts of the Magi. The Christmas Pie of Little Jack Horner was a mince pie, though in his case it contained something more than meat and fruit. Sir John Horner was responsible for the delivery of a Christmas Pie to Henry VIII; and the plum he pulled out was the deed to a piece of confiscated church property - one of several hidden beneath the crust.

Under Puritan rule, Christmas Pies were briefly outlawed as emblems of Popery, but they resurfaced shortly afterward in less controversial guise, as Mince or Shrid (Shred) Pies. Under any name, they represent a very old tradition - the practice of preserving meat by combining it with dried fruits, spices, sugars, and alcohol dates back at least as far as medieval times, in Ireland.

Today, alas, mincemeat has lost something in translation - too often it is neither minced nor meat - but in my Grandmother's time it was still faithful to its roots.

Mincemeat Filling
3 pounds shin of beef
1 pound suet, finely grated
1/2 pound currants
1/4 pound raisins
1/4 pound sultanas
1/2 cup candied orange peel, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup candied citron, coarsely chopped
1 pound tart apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
Juice and coarsely chopped zest of 1 lemon
Juice and coarsely chopped zest of 1 Seville type orange
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon mace
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cider
1/2 cup brandy
1/2 cup red wine

1. Put the beef in a pot with water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, 2 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to fall off the bone.
2. Take the meat out of the pot (you may want to season and save the stock, as we do, for future use). When it is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the bones, fat and gristle. You should have about 1 pound of meat.
3. Shred or coarsely chop the meat, and mix it thoroughly with all the other ingredients. Put the mincemeat in a sealed container and set it to ripen in a cool dark place. It will be ready for use after about 2 weeks; or it can be refrigerated for several months (ours has been aging for about a year now, and it gets a little more interesting every day).
Makes about 3 quarts.

For Pies:
2 recipes (1 pound) Short Pastry
1/2 recipe (1/2 pound) Puff Paste
1 quart Mincemeat (see below)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

On a lightly floured board, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the short pastry until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Cut the sheet of pastry into 4 circles big enough to line 4 small pie dishes (the ones we use are 4 1/2 inches in diameter).

Fill the pies with mincemeat.
Re-flour the board and rolling pin, and roll out the puff paste until it is 1/8-inch thick. Cut 4 circles slightly larger than the pie dishes. Cut a small hole in the center of each, and place them on the pies. Crimp the edges together.

Bake 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Makes 4 small pies.
*Dust the pies with a little icing sugar before serving.
*Mince Pies will keep uncooked overnight in a cool place and, when cooked, they will keep for about a week.

For Gift-Giving:
Wash and dry jam jars or decorative glasses and pots, then pack the mincemeat in, pressing it down well with the handle of a wooden spoon. There should be no air bubbles visible through the glass. Cover the mincemeat, first with waxed paper rounds, wax side down, then pieces of polythene tied down with string and a ribbon if it is for a gift. Label and date the jars.

This filling may be used in tarts, breads, turnovers and my Grandmother's Mincemeat-Custard Pies - a recipe I'll share with you before the holidays.

Image: Holiday Pies from Barewalls.

Baileys Chocolate Trifle

Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Pudding Mix (the type you have to cook; try to find the bittersweet dark chocolate if you can)
1 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 to 2 cans whipped cream
Slivered almonds and bittersweet chocolate swirls for garnish.

Either bake or buy a two-layer chocolate cake. If you can get dark or bittersweet, all the better.
Break up the cake into bite size pieces and place one layer in the bottom of a glass trifle dish.
Make the pudding and chill until firm.
Spoon half the pudding onto the cake. Pour 1/2 cup of Baileys onto the pudding.
Squirt on whipped cream to cover and sprinkle with almonds and chocolate swirls. Repeat.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Homeland Irish Christmas Cake

The following recipe is another wonderful contribution from the O'Doud's who are fast becoming our resident Irish Chefs!

One tradition in our home is to follow a recipe found in my Grandmother's Recipe file. She called it "My Mother's Homeland Christmas Cake" - we renamed it "Our Irish Traditional Christmas Cake." We make this every year. We usually make the cake in early November, but this year has been more hectic than usual and so we are assembling it today.
My job this morning was to chop 1 pound of citron, with 1 pound of candied orange and lemon peels, then add 1 pound of chopped dates and 1 pound of chopped Maraschino cherries. Then I added 3-3/4 cups of raisins and 2-3/4 cups of currants, followed by 1 pound of nuts - a combination of Almond and Pecans, coarsely chopped. Once all the chopping was done and the mixture blended together, I poured on 1 cup of Brandy to let the fruits marinate while Helen prepares the rest of the ingredients. I always set aside a few of the cherries and some of the nut halves to use for decoration.

1 pound softened butter
1 pound brown sugar
15 egg yolks, beaten until thick
4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon of each - Cinnamon; Cloves; Allspice; Nutmeg.
1-1/2 teaspoon of Mace
15 egg whites beaten until stiff.

1. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add the beaten egg yolks gradually, beating constantly.
3. Reserve 1 cup of flour and sift the remaining 3 cups with the spices; then add the sifted ingredients gradually to the butter mixture; beating well after each addition.
4. Fold in the egg whites carefully.
5. Take the reserved cup of flour and sprinkle over the chopped fruits and nut mixture and mix well. Then fold the fruits into the batter.
6. Oil and line a 12-inch spring form pan with waxed paper.
7. Place batter in the pan. Bake in a 300 degree F. oven for 2-1/2 hours. (We always place pans of hot water in the bottom of the oven while cooking this cake.) 8. Cool the cake and wrap in cheesecloth and store until ready to use. Every 3 weeks, re-dip the cheesecloth wrapper in brandy.
Note: This recipe makes 1 cake. We always make 4 cakes - one of which we decorate. Before decorating, glaze the top and sides of the cake with apricot jam, thinned with a little water. This will help the marzipan to adhere to the cake sides.

Almond Paste:
Shape 2 cans of Almond Paste into a ball. Place on a lightly sugared board and roll into a rectangle 1/8-inch thick. The width of the rectangle should match the height and sides of the cake, while the length should match the circumference. Circle the cake with the almond paste and trim the edges to fit perfectly. Roll up the remaining paste into a ball and flatten into a circle the size of the top of the cake. Place the circle on the cake and trim. Let the almond paste dry overnight. Ice the cake the next day with Royal Icing.

Royal Icing:
1. Beat 2 egg whites with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice until they are the consistency of cream. Beat in 1 pound of confectioners' sugar a little at a time. Continue beating, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the icing is smooth and shiny, it will also be very stiff.
2. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth if the icing is not to be used immediately. Cover the almond paste with a thin layer of icing. Dip the knife in hot water if the icing is difficult to spread. 3. To decorate the cake, form peaks on the sides and edges of the top of the cake with the remaining icing using the tip of the knife.

Of course there will always be Christmas Pudding. Click for a complete article on centuries old Christmas pud.

For more Christmas Desserts, click Christmas Desserts Two.


Sat, Nov 21, 2015

"...the freshest of food and
the oldest of drink"
- Irish Proverb

The New Irish Table
by Margaret Johnson

Margaret Johnson’s love of Ireland permeates page after glorious page of mouthwatering Irish dishes, from Smoked Salmon Chowder to Raspberry Buttermilk Tarts. Lavish color photographs of the food, the landscapes, and the people are woven through the text, making The New Irish Table the next best thing to sitting down to dinner in Ireland itself.
Click here for New Irish Table.


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