Cheesy Mushroom Potato Bites

Irish cheddar and mushroom potato bites are tasty little appetizers, that can even double up as a side dish. These versatile little morsels are perfect for parties, especially Irish themed celebrations.

Preparation can be completed ahead of time. The only step required at party time is to pop them in the oven until the cheese melts with ooey gooey goodness.

Three Potato Bites

This recipe is similar to ones for loaded baked potatoes, but rather than using a big, old Idaho potato, these scrumptious little mouthfuls call for baby red potatoes.

Boil the spuds first, scoop out the flesh, mix in some extra deliciousness, reload the skins, sprinkle with cheese, bake and here ya go!

They really are simpler than they sound.

Ingredients for cheese and mushroom potato bite appetizers

Ingredients for Cheesy Mushroom Potato Bites:

 

  • 15 small read potatoes
  • 8 ounces of shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces of butter (halved)
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 8 ounces of chopped button mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • parsley to garnish

Steaming red potatoes

First step involves boiling up those potatoes. I like to steam mine. When they’re cooked I just turn off the ring and let them cool in the pot. If you boil them, once the spuds are fork tender, strain them, then leave them to cool so that you won’t burn your fingers when you scoop out the flesh.

Chopped mushroom and garlic for potato bites

Next chop up the mushrooms into fairly fine pieces. Then mince the garlic.  While the potatoes are cooling cook up the mushrooms.

Turn the oven on to 425 degrees F. to pre-heat at this point.

 

Sauteed chopped mushrooms with garlic and thyme

Melt half the butter in a skillet over medium heat.

Add the chopped mushrooms and garlic and cook in the butter for about 3 minutes.

Add the chopped fresh thyme leaves.

Potato shells with flesh scooped out for appetizer filling

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle cut each one in half. Now you want to be able to lay the potatoes on a flat surface so don’t cut them directly in the center where the potato is shortest.  Hold the spud so the pointier end is up and slice down through it. That way you’ll have a flatter surface on which to balance the potato shell.

Next scoop out the center of each potato half using a melon baller.  Put the scooped flesh into a mixing bowl. Now don’t scoop right down to the skin or your appetizers will fall apart. Leave enough flesh so the sides are well supported.

I line up the skins on a foil covered baking sheet, that I spray with a little oil.  Cheese will ooze everywhere when you cook these babies so the foil makes clean up a cinch.

Adding grated cheddar cheese to mashed potatoes

Mash all the potato flesh in the bowl, add the milk and the other half of the melted butter. 

Season with pepper and salt.  

Add about 2/3′s of the cheese, reserving the last third to sprinkle on top of the appetizers.

Mixing mushrooms and mashed potato for appetizer filling

Next add the cooked mushroom mixture and combine everything together.

Now you’re ready to reload those potato skins.

 

Halved cooked red potatoes with mashed potato and mushroom topping

I use my melon baller  once again, to refill the potato shells with this scrumptious mixture.

Topping potato bites with grated Irish cheddar cheese

Once they’re all loaded there’s one final step, and for me it’s the crucial step to ensure these little morsels are extra tasty.

Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top of each potato bite.

I like to use Kerrygold Dubliner cheese. It is a really sharp, white cheddar, but I love the extra tang it adds to these little bites.

Bake the appetizers in the pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

They’re ready when they cheese has melted and is turning a light golden brown.

If you prepare these appetizers ahead of time, and keep them refrigerated prior to cooking, they’ll require the full 20 minutes, maybe longer, to heat through.

Garnishing potato bites for St. Patrick's Day party.

Once they’re cooked I like to stand them on some paper towels to absorb any excess grease.  Let them cool slightly before garnishing.

Party Appetizers - Cheese and Mushroom Potato Bites

Serve these potato bites warm as party finger food, or they also make a lovely side for chops and steaks.

I hope you like these potato appetizes as much as I do.  They’re hard to photograph well. I don’t think these shots do them justice.

Trust me the hint of thyme with the mushrooms and creamy potato filling is simply scrummy.

Wishing you all perfect parties, with plenty easy finger foods, that can be prepared ahead of time.

Here’s the printable recipe:

 

Cheesy Mushroom Potato Bites

Serves 15
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 50 minutes
Meal type Appetizer
Occasion Casual Party
Region Irish
Cheddar and mushroom potato bites are tasty little appetizers, that can even double up as a side dish. These versatile little morsels are perfect for parties, especially Irish themed celebrations.

Ingredients

  • 15 Small red potatoes
  • 8oz shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 4oz butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 8oz mushrooms (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • chopped fresh parsley (to garnish)

Directions

Step 1 Place the potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes for 20 minutes until tender.
Step 2 Drain the potato water and let the potatoes stand until cool enough to handle.
Step 3 Melt half the butter in a large skillet. Stir in the mushrooms and minced garlic. Sautée over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the chopped fresh thyme and turn off the heat.
Step 4 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Step 5 Cut each potato in half. Scoop out the center of each potato using a melon baller, collecting the potato in a bowl. Put the potato shells to the side.
Step 6 Melt the remaining butter in the microwave for 15 seconds. Add to the potatoes with the milk. Mash together. Season to taste. Add 2/3's of the cheese and all of the mushroom mixture. Combine well together.
Step 7 Place the potato skins on a foil lined baking sheet, sprayed with cooking oil. Spoon equal amounts of the filling into each shell. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheese on top of each potato.
Step 8 Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. The appetizers are ready when the cheese is melted and turning a light golden brown color.
Step 9 Cool the potato bites on paper towels. Garnish with parsley and serve warm.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

Beans On Toast – An Easy Lunchtime Staple For Irish Moms

Beans on toast featured regularly on my lunchtime menu as an Irish kid – a simple, nutritious meal I’m quite certain continues to be eaten regularly by many Irish and English children.

Beans on Toast

An American friend once asked me about Irish lunchtime menus. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the all-American, easy, lunchtime staple. No PB & J for me when I was growing up in Ireland. Even after spending over twenty years in the United States, I still don’t appreciate them.  I must confess I find it very hard to eat a peanut butter sandwich. The whole bread, jelly, and peanut butter combination is just too sticky for my Irish trained palate.

When posed with this Irish lunchtime inquiry I had to think for a minute before answering. What is the inexpensive, go-to lunch for Irish mothers? The answer I believe is beans on toast.

Now it’s not a menu item for school lunch boxes, but for midday meals served at home, beans on toast are just perfect.  In fact, beans on toast may be found on breakfast, lunch and dinner menus in many Irish or English homes, especially when budgets are tight.

Should I use a singular verb after beans on toast, or the plural form?  Beans on toast ‘is’ or should I type beans on toast “are”????  Not sure what the answer is, but I hope you’ll forgive any beany grammatical errors.

An Irish Lunch - Beans on Toast

Many Americans are probably saying “what’s the deal?”  For those whose palates are trained on spicy foods this meal may seem very bland. But let’s face it, we Irish think salt and pepper are spices, so beans on toast suit us perfectly.

And into the bargain they’re cheap and easy to store. A can of beans in the pantry and you’re set.

Furthermore, beans in red sauce are one of the most inexpensive forms of protein available to a busy mom, and preparation is a snap. (That “furthermore” is really making me sound like a bean aficionado.)

Here are my cooking instructions:

  • Heat some beans in a saucepan.
  • Toast a slice of bread.
  • Butter the toast if you wish.
  • Then pile the beans and sauce on top.

Some beans on toast connoisseurs forego the butter, but I find a slice of thick white toast spread with Kerrygold butter is a perfect bean base.  The salty butter adds a lovely complimentary flavor to the beans.

Fried Egg with Beans on Toast

To beef the beans up for dinner, a poached or fried egg can be served right on top. I suppose beefing them up is the wrong word when using an egg, but you know what I mean.

I hope you like how over cooked that fried egg is by American standards, but that’s how they turn out when fried Irish style. No sunny sides up or over easys for an Irish cook.

Another option is to top them off with a slice of grilled or fried tomato, and two slices of bacon or rashers as we say in Ireland. Yummy! Yummy! Yummy!

I knew someone who liked to spread Marmite on their toast, before topping it off with beans. Marmite is a dark brown, salty, savory spread made from yeast extract. Not for me, but everyone adds their own little touches to make their beans on toast special.

Finely diced onion can be caramelized in a pan before adding the beans for heating. A dash of Worcestershire sauce and mustard kick the flavor up a notch.  I suppose these steps bring the beans a little closer to American BBQ beans.

A slice of cheese, grilled to melting point on the toast, is delicious hidden beneath the beans. My mouth is now watering thinking about bland old beans on toast.

As children we loved to drink a cold glass of milk with our beans, but as I grew older I replaced the milk with a nice cup of hot tea with a little dash of milk. Again, most Americans are probably aghast at this menu combination. But the plain old fact is, I have Irish taste buds.

English Lunch - Beans on Toast

Here in America I buy vegetarian beans. No pork and beans in this house. I’m not fond of a piece of  pork rind floating in my beans as they heat. A can of vegetarian beans reminds me of Irish beans the most.  Luckily, my local supermarket stocks Heinz vegetarian beans.

The brand of choice when I was growing up in Ireland was Bachelor’s beans. Their advertising logo consisted of two little men singing to their hearts’ content:

“Bachelors! Bachelors!”

 

Anyone remember them?

 

I’d say there were, and probably still are, many Irish bachelors whose cooking repertoires consist of beans on toast; no more; no less.  The after affects of said beans may be one of the reasons for the aforementioned state of  bachelorhood.     :)

Wishing you all happy and easy lunchtimes.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

 

Summer Pudding

Summer pudding, packed with juicy fresh berries, is one of my all time favorite desserts of the summer. This pudding looks spectacular when plated, giving the impression it’s a pretty complicated recipe, but making this classically English dessert is so much easier than it looks.  It’s so easy in fact, I think it’s a perfect recipe for beginners.

Summer Pudding

The red and blue fruits of this pudding are perfectly highlighted by white serving cream, making this a perfect dessert for 4th of July celebrations.  So today I plan to make summer pudding converts of all my American readers.

When in Ireland I make this pudding using strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, and red currants. In a previous post I revealed my love of blackcurrants and my disappointment upon finding they are actually illegal to grow in some parts of America.   Once I discovered currants are not grown in all states, and therefore not readily available, I substituted blueberries for the red and black currants in my summer pudding recipe.

Aerial shot of an English summer pudding

And always remember, if you can’t get your hands on enough fresh fruit, this pudding is just as delicious when made using frozen fruit. If you don’t have a pudding bowl you can make it in a loaf tin – no need to be fussy. Individual ramekins look really attractive too.

Individual Serving of Summer Pudding

Individual Serving of Summer Pudding

This pudding looks very impressive, and can be made ahead, so it’s a really a great dinner party dessert.  I often imagine the gentry of Downton Abbey enjoying a little summer pudding in July.

And so here’s my recipe…..

Ingredients for Summer Pudding

Ingredients for Summer Pudding

Ingredients:

 

  • 16 oz fresh strawberries (2/3 of a container for the pudding and the remainder to garnish)
  • 6 oz fresh blackberries
  • 12 oz fresh raspberries
  • 4 oz fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 10 medium slices white bread (day old bread is best)

Adding raspberries to sugar syrup for Summer Pudding

The first step involves bringing out the juices from the fruits. Add the sugar and water to a large saucepan over gentle heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and allow the syrup to simmer for 1 minute.

Add the raspberries, blackberries and blueberries to the syrup and reduce the heat to low. Some summer pudding cooks like to heat the strawberries too, but I find they turn too mushy when simmered. I recommend not cooking the strawberries.

Fruit simmering for Summer Pudding

Cook the fruit for 3 minutes, stirring the mixture gently a few times, being careful not to break up the fruit. Shaking the saucepan works well to prevent sticking, but you do need to stir a little to cover the fruit in sugar syrup to draw out the juices.

Straining fruit for summer pudding

Remove the fruit from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Strain the fruit using a sieve over a large bowl.

Bread sliced for a summer pudding

The next step involves preparing the bread to line the sides of the pudding bowl.  I use a 1.5 quart pudding bowl for this recipe.  I find a country white bread is best, but you can use whole wheat bread or brioche.

  • First remove the crusts from all the slices of bread.
  • The sides require 4 slices of bread cut in half on a slight diagonal.
  • 3 circles of bread are required for the bottom of the bowl, the middle of the pudding and to cover the base.
  • Use the bowl to cut a circle the size of the small end of the bowl from one slice of bread.
  • Place 2 slices of bread side by side, and use a saucer to cut two semi-circles.  This will be the circle for the middle of the pudding.
  • Place 2 slices of bread side by side with another one perpendicular, and cut a circle the size of the large open end of the bowl.

 

Building a summer pudding

Use 2 x 20 inch sheets of plastic film to line a 1.5 quart pudding bowl, allowing the excess film to hang over the sides of the bowl. I find it’s easier to use two pieces of plastic wrap rather than trying to get one large piece to fit into the bowl.  Without the plastic wrap the pudding may end up sticking to the basin. Nobody wants a messy heap on plate when serving.   I like to soak dip the bread pieces in the juices as I assemble the pudding. It prevents white patches of bread with no juice in the finished pudding.

Note: A reader let me know his finished pudding would not hold its shape, even when chilled overnight. He may have oversoaked the bread pieces. The goal of dipping the bread pieces is to color them red, so only dip them long enough to get an even color on the outer surface of each piece. Saturating the bread will result in a wobbly pudding.

Bread lined pudding bowl for summer pudding

  • First, take the smallest circle of bread and dip it into the fruit juices to coat it. Place it at the very bottom of the pudding bowl.
  • Next dip the triangular side pieces into the juice. Line the sides of the bowl by slightly overlapping the bread pieces.
  • Add the sliced strawberries to the fruit mixture.
  • Spoon one third of the fruit into the bowl.
  • Dip the smaller two semi-circular bread pieces into the fruit juice. Place them over the first layer of fruit.

 

I like to add this extra layer of bread in the middle of the pudding. I find it helps to support the fruit and the pudding doesn’t collapse when you cut it for serving.
Fruit added to summer pudding
  • Add the remainder of the fruit to the pudding bowl.
  • Soak the larger semi-circles of bread in the juice and place them over the fruit in the bowl.
Reserve any excess juice in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Sometimes when I make this pudding I have left over juices, and sometimes the bread just soaks it all right up.  The amount of juice yielded is totally dependent upon how juicy your fresh fruit is.  I usually keep a bag of frozen raspberries in the freezer. If the fruit I am using doesn’t yield enough fruit juice to completely soak the bread pieces, I quickly heat up some frozen raspberries with sugar and water to yield a little more juice.
Summer pudding covered in plastic wrap
  • Bring the cling film up and over the bottom of the pudding.
  • Place a smaller plate or saucer on top of the pudding and weigh it down with cans.  Sometimes I just place another bowl filled with water on top.
Weighing down a summer pudding
  • Chill in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
  • To remove the pudding for serving, open out the saran wrap.
  • Place a serving plate upside-down on top and flip the pudding over.
  • Remove the saran wrap.
  • Decorate with left over strawberries or any other fruit.
English Summer Pudding
Serve slices of the pudding with leftover juice, and cream.

Opening a summer pudding

I hope you enjoy this pudding as much as I do – it truly is a taste of summer.

Here is the printable recipe:

 

Summer Pudding

Serves 8
Prep time 1 hour
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 10 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Region British

Ingredients

  • 16oz fresh strawberries (2/3 of a container for the pudding and the remainder to garnish)
  • 6oz fresh blackberries
  • 12oz fresh raspberries
  • 4oz fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 10 medium slices white bread (day old bread is best)

Directions

Step 1 Add the sugar and water to a large saucepan over gentle heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and allow the syrup to simmer for 1 minute
Step 2 Add the raspberries, blackberries and blueberries to the syrup and reduce the heat to low. Do not cook the strawberries. Cook the fruit for 3 minutes, stirring the mixture gently a few times, being careful not to break up the fruit.
Step 3 Remove the fruit from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Strain the fruit using a sieve over a large bowl.
Step 4 Remove the crusts from the slices of bread. Cut 4 pieces of bread in half on a slight diagonal. Place 2 slices of bread side by side, and another above them. Place the 1.5 quart pudding bowl upside down over the slices of bread and cut around the circumference to create two semi-circles of bread, plus an additional crescent.
Step 5 Take another two slices of bread and use a saucer, smaller than the circumference of the bowl, to cut an additional two semi-circles for the middle of the pudding. Cut a smaller circle from the last slice of bread.
Step 6 Use 2 x 20 inch sheets of plastic wrap to line a 1.5 quart pudding bowl, allowing the excess film to hang over the sides of the bowl.
Step 7 Take the smallest circle of bread and dip it into the fruit juices to coat it. Place it at the very bottom of the pudding bowl. Next dip the triangular side pieces into the juice. Line the sides of the bowl by slightly overlapping the bread pieces.
Step 8 Add the sliced strawberries to the fruit mixture. Spoon one third of the fruit into the bowl. Dip the smaller two semi-circular bread pieces into the fruit juice. Place them over the first layer of fruit.
Step 9 Add the remainder of the fruit to the pudding bowl. Soak the larger semi-circles of bread in the juice and place them over the fruit in the bowl. Reserve the excess juice in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Step 10 Bring the cling film up and over the bottom of the pudding. Place a smaller plate or saucer on top of the pudding and weigh it down with cans, or another bowl.
Step 11 Chill in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
Step 12 To remove the pudding for serving, open out the saran wrap. Place a serving plate upside-down on top and flip the pudding over. Remove the saran wrap. Decorate with the additional strawberries and any other fruit of choice. Serve slices of the pudding with leftover juice, and cream.

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

 

 

Irish Sponge Cake

Irish sponge cake is a light and delicate egg sponge filled with a layer of jam and lots of luscious cream, with a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar on top.  I loved this cake when I was growing up in Ireland.

This cake recipe requires no butter.  That’s right! A butter free cake! This is my Mom’s go-to recipe whenever she wants to make a quick, inexpensive cake that is relatively good for you.  The recipe calls for four eggs, resulting in a protein-rich treat, disguised as cake.

I confess I was easy to please as a child.  When my mom asked what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday I always requested this sponge cake.  No frosting frenzy required for me.  Just a simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar on this cream-filled delight, and I was as happy as a bee.

 

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups cake flour (plus two tablespoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Optional

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

I loved to bake cakes when I was a teenager in Ireland.  My Mom’s sponge cake recipe was easy to remember – 4 eggs, 4 ounces of sugar and 4 ounces of flour.  4-4-4 made it ever so simple.

Not so simple when I came to America, and tried to replicate my Irish cake baking successes.  My first attempts were a complete failure.  I used 4 eggs and 1/2 cup of both sugar and flour.  It took me a while to realize that 4 ounces of sugar is a half cup, but that flour is significantly lighter than sugar.  I needed 3/4 cups of flour, plus an additional 2 tablespoons to achieve the exact same ratios as in my mother’s recipe.

 

Sponge cake success is dependent upon beating as much air as possible into an egg and sugar mixture to ensure the cake rises when it hits the heat of the oven.  Make sure your eggs are at room temperature before beating them.  Cold eggs do not hold as much air.

Add the eggs and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Turn onto high and let the mixer perform its magic.

While the mixer is busy beating up those eggs and sugar, prepare two 9-inch round baking pans by spraying them with non-stick spray infused with flour.

I love this stuff!  It is so much easier than the old fashioned way.  We used to grease the pans with an old butter wrapper, then add flour and tap it around the pan to completely coat the buttery surface in a thin white layer of flour.  Now that awkward job has been transformed into a few quick spritzes with this miraculous floury spray.  Hats off to whoever invented this stuff!  You have my eternal gratitude.

Next prepare the flour by sifting it with the baking powder.  My mom does not use any baking powder at all, but I find that just 1/8 of a teaspoon helps when using American flour.

Always sift the flour.  The process adds air to the flour mixture, helping create a lighter sponge cake.

The egg and sugar mixture will increase in volume many times over as it gets whipped up with air.  It takes anywhere from 6 to 8 minutes depending on the power of your mixer to achieve a thickened, glossy consistency.  When the egg mixture is ready the beater will be leaving markings on the mixture as it turns, and the mixture’s color will be a very, very pale yellow.

Spoon half the flour into the egg mixture.  Using a spatula, gently fold in the flour.  Do not use the electric mixer to add the flour, since this would deflate all the lovely air pockets that will help the cake to rise.

Add the vanilla essence at this point if you like the flavor.  I never add vanilla – it is not a sponge cake flavor I grew up with.

Add the second half of the flour and again fold it in gently.  Make sure to lift the mixture from the very bottom of the bowl as you fold in the flour.  This will release air pockets of trapped flour like the one pictured above.

When the flour is fully incorporated pour half the mixture into each of the prepared baking pans.

Spread it out evenly using the spatula.  Place the cake pans in the pre-heated oven and bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees and then reduce to 350 degrees for a final 10 minutes.

When cooked the cakes will be a light golden color and will be slightly springy to the touch.  When touched with a finger tip, no indentation will remain.

Use a knife to loosen the edges of the sponge layer from the side of the cake pan if necessary.  Turn the cakes onto a wire rack to cool.

Spread a 1/4 cup of jam on the inner aspect of each sponge layer.

Beat the heavy whipping cream in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer, until the cream is thick and easy to spread.  Add 1 tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar to the cream if a sweeter taste is desired.

Place the lower layer of the sponge on a serving plate.  Cover the jam with a thick layer of cream.

Place the top sponge layer on top of the cream, to create a jam and cream sandwich.

Decorate the cake with a light coating of confectioners’ sugar sifted on top.

Slice and enjoy this light, delicate cake with jam and luscious cream.  My little girl announced tonight, that sponge cake is her favorite cake in the whole wide world.  It’s her Mommy’s favorite cake too.

Here is the printable recipe.

Irish Sponge Cake

Serves 8
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Region Irish
An Irish Sponge Cake is a light and delicate egg sponge filled with a layer of jam and lots of luscious cream, with a light dusting of confectioners' sugar on top.

Ingredients

  • 4 Large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups cake flour (plus two tablespoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Optional

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Step 1 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two 9-inch round baking pans with non-stick spray infused with flour, or grease with butter and dust with a light coating of flour.
Step 2 Add the eggs and sugar to a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar for 6 to 8 minutes until the mixture has increased in volume and thickened to a consistency of whipped heavy cream.
Step 3 In a separate bowl sift the flour and baking powder together. Spoon half the flour into the egg mixture and gently fold it in using a spatula. Repeat with the second half of the flour, folding gently to fully incorporate the flour. Add the vanilla essence with the flour if desired.
Step 4 Pour half of the cake mixture into each of the prepared baking pans. Bake in the preheated oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes. The sponges will be golden brown, with a slight spring to the touch when cooked.
Step 5 Remove the sponges from the oven and cool on a wire tray.
Step 6 Whip the heavy cream using an electric beater until thick. Add one tablespoon of confectioners' sugar to sweeten if desired. Spread jam on the inner surface of each sponge. Place one layer on a plate, spreading the cream over the jam. Sandwich the cream with the upper sponge layer.
Step 7 Decorate by sifting a fine layer of confectioners' sugar on top. Slice to serve.

Happy baking!

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are an Irish and English Easter tradition.  Soft, spiced and fruited yeast rolls, they are marked with a cross to symbolize the crucifix, and are baked and served on Good Friday.

As a child I made hot cross buns with my mom.  Unlike their American counterparts, crossed with sugary frosting, we used pastry to decorate our buns with symbolic crosses.  Staying true to our family tradition, my hot cross buns are marked with a pastry cross.

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/4 cup milk (plus one tablespoon for the egg wash)
  • 5 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 small packets)
  • 4 cups bread flour (plus extra for dusting kneading surface)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (plus one teaspoon for yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 oz butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2 eggs (reserve 1 egg white for egg wash)
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup candied orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Pastry

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 oz butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/3 cup cold water

I included the ingredients for a very simple pastry in this recipe.  If you don’t fancy the hassle of making pastry, feel free to purchase a pre-made pie dough for decorating.

Baking hot cross buns is not a simple process.  There are many steps involved and the yeast dough must be given time to rise on two occasions.  But mark my word, these hot cross buns are well worth the trouble.

I understand why my mom made them only once a year!!!!

First heat the milk to 110 degrees in a small saucepan.  A temperature between 105 and 115 degrees works for activating the yeast.

Sprinkle 5 teaspoons (two packets) of yeast and one teaspoon of sugar into the milk and stir together.  Then set the mixture aside for 10 minutes and let the magic foaming begin.

While the yeast is busy doing its thing, sift the bread flour, cinnamon, cardamom, all spice, nutmeg, cloves and salt into a large bowl.  I use the bowl of my electric mixer, since its wonderful dough hook does all my kneading work.

In Ireland we used a special spice mix we call “mixed spice” and cinnamon to flavor hot cross buns.  This Irish and English spice blend is not available in America, but I find the mix of spices I use in this recipe produces a great end result.

Next toss in the sugar and cut up the butter into the flour.  Using your clean fingers or a pastry blender rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal.

Next toss in the currants, golden raisins and candied orange peel.  If you can’t find currants just use regular raisins, and if you can’t find candied orange peel just substitute mixed peel.  The exact dried fruit blend used is totally up to you and your taste preferences.

Add the grated orange zest.  Two teaspoons is equivalent to the peel of one large orange.  Don’t forget to wash the orange before grating the peel.

In a small bowl whisk together one egg and one egg yolk.  Cover the additional egg white and store it in the fridge.  We will use it later to make the egg wash to brush the buns before baking.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the whisked eggs.

Here is a picture of my milk and yeast mix, all foamed up and ready to work on the fruited dough.

Pour the yeast mix into the flour well.

Using the dough hook on your electric mixer knead the dough for 10 minutes.  My big  red mixer is the best Christmas present ever.  I call it “Deputy Dawg” since I deputize all kneading tasks nowadays.

If you don’t have a mixer with a dough hook, you can combine the ingredients together with a spoon, then turn the dough ball out onto a floured surface.  Then the fun begins, kneading the dough for 10 minutes by hand to form an elastic, sticky ball.

Transfer the dough ball to a clean metal bowl sprayed in oil.  Then spray the top of the dough with oil also.  It’s time for a long rest – for the dough, not the poor cook.

Cover the dough in plastic wrap, or stick to the old fashioned way and cover the bowl with a clean dish towel.  Let it rest in a warm place away from all cold draughts for a minimum of 90 minutes.  If you have two hours to wait, all the better.

While the dough is rising in the bowl, make the pastry for decorating the buns.  Sift the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and salt into a clean bowl.

Combine the butter using your clean fingers or a pastry blender to form that famous coarse meal texture.

This pastry recipe is not one I would use for making a pie.  It is very basic and simple, but perfectly adequate for our decorating purposes.

Pour the cold water into the flour mixture and form a firm dough ball.  Add the water slowly, to make sure you do not add too much.  Cover the pastry and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to roll out.  There’s still an hour left before our decoration step.

After 2 hours our fruited dough should have doubled in size.  The chemical power of yeast never ceases to amaze me.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead lightly.  Break into two pieces.  Roll and knead each piece to form a log about 12 inches long.

Cut each log into 12 equal dough slices.  I like to halve each one, then quarter them before slicing each quarter into three pieces.

With lightly floured fingers and palms take each dough slice and knead and mould into small, equal dough balls.

Butter two large baking sheets and place each dough mound about 1 and 1/2 inches apart on the surface.

Time to rest again.  Cover the baking sheets with clean dish towels.  Feel free to use saran wrap, but I like to avoid wasting plastic as much as possible.  You can’t beat a good, old dish towel.

Let the buns rest for another 45 minutes in a nice warm spot.

After about 30 minutes pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out your pastry into a rectangular shape.  I aim for a piece about 12 inches by 8 inches.  I cut it into 16 strips about 1/2 inch wide.  Then I make three perpendicular cuts to create 48 pieces about 4 inches long.

Sometimes I make 17 strips to allow extra in case any pieces break when I am decorating.

Retrieve the egg white from the fridge and whisk it together with a dash of milk.  Then brush this egg wash onto the top of the risen buns.  They should have doubled in size again.

I know some cooks like to use a whole egg to make the egg wash, but I find this goes a very deep brown color when baking.  I just prefer the golden shade produced by an egg white wash.

Take the pastry strips and create a cross on top of each bun.  I do not brush the pastry with the egg wash.  I like it to remain a lovely contrasting pale color when cooked.  Break off any excess pastry at the base of each bun.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes.  With two baking sheets, I place one on the middle rack and one on the lower rack.  After about 8 minutes of cooking I switch the trays around.

The hot cross buns are cooked when they turn a lovely golden color.  Cool then on a wire wrack.

I like mine served warm with a glass of milk.

They are delicious slathered in butter or add some jam for a lovely sweet addition.

Here is the printable recipe:

Hot Cross Buns

Serves 24
Prep time 3 hours
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 3 hours, 15 minutes
Meal type Bread
Hot cross buns are an Irish and English Easter tradition. Soft, spiced and fruited yeast rolls, they are marked with a cross to symbolize the crucifix, and are baked and served on Good Friday

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/4 cup milk (plus an additional tablespoon for the egg wash )
  • 5 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 small packets)
  • 4 cups bread flour (plus extra for dusting kneading surface)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (plus one teaspoon for the yeast mixture)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2oz butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2 eggs (reserve 1 egg white for egg wash)
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup candied orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Pastry

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2oz butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1/3 cup cold water

Directions

Step 1 Heat the milk in a small saucepan to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 2 Sprinkle the dry yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar over the milk and stir together. Let stand for 10 minutes until the mixture is foamy.
Step 3 Sift the bread flour, spices and salt into a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer.
Step 4 Add the sugar to the flour.
Step 5 Cut the butter into the flour and blend together using your fingertips or a pastry blender. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.
Step 6 Add the dried fruit, candied peel and orange zest to the flour, combining well together.
Step 7 Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Beat one egg and one yolk together and pour into the center of the flour mixture.
Step 8 Pour the foamy yeast and milk into the well in the flour.
Step 9 Using the dough hook of the electric mixer knead on low speed for 10 minutes forming an elastic, sticky dough ball. If you do not own an electric mixer, combine the ingredients with a spoon, then turn onto a floured surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes.
Step 10 Spray a large metal bowl with oil. Transfer the dough ball into the bowl and spray the top of the dough with oil. Cover with saran wrap or a clean dish towel. Allow to rest for a minimum of 90 minutes in a warm place, free from draughts.
Step 11 While the dough is rising make the pastry for decorating the buns. Sift the flour, confectioner's sugar and salt into a clean bowl.
Step 12 Blend the butter by rubbing between your fingertips or by using a pastry blender. The mixture should resemble coarse meal.
Step 13 Add enough cold water to form a stiff dough ball. Cover and refrigerate until ready to roll the pastry and decorate the hot cross buns.
Step 14 After 90 minutes to two hours the yeast dough should have doubled in size. Turn out onto a floured surface.
Step 15 Knead gently and form the dough into two equal log shapes. Slice each log into 12 equal pieces.
Step 16 Take each individual piece and knead gently with lightly floured fingers. Form into a uniform dough ball. Place the mounds 1 and 1/2 inches apart on a buttered baking sheet. Two baking sheets are required for 24 buns.
Step 17 Place the baking sheets, covered in clean dish towels or plastic wrap in a draught free spot. Let rise for an additional 45 minutes - the buns should once again double in size.
Step 18 Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll the pastry into a rectangle approximately 12 inches by 8 inches. Cut lengthwise into 16 strips, then crosswise three times to yield 48 X 4 inch X 1/2 inch pastry strips.
Step 19 Whisk the egg white with a dash of milk to create an egg wash.
Step 20 Brush the top of the risen buns with the egg wash and place a cross on each bun using two 4 inch pastry strips. Cut pastry strips flush with the bottom of each bun.
Step 21 Place both baking sheets in the oven, one in the middle and the other on the lower rack. Bake in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 15 minutes. After 8 minutes switch the baking sheets. The buns should be a golden brown color when ready.
Step 22 When baked, cool on a wire tray. Serve warm with butter and jam if desired.

Wishing you all a very happy Easter, and hope you get to enjoy some hot cross buns.  Don’t forget the old rhyme:

“Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha’ penny,
Two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns!”

 

Cásca faoi shonas duit

(Happy Easter)

Irish American Mom