These chocolate-raspberry bars are love at first bite. The chocolate and raspberry flavors are a match made in heaven. They are as easy to make as brownies but the raspberry-liqueur flavored ganache frosting makes them luxurious enough for a Valentine’s Day dessert. The cake ingredients also includes raspberry jam, so if you are making them for children you can certainly leave out the raspberry liqueur without losing the special chocolate-raspberry flavor. You can skip the frosting altogether and serve them simply with a dusting of confectioners sugar.
This recipe is definitely a keeper. I have been making it as a thank you gift or for celebrations ever since I first came across it in the December 1993 “Food and Wine” magazine in 1993.
- 7 oz. bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
- 2 sticks (8 oz.) plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter softened
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp. raspberry-flavored liqueur such as Chambord (optional)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
- Place 3/4 cup of the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the cream and 2 tsp. of the butter and bring to a boil. Pour the cream/butter mixture over the chopped chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds. Then whisk until completely smooth. Whisk in 1/2 tsp. of vanilla and the raspberry liqueur. Let cool, then refrigerator until chilled to a spreadable consistency, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.. Lightly grease a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Place remaining 1/2 cup chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Stir until the chocolate melts. Remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the remaining 8 oz. (two sticks) of butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in 1/4 cup of the jam until well blended. Beat in the melted chocolate and the remaining 1/2 tsp. vanilla. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients in two batches. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.
- Bake in the middle of the oven for 20nto 25 minutes until a cake tester or wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake will still seem a little squidgy. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.
- When the cake has cooled completely, spread the ganache frosting over the cake using a large metal offset spatula. Refrigerate for one hour.
- Cut into 1 1/2 inch bars and serve.
My dad’s birthday is June 18 and Father’s Day usually falls close by, if not on his actual birthday. He loves cakes and sweets and misses Irish cakes. This year, for his birthday/Father’s Day I decided to make him a Victoria Sandwich — an old fashioned cake that I don’t think I’ve made since I was 13 or 14. It’s a very light sponge with a filling of fresh cream and jam (my school recipe calls for a chocolate buttercream filling which I remember being good.) It used to be the classic afternoon tea cake. Since I made it as a young teen, you know it’s not a complicated recipe.
Although I wrote down the ingredients, I did not write down the steps involved in actually making the cake and for some mind-boggling reason we were instructed to use margarine — this was in Ireland, a country awash in possibly the best butter in the world. I definitely wanted a recipe that used butter and needed to confirm that I remembered how to make the cake. And, since June is strawberry season, I also wanted to include fresh berries with the jam.
I found this recipe for Victoria Sponge using butter and fresh strawberries on Irish chef Kevin Dundon’s website. He included it in his “Back to Basics” cooking series that airs on PBS. As I’ve noted before, organic cream makes a big difference in the flavor of cream cakes. It’s even a different color than standard whipping cream — more yellow. Yes, it is more expensive, but how often do you eat cream cakes? They are meant to be a treat. This is how it turned out. As my neighbor commented “not shabby” for a cake I haven’t made since I was a young teenager. I won’t wait that long to make it again, maybe with raspberries next month. Happy birthday dad!
This is the recipe for Victoria Sandwich I wrote in the back of my secondary school cookery book when I was 13.
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Happy Earth Day cupcakes
Although I love cooking and blogging, my day job is helping to protect the environment. I decided to bring my food and environmental worlds together and make special Earth Day cupcakes for my coworkers using organic carrots, eggs and pecans from Chicago’s Green City Market . I used Martha Stewart’s recipe for carrot cake cupcakes http://www.marthastewart.com/351273/carrot-cake-cupcakes-cream-cheese-frosting because I trust that she knows what she is doing. She didn’t let me down. The cupcakes were not too sweet and stayed moist for days.
I wanted to decorate the cupcakes to look like the earth from space, but still wanted to use cream cheese frosting because it’s not a proper carrot cake without it. It was a challenge. Butter cream is definitely much easier to work with. They kind of looked like an Impressionist’s view of the earth from space — but everyone still understood what I was going for and, most importantly, they tasted good. (Note: Cream cheese frosting usually includes vanilla, but I left it out because I read that vanilla extract and food coloring don’t play well together.)
To frost the cupcakes, I used a half cup of the plain frosting mixed with six drops of blue food coloring. I used a 9 inch angled spatula to spread the blue frosting on the cakes. To make the continents, I mixed an eighth of a cup of plain frosting with two drops of green food coloring and “painted” them on top of the blue base with a small decorating brush I bought at a craft store. I also used a decorating brush to paint white frosting “clouds” over the blue and green. A couple of tips for easier decorating, the frosting should be at room temperature and make sure the cupcakes have completely cooled before starting to frost them.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
4 oz. unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s (icing) sugar
Place cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a spatula, break it up.
Add butter. Mix at low speed to cream cheese and butter together.
Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and mix at medium speed until sugar, butter and cream cheese are blended.
Chocolate krispie treats were a staple of school bake sales when I was young — not surprising since they are easy enough for a middle schooler to make his or herself and don’t involve baking. I’m surprised that I don’t often see the chocolate version in the states.
No exaggeration, these treats came together in less than five minutes. They do take another 30 minutes to cool and set up. Stirring the mixture will be easier if you first grease a rubber spatula with butter or spray it with a canola oil baking spray. I used milk chocolate chips because I already had a bag in my pantry, but you could certainly use dark or bittersweet chocolate. Since it is Valentine’s Day, when the treats were cool, I made heart-shaped treats by cutting them out with a buttered a heart shaped cookie cutter. This recipe makes about six hearts, depending on the size of your cutter, and you will have a extra krispie treats around the borders. You can also just cut them into the more typical bars. You will have more treats that way.
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Love at first bite — chocolate krispie hearts
- 6 oz. butter
- 10 1/2 oz. (one bag) mini marshmallows
- 10 oz. milk chocolate chips or grated dark chocolate
- pinch of salt
- 2 oz. puffed rice cereal such as Rice Krispies
- Butter an 8 by 8 dish.
- Melt butter in a large saucepan.
- Add the marshmallows,chocolate and salt. Stir with a greased rubber spatula until all the ingredients are melted.
- Stir in the puffed rice cereal until all the grains are coated with the marshmallow/chocolate mixture.
- Turn out into the buttered dish, spread out evenly and pat down the surface until it's even.
- Let cool for 30 minutes.
- Butter the inside of a heart-shaped cookie cutter. When the chocolate krispie treats are cool, cut out heart shaped treats. You can skip the cookie cutter and just cut them into bars.
For the last few years, my friend Anne has been reminiscing about the Bakewell Tart that her Irish auntie makes and hinting that it might be nice if I put my pastry skills to use by recreating it here in the States. Bakewell Tart is an old-fashioned English tea time treat that combines flaky pastry with almond cake and jam. Raspberry jam is traditional, but you can use any kind of jam you like. While it is perfect as it is with afternoon tea, it can be dressed up with freshly whipped cream and berries for a lovely dessert.
For Anne’s birthday last week, I surprised her with a homemade Bakewell Tart. I found a simple recipe on the BBC food site. Here I’ve translated the British terms into more familiar American names for ingredients and equipment. I always think about blackberry recipes at this time of the year — the peak time for foraging for blackberries in Ireland. – so I used a tablespoon of blackberry jam in place of the raspberry. (Here is an easy recipe for refrigerator blackberry jam.)
We ate the tart at a Labor Day/birthday celebration cookout at Anne’s brother and sister-in-law’s house. Many of the guests had never tasted this tart before, but liked it enough to ask for the recipe so here it is. You will need an eight inch tart pan with a removable bottom. I usually buy ground almond meal in the nut section at Trader Joe’s. It can also be ordered online from baking products providers such as King Arthur Flour. If you are new to pastry, the shell is first baked “blind” which simply means that it is baked first without filling to cook the pastry.
If you make the tart, let me know how it turned out. As always, if you like this post, please share it.
- 175g/6 oz plain flour
- 75g/2 1/2 oz chilled, unsalted European style butter
- 2-3 tbsp cold water
- 1 tbsp blackberry (or other) jam
- 125g/4 1/2 oz unsalted butter
- 125g/4 1/2 oz superfine (caster) sugar
- 125g/4 1/2 oz ground almonds
- 1 organic egg, beaten
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 50g/1 3/4 oz flaked almonds
- 80g/2 3/4 oz confectioner's (icing) sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp cold water
- 20cm/8in tart tin with removable bottom
- Measure the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface and use to line a greased 20cm/8 in tart tin with removable bottom. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
- Line the chilled pastry with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and lining and cook for another five minutes to dry out the base.
- Spread the base of the pastry with a generous tablespoon of jam. It will seem like it's not enough jam, but it is. Too much jam will seep into the cake.
- Melt the butter in a large pan, take off the heat and stir in the sugar. Add the ground almonds, egg and almond extract. Pour into the pastry shell and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
- Bake for about 35 minutes. If the almonds are browning too quickly, cover the tart loosely with foil to prevent them from burning.
- Meanwhile, sift the confectioner's sugar into a bowl. Stir in cold water and transfer to a piping bag. If you don't have a piping bag, use a plastic storage bag and cut off one of the corners to make a piping bag. It works just as well.
- Remove tart from oven when cooked. Pipe icing over the top in a zig-zag pattern.
In an interview in the Wall St. Journal last week, Francis Ford Coppola let the cat out of the bag about Irish ice cream. The “Godfather” director said “The most underrated destination is: View PostIreland. It’s a beautiful country, and the people are extraordinary. They have such a wonderful literary tradition, one of warmth and humor. Also, Irish ice cream is among the best in the world, which no one knows.” Read the full article here: online.wsj.com/articles/francis-ford-coppola-talks-travel-1407436237.
Irish ice cream and other dairy products are made from milk from cows that can graze outdoors almost year round.
When we were teens, my friend Maire had a summer job in the kiosk at Portmarnock beach — a blue snack shack at the steps to the most beautiful beach in the Dublin area. The most popular item was a “99” — a creamy swirl of whipped, aka soft serve, ice cream (always vanilla) in a wafer cone topped with Cadbury’s Flake, a flaky stick of milk chocolate. Although we weren’t paid to be there, as teenage girls we spent a lot of time at the kiosk on sunny afternoons. It was the primo spot to see which boys were at the beach that day and, of course, eat ice cream.
Cadbury’s chocolate is not manufactured in Dublin anymore, but you can still buy Flakes in Irish import stores or online and make your own version of a “99.” If you don’t have soft serve, crumble the flake over regular freezer case ice cream for an Irish summer treat.
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I add a taste of Ireland to the classic American summer dessert of berry shortcakes, by substituting strawberry scones for the usual biscuit style cake. This scone recipe is more cake than bread. The lemon and turbinado sugar topping provides a satisfying crunchy contrast to the sweet, tender cake. Very easy to make, they are beautiful enough for a special occasion brunch (I recommend strawberry shortcakes with mimosas.) In June, when the first, jewel-like strawberries appear in the market, I make them with strawberries alone. For July 4th celebrations, I mix blueberries with strawberries and raspberries for a patriotic red, white and blue dessert.
Recently, they were my contribution to an impromptu barbecue at my friends Denise and Mike’s lovely lakefront home. As the proud and exhausted parents of four month old triplets, Denise and Mike were sticking close to home, so friends brought the party to them. We took turns feeding and changing the beautiful babies before sitting down to a summer potluck feast of grilled chicken and hot dogs, homegrown garden salad, cheese, wine and mixed berry shortcakes.
- ½ cup chopped strawberries
- 4 cups unbleached white flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsps. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 4 oz. unsalted butter cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 cup plain yogurt (not nonfat)
- Shortcake topping:
- 2 tbsp. turbinado sugar
- 1 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
- 4 cups mixed berries, (sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 2 cups chilled heavy cream, preferably organic, whipped
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a bowl, combine the berries with the juice of 1 lemon and 2 tbsp. granulated sugar. Stir gently together until blended. Cover and refrigerate for ½ hour, stirring occasionally.
- Mix together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the egg. Stir in the chopped strawberries. Then fold in the yogurt to make a fairly wet dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. With floured hands, shape it into a ½ inch high round. Using a 3 inch biscuit cutter, cut out eight shortcakes.
- Mix turbinado sugar and lemon zest together. Sprinkle over the top of the shortcakes.
- Place shortcakes on a greased baking sheet, bake for 20 minutes in preheated 400 degree oven until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean.
- Remove shortcakes from oven, transfer to a cooling rack for about an hour. If not using the shortcakes right away, store in an airtight container.
- To serve, slice each shortcake in half horizontally. Place shortcake bottom halves, sliced side up on a serving platter or individual plates. Top each with some of the berry mixture and whipped cream. Then top with the other half of the shortcake. Serve immediately.
My favourite meeting spot when I am in Dublin is Bewley’s Oriental Café in Grafton Street.
Bewley’s has been a Dublin institution since the late 19th century and its coffee and tea is sold throughout Ireland. It still hand roasts all its coffee on site on the fourth floor of 78 Grafton Street. Named “the heart and hearth of Dublin” by poet Brendan Kennelly, the Grafton Street café was the haunt of Irish literary greats such as James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh and Samuel Beckett. It’s a great spot to meet friends for a chat or to take a break from Grafton Street shopping.
I When I was a student at Trinity College Dublin many years ago, I treated Bewley’s Westmoreland and Grafton Street cafes like my sitting room. Countless confidences were shared and romances begun and ended over “white” coffee (café au lait) and cakes. My favourites were almond buns and coffee slices. Here is an easy recipe for the coffee slice — a coffee-glazed puff pastry with fresh whipped cream — using store bought puff pastry.
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Coffee-glazed Pastries with Whipped Cream
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 tbsp. (15 ml) coffee syrup
- 1 tbsp. (15 ml) cold water
- 6 tbsp. (90 g) confectioner's (icing) sugar
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) whipping cream
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) raspberry jam
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius.
- Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to 15 x 12 inches. Cut pastry lengthwise into three 12 x 5 inch strips. Transfer two of the strips to the baking sheet. Dock each strip all over with a fork. Freeze for 10 minutes.
- Bake pastry strips until golden and puffed -- about 15 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and place on a rack to cool.
- Using a long, serrated knife, trim top side of the pastry strips so they are flat and event.
- In a small bowl, stir coffee syrup with cold water and confectioner's sugar to make a spreadable glaze. Add a little more water if the glaze is too thick.
- Using an offset spatula, spread the coffee glaze on the bottom of one of the pastry strips.
- Whip cream thickly.
- Place second pastry strip on a work surface. Spread jam on the pastry. Top with the whipped cream. Cover with the coffee-glazed strip -- glazed side up. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Using a serrated knife, cut pastry into eight slices.
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tbsp. melted butter, plus an additional 1 tbsp. for frying the pancakes
- 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- fresh squeezed juice from one lemon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Blend first six ingredients in a blender. Gradually add flour, blend until smooth. Let stand 15 minutes.
- Heat medium cast iron skillet over medium heat. Brush with melted butter. When pan is hot, add 1/3 cup pancake batter to the center of the pan. Tilt the pan immediately to spread the batter thinly around the entire pan. Cook for about 2 minutes until the bottom begins to brown, then flip and cook on the other side for 2 minutes. Lift pancake out of the pan onto a paper-towel. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the skillet with butter as needed.
- Butter an oven proof dish. Sift powdered sugar over the speckled side of each pancake, sprinkle lightly with lemon juice. Fold pancakes into quarters. Overlap the pancakes in the prepared dish. Bake until heated through, about 10 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with more powdered sugar and lemon juice.
In Ireland and Britain, Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, is also known as “pancake Tuesday” because in years past many families made pancakes to use up eggs and animal fats which were not eaten during Lent. On Shrove Tuesday, Catholics attended confession to be “shriven” of their sins before the beginning of Lent.
These are thin, crepe style pancakes which are usually eaten as a dessert or as an after school snack, not the fluffy, American breakfast pancakes. Because the pancakes are simply served with lemon juice and powdered sugar, it’s important to use good quality eggs such as organic eggs or eggs from the farmers’ market. This classic Irish pancake recipe is adapted from an Irish Shrove Tuesday pancake recipe provided by Peggy O’Kennedy of County Wexford, and published in the May 1996 issue of “Bon Appetit” magazine.
Blood Orange and Almond Tart
- 175 g (6 oz.) all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp. superfine sugar
- 85 g (3 oz.) butter
- About 2 tbsp. orange juice
- 1 egg yolk
- 85 g (3 0z.) butter
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz) superfine sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 85 g (3 oz.) ground almonds
- 1 tbsp. Grand Marnier
- 6 blood oranges
- Apricot glaze:
- 6 tbsp apricot jam
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar.
- Cut the cold butter into cubes and rub into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles course breadcrumbs.
- Mix the orange juice with the egg yolk and stir into the butter/flour mixture. Add a little more juice or water if necessary, but not so much as to make the pastry too sticky.
- Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the pastry from the fridge. Grease a 10 inch tart tin with a removable bottom. Roll out the pastry to fit the tin. Line the greased tin with the pastry, line with a circle of parchment paper or a paper coffee filter and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for about 20-25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the almond filling. Cream the butter, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beat well and then stir in the ground almonds and the liqueur.
- Make the apricot glaze by heating the jam and lemon juice in a saucepan over a low heat until melted. Push the jam through a sieve to remove solids and make the glaze.
- When the tart is par-baked, allow to cool. Brush the base with the apricot glaze and fill with the almond mixture. Return to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until cooked and firm to the touch in the center and at the sides.
- While the tart is baking, remove the peel and pith form the blood oranges. Slice the fruit into thin rounds. When the tart is baked and slightly cooled, but still warm, arrange the fruit rounds on top, overlapping them slightly. Paint the fruit with the remaining apricot glaze.
- Serve with a bowl of whipped cream.
When rolling out pastry to fit a tin, it is helpful to measure it with a ruler. I keep a ruler specially for pastry making.
Paper coffee filters for drip coffee machines are a perfect size to line pastry for blind baking.
I made this lovely, sunset-hued tart twice in the last month for baby showers for co-workers and it was a hit. Baby Max graciously made a guest appearance at his shower. I think baby showers are so much nicer when the guest of honor is present.
The Irish connection to this recipe is the Ballymaloe Cookery School. This is one of the winter recipes included in the “a year at Ballymalloe cookery school” cookbook by Darina Allen. The blood oranges remind me of my parents’ stories about receiving oranges as Christmas presents in Ireland after World War II when citrus fruit was a rare treat. Since even in America, blood oranges are only available in our supermarkets for a few months beginning in January they also seem like a rare treat and somehow taste better for it.