sweet potato rye bread

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A couple of days a week I work from home for at least part of the day. One of the benefits of this is that I get to put a loaf of bread in the oven since it takes very little prep time … you just need to be around the house. I have to seriously ration this to make sure I don’t eat the whole thing in one sitting! Plain, with a bit of butter, covered with sandwich toppings … oh man, it’s amazing. You will probably want an stand mixer with a dough hook since it is a fairly wet dough. The more often I make it the easier it is!

Sweet Potato Rye Bread

  • 300g peeled sweet potatoes, cut in chunks for boiling
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 200g strong white flour (bread flour)
  • 100g dark rye wholemeal flour

Cover sweet potatoes with water, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer until they are soft enough to make mashed potatoes from them.

Set aside 75 ml of potato water and drain the rest of it. Put the potatoes back in the pot and return to a low heat for 1-2 minutes so they can dry out a bit.

When the 75 ml of potato water is lukewarm, stir in yeast and sugar.

Mash the potatoes with oil and salt. Mix into the yeast mixture.

Whisk the flour together in standing mixer bowl until well combined. Add in the wet ingredients. Mix with a dough hook on low until combined. Increase speed to med-high for 10 min or until dough is done. It should stretch a couple of inches without breaking. You might need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.

Sprinkle a bit of flour on the counter, flip the dough onto it and form into a ball. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and a tea towel. Put it in a warm place and let rise at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 22o C. I bake my bread on a pizza stone and so pit it in the oven at this time. Evenly flour a tea towel and place flour side up in a bread tin. Punch down the dough and turn it out a bit of flour and shape into a loaf. I like the tutorials from Northwest Sourdough. Place smooth side down on the tea towel in the bread tin. Let rise for 30 min while oven is heating.

Turn bread onto the pizza stone. If you are using a baking sheet, lightly oil before turning the bread onto it. Run a knife down the centre to make a shallow cut and place in the oven. I like to add a bit of moisture at this stage to help form a crust. This can be done by pouring boiling water into a pan that has been heating in the oven or using a spray bottle and spritzing water in.

Bake for 20-30 min. You will know it is done when you turn the loaf over, knock on the bottom and it sounds hollow. When done, turn out onto a rack to cool before slicing into it.

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pumpkin rolo muffins

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People often ask me what foods I miss from Canada when they plan on visiting. What can they bring me? There aren’t too many things. Cheap syrup for pancakes and chocolate chips are usually the only things I think of. It isn’t until autumn that I also remember tinned pumpkin. I have tried baking using fresh pumpkin puree that I have made from local produce but nothing seems to work like that processed orange goo in a tin. I grabbed a couple tins when I was recently in the States and made one of my favourite seasonal muffins – those beautiful pumpkin Rolo muffins. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Rolo Muffins

Makes 12

  • Rolos
  • 1 Egg
  • ⅓ c. Canola oil
  • ½ c. Brown sugar
  • ¼ c. White sugar
  • 1 c. Pumpkin
  • 1 ½ c. Flour
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. Ginger
  • ½ tsp. Allspice (or cloves)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. Baking powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).
In one bowl beat mix egg, oil, sugar and pumpkin.
In second bowl mix all the other ingredients except the Rolos.
Combine wet and dry ingredients. Don’t over mix. Fill muffin cups to 3/4 full. Firmly place one Rolo on the top of each.
Bake for 18 minutes.

taking hospitality to the streets

DublinOf all the days to not have brought my car into town for work! After 13 hours in city centre I was left carrying half a tray of uncovered cinnamon buns through inner-city streets at 10pm. There are plenty of people who might think this is a bad idea. You just never know how safe it is (I’ve never had a problem). As I walked down the hill from my church in the dark a group of rowdy teen lads from the area spotted my tray full of “cakes”. My initial reaction was … relief! I might not have to carry all these buns home with me!! Sure enough the tallest lad, towering over me, stopped about two feet away from me, reached his hand out and asked for one. “Absolutely!” I said to him. Pretty soon I was surrounded by a wall of lads each looking for a late night snack. Their faces transformed into innocent joy as sugar coated their hands:

“You have just made my night. No, seriously, you have.” “Wow, thanks!” “I love you!” “Did you make these?”

In that moment it felt like they had experienced ‘home’ – the space where you are loved for no reason at all and experience nothing except good things without having done a thing to deserve them.

My load lighter, I crossed the river and walked to the top of the hill to wait for my bus. Late night buses to my community don’t have a fantastic reputation either. I haven’t quite figured out why yet. It was only when the bus pulled up that I realise I didn’t have enough money on my bus card to get home. I smiled at the bus driver and offered him a cinnamon bun. He told me I had enough money to just get me home. The bus was quiet. A few young adults sat alone with their headphones in. The only exceptions were two men who were having a conversation across the aisle from each other. One reached out for a cinnamon bun with a question in his eyes. “Of course!” I said to him and then proceeded to offer cinnamon buns to the others on the bus. “Communication!” He exclaimed, “This is exactly what we had been talking about. No one communicates anymore. They all just look down at their phones the whole time.”

The lines across both these men’s faces told me they had lived more lifetimes than their years would allow. So we proceeded to talk about anything and everything. Soon another man and his son came on the bus. The skin on their faces draped over deep hollows. One of my new friends offered them my cinnamon buns, confident that this is what I would want. Finally we convinced the boy to have one. He shyly took one and slowly ate it while the rest of us shook hands and introduced ourselves. One of the men then asked if I was a teacher. “I teach a bit of sewing,” I said. He knew it, he could tell I was a teacher right away. As we got closer to my stop the other asked me if I was a preacher. “You could nearly call me that as well,” I said through a smile. “A sister?” he asked. “Not quite,” I responded. He was working away with something in his hands before extending it towards me. “I don’t have much to give you,” he explained as he handed me a small candle. Shaking their hands and blessing them I exited the bus near my house.

I think they met God last night – him in me. The reactions they had were the same I have when I mysteriously experience his Presence near me. There is a rightness, a letting go, a vulnerability, an accepting of kindness. I was humbled. A tray full of cinnamon buns and perfect love that doesn’t leave space for fear, such a small taste of heaven. These small offerings of hospitality are my fish and loaves. Miracles are made of such things.

bran muffins that actually taste good

01887102db240918353eb526122fcd6860e6a7036dDon’t look – bran muffins are not that pretty!! They are brown. Not even a nice brown. They don’t have anything about them that makes them look even remotely appealing. Let’s not even get started on the name “bran muffin” … it conjures up images of being force fed cardboard or something else that totally lacks flavour.

Although these aren’t much to look at, they are actually pretty incredible. Even kids might like them. This is one of those recipes that my mom got from someone, who probably got it from someone else, and so on. They are light and moist, melt in your mouth, incredibly good for you and can be made on demand for a few weeks straight. As well as being great to just make for yourself, these are also good to put together and give to friends that are busy or exhausted (i.e. just had a baby). You can keep the batter in the fridge and pop a few in the oven whenever you want some.

Bran Muffins
Makes approx. 4 dozen … a good Mennonite sort of recipe. I usually just make half a recipe.
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 litre buttermilk
  • 3 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups branflakes (cereal)
  • 2 cups bran
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 cups raisins
Soak branflakes and bran in boiling water while mixing other ingredients. Then mix everything together really well. Let sit for 12 hours in fridge before baking. Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full (no more). Bake as few or as many as you would like at 350F (180C) for 20 min. The batter will keep in the fridge for 6 weeks uncooked … at least that’s what the recipe I inherited says!

strawberry rhubarb ginger jam

2015-07-12 14.09.44-1Yesterday I showed up in Santry Community Garden all ready to put a good bit of work in. I haven’t been there for this season yet so wasn’t quite expecting the job I was asked to do – harvest the strawberries. Not a bad job!! After a couple of hours lifting leaves and removing those red morsels of goodness I was amazed to realise that this was not the end of the crop! They seemed to be ripening behind me. We shared them at the end of the day and I grabbed a few stalks of rhubarb as well. Soon I was off home to make some jam.

I know some people like their strawberries alone in a jam but I found that adding a bit of rhubarb and ginger to the mix makes the strawberries have this je ne sais quoi quality about them. If you are up to your eyes in strawberries, why not give a bit of jam a go?

Strawberry Rhubarb Ginger Jam

Makes approx. 1.5 litres

  • 750 g strawberries, cut if they are larger
  • 250 g rhubarb, cut into 1 cm slices
  • 750 g jam sugar (sugar with pectin added … not sure how much pectin if you add it separately)
  • 1 thumb of fresh ginger, grated
  • juice of 1/2 a large lemon
  • Jars that can be sealed (I use Kilner jars)

Place a small plate in the freezer. Put all ingredients into a large pot, mix and let sit for 1/2 hour. Meanwhile, wash jam jars and lids with hot soapy water. Place the jars in the oven with open ends up and not touching each other. Turn the oven on to 100C. Place the lids with seals up in a pot and cover with boiling water.

Put the pot of fruit over a medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the fruit is softening, stirring occasionally, approximately 10 minutes. Do not boil during this stage. Turn the heat up and bring to a rolling boil (the top will keep boiling away even if you are stirring it). Keep at a rolling boil for 10 minutes (start simmering the lids). If you would like more lumps of fruit then just stir occasionally. Otherwise, feel free to crush fruit against the side or bottom while boiling. Take the plate out of the freezer and put a teaspoon of jam onto it. Leave for 10 seconds. Using your finger, push against the jam. If it wrinkles or is the consistency of jam you like then the jam is ready. If you want it thicker then leave it boiling for anther two minutes then check again.

Carefully take the jars out of the oven and place on a thick tea towel (to prevent them from breaking). Spoon the jam into each jar, leaving about 1/2 inch room at the top. If you drip jam on the top of the jar, use a damp cloth and clean it. Put the lids on and tighten to fingertip tight. Leave until cool. The tops of the lids should dimple down if the seal has worked. If they don’t seal then you will need to keep it in the fridge or freezer. If they seal properly you can store them on the shelf.

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strawberries and cream cupcakes

2015-06-15 09.04.01-1It’s strawberry season! And I have just found where I can get 1kg of those beautiful red berries for 5 euro at a Keelings farm shop just north of my place. Strawberry cupcakes with cream has become a favourite over the years. Believe it or not, I’m not really a sweets person so I really like the more delicate, fresh sweetness of these. This week I made them for the last day of one of the sewing classes I teach as a “thank you for taking a chance on me.” I am incredibly appreciative of people who let me try something new with them. This class took that chance and excelled in so many ways. If you have someone to thank and have access to strawberries, I’d recommend these!

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

(makes approximately 16)

Preheat oven to 175C.

  • 80 g butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup chopped strawberries

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in flour, baking powder, salt and milk. With a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the strawberries. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 18 minutes or until done (lightly press on the top and if it springs back it is done). Let cool completely before topping with cream.

Cream

  • 1 cup fresh cream (whipping cream)
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Beat together just until it holds its shape (stiff peaks). Be careful to not over beat though. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Garnish with a slice of strawberry.

superfood wraps

IMG_9470This past month my mom and dad came to visit! It was the perfect excuse to go exploring around the country a bit when the time allowed. As well as some favourite places of mine we also got to explore some new areas together. On the day we were headed down to Glendalough (been there maybe 100 times already!) we stopped off at Avoca in Kilmacanogue for a quick lunch. Knowing that we would likely be eating out a lot more than I am used to over the coming weeks, I decided on something that looked far more healthy – the superfood wrap. I couldn’t even tell you what was all in it! This week I was getting ready to meet a friend for a catch up after work. I thought that a small picnic might be nice while going around Phoenix Park on a rented tandem bicycle. I began to crave the superfood wrap so decided that would make a great small meal on the go. Although I know I didn’t include everything that was in the wrap at Avoca, I was still pretty impressed with how it turned out. If you’re in need of a healthy wrap filler you can keep in the fridge for a few days, this is it!

Here is what I put in:

  • Red Cabbage
  • Red Pepper
  • Carrot
  • Beetroot
  • Strawberries
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Linseed (Flax)
  • Mixed Nuts (roughly chopped)
  • Homemade dressing (2 parts olive oil, 1 part vinegar, bit of sugar)

I topped it off with a bit of Lidl Greek style salad cheese and wrapped it up. Absolutely amazing! I’m pretty sure that was the last healthy food while eating out with my parents! I had a lot of chips after that.