Showing posts with label bread. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bread. Show all posts

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving in Ireland

I may have mentioned that I live near Plymouth, Massachusetts. Yes, that place where Thanksgiving began. Recent archeology seems to have pinpointed exactly where the first settlement was located—where those poor cold and hungry settlers were struggling to survive, with a little help from the local Indians.

But right now I’m not at home, I’m in Ireland. This is a nice time to travel to Ireland, since it’s not too crowded and not too cold. And this year I’m setting up my own cottage (including the kitchen), which is a real thrill.

I’ve been visiting Ireland since 1998, and it grabbed hold of me then and never let go. Now I own a half-acre piece of it, in sight of where my great-grandparents were married, and where the bride’s family, the O’Regans, had lived for generations. I can see the church steeple from my land. Rather than braving a new and unknown land, I’m taking back a bit of the old country.

But this is a food blog, right? Let me say up front: Irish food is great. That wasn’t true when I first visited, when watery stew with lots of potatoes and carrots was all too common. Now it will stand up to anyone’s cuisine. I’m not talking about fancy white-tablecloth places, I’m talking about little storefront restaurants with a couple of hardworking women turning out simple tasty and creative dishes (I promise I’ll share one of those with you soon).

Here's one good example, from the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen: a warm steak salad.
The steak was sauted with coconut milk, soy sauce and red chiles and served on "mixed leaves"
(don't you love it?)

I’m madly in love with the Skibbereen weekly farmers’ market—I plan my visits to include at least one Saturday there. The local supermarket Fields is also terrific, with fresh game, and bread baked daily, and an amazing array of cakes (the Irish do seem to love their sweets—maybe that’s where I get it).

Freshly-baked bread
From the farmers' market: on the left,
goat cheese with fresh herbs; on the right,
gubbeen ( a local specialty)

Yes, that thing at the bottom left is a rabbit
I passed.
But I had to have the pheasant.

But I can’t give you a recipe right now because I’m still getting to know my kitchen. The appliances all work, but they’re tiny by U.S. standards (no way an American turkey would fit in that oven!). We’re still scrubbing and sanding and filling and sorting and so on, and we’re lucky if we can even see a countertop. I’m also still buying all the “essential” cooking tools. Give me a few more days and it will be ready to roll.

It's coming along. At least all the
appliances work!

In addition, I have a vintage Rayburn cooker (the Irish term for stove/oven). It dates from around 1950, so it’s probably original to the cottage. I’m hoping that as soon as I get it clean(er) and patch up a few joints, I can manage to produce something like food in it—at least a loaf of soda bread!

My Rayburn cooker, ca. 1950

I am grateful to all you followers that have read our books, which helped me find a way to reclaim a piece of my own history. Don’t worry, I’ll be headed back to Massachusetts soon, but I hope I’ll be able to get over here a few times a year. So now I have two homes, each with its own history.

Next week: a recipe! (I hope). 

Cruel Winter, the next in the County Cork Mystery Series, coming from Crooked Lane in March 2017.

Of course I'm doing research here! No snow yet, but definitely frost in the mornings.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thanksgiving Irish Cranberry Bread

Once again the American holiday of Thanksgiving rolls around and finds me out of the country, in Ireland. Having two very separate main branches to my family tree gets confusing: on my mother’s side, I can go back to the Mayflower, and one great-great-whatever managed the first grist mill in Plymouth; on my father’s side, it’s almost all dairy farmers in Cork and Carlow.

This year I’ve become the proud owner of a small Irish cottage in West Cork, in sight of where generations of my ancestors lived. It’s not ancient—probably built in the mid 20th century—but it still has a cast iron cook stove, which originally doubled as heating for the main sitting area. I’m guessing it’s still functional and it burns solid fuel: coal, wood, peat, and for all I know, household trash. Looking at it, I can understand why the Irish bake so much soda bread, both light and dark. I think it’s a safe bet that the temperature of the oven is a bit inconsistent, but soda bread is very forgiving. I’m looking forward to trying the oven out, after a good scrubbing.

Traditional Irish soda bread contains raisins or currants. As a nod to my American side, I’m swapping those for dried cranberries. After all, the corporate HQ of Ocean Spray is literally right down the road where I live, and I believe in buying local.

Cranberry Soda Bread


1-1/2 cups dried cranberries
4 cups unbleached flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
6 Tblsp granulated sugar
6 Tblsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
2 egg yolks
1 Tblsp Irish whiskey (optional, but this one comes from West Cork!))

2 Tblsp. crystallized sugar for sprinkling


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Put the cranberries into a bowl and pour boiling water over them to soften for a few minutes. Drain.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 6 Tblsp. sugar.

Blend in the butter with pastry blender, a pair of knives, or your fingers, until pea-sized bits form.

In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg yolks and whiskey if you’re using it (you could substitute vanilla extract if you like). Pour the liquids over the flour mixture and scatter the cranberries on top. With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture to form a moist dough. Knead the dough lightly in the bowl for 15 seconds.

On a lightly floured counter or board, divide the dough in half. Form each half into a rounded half-ball measuring 5-5 1/2 inches in diameter. 

Place each ball on the lined baking sheet, 5" apart. With a small sharp knife, slash the top with a cross. Sprinkle the top of each loaf with crystallized sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the loaves are golden. Transfer to wire racks and let cool for 30 minutes. Serve with plenty of good Irish butter (try Kerrygold—I may have met some of the cows that contributed to that butter).

You Can Celebrate Thanksgiving Anywhere!

Coming in March 2017: Cruel Winter, the fifth book in the County Cork mystery series. There is a lot of new snow on the ground in West Cork, and an old crime to solve . . .

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Homemade Naan #Recipe @PegCochran

It was Sunday night and that's often when I try new recipes or get a yen to make a slightly more special meal--takeout pizza is reserved for Friday nights after a work week!

I was craving something spicy and exotic and decided to make a chicken curry.  But I wanted something to go with it--something other than rice.  I wanted naan!  

I love trying new things in the kitchen and I love baking.  After reading the recipe, I realized it wasn't all that hard and didn't actually take all that much hands-on time.  I found a recipe on Budget Bytes which I've adapted somewhat.  It was a huge success!  There's nothing like serving homemade bread--it seems even more special than the fanciest French sauce.

Give it a try--it's a lot of fun!  And delicious, too.  I plan on serving the leftovers with a recipe for crockpot gyros that my daughter gave me.  Two different cultures, but the pita bread and naan are actually quite similar.  


  • 1 packet yeast (I used Rapid Rise although regular will do)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup water  
  • 2½ to 3 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt  
  • ¼ cup olive oil  
  • ⅓ cup plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • 1 large egg   


Combine yeast, sugar and warm water.  Stir to dissolve and let sit until foamy on top.

When yeast mixture is foamy, whisk in oil, yogurt and egg.

Combine one cup of flour and the salt.  Add the wet ingredients and stir to combine.  Add more flour, ½ cup at a time until dough is too stiff to stir with a spoon.  This will take between one and one and a half cups.  I used approximately 2 ½ cups flour overall.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately three minutes until smooth and soft but not sticky.  Add more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking.

Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl, turn to coat, and cover.  Let stand approximately an hour until doubled in size.

Once dough has doubled, punch down and form into a disk.   

 Cut the disk into eight equal pieces. 


Shape each piece into a ball.

Heat a cast iron or heavy skillet over medium heat.  Roll out first ball of dough into a six inch diameter circle, approximately ¼ inch thick.

Place the circle of dough in the hot skillet.  Large bubbles will form on the surface of dough and the bottom will become golden brown.  Flip the dough and cook the other side until golden.

Continue with rest of dough.

Finished naan can be brushed with butter and sprinkled with fresh herbs if desired. 

I'm super excited about No Farm, No Foul--book #1 in my brand new Farmer's Daughter series!

Coming September 6 - available for pre-order now!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Irish Molasses Bread

by Sheila Connolly

Another gem from the Irish Pub Cookbook (don’t worry—I’ll run out of new ones soon).

A word about the Irish and their bread. I’ve traveled in Ireland a number of times and visited different areas; I’ve attended Irish events in the greater Boston area, most often hosted by native-born Irish. With very few exceptions, any event ends with an cupán tae and some bread. The basic bread is arán donn, or brown bread, which appears at every meal in Ireland and a few times in between. If it’s a fancier event you get arán sióde (soda bread), which has currants or raisins in it and is sweeter. This recipe is kind of a blend between the two: it has raisins and currants, but it’s dark and not too sweet—and it goes well with tea!

In Ireland it’s rude to turn down the offer of tea and bread, so sit back and enjoy it. And don’t forget the butter!

Irish Treacle Bread

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
10 Tblsp butter
6 Tblsp molasses
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup currants
2/3 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line a 9-inch loaf pan.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and spices into a bowl. Lightly rub in the butter until the mixture forms fine crumbs.
Dry ingredients with butter rubbed in

My vintage sifter--it's big!

Whisk the molasses with the eggs and the buttermilk, then stir in the sugar. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture then pour in the molasses mixture. Mix with a fork, gradually drawing in the flour from around the edges.

Add the currants and the golden raisins and mix to a soft dough. Spoon the dough into the loaf pan, leveling the surface with a wet spatula.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool for about two hours.

Serve with plenty of butter!

Coming in June: the next of the Museum Mysteries, Privy to the Dead.

What does Nell Pratt find in the privy (don't you want to know? It's not what you think!), and what does that have to do with the hit-and-run death of a man outside the building?

Available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble


Friday, January 30, 2015

St. Brigid's Oat Bread

by Sheila Connolly (or maybe Síle ní Conghaile for this week)

Ah, and who would this St. Brigid be? Only the female patron saint of Ireland. Early on, she was a Celtic goddess of fertility, and over time she came to be associated with the beginning of spring, which falls halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. That’s when the spring lambs are being born, you’re readying your fields for planting, and you’re doing your spring cleaning (in Ireland, not Massachusetts!). Her feast day, also known as Imbolc, falls on February 1st.

My publisher wisely chose to issue the books in my County Cork series in the first week in February. May I have your blessing, St. Brigid?

I’ve read that chewy oatcakes are often given to children on St. Brigid’s Day (to strengthen their jaws). Having heard that, I went hunting for a recipe. I found two—that bore no resemblance to each other, other than the basic ingredients. They differed in cooking temperature, proportions of ingredients, and how they were shaped. So much for tradition. I improvised.

For mysterious reasons I was out of regular oatmeal, but I had a full can of Irish steel-cut oats, and I figured they would meet the “chewy” requirement. One recipe suggested soaking the oats in buttermilk overnight. I figured a few hours would do it, so I put the oats and the buttermilk together and let them sit.

Anyway, here’s the basic recipe, more or less:

3/4 cup steelcut oats (Irish, of course)
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

The oats
The soaked oats

Mix these together and set them aside for several hours or even overnight (add the extra buttermilk if all the liquid has been absorbed quickly).

The dry ingredients
3/4 cup flour
1 Tblsp sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3 Tblsp butter, in small pieces

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and mix.

Add the butter bits and cut in until the mixture is crumbly (okay, I used my hands).

Add the oat/milk mixture and mix.

Beat the egg and add that, and mix again with a fork until the dough holds together. Form a ball and transfer it to a floured surface. Warning: this will be sticky, so feel free to add flour. Knead 20-25 times.

Pat the dough into an 8" round and transfer to the baking sheet. Score a deep cross in the top (do not cut through).

Ready to bake

Bake 23-28 minutes until brown, and a tester comes out clean. Break into quarters to serve.

I was happily surprised by the results. The bread was lighter in texture than I expected, and still had a bit of crunch from the oats. Usually the bread is served with butter and jam (I’m addicted to Irish black currant jam, which is hard to find around here), but it could also go well with soup.

This bread should be eaten quickly--it's best fresh.

I hope I’ve done St. Brigid proud. Brid agus Muire dhuit! And bless this book!

An Early Wake, third of the County Cork Mysteries, coming February 3rd.

Sure, and it's time for another trip to Ireland, isn't it?

If you're looking to order it, you'll find it here:

Amazon (print)

Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Best Ever 7 Up Biscuits - Tasty Tips on Making this Classic Recipe from Cleo Coyle

Because the word UP in Chinese sounds like the word for HAPPINESS, 7 Up is considered to be a lucky drink for weddings and other celebrationsa little piece of trivia Marc and I discovered while researching our 11th Coffeehouse Mystery, A Brew to a Kill, which features some fun (and tasty) sleuthing in New York's Chinatown.

With the Chinese New Year (also known as Lunar New Year) coming up in a few weeks, I thought it would be fun to share my version of the classic 7 Up Biscuits recipe. 
I don’t know how much luck these biscuits will bring you, but they will likely bring happiness to your taste buds. May you…

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle has a partner in 
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here or here.

Why "7 Up" Biscuits?

I know what some of you may be thinking:

Why use 7 Up (or any lemon-lime soda)
in a baking-powder biscuit recipe?

In my view, there are two reasons... 

1 - Carbonation: The soda boosts the lightness and fluffiness of your biscuits' interiors, and...

2 - Flavor: No, the flavor of lemon-lime is not something you will taste in the final product. (I promise, I mean, who wants a lemon-lime baking powder biscuit?) What the 7 Up does is boost the overall flavor by subtly underlining the slight tang of the sour cream. Together these flavors provide complexity, helping your quickly-made boxed-mix biscuits taste more like granny's old-fashioned buttermilk biscuits.

My version of this recipe tweaks the classic ingredients, but my biggest change to the common approach is saving you time and mess. I don't turn the dough out onto a board and knead it with my hands, for example, and I don't pre-cut every biscuit and lay each out in the pan. If you're also looking for the best results from the fastest method, you might like this version, too... 

What I do is bake the biscuits as a single, square slab, which allows the interiors to bake up all the more higher and fluffier. Then I cut the big slab with a pizza cutter, making heavenly squares. My husband loves these biscuits. I hope you do to, too.

Now let's get cookin'...

Click here for
the recipe PDF.
To download this recipe in a free PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Cleo's 7 Up Biscuits
My version of the classic recipe

Makes 9 square biscuits using an 8 x 8 baking pan 


5 Tablespoons unsalted butter (unsalted butter is fresher than salted, but you can certainly use salted butter for this recipe, simply reduce the salt by half)

2 cups Bisquick** baking mix (lightly pack it into the cup and level it off)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt (again, if using salted butter, reduce by half)

1/2 cup full fat sour cream

1/2 cup 7 Up freshly opened, not diet*


*Although Sprite or another lemon-lime soda will work for this recipe, the Chinese consider 7 Up good luck!

**Bisquick also makes a "Heart Smart" version of their regular product with zero trans fat. I have not tested this version of their product with this recipe, so I cannot tell you if it gives the same results, but I plan to try it in the near future.


STEP 1: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Be sure it's well preheated for the best results. While the oven is preheating, drop the cold butter into a nonstick 8 x 8 baking pan and pop it into the oven for about 2 minutes. When the butter is close to melted, pull out the hot pan and let it finish melting outside of the oven (to ensure the butter does not burn). Now measure out 2 tablespoons of the melted butter into a small bowl and set it aside to cool. Meanwhile… 

STEP 2: Into a medium size mixing bowl, measure out the Bisquick as described in the ingredients (by lightly packing it into the cup and leveling it off). Get out a butter knife and stir in the salt (use half the amount if using salted butter).

Now add the sour cream and the 2 tablespoons of melted butter that you reserved from step 1. Using your trusty butter knife, "cut" these ingredients into the dry Bisquick. See my photos. The dough should appear crumbly.  

STEP 3: Open a new 7 Up for the best carbonation. Pour the 1/2 cup of soda into the bowl and stir it, as shown, using the butter knife until everything is combined.

Now switch to a big spoon or spatula and very vigorously stir this mixture for 20 to 30 seconds. No kidding, count as you stir and you'll notice the dough will begin to stiffen up, forming the gluten that will give your biscuits structure. 

When is it ready? When you pull your spoon or rubber spatula away the dough should come with it, feeling elastic like bread or pizza dough (see my photo below). If your dough does not do this, keep vigorously stirring until it does.

STEP 4: For best results, pop your 8 x 8 pan with melted butter back in the oven for one minute (no more) to really warm it up. This will give you the very best rise for your biscuits. Be careful now, the pan will be hot. Pour the stiff dough into the melted butter of your hot pan. Be sure to use all the dough, scraping the bowl well with a rubber spatula.

(Use an oven mitt to hold the pan and...) Quickly flatten out the dough with your spoon or spatula, stretching it to evenly cover the bottom of the pan. The dough does not have to touch the four sides of the pan, but it should be fairly close to them, as shown in my photos.

STEP 5: Immediately place the pan in your well preheated oven. Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes. The edges will be golden brown and crusty, and the top should show touches of light golden browning. The top will also show some cracking.

Cool for 5 minutes in the pan and 

5 minutes out of the pan
before cutting...

Can you see the *heart* in my biscuits?
Yes, folks, I really do cook with love!

COOL IN THE PAN for at least 5 full minutes. Why? The insides are still baking in the hot pan so this is an important step.

DE-PANNING: Because of the melted butter base, the biscuit square will slip right out. Remove it like you would a layer of cake by placing a plate over the top of the pan and flipping it. Yes, the bottom of the baked biscuit square will appear golden brown and crusty. But trust me, the inside will be amazingly light and fluffy. 

COOL OUT OF THE PAN: Allow the big square to cool for another 5 minutes before cutting. Trust me, those fluffy insides are retaining a lot of heat and will still be hot when you eat them, even after 10 total minutes of cooling.

CUTTING TIPS: For best results, flip the big biscuit right side up again, and you will have an easier time cutting your individual biscuits. Use a pizza cutter for the cleanest, best-looking slices. Then slather on butter, honey, or jam; dip into hot gravy; or split and fill for an amazing biscuit sandwich.

Presentation Note

If you're serving these to guests or your family, you can keep the biscuit slab whole and slice it up right at the table (as shown above). This makes a fun, somewhat more theatrical presentation of your beautiful biscuits. This method also has the advantage of staying hot much longer than individual biscuits so you have time to get the rest of the meal on the table. 

Golden and crusty on the outside.
Fluffy and light on the inside.

Click here to download
this recipe as a PDF.

Eat with joy 

Stay cozy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Friend me on facebook here. * Follow me on twitter here
Learn about my books here

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Once Upon a Grind:
A Coffeehouse Mystery

* A Best Book of the Year
Reviewer's Pick -
King's River Life

* Top Pick! ~ RT Book Reviews

* Fresh Pick ~ Fresh Fiction

* A Mystery Guild Selection

Delicious recipes are also featured in my 14th 
culinary mystery, Once Upon a Grind, including...

* Black Forest Brownies 
* Cappuccino Blondies 
* Shrimp Kiev 
* Dr Pepper Glazed Chicken
* Silver Dollar Chocolate Chip Cookies
* "Fryer Tuck's" Ale-Battered Onion Rings
* Poor Man's Caviar 
* Caramel-Dipped Meltaways

...and many more recipes, including
a guide to reading coffee grinds...

See the book's
Recipe Guide (free PDF)

* * * 

Marc and I also write
The Haunted Bookshop

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with mini plot summaries, 

by clicking here.
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