Showing posts with label raisins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label raisins. Show all posts

Friday, December 16, 2016

Irish Porter Cake

Porter cake is traditionally served around St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, or so say a lot of recipes. But when I was visiting Eileen Connolly—the Connolly who gave her name to Connolly’s of Leap, the model for Sullivan’s Pub in my books—I walked into her kitchen while she was baking a batch of loaves to give as Christmas gifts to friends. The room smelled wonderful, and she shared a warm loaf with me. What could be better? Sitting in the “real” pub with a hot-from-the-oven cake and a cuppa tea and talking with a friend about the business so I could write about it later? Perfect.

She wouldn’t part with the recipe, but her secret is to marinate the various raisins in Guinness overnight.

A lot of recipes call for candied fruit, which you’d find in a fruitcake. I can’t stand the stuff—and Eileen didn’t include any (maybe we’re related after all?)

The result is a soft, rich, dark cake, which if you warm it up a bit goes well with some butter. It’s not quite a fruit cake (everybody’s not-favorite loaf).

Irish Porter Cake (thank you, Eileen!)


1-1/3 cups currants
2 cups raisins
2 cups golden raisins
1 bottle Guinness (assuming you don’t have a keg handy)

Everything else

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup soft dark brown sugar

4 cups flour
spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg) – at least a couple of teaspoons of each
Pinch of salt
1 tsp baking soda
grated rind of one lemon
3 eggs, beaten together


Mix the currants, raisins and sultanas with the Guinness in a large bowl and let soak overnight.

On the day of baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Drain the raisin mix well. Grease whatever pan(s) you're using (see below) and line with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Sift together the flour, spices, salt, baking soda and lemon rind. Gradually add the mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, alternating with the eggs.

Mix the raisin mix into the batter by hand. Note: this will be stiff!

Spoon the mixture into a greased and lined 9" round cake pan, or 2 4 x 8-inch loaf pans (easier to give as gifts).

Bake in the preheated oven until a skewer comes out clean (start checking after an hour, but it may be a bit longer). Cool for 20 minutes in the pan before turning it out on a wire rack.

The cake’s flavor improves with age if you let it sit for a couple of days. Wrap with foil while still warm to keep moist.

And share with friends!

And now for the giveaway! I’d send you a loaf of the cake, but I don’t think it would survive the trip (besides, I’d have to admit to our nice post office employee that it’s perishable, right?). So instead I’m offering this very useful small jar to keep whatever you like it (pennies for your next holiday fund? spices? lost buttons?). Oh, all right, it's for cat treats--I'm just a bit biased, with three of the critters.

PLUS a copy of the latest of any of my series: A Turn for the Bad (County Cork Mysteries), Seeds of Deception (Orchard Mysteries) or Dead End Street (Museum Mysteries), in print or e-format. 

It was the lovely spicy smell of the porter cake that drew me into Eileen’s kitchen (and kept me there for an hour or more). What smell of baking means “holiday” to you? (Or if nobody in your house bakes, is there another scent that reaches you?) Leave a comment and I’ll draw a winner.

And happy holidays to you all! 

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


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Depression Cake

No, it's not a cake that's feeling blue!  It's a cake that was made during the Depression and during the war without eggs, milk or butter which were either rationed or too expensive.  It's also something of a science project as you will see.  It's also known as Crazy Cake or Wacky Cake.  No matter what you call it, we thought it was delicious!  I was going to make a cream cheese frosting for it but opted for a dusting of powdered sugar instead--fewer calories and fat!

There are variations on this theme including one that is chocolate and made with cocoa powder.  But according to my extensive research (a glance at Wikipedia), this raisin/spice version dates back to the Civil War.

On another positive note, I made the whole thing in one large saucepan!  Easy clean up.

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups dark raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons water (separate from the 1 1/2 cups above)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine sugar, water, vegetable oil, raisins and spices in a pan and bring to a boil.  Boil for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Let cool for 10 minutes.

Dissolve baking soda and salt in the 2 teaspoons of water and add to cooled raisin mixture.  It will foam.  If I'd paid more attention in science class I might be able to tell you why!  (I'll bet Sheila knows.)

Blend in flour and baking powder and mix well.

Grease your pan (the recipe calls for  a 9 inch square pan but it worked fine in my 8 inch square pan).  Pour in batter and bake for 30 minutes (recipe says 55 minutes but mine was done at around the 30 minute mark.  Better to check sooner than burn later...)  Cake is done when the proverbial toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Don't over-bake.

Cool slightly before serving.  Cover with your favorite frosting or dust with powdered sugar.

Boil raisins, spices, oil and water in a saucepan

Add salt and baking soda mixture and it foams!

Everything mixed in one pan!

Out of the oven!

Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!

My new cover!! My Cranberry Cove series debuts in August.

Available for pre-order now!

Hit and Nun, the third book in my Lucille series is out now!

Only $.99

Only $.99

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Spiced Apple and Brown Sugar Spoonbread: An Easy Bread Pudding by Cleo Coyle #apples

The earliest published version of spoonbread dates back to the Carolina Housewife cookbook by Sarah Rutledge, 1847.

To make Sarah's version, you take...

"One pint of corn flour; boil half to a mush; add, when nearly cold, two eggs, a table-spoonful of butter and a gill* of milk, and then the remaining half of flour. Bake on a griddle, or grease a pan and drop in spoonfuls."

*A gill equals 1/2 cup. (And, yes, I had to look it up.)

So there you are. You can try Sarah's recipe or give mine a go. This Spiced Apple and Brown Sugar Spoonbread has layers of harvest flavor added to make a lovely, warm breakfast bread pudding for apple season. 

With our own New York apples in the markets now (or a short drive away to pick-your-own orchards), this is not only a great time for apple dishes, but also apple mysteries...

Warm congrats to my fellow crime-writing cook, Sheila Connolly, on the release of her new Orchard Mystery Golden Malicious.

May you eat (and read) with joy! 

~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle, author of The
Coffeehouse Mysteries
, has
a partner in crime-writing--
her husband, Marc.
Cleo Coyle's
Spiced Apple
and Brown Sugar

An Easy Bread Pudding

Spoonbread is said to have its roots in a Native American dish called subpawn, a type of cornmeal porridge. English colonists added eggs and milk to enrich the dish, and (as I mentioned above) the first published version appeared in 1847. 

I built on the classic recipe, adding harvest flavors to create an easy, tasty breakfast bread pudding, perfect for chilly fall mornings. Serve it plain or with a drizzle of maple syrup for a tasty alternative to pancakes or waffles. And don't forget that fresh, hot pot of coffee to warm your bones while you're waiting to eat with joy... ~ Cleo

To download my recipe in a free PDF document that you can print, save, or share click here.

This recipe is perfect for a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. In a pinch, however, you can use an 8-inch square baking pan. Whatever you use, be sure it is well greased with butter or cooking spray to prevent sticking. For a larger batch, double the amount of ingredients and use a 2-1/2 quart casserole dish or a 9 x 9 x 2-inch pan. Cooking time may be a bit longer for a larger casserole, check for doneness as indicated in the recipe.


1 large ripe apple (or 2 small), peeled and shredded
using a boxed grater (or food processor)
(about 1-1/4 cups shredded apple)

3 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons white, granulated sugar

¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar

1 teaspoon apple pie spice

¼ teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups milk whole or low fat (1% or 2%, not skim)

½ cup apple juice (or apple cider)

¾ cup cornmeal (yellow or white)

(optional) ½ cup raisins or craisins (sweetened dried cranberries)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons baking powder

Directions: First preheat your oven to 350° F. Into a medium size saucepan, place the shredded apples and butter, warm over medium heat, stirring while butter melts. Add the white and brown sugars, apple pie spice, and salt and stir to blend the flavors. Add the milk, apple juice, 3/4 cup of cornmeal, and (optional) raisins or craisins (or a combination of the two). Cook and stir this mixture over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until mixture thickens and resembles porridge.

IMPORTANT: Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool off for at least ten minutes before whisking in the eggs and baking powder. Transfer immediately to a well-greased 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes (depending on oven). When spoonbread is set on top (no longer liquid and jiggling) and slightly browned, it’s finished cooking. As the name implies, spoon the bread pudding onto plates right from the baking dish. You can eat it plain or drizzle pure maple syrup on it for an amazing breakfast.

P h o t o s 

Eat (and read) with joy! 
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

A Brew to a Kill

The bestseller in hardcover is
now a bestseller in paperback.

"A foodie's delight...And a
satisfyingly rich mystery."
~ Kirkus Reviews

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cleo Coyle’s Oatmeal Cookie Brittle (No Flour or Butter) + Win $25 in Penzeys Spices

We're celebrating cooking with Penzeys spices! One lucky commenter on this post has won a $25.00 shopping spree of Penzeys spices (in stores, by phone, or online). The runner-up has won a large bottle of apple pie spice, which is featured in this recipe. Winners will be announced here in my new blog post on Tuesday, December 13th!

Cleo Coyle, who thinks
spice is the spice of life,
 is author of the
Coffeehouse Mysteries.
The holidays in my big, Italian family were always gastronomically glorious. Several of my relatives were in the food or restaurant business and my aunts, great aunts, and cousins were all excellent cooks, most of whom took pride in giving trays of homemade Italian cookies as holiday gifts.

I learned much growing up at the knees of these folks, and (no surprise) I was a chunky monkey through much of my girlhood. Over the years, the bathroom scale has gone up and down, but I’ve never let it kill my joy of cooking and eating. The older I become, the more I channel my foodie passion into experimenting with recipes, challenging myself to make them lighter and healthier—without giving up the pleasure of flavor. 

Of course, I still enjoy baking up decadent treats. To see the many (mainly chocolate) recipes featured in my latest Coffeehouse Mystery, Murder by Mocha, like these ganache-dipped chocolate chip cookie dough bites, click here. :)

For today, however, I’m sharing a somewhat healthier cookie option for your holiday trays: Overnight Oatmeal Cookie Brittle. There 
is no flour in my recipe yet the cookie is delightfully crispy and chewy. There is no butter yet the caramelization in the baking makes the cookie taste buttery. It’s also packed with the heart-healthy whole grain of oatmeal, the wonderful Omega-3 nutrition of walnuts and the antioxidants of raisins.

(I know, I know!) So the cookies have a great personality. How do they taste? My husband, Marc, who often cooks with me, declared this one of the best oatmeal treats he’s ever eaten. Certainly, if you prefer your oatmeal cookies thick and soft, you won't agree—and might be happier using the “drop cookie” instructions I provide instead. But if you’re game for a thin, crisp yet chewy cookie that’s full of flavor, the brittle may work for you.

This recipe is also pretty versatile. You can keep it healthy and simple or you can tart it up for holiday or dessert trays, adding toffee bits, Craisins, butterscotch and/or white chocolate chips.

You’ll notice I’m using Penzeys apple pie spice in this recipe. Like my fellow bloggers, I find Penzeys herbs and spices to be of the highest quality and potency. You can certainly make your own apple pie spice by blending spices in your own kitchen (and I give you a quick recipe for it today), but I find buying the blend pre-mixed is a time saver.

(Read more about today’s Penzeys giveaways after my recipe below.)


Finally, this recipe calls for “quick cooking oats,” and in case any of you are wondering…

QUESTION: What’s the difference between Quick Cooking Oats, Rolled Oats, and Steel Cut Oats? Is one “healthier” than the other? Can I substitute one for another in a recipe? 

ANSWER: (1) Steel cut oats (left) are whole oats that have been chopped up a bit. (2) Rolled oats (center) are whole oats that have been steamed and rolled flat. (3) Quick cooking oats (which is what this recipe calls for) are rolled oats that have been chopped up even further so they'll cook faster. 

All three of these oats carry nearly the same amount of fiber and nutrition. The primary difference among them is in how they’re cut. Read more hereAs for recipes, do not substitute. Any recipe the specifies a certain kind of oats is attempting to create a specific texture in the end product, so substituting one type for another will produce less than optimum results. 

Cleo Coyle’s
Overnight Oatmeal Cookie Brittle
(Or drop cookies)

As readers of this blog know, whole grained oats and I are old friends. For today’s recipe, I’m employing the same technique I used in my Oatmeal Cookie Muffins. (For a PDF of that recipe, click here.)

The technique is simply this: I soak the oats overnight. This hydrates the oats, allowing the mixture to develop great flavor and the proper texture for the recipe. The next day, I simply stir in a few more ingredients and then bake the whole thing as a large, flat pan cookie. It hardens as it cools. Then I’ll either break it up like brittle or cut it into shapes with a pizza cutter. You can also create drop cookies from this recipe, just be sure to flatten them out with the crisscross of fork tongs before cooking. 

To download a PDF copy of this recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here

My highly sophisticated method for finely
chopping nuts: Seal whole walnuts in a
plastic bag and bang away. Whole
walnuts are less expensive than
pre-chopped and can't we all use a
little primal pounding therapy before
the holidays?
Makes about 24 pieces of brittle or 2 dozen drop cookies 


For the overnight mix:

2 cups “quick cooking” oatmeal (not instant, not rolled)

1 cup light brown sugar 
1/3 cup apple sauce (natural, 
no-sugar added) 
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil 
1-1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice (I use Penzeys; you can also mix your own, see how below**) 

For the next day additions: 

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (chop first, and then measure)
1/4 cup raisins

Tasty variations: Replace raisins with Craisins or dried cranberries; replace walnuts with finely chopped pecans or hazelnuts.

Holiday add-ins: 1/4 cup toffee bits (such as Heath brand Bits ’O Brickle). In addition, try adding 1/2 cup butterscotch chips; OR 1/2 cup white chocolate chips; OR split the amount, adding 1/4 cup of butterscotch and 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips.

**Make Your own Apple Pie Spice (from For every 1 teaspoon mix the following spices: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (some cooks replace cardamom with ginger)


Step 1 – Overnight soak: Into a plastic container, stir together the quick-cooking oats, light brown sugar, apple sauce, oil, and apple pie spice. Mix until well combined. Seal the plastic container and place in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Do not skip this step. You must allow the oats to hydrate and the flavors to develop. (Do not soak longer than 48 hours.) 

Step 2 – Create the dough: Add in the egg, salt, vanilla, finely chopped walnuts, and raisins. Mix well. (If you are adding any other optional extras, fold them in at this time.) 

Step 3 – Line your pan: Preheat oven to 350º F. Very important: You must line a baking sheet or half-sheet pan with parchment paper. If you do not line the pan, you will not be able to lift the brittle off the hot pan and cool it properly. 

Step 4 – Flatten the dough: The secret to this cookie is spreading it very thin. So dump the dough onto the lined pan and use a fork (yes a fork, it works best) to flatten the dough into an extremely thin layer (around 1/8 inch). 

Step 5 – Bake and cool: Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The cookie is done when it turns a light brown, feels fairly firm to the touch in the center, and is crisp around its edges. (See my photos.) Remove pan from oven and see below for options on cutting. 

Option A - Break like brittle: Slide the parchment paper off the hot pan and onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. You can speed up this process by sliding the rack into the refrigerator. Once the cookie is hard, break it into pieces with your hands, as you would peanut brittle. To keep the brittle from become too dry or stale, store it sealed in a plastic container. 

Option B - Slice into shapes: For this option, you'll want to under-bake the brittle slightly, leaning more toward 25 minutes rather than 30. When the pan cookie is finished baking, slide it, parchment paper and all, onto a cutting board. Quickly, while the pan cookie is still warm, use a pizza cutter to slice off the rough ends off the cookie, creating a straight edge on all four sides. Now slice up the warm cookie. Cut first into large squares. Then slice the squares into diagonals to create triangles. Once it's completely cool, store it sealed in a plastic container. 

(Option B - Sliced into Triangles)

Option C - Drop Cookies: Instead of making one big pan cookie, you can simply drop heaping teaspoons of dough onto a lined baking sheet. With the prongs of a fork, crisscross each mound to flatten, much as you would a traditional peanut butter cookie. Bake for about 15 minutes. 

The drop cookies in my photos are all dressed up for the holidays and include my optional add-ins: butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, and toffee bits. 

Apple Pie Spice

Penzeys makes its Apple Pie Spice from a mix of China and Korintje cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and cloves. Frankly, I didn’t know the difference between China and Korintje cinnamon, but Penzeys catalog educated me. China Cinnamon (Tung Hing) is extra sweet, spicy and strong. Indonesia Cinnamon (Korintje) is as strong as China cinnamon but smoother, more mellow, and not as nippy. I love the two cinnamons working together to give the best flavor possible to my cookies.

As is obvious, simply reading the Penzeys catalog (which includes info and recipes) is a joy. It’s free and you can subscribe to it here via their online site. If you win the $25.00 Penzeys gift card, you can order your herbs and spices through their website, drop by their stores, or order by phone via their catalog. Then you can cook and...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes,
enter to win free coffee, or
learn about my books,
including my bestselling
Haunted Bookshop series,
visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.