Michelle Darmody: comforting baked treats

Michelle Darmody: comforting baked treats

Comfort food means different things to different people, so much depends on your upbringing and the culture in which you grew up. Pleasant memories build over time to make certain foods seem more relaxing and soothing than others.

But for me it is the smell of baking wafting throughout the house that really brings reassurance. We need all these home comforts now, as we stay indoors on account of Covid-19.

Well, either baking or the smell of a chicken roasting, turning golden beneath a basting of butter and thyme. Making granola is another firm favourite for its comforting smell, the oats toast gently and the sweet, nutty aroma builds up over the hour or two of roasting.

There are certain baked goods that I find comforting to eat but do not make very often, as they can take time and precision. I adore bready buns, such as cinnamon scrolls or hot cross buns but I am mostly happy to let others bake them for me. If I want a relaxing day in the kitchen I tend to go for the simple recipes of my childhood.

A butterfly bun is an oldie but a goody, they have an air of nostalgia and also taste delicious. Picking off the rounded “wings” and using them to scoop the cream and jam before tucking into the bun itself gives joy at any age.

They come from a time when simple water based icing or jam sprinkled with desiccated coconut were the other alternatives in Ireland. Piped buttercream is a more recent import from the US. Like most sponge-based recipes the buns are best eaten the day they are baked.

Gingerbread with its rich softness and its hint of spices remains one of my favourite cakes. The first bite brings memories of arriving home from school with cold hands and heavy shoulders, aching from a weighty school bag.

A warm square of dark and sticky gingerbread would instantly put the smile back on my face. The gingerbread squares, unlike the buns, get better over a few days, so feel free to make them a day or two in advance.

Michelle Darmody: comforting baked treats

Apricot and almond tart

170g of soft butter

160g of golden caster sugar

110g of ground almonds

55g of plain flour

1 tsp of almond essence

3 eggs

220g of apricot jam

280g block of puff pastry

A sprinkling of slivered almonds

Heat the oven to 180 degrees and place a disc of parchment on the base of a 10 inch tart tin. Grease and flour the edges of the tin.

Beat the butter, caster sugar, ground almonds, flour and the essence until they are combined. Slowly add the eggs.

Roll the pastry on a floured surface until it forms a circular shape larger than your tin. Gently lay the sheet into the tin making sure it comes over the edges. Gently trim off an excess pastry until you have a neat pastry case.

Spread the jam on the base of your pastry case. Pour the almond mixture over and spread it out. Sprinkle with the slivered almonds.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool in the tin until cool enough to handle and then very gently transfer it to a wire rack. Dust lightly with icing sugar if you wish.

Gingerbread squares

230g of self raising flour

2 tsp of ground ginger

1 tsp of ground cinnamon

1 tsp of ground nutmeg

1 tsp of bread soda

110g of cold butter, cubed

50g of golden raisins

50g of crystalised ginger, chopped

280 mls of milk

110g of muscovado sugar

110g of treacle

100g of golden syrup

1 egg

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line an 8 inch square tin with parchment.

Put flour, spices, soda and butter into a bowl, and mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add sultanas and ginger.

In a saucepan gently warm the milk, sugar, treacle and golden syrup together, stir occasionally, until the sugar dissolves.

Stir it into the flour mixture, then add the egg. Beat until it is smooth.

Bake for 50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin.

Slice to the desired size once cool.

Michelle Darmody: comforting baked treats

Butterfly buns

150g of soft butter

150g of golden caster sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp of vanilla essence

150g of self raising flour

To decorate

2 tbsp of whipped cream

1 tbsp of raspberry or strawberry jam

6 cherries, halved (optional)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and place 12 paper bun cases into a bun tin.

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Mix the eggs and vanilla and add to the butter and sugar, making sure to regularly scrape the sides of yourbowl.

Add in the flour and mix slowly until a smooth batter is formed. Scoop into the prepared tin.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Slice the top off each bun so that a small well forms.

Place a teaspoon of jam into the well. Place a dollop of whipped cream on top. Cut the disk from the top of the bun in half and nudge each half into the cream so it looks like butterfly wings. Decorate with a cherry if you wish.

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