Food and Fun: Take some time out for treats

Yes, many of us have succumbed to the ‘Covid stone’ and may be trying to lose it but we all need a treat from time to time. Our recipes here incorporate tasty fruits like blueberries, apricots and almonds while Derval’s lime, chocolate and oat biscuits are a delicious and yet healthy sweet treat option.
Food and Fun: Take some time out for treats
Darina's vanilla cupcakes

It’s been a long summer and it’s not even June yet...that seems to be the consensus among families!

We are all trying to make the most of a difficult situation working from our kitchen tables while fielding questions from fifth class pupils on improper fractions. And then there’s the cooking, which some days feels like an endless chore.

In previous weeks we have focused on budgeting, trying to stay healthy and getting the kids involved in meal preparation among other themes.

This week it’s quite simple: sweet treats.

Yes, many of us have succumbed to the ‘Covid stone’ and may be trying to lose it but we all need a treat from time to time. Plus our recipes incorporate tasty fruits like blueberries, apricots and almonds while Derval’s lime, chocolate and oat biscuits are a delicious and yet healthy sweet treat option.

All of the recipes by renowned chefs and food experts Darina Allen, Michelle Darmody, Derval O’Rourke, and the Currabinny Cooks (James Kavanagh and William Murray), have been published previously in the Irish Examiner Weekend supplement.

Lime, chocolate and oat biscuits (Derval O’Rourke)

Dervals hearty Lime, chocolate and oat biscuits

Dervals hearty Lime, chocolate and oat biscuits

These healthy biscuits are a great recipe to make and eat as snacks. These are great for elevenses or the afternoon slump.

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes, Makes: 10 large cookies

Ingredients:

  • 100g butter at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 100g whole meal flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g porridge oats
  • 25g desiccated coconut
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 75g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method

Heat oven to 180C. Place all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Using your hands combine all the ingredients. Using the palm of your hands form into individual patties and place on a non-stick baking tray.

Pop in the oven for 15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove and cool. Store in an airtight container.

Penny’s vanilla cupcakes (Darina Allen)

Darina's vanilla cupcakes

Darina's vanilla cupcakes

This is our favourite cupcake recipe — they can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. Use your favourite icing and embellish them as much as you fancy.

Makes 9-10 cupcakes or 16-18 ‘wee’ buns

Ingredients:

  • 150g soft butter (at room temperature)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • Half tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk

Icing:

  • 225g icing sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Dark Chocolate Icing:

  • 175g icing sugar
  • 50g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 75g butter
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 110g castor sugar
  • Equipment
  • 2 cupcake tins lined with bun cases

Method

Heat oven to 180C/ gas mark 4. Put all ingredients except milk into a food processer, whizz until smooth. Scrape down sides of the bowl, then add milk and whizz again.

Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin. Bake in heated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile make the icing.

Put the sieved icing sugar and lemon zest into a bowl. Add enough lemon juice to mix to a spreadable consistency. Ice the cupcakes with lemon icing and garnish with a crystallised flower.

Alternatively, use chocolate icing and decorate with chocolate curls.

For the Dark Chocolate Icing:

Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl. Measure the butter, water and sugar into a saucepan. Set over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter is melted.

Bring just to the boil, then draw off the heat and pour at once into the sifted ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and glossy. It will thicken as it cools.

For the Chocolate Curls:

Melt the 150g of the chocolate in a pan over hot water and stir until smooth. Pour the chocolate onto a flat baking sheet, and tap the tin gently to spread. Allow to cool.

Once cool, using a cheese slice, or the blade of a chopping knife, pull the blade across the chocolate creating ‘curls’ as you go. Rest on parchment paper and use as required.

Makes 9-10 cupcakes or 16-18 ‘wee’ buns. This is our favourite cupcake recipe — they can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.

Apricot and almond tart (Michelle Darmody)

Michelle's Apricot and almond tart

Michelle's Apricot and almond tart

Ingredients:

  • 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

Method

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.

Delicious blueberry pie (Curabinny cooks)

A simple blueberry pie, from the Currabinny Cooks

A simple blueberry pie, from the Currabinny Cooks

At first glance this pastry recipe seems incredibly complicated and difficult, but in reality all the fuss is just keeping everything very cold, the method itself is as simple as pie!

Blueberries tend to burst and fall apart when cooked and usually this needs to be clogged up with sugar which makes most blueberry pie’s clawingly sweet.

Here, however, you only cook a quarter of your blueberries into a syrupy sauce into which the rest of the fresh blueberries get folded into just to warm them through.

Flakey pie crust:

  • 115g butter, cold
  • 185g pastry flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 2 ½ tbsp ice water
  • 1 ½ tsp cider vinegar
  • Fresh blueberry filling
  • 1tbspn egg white, lightly beaten
  • 600g blueberries
  • 120ml water
  • 2tbsp cornstarch
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of Salt

Method

- To make crust:

Divide butter into two parts with the ratio 2/3:1/3. Cut the butter into ¾ inch cubes. Wrap each portion in cling film. Refrigerate the two thirds and freeze the third for 30 minutes.

Place flour, salt and baking powder in a freezer bag and freeze for 30 minutes. Place mixing bowl in freezer to chill.

After 30 minutes place chilled flour mix in another bowl and whisk to combine. Rub 2/3 butter into flour until it forms crumbs. Spoon this mixture into a freezer bag along with the frozen 1/3 butter.

Flatten using a rolling pin so the butter forms flakes. Freeze for 10 minutes.

Transfer this mixture to the chilled bowl, sprinkle with iced water and vinegar and spoon back into freezer bag. Knead in the bag using fingers and the palm of your hand. Mixture should hold together and be slightly stretchy.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator, sprinkle lightly with flour and roll until 3mm thick.

Cut a circle big enough to fit comfortably inside your pie pan. Transfer dough carefully into pan, crimp border with fork. Cover loosely and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 220˚c. Line Pastry with parchment paper, fill with baking beans and bake for 20 minutes. Lift out beans and parchment and prick with a fork, bake for a further 5-10 minutes until golden. Cool on a rack for 3 minutes and brush with egg-white.

- To make filling:

Put 150g blueberries in a saucepan with 120ml water, cover and bring to the boil. In a small bowl whisk together cornstarch and remaining 2 tbsp of water.

When the blueberries and water have come to boil, lower the heat to a simmer stir constantly until blueberries start to burst and the juices begin to thicken. Add cornstarch mixture, sugar, lemon juice and salt.

Simmer for a minute until mixture becomes translucent. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining blueberries. Spoon mixture into pie shell and allow to sit for two hours.

At first glance this pastry recipe seems incredibly complicated and difficult, but in reality all the fuss is just keeping everything very cold, the method itself is as simple as pie!

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