Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cocktails and Brownies are a winning combination

Margie has enriched my life. She has been my best friends for 22 years. I feel simultaneously proud and old while typing that. She introduced me to so much deliciousness over those years. While all the cool teenagers were smoking cigarettes in back alleys and our parents were out like normal social people we were at one of our houses gleefully giggling over Cote-St-Luc BBQ 1/4 chicken dinners. The tradition was this: we wore overalls to avoid waistband restrictions. We tore off bits of bun at a time and sandwiched bits of chicken and fries in between then dunked the whole thing in gravy. Then laughed at our enormous food bellies. Then did shots. Not of liquor like normal teenagers, no. The shots were of water. The drinking game was to keep going shot-for-shot of water until one person tapped out because they couldn't hold their pee any longer. What I'm saying is, while normal teenagers went out dancing in clubs, we were doing pee dances in our kitchen. I'm a geek. It didn't spring out of nowhere. It's been a long time developing.

When Margie showed me Ireland she introduced me to some marvelous things. That Disney Aladdin song is playing in my mind as I type this. Baby Guinness shots was one of them (I don't think Disney had cocktails in mind). When I read about this month's chocolate-themed cookalong I was inspired to make a new and improved brownie. What could be better than an alcoholic cocktail brownie containing Bailey's and Tia Maria and looks like a Guinness? Nothing, that's what. No word yet on the winner...
Here is my contribution:

Baby Guinness Brownies by Caryna's Cakes


Ingredients for the brownies:
125g butter, melted
125g granulated sugar
125 demerera sugar
50g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
75g (1 egg plus 1 yolk) lightly beaten egg
90g cream flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt

Ingredients for Tia Maria ganache:
250g double cream
300g 70% dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
35g Tia Maria

Ingredients for Baileys ganache:
250g double cream
300g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
35g Baileys


Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a 9x12" baking tray with silicone paper.

- Mix the sugars, cocoa powder, vanilla and egg. Slowly add the melted butter until well mixed.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to the mixture and fold until blended.
- Pour into prepared tray and bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely.

For the Tia Maria ganache

- Boil 250g cream.
- Pour over the dark chocolate. Let sit for a minute then stir until smooth.
- Add the Tia Maria. Cool slightly until thickened. Spread over the brownie and allow to cool completely.

For the Bailey's ganache

- Boil 250g cream.
- Pour over the white chocolate. Let sit for a minute then stir until smooth.
- Add the Baileys. Cool slightly until thickened. Spread over the brownie and allow to cool completely.

Cut into 15 large, 20 medium or 48 bite sized squares with a sharp knife. D-licious!

Caryna Camerino

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wild Garlic in the Wilds of Wicklow

My brain is kind of like an old Gameboy. Sometimes it happens that there is so much Tetris, Yoshi or Super Mario Bros. going on that all the information gets jammed up and stops the game working efficiently. Sometimes I try to move so quickly that I stop moving altogether. When that happens, just like a Gameboy, I have to reset. I could do something normal like watch a DVD or do yoga, but I'm not normal. That kind of relaxing doesn't appeal to me most of the time. I like a challenge. I've learned that in my life, what works best when I need to reset is to take myself to the country and walk. Up a steep hill. 

Yesterday was one of those days. My stress bumps were coming back and I needed to breath some Wicklow air. I organized with my beautiful friend Marion (who is also an integral member of the Caryna's Cakes team) to go hunting for wild garlic. Marion is a passionate French woman and loves quality. Quality clothes, quality design, quality workmanship, quality fabrics and quality food (including quality cakes. Our friendship blossomed over weekly meetings at a Farmer's market). She knows her way around a roast chicken, let me tell you! She knows remedies and recipes off by heart like a real French woman. And she knows how to spot wild garlic.

When Marion and I set out together, even with the best of intentions for rest and relaxation, it always turns into an adventure. Like the time we ran into the Harlem Globetrotters at 3am just minding our own business with a car chock-a-block with cakes and bakery gear. Long story. This day we though to ourselves that we'd just set upon an intentional adventure. We'd drive and see where we end up. Surely we'd come upon some wild garlic.

Wild garlic is the calling card of springtime in Ireland. Unlike garlic bulbs that we traditionally eat, with wild garlic you eat the leaves and flowers. I aint no talented forager but hunting for wild garlic is the most obvious, safest kind of foraging there is. The leaves look similar to those of Lily of the Valley except they smell unmistakably of...garlic! Wild garlic grows in blankets in damp shaded forest areas. Plenty of forest in Wicklow, right? Well, we though so.

We drove in any random direction until we pulled over at a promising looking forest.

Looks like there would be plenty of damp shady areas in here
We were very professional with our foraging baskets. When we got stuck among the sticky conifers, Marion used hers over her head to escape. Survival 101

1st forest - failblog.com. In the end we realised we were in a planted Christmas tree forest. No hope of wild garlic. We made it out alive with only a few scratches and covered in sticks.

It looks like I took an entire Hannukah bush back with me on my sweater

Forest 2 - Looked more promising. We explored and explored but no luck. We learned that dry pine forests were probably not the place for wild garlic to grow. I was so hungry at this point that I was suffering phantom garlic smells so we decided to head for home and try again another day. At the junction I was meant to go left for Dublin but I went right...

...and like any good Marion and Caryna adventure, we were happily surprised. Marion did the smell test. Lo and behold! We happened upon a mother load of wild garlic in a secret location now known only to us and coordinates known only to my Sat Nav.

Small and medium leaves have the best flavour. In a few days the beautiful white garlic flowers will bloom. We'll be back for you garlic flowers!

Not wanting to be too greedy, we picked about 250g each which is enough to make a delicious wild garlic pesto

After all of our years of friendship we have never managed to take one single decent friend photo. We always seem to be laughing too hard.

For Wild Garlic Pesto:
Blend 250g washed wild garlic leaves and flowers and 250g Pine Nuts in a food processor
Add 250g grated Parmesan and blitz.
Pour extra virgin oilve oil through the feed tube while the machine is running until you have a saucy consisntency.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour into a sterilized jar and cover with a layer of olive oil for storage. 
Share with someone you love, or like a lot

Friday, April 8, 2011

A different perspective of a farmer's market

I love farmer's markets. They are the only place to buy tomatoes that don't taste like cold tap water. I can buy the exact amount of ingredients I need for a Nicoise salad without having so much leftover that after eating it for lunch and dinner for 2 days I come to hate Nicoise salad. I can hand pick every piece of fruit instead of buying it in a plastic bag, which inevitably contains one hidden piece of quick-to-expire reject fruit. The food is seasonal, there is a great variety (ever tried to buy an artichoke at Supervalue? Good luck.) and there's the social aspect (everybody's better looking at a farmer's market. True story). Shopping at farmer's markets makes me feel more in control of my food and more connected to the process of production, purchase and consumption. It also makes me feel more European but in a less embarrassing way than the addition of 'grand' in my everyday vocabulary.
It is this love of markets that inspired me to start a bakery stall of my own. That was in 2007. The rest is all part of the history of Caryna's Cakes, which I am keeping in my back pocket for another blog post. This Sunday I spent the day selling at Macreddin Village Market in Wicklow. I had my camera with me, a took a few snaps so I could show you what it's like to be on the other side of the table.

Early in the morning 
I play real life Tetris, but with delicate perishable goods fitting into a 2 door hatchback along with a 6 foot table, a 4 foot square gazebo, cake stands, cake boxes and the like. Once the goods are loaded, I aim to get to the market an hour before it opens to setup. Macreddin Village is an hour drive away, which means waking up at 9:25 (unless I'm selling scones, muffins or bread. This necessitates same day baking and early early early wake up), packing the car at 9:30, leaving at 10, arriving at 11 and setting up for 12.The drive is always spectacular so it's hard to stay bleary-eyed for long, no matter how late I was up baking.

Nestled in the Wicklow mountains

some of the stalls are operated by Brooklodge Hotel. Others are producers from the locality. And then there's me.
If you need a hand setting up there are plenty of friendly rugged men to offer their assistance.

Here are a couple of the staff at Macreddin Village who help with the setup of the market and the general running of the place. Impressing dreadlock tail, no?
My Neighbours

Your pitch is more or less on a first come first served basis. However, I choose my pitch using a scientific method called Tradesies. Selling at the markets is especially great because of tradesies. I always bring over and above the amount of cake I think I can sell in hopes of trades.

To my right was pig. I love pig.

To my left was coffee. Important.

I was facing Ciara's Pantry. Pretty jams, chutneys, relishes ans salad dressings

Also facing Peter and Jenny Young of Castlefarm Shop. Love it.

Fist trade of the day was for breakfast

One Pecan Butterscotch Cinnamon bun...
...for a big piece of handmade Castlefarm Shamrock cheese with fennugreek. 

as well as some gorgeous rhubarb
I got the most delicious bottle of balsamic vinegar from Teach Hilda, organic Italian products
Caherhurley Nurseries got an almond & raspberry slice in exchange for an organic Alpine strawberry plant

...which I intend to mind and nurture and grow. Which reminds me... I need to water that plant, don't I?

I acquired a very pink and pretty blackcurrant dressing for Ciara's pantry in exchange for a Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie

The last trade of the day way an almond & raspberry slice...
...in exchange for a delicious organic spit pork sandwich with pear chutney

The Shoppers
Another reason I love selling at the markets is the customers. If you're one of those customers that approaches the stall with trepidation and asks me with a scrunched up nose, "Is that nice?" or "That's very expensive. I could get that in Tesco for 20 cent!" then I'm talking about the other customers. I love customers who appreciate a good piece of cake. Especially those whose eyes widen with excitement as they take in the feast of sweet treats in front of them. One set of customers who especially don't hold back are the children. "CAKE! MOM, LOOK! CAKE! PLEEEEEEASE CAN I GET ONE!!!!?????"
His exact words were "CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!! CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!!!"
If we could all revert to that kind of uninhibited excitement about cake it would solve all kinds of adult problems. If you are a parent who brings your child shopping at farmer's markets, I applaud you. If you're one of those parents who doesn't offer to buy the cookie your child just pawed, I'm talking about the other parents.

Children have so much to gain from the shopping experience at farmer's markets. They make the connection with the food they eat and where is comes from. I love it when children ask me questions about the cakes when they are choosing between a vanilla bean cupcake or a gingerbread cookie. Without intending it they are learning and researching in order to make an informed consumer decision. How often do they get to ask the producer directly?
They also learn about paying money in exchange for goods, as in
Parent: "now give the lady the money you're holding".

They learn about budgeting, as in
Child: "How much are the brownies? €2.50? But I have €4." and they uncurl their palm to reveal their 2 coins.

They learn about negotiating, as in
Child: "How much are the brownies? €2.50? But I have €2"

And it teaches them manners, as in (overheard at the Dublin Food Co-op by one particularly clever and innocent child)
Parent: "Now what do you say to the lady?"
Child: "I'm going to eat this."


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