Friday, October 31, 2008

Apple Torte

While visiting Lily, in Ohio, we went apple picking, which led to apple baking, so when I came home, with the heavenly aromas still in my nostrils, I did it all over again, here, for the OC and the Bean. Apple Torte is easy and delicious. I can't remember where I got the recipe, but it's on a newspaper clipping taped inside the cover of my favourite, bulging recipe book, with a note to myself to slice the apples thinly.

Apple Torte

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

For Crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup of well chilled butter, cut into pieces

Combine flour, sugar and vanilla in medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender [or two knives]until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Press into bottom and sides of a 10" springform pan.
Bake until golden, about 5 mins. Cool to room temperature.

Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees F

For Filling:
2 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Spoon into crust.

For Topping:
2 large green apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup coarsely chopped nuts

Mix apples, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Spoon over cream cheese layer, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with nuts.

Bake 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue baking about 45 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Cool torte completely in pan on a rack. Refrigerate.

Let stand 30 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread....."

We ate a lot of Irish soda bread when I was growing up. Breakfast, all through the winter, consisted of big bowls of porridge with milk and sugar, and thick slices of home made soda bread, washed down with gallons of strong hot tea.

My father started the porridge in the evening in the double boiler. There was no "quick" or "instant" in those days. Just as there was no mind-boggling array of sugar-coated dry cereals. Oh, they existed alright, just not at our house, much as we might have longed for them. My mother had fixed ideas about what was good for growing children. Sugary, dry cereals did not feature on her list. And in matters of nutrition, she was the boss, just as she was in the realm of shoe selection! You ate your porridge or you went to school hungry; you wore your brown, sensible [B.O.R.I.N.G ]lace up shoes or you went barefoot. Needless to say, I never went to school hungry or barefoot. Rebellion never entered my mind.....

Fortunately, we didn't only have porridge. When you had choked down a big bowl of the stuff, you could have as many slices of brown bread as you wanted. No holds barred on how much butter or marmalade you slathered on! The weather was damp and chilly in Winter, and often in Spring and Autumn too. My mother believed a big breakfast got us off to a healthy start. It was a given that we'd learn better on a full stomach. She would have scoffed to hear about all the time and money that is wasted on surveys and studies these days to find out what common sense told her.

Back then, brown bread was just part of the landscape. But now it's one of my favourite foods. The Lads [the OC and the Bean] can take it or leave it, but for me it's comfort food; conjures up memories of coming in from school on a chilly winter day to find the kitchen filled with the heavenly smell of baking bread. And it's so easy to make.........

It would sound romantic to say this recipe was handed down to me from my mother. But I was far from her when I became interested in baking bread myself. Many's the loaf of Irish bread I've baked along the way that could have been used to prop the door open, or to sink the body before the cops arrived....And then I found this recipe in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, one year, on St.Patrick's Day. Of all the Irish bread recipes I've tried, it's my favourite.

O'Brien Irish Bread

1 1/2 cups stone-ground whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour [I use 3/4 a.p. flour and 1/4 cup of wheat germ]

1/4 cup dry oat bran hot cereal

1/4 cup regular rolled oats

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp soft butter

1 1/2 cups buttermilk, divided

3 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Dust a baking sheey with flour.
In a large bowl combine both flours, dry cereal, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir with a whisk to blend well.

Cut in the soft butter.

Stir in 1 1/4 cups buttermilk. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk, kneading in the bowl as little as possible until dough is moist.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 7" round loaf. Place loaf on the floured baking sheet. With a sharp knife cut an "x" into the surface

Bake bread for 40-45 minutes,until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped with a knife.

Remove bread from the oven and place on a wire rack. Brush loaf with melted butter and allow to cool at least one hour before slicing.

This bread is delicious with butter and marmalade for breakfast. Or maybe you have to be Irish to think so!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Lily and I have been basking in sunshine, this past week, here in Ohio. We've spread a blanket at the park, and soaked up the last rays of summer, while the puppies played, and ran and tumbled around us. We talked of family and children; friends and enemies; statesmanlike candidates and pit bulls with lipstick; quilting and knitting; Wall street horrors and Halloween costumes; Florida vs. Ohio [she keeps pointing out houses for sale in her neighbourhood!] And recipes.

Ah yes! Recipes! Jess at Daysgoby tagged me a while back to do a meme: Eight things You Want To Do before You Die. One of them would be to tame the Recipe Monster. When I got married I couldn't boil an egg, to the horror and consternation of Maria, my mother-in-law. She thought her darling Sonny Boy was going to starve to death. Thirty eight years later, not only has he not starved to death, he could lose a few pounds and not miss them! I'm not Julia Child [though I used to do a fairly good imitation---the voice, not the cooking!] but I'm a pretty good cook.

My own mother was a wonderful cook, but she had her hands full with my brother, and wasn't inclined to encourage people to be dollacawling and making a mess in her kitchen.

When I went away to college, in Dublin, I lived in a hostel run by the holy nuns [there was no getting away from them!] who fed us three meals a day whether we wanted them or not. Mostly we wanted them---we were young and burning calories at a great rate.

After college I went to a teaching job in the North of Ireland. Another teacher I'd befriended, and I, rented rooms from a sweet widow lady, Mrs. Keenan. Mrs. Keenan was tiny and very prim, and had never rented rooms before, to anyone, and had her doubts about the whole venture. But we were desperate for digs, and so she agreed to give it a try. The arrangement worked out well for both parties. I think she'd been very lonely. Miriam and I became almost like her adopted daughters. She fed us a hearty breakfast before we walked down the hill to school every day. We walked back up the hill at noon, to a big dinner, and she fed us supper in the evenings. Mrs. K made the best steak and kidney pie I've ever tasted!

So, you can see, I was spoiled rotten for the first twenty two years of my life. Didn't have any need to know how to boil an egg.

And then I said "I do", and found myself in charge of the care and feeding of a red-blooded American male, whose mother would have made Julia look like a scrubber!
And then Lily was born, and following the lead of a friend, I opted not to feed her baby food from jars, but haunted the library instead, in search of guidance on feeding babies natural, home-made food. Over the years, Lily acquired four siblings, and I was spending most of my life in the kitchen. The recipes started accumulating. More were added as we moved around every three or four years.

You know you've got a problem when it takes you twice as long to find the recipe as to make it!

So. Lily and I did not solve any of the pressing problems of the worlds' financial markets, as we sat on our blanket at the park; we didn't come up with an iron-clad plan to organize her vast collection of irresistible wools, or my vast stash of irresistible fabrics; we did not make any family problems evaporate.

But when we folded up our blanket, and called the puppies to heel, we were both smiling, extremely pleased with ourselves. Because we had a cunning plan. A plan to gain control of the Recipe Monster.

We would start a joint blog, just for recipes!

There will be recipes, lots of them. All our favourites. The OC will be smiling his "I-told-you-so" smile when he gets wind of this! He told me years ago, when I hadn't a clue about computers [even less than I do now!]that the best way to organize my recipes would be to put them in files on the computer! "Files" sounded so dry. But a blog! Now that's a different story. In a blog you can write down the recipes, but you can also write about the history, and the background of each one, and all the interesting stories behind them. That's my kind of file! There won't be this much rawmaysh* with each one, but there will be a little. I can't let all that Blarney Stone-kissing go to waste!

So, come on over! Visit Lily and me in the kitchen. After all, it's the warmest, friendliest place in the house!

*A phonetic rendering of the Irish word for "mindless blather!"