Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 15, 2014

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with tasty Irish treats

By Marialisa Calta
Jacksonville Daily Progress

CHEROKEE COUNTY — A few years ago, my neighbors organized a St. Patrick's Day tea. They served all sorts of Irish goodies: tea cakes, shortbread, soda bread, scones. It was a tame celebration, but a tasty one.

This year, St. Patrick's Day falls on a Monday, which makes Sunday perfect for afternoon tea. Or you can get your partying started on Monday with breakfast treats.

Just in time for the holiday is the cookbook "Irish Pantry" by Noel McMeel, executive chef at a resort in Northern Ireland. McMeel provides chapters on canning, pickling, potting and curing meats, condiments, and on cakes, cookies, breads, biscuits and other sweet delights.

You could take your tea party in a savory direction – offering, say, homemade potted ham and chutney on homemade rye crackers – or stick with sweet offerings such as Chocolate and Walnut Scones and the Traditional Irish Tea Cake. McMeel offers the cake recipe with an homage to his brothers, mentally and physically disabled since birth.

Like them, he says, the cake epitomizes "pure goodness and a gift from God above."

Don't forget the Irish breakfast tea. Like English breakfast tea, the Irish version is a blend of black teas, but considered more malty in flavor. In the United States, specialty shops carry authentic Irish brands such as Lyons, Barry's, Bewley's and Nambarrie, but you are likely to find the Twinings brand of Irish breakfast tea in your supermarket.

"A cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle," writes McMeel, quoting an Irish proverb. Open your "cabin" to your hungry friends and celebrate your inner Irish on St. Patrick's Day.

                        

Chocolate and walnut scones

1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

6 ounces (1 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks

¾ cup coarsely broken walnuts, toasted

½ cup buttermilk

1 large egg

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

        

Preheat the oven to 375˚F; Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using your fingers, crumble the butter into the dry mixture until you have a rough crumb, like tiny marbles coated in sand, then add the chocolate and walnuts and stir until mixed.

In a medium bowl, stir together the buttermilk, egg and vanilla. Slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix with your hands, just until the dough comes together, taking care not to overwork it.

With lightly floured hands, tip the dough onto a floured work surface and press into a sheet about 1 inch thick.

Using a round, 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, cut circles in the dough. After you've cut as many as you can, pull the remaining dough together and repeat until all the dough is used.

Bake the scones on prepared sheet for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Place baking sheet on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer the scones to the rack to cool slightly. Serve while still warm, or store in an airtight container for up to five days. Yields 10 scones.

Reprinted with permission from "Irish Pantry: Traditional Breads, Preserves and Goodies

to Feed the Ones You Love" (copyright) 2013

by Noel McMeel with Lynn Marie Hulsman; Running Press/Perseus Books Group.)

Traditional Irish tea cake

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature,

    plus more for the pan

1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup whole milk

¼ cup confectioners' sugar, for dusting cake

        

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Turn off beater and stir in the vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and stir into the batter. Stir in the milk.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack, then turn cake onto a serving platter and dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for up to five days.

Yields one 9-inch cake, or about 8 servings

Reprinted with permission from "Irish Pantry: Traditional Breads, Preserves and Goodies to Feed the Ones You Love" (copyright) 2013 by Noel McMeel with Lynn Marie Hulsman; Running Press/Perseus Books Group.)



Irish Soda Bread

6 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons Cornstarch

2 teaspoons sugar (brown sugar recommended)

2½ cups of buttermilk

Knead ingredients all together, then divide dough into two portions. Pat into round shapes; cut a cross on the tops of both loaves, then place in pre-heated 375˚F oven.

Bake until good and crusted, roughly about 40 minutes.

Bread will be very dense.

Recipe courtesy of T.F. Shaughnessy, Lexington, KY