Homemade Brown Bread with Local Ronnybrook Butter & Homemade Cherry Preserves
St. Patrick’s Day causes a frenzy of leprechauns, shamrocks, green beer and everything Irish people can get their hands on. I’ve lived in the same building for almost 7 years and while I don’t know everyone, I don’t think we have any Irish, yet I can the scent of corned beef and cabbage is already permeating the halls, and wafting its way into my apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no exception. I already have some brisket brining and the strong scent of cabbage will take over in a few hours.
Any holiday or reason to cook, I’m all over it. And St. Patrick’s Day is no different…with maybe one exception, the Soda Bread. People get so excited about Soda Bread, with its crunchy caraway seeds and plump raisins, it’s almost like a dessert. The first time I visited Ireland, I was astonished to see our version of soda bread is really nothing like theirs. It’s still yeast free, using baking soda instead as a levener, but it wasn’t sweet at all. No raisins, no caraway seeds, just a simple bread, toasted with plenty of butter. I’m not going to pretend I know why the recipe changed to more of a dessert like bread moving across the Atlantic pond, but it did. Soda bread in both forms is good, but it’s not the bread I fell in love with. There was something about a hearty, ridiculously dense slice of brown bread that just made me swoon.
I was a bit sad that my Foodie Penpal this month was a reader so I didn’t really get to read about her reaction to the goods I sent her. Sure, she sent me a very sweet thank you, but it’s just not the same as reading a public thank you full of pictures and happy food consumption. My penpal loved both sweet and salty things and was especially fond of potato chips. She bragged a bit about how she could eat anything because she worked out so much. So I took her bragging as a challenge and decided to make her the most sinful, salty treat I could think of—Potato Chip Cookies.
Yesterday I shared my dream Thanksgiving menu, for when one day, I host Thanksgiving in Brooklyn. I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one. Aside from confessing my love for the cranberry log, I also omitted sweet potatoes. I love sweet potato pies and fries, but sweet potatoes baked with butter and brown sugar? I just can’t get into it. And don’t even get me started on the ones with marshmallows. Completely inappropriate for dinner. But then I realized–sweet potatoes and marshmallows–completely inappropriate for dinner but dead on for dessert. And a recipe was born.
Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies – Photo from SheKnows.com
Hmm…so my my dessert posts always seem to get the most hits. We’ll here you are sugar loving fans!
So last week in my Tribeca CSA share, I got more fresh mint. Now, I don’t really have anything against mint, but other than Mojitos, I wasn’t really sure what to do with it. I’m not a huge savory mint fan, so I wanted something sweet. Mint and chocolate go together, right? So I did some googling. I started finding cookie recipes but all used extract. I wanted FRESH mint. I liked the idea of a mint chocolate chip cookie, but wasn’t really sure how to go about it. Do I steep the mint and make a simple syrup? Chopped mint in a cookie might add a strange texture. But then I found it–mint sugar!
The two biggest food items I took away from Maine were blueberries and honey. One of the winemakers we visited noted, “We’re in Maine, so there’s practically a law that blueberries need to be in everything.” Both were everywhere. I was very disappointed to learn when we got there that Maine’s blueberry season starts in August, meaning no fresh blueberries or blueberry picking for me. But I still tried to indulge when I could–blueberry jam, blueberry ice cream, even blueberry butter at the Lucerne Inn! I did pick up some blueberry honey at the Blue Hill Food Co-op, but stayed away from the blueberry syrup (I’ll stick with good old maple syrup, thank you).
So, when I got back to Brooklyn, I still had blueberries on the brain. Plus, I recently read Romancing the Bees blog post about honey cupcakes. I was inspired. Honey’s tasty and blueberries are pretty awesome, how good could they be together? So I experimented and whipped up some pretty tasty blueberry cupcakes with blueberry honey icing, kind of a last goodbye to our vacation in Maine.