Guinness Chocolate Cake with White Knight Frosting

         

This Guinness Chocolate Cake with White Knight Frosting was inspired by my recent trip to Ireland. I have had epically good fortune this past year which brought me to Ireland twice. Earlier this year, I spent a week seeing Ireland with my friends at Bake from Scratch magazine, Tourism Ireland and Williams Sonoma. With each trip I have fallen deeper in love with that country. I know you will love it too and so I want to share an opportunity to win a trip to Ireland. Tourism Ireland* is giving one lucky winner the chance to design a customized trip to Ireland for 2 people. You can see some of the great places I’ve seen like Powerscourt House and Gardens, Kylemore Abbey, Kinsale, Cork City and so much more (check out my Ireland 2020 Instagram highlights to see some of these magical places. For IRELAND SWEEPSTAKES Enter Here! Winner will be drawn in November. Ireland is beyond beautiful with the rolling hills of green grass and clover that fall off into the ocean and that’s just a description of the pastures where the dairy cows graze.

The dairy in Ireland and all the products made with it were among the biggest surprises for me. I come from a dairy rich state and yet, I have never experienced cream, butter and even simple milk like I had in Ireland. I kept asking the bakers I met during my trip what they’d topped cakes with, just to find out that it was nothing more than whipping cream. That whipping cream was so luxurious I assumed it was made with creme fraiche or something to boost the velvety texture it had. Turns out feeding cows nothing more than green Irish grasses produces cream that needs nothing more than aeration to achieve magic. 

(just some of the chocolates I brought home from Ireland)

Another pleasant surprise was the universal love of chocolate I found across Ireland. Just about every stop, including at the petrol station, turned into an opportunity to eat chocolate. Maybe these two discoveries are not unrelated, the chocolate + the rich cream are bound to be dynamic. Even brands of chocolate I’ve had in the States, that have never elicited anything more than mild pleasure were so superior in Ireland. Then there were the local, bespoke chocolate makers who were creating truly brilliant and exciting boxes of chocolates.

This is Sister Genevieve from Kylemore Abbey who creates some of the finest chocolates I’ve ever had. I even got a chance to step into her chocolate making shop and try my hand at creating her famous and adorable chocolate sheep. You can see more pictures and videos of the chocolates and chocolate makers I met in my Instagram Stories (including my moment in Sister Genevieve’s workshop).

During our trip through Ireland, we stopped at as many bakeries as we could fit into a day. The full list of not-to-be-missed bakeries will appear in an upcoming issue of Bake From Scratch Magazine. One of our stops was at the Pepperpot Cafe in Dublin, which I was lucky enough to visit on both of my trips through Ireland. They served us a lovely chocolate stout cake with a super-rich, but simple whipped cream topping. I was instantly smitten and knew I’d come home to make a version of my own. Later that evening we arrived at Castlemartyr Resort, again a place I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at twice (and I hope to go back again and again!) 

In the beautiful lounge at Castlemartyr we were served a White Knight cocktail (think of the Irish version of a White Russian), which had layers of whiskey and a tall pour of perfect Irish heavy cream. It tasted like it was meant to be frosting and was the final inspiration for this cake. (more…)

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Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry

Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

This fruit tart with homemade puff pastry is made with nothing more than ripe pluots (apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, any other stone fruit or berries will also do), lemon zested sugar and a sheet of puff pastry. Super elegant in its simplicity. The tart is from Rory O’Connell’s new book, Cook Well Eat Well. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting him during my epic tour of Ireland last week, hosted by Kerrygold butter. More to come about that trip, but let me back up a minute to 1998, when I was working at an Irish restaurant in Minneapolis, The Local. It was an Irish pub on one side and fine dining on the other, with a kitchen run by the James Beard Nominated chef, Steven Brown. I was the pastry chef and knew a lot about baking, but nothing of Irish food. I went to the book store and bought The Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen, published in 1977. That cookbook was by my salvation and influenced nearly every dessert I created in the kitchen that year. Last week I went to Ballymaloe and met Myrtle Allen’s children, Fern and Darina, who took over the restaurant and created a cookery school with Darina’s brother, Rory. I am not typically one to fan-girl over celebrities, but being in the presence of these folks was a dream come true. You can see pictures from my visit to the Ballymaloe cookery school, where Darina gave us a spirited and brisk (meaning I couldn’t keep up with her) tour of the exquisite gardens, farm and school. Darina is like the Alice Waters of Ireland and has created the Irish food scene, by educating just about every chef in the country and beyond. If you are at all interested in taking cooking classes as an enthusiast of home cooking or potential professional, I couldn’t recommend this experience more highly. Here is a link to the school!

After our tour of Ballymaloe, we settled in for a cooking class with Rory. Not only is he an accomplished chef, a TV personality and a terrific teacher, but he is one of the most charming and lovely people I have ever met. This happens to be true for everyone we met on our journey through the countryside of Ireland and in Dublin. What a welcoming and generous people. Rory made us several dishes, all quite simple, made with local, fresh ingredients and absolutely delicious. He also gave us a copy of his new book, which is where I found this Fruit Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry. I don’t always make my own puff pastry, but it really is worlds above the store bought and not difficult to make, if you have a decent amount of time to devote to it. I will show you how in my Instagram video or you can attend the cookery school in Ballymaloe! Rory would have walked through the gorgeous gardens to pick perfectly ripe fruit, but I had to settle for what’s available in my local farmers market or at the grocery. I went with pluots, because they were beautiful and ripe. They are a combination of plums and apricots; the flavor is sweet, but also tangy, and they are JUICY. Depending on the fruit you use, you can increase or decrease the sugar.

The puff pastry was made with Kerrygold Unsalted Butter. This is a recipe that is four ingredients, flour, salt, water and lots of butter, so use a butter you’re in love with. I walked in the emerald fields, over looking the sea with the cows who produce the milk that goes into Kerrygold. The grass and the dairy cows are revered above all else in Ireland. I heard this from the farmers, but also the taxi driver who took me to the airport. I commented about how lucky we were it didn’t rain the entire time we were there and he said, “but we need the rain for our grasses. Without it we wouldn’t have the beautiful green lands and the milk wouldn’t taste so good.” Seriously, it couldn’t have been better scripted. The cows grazing on those green fields produces a golden butter that tastes good enough to eat alone. The butter in Ireland (and all of Europe) has a higher fat content than the butter made here in the states, so the texture is creamy and luscious. It truly makes for a superior puff pastry, so I highly recommend you find some. This is one of those recipes where it will make a big impact. 

You can watch me make this tart in my Instagram video. (more…)

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