Baking Bread



I love baking bread. Theres nothing quite like the  smell of it wafting out of the kitchen into every room of the house on a cold winter day. Or, out into the garden in the spring, when the windows and doors have finally been freed of their heavy curtains and latches. I find it relaxing, comforting, centering. Although, it’s a process with a few steps you have to master, once there, you’ll be trying all kinds of loaves. Wholesome and delicious, this bread is good for sandwiches, as toast with homemade jam, with a big bowl of homemade soup or a light spring salad. Take your time and don’t rush the process of bread baking. M.F.K. Fischer wrote :

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…

[Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of
meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”
M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

So, enjoy the process and the results

Honey Whole Wheat Bread      

Preheat oven to 350f or 180c.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 Ingredients:  2 pkgs.(5 tsps.) dry yeast//2 cups whole milk, heated to warm (105-115f or 40-46c)//1/4 cup honey//2 large eggs//6 cups whole wheat flour//2 tsps. sea salt//2 Tbl. ground flax seeds//6 Tbl. unsalted butter, softened.

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in milk and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. The milk has to be at the right temperature, if it’s too hot the yeast will die, if it’s too cold the yeast will not grow. You’ll need some kind of kitchen thermometer for accuracy. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the honey and eggs. Add the flour, salt and butter and mix well until it all incorporated and forms a ball.  Lightly flour a work surface, take dough out of bowl, place on surface and knead. This is the fun part! Work it baby, knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. This should take you about 5 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled glass or ceramic bowl. I don’t use metal as it conducts heat and you don’t want the dough to get too warm or it won’t rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and place in a warm place (on top of stove or radiator) until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Take the dough out of the bowl, place on floured work surface, cut in half  and knead each half for a few minutes. Form into 2 oval loaves and place seam side down in 2 oiled bread pans. Sprinkle with sesame or sunflower seeds. Cover with towels and let rise in warm place for about 45 minutes or until dough is a little above top of pan. Bake in centre of oven for 35-40 minutes.

Let cool on wire rack, slice and eat warm. Yum!



Terrific Toffee

pudding6This is a truly delicious dessert that is good anytime of the year. It’s simple to make, bakes in no time at all, and you will get rave reviews! Sticky Toffee Pudding at it’s finest. Here’s how:

1 cup chopped dates/1 cup boiling water/2 Tbl. butter/1 tsp. baking (bread)soda/1 cup dark brown sugar/2eggs/1 1/2 cups sifted self-raising flour.

Soak dates and butter in boiling water. Let sit until dates are soft and butter is melted. Cream sugar and eggs. Add baking soda and flour. Mix well.

Butter and flour 10 small muffin cups. Pour in batter. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350F or 180C.

While cakes are baking make the toffee sauce:

Combine 1 cup dark brown sugar, 1 cup light cream, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 2 Tbl. butter. Bring to the boiling point, turn heat down and let simmer for 5 minutes.

While still warm, place a cake on plate, drizzle with toffe sauce. Add a jigger of Irish Cream on the plate and a dollop of whipped cream on top. Nothing better!

What’s in a name?

Why do we have such silly names for food?   Snickerdoodles, hermits, flapjacks (in America they’re pancakes, in Ireland granola bars). Cookies are biscuits in Ireland, biscuits in America are well, biscuits! Serve ’em up with gravy, all buttery and warm. My cousin in Dingle has an old label on his pub wall from Pegs Leg, a favorite candy from the past. I’m always looking for new variations on old treats so I created one of my own – the Burren Stack. As I’m living and cooking in the Burren, I get a lot of inspiration from the organic gardens, the berries and herbs that  grace the hedgerow, the goat farmers making their cheese.   The Burren is a unique, diverse landscape in North Clare that is full of  erratic rock formations left over from the Ice Age. choco-bar1

Well, I know it’s a stretch to go from the Ice Age to a variation on a Hermit, but why not! Here’s the recipe I use at Boghill for a nice sweet dessert which is gluten and dairy free. It will appear in Coming Home to Cook Part Two, or maybe I’ll come up with a crazy name for that too!


Preheat oven to 180c or 350f. Butter and flour a 10″ baking pan.

Cream 1 cup soy butter with 1 cup brown sugar, 2 eggs.  Add 2 tsp. gf baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. cloves, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg. Mix in 1/3 cup soy milk. Sift in 2 2/3 cups gf brown rice flour. Beat until well mixed. Add 2/3 cup raisins, 2/3 cup chopped walnuts, 2/3 cup chopped dairy free chocolate bits or chocolate chips.

Bake for 35 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack, remove from pan and eat immediately! Or, if you have willpower, it will keep well wrapped for a week.

not your grandmothers brown bread


There’s nothing quite like the smell of something  baking in the oven to conjure up warm memories. When I was about 12, my Grandmother taught me how to make my first cake and it was a disaster.  I was crushed!  What I remember about it was the big sunken hole in the middle but more importantly,  how kind she was in reassuring me that  eventually I’d get it right.  I went forward and have made thousands of cakes, breads, cookies, and everything else in between.  For the past several years,  I have been experimenting with wheat and dairy free baked goods, which here in Ireland it seems to be the rage as coeliac disease and wheat intolerance is in high numbers.  In my determination to create a really good gluten free bread I tried a variation on the brown bread from Coming Home To Cook. We baked it in my second gluten free cookery class here at Boghill. It’s  tasty and moist and  it dosen’t get dried out in a few days as other gf breads I’ve tried. Enjoy!

GF Brown Bread

Preheat oven to 180c or 350f                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Grease and flour a bread tin.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         In a large mixing bowl combine 1/2 cup gf white bread flour blend or brown rice flour with 1 cup buckwheat flour, 1 -1/2  cups toasted soy bran, 1/2 tsp. bread (baking) soda, 1/2 tsp. gf baking powder, 1-1/2 Tbl. dark brown sugar, 1 Tbl. crushed flax seeds, 2 Tbl. sunflower seeds. Crumble in 1 Tbl. soy butter. In a seperate bowl mix together 2 eggs with 1- 3/4 cups soy milk. Add wet ingredients to dry, mix with wooden spoon or your hands. Spoon into bread tin, top with a combination of gf flakes (such as quinoa, rice, buckwheat) and a Tbl. of sesame seeds. Bake about 40 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

banana bread with a twist!


I have the pleasure of teaching 7 lovely women the art of baking and cooking gluten and dairy free in my new class at Boghill. Each week we will create an all purpose bread, suitable for sandwiches, toast, as a side with soup, salad, etc. A sweet treat and  a vegetarian entree using non gluten grains rounds out the class.  Many of the recipes I will use come from my book or this blog.  But, it’s fun creating new ones and seeing how many versions of brown bread we can come up with!

For this weeks class the sweet treat is a  banana bread that is not only gluten and dairy free but sugar free, as well, and it’s low fat. Banana breads are usually loaded with sugar and some form of shortening. My standard recipe has 1/2 cup oil or butter and 3/4 cup sugar or 1/2 cup honey. True, those ingredients keep the bread moist and it’s really good but you can have it without all the fat and sugar and it’s still delicious. Here’s how:


Preheat oven to 180c or 350f.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Grease and flour a bread tin.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In a mixing bowl or food processor mix together 3 ripe bananas* with 1/2 cup pear apple spread or applesauce. Add 1/4 cup sunflower*.  Beat in 2 eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Mix in 1 cup of brown rice flour or gf white bread flour mixand 1 cup buckwheat flour. Add 1 tsp. baking soda and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add dried fruit of choice: currants, raisins, dried cranberries add sweetmess. Spoon into bread tin, top with crushed walnuts or sunflower seeds and bake for 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. This is a good, healthy breakfast snack topped with soy cream cheese.

*When I have overipe bananas  I freeze them whole and use them for bread. Just pop the bananas in the freezer and take out a few hours before baking. Open the skins and the banana and juices come right out. Use the juices for this recipe and in juicing, yum!  Always use a good vegetable oil in baking. Enjoy!

Feels like Fall


It wasn’t much of a summer in Ireland. Grey clouds filled the sky most of the time, although we were spared from the deluge of rain we’ve had the past 4 summers that I’ve been here. Some gardens thrived despite the lack of sun while others were given over to the slugs and are just now sprouting courgettes, kale and a variety of hearty greens.  I was given these beans, lettuce and beetroot from Adva’s garden in Doolin, which has done really well and Kerrie, a friend and vegetarian cooking class student (past and present!) shared this delicious sweet potato patty recipe with me. I adapted it according to what I had in the cupboard and it is gluten and dairy free, perfect for trying out in my next gluten free cooking/baking class.                     Her recipe calls for mango chutney and ground almonds and I used a  whole fresh mango, dried cranberries and ground walnuts (thinking of Thanksgiving already!) Make it your own style and enjoy!

Sweet Potato Patties

Roast or boil enough sweet potatoes to make 4 cups mashed.  Peel, mash and let cool. In a mixing bowl add one cup ground walnuts, 1 egg, 1 chopped fresh mango, 1/2 cup of sauteed garlic (1 clove), celery and onion.  Add 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. cumin, sea salt and ground black pepper. Let sit for 15 minutes . Heat a little olive oil in a saute pan. Form patties and dredge in gluten free flour, I used brown rice flour. Saute on both sides until brown, lay on baking sheet and cook in a 180c or 350F oven for 20 minutes.  Serve with a variety of raw vegetables and pickled beets. Yum!


Summer Fruit Crumble

crumble1It’s that time of year for baking delicious desserts using a wide array of summer fruits, many gracing the hedgerows around County Clare. Blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, wild strawberries and black currants are my favorites for a warm crumble. And, don’t forget the lush red rhubarb bursting out of the garden. Rhubarb is lovely with fresh grated ginger root in this recipe. But, since Berries are so plentiful now I mixed black currants with wild strawberries, tossed them with a little lemon juice and a sprinkle of white sugar and cinnamon. Top them with the following crumble recipe which is gluten and dairy free!

Crumble – In a food processor or bowl using your hands mix together 1/2 cup cold soy butter with 2 cups of organic brown rice flour. When the mixture is crumbly, add 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1 tsp. baking powder and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Mix all together and slowly add 1/3 cup of unsweetened soy milk until the mixture looks like a thick cake batter. Butter individual souffle cups and spoon in the fruit mixture. Top with batter and sprinkle with a little brown sugar. Bake in a 180C or 350F oven for 20 minutes or until top is bubbly and brown. Serve warm with non-dairy vanilla ice cream or cream. Then, go out to the meadow, relax amongst the flowers and soak up the sun!


Ah, Wild Garlic


It’s that time of year in Ireland to get busy foraging for wild edibles.  The hedgerows, stream beds and coastlines are full of delicious herbs, berries, seaweeds, flowers, and nutritious plants all for the taking. I recently made dandellion syrup and wild gartlic pesto. Rhubarb  and elderflower cordials are next on the menu!  The wild garlic, which can be found mainly in damp areas such as low lying stream beds, is a particular favorite. Substituting the wild garlic for the basil and garlic cloves from my vegetarian cookbook Coming Home To Cook made a subtle yet pungent sauce for a nice organic pasta dish. And, use the delicate white flowers as a garnish for a colorful salad.   Take a quart of wild garlic leaves, pulse in a food processor with 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, 1 cup of really good olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt and crushed black pepper. Add a 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese and blend until smooth. Enjoy!wild-garlic2

Oh Yum!


Sometimes you just get it right!  This morning I started out trying a new recipe (risky as I’m cooking for 40 people and on a time frame).  I tried a  bread recipe that I thought would go with black bean soup. However, after I mixed and blended all the ingredients I realized it was too sweet for a luncheon bread so I poured  it into a 10″ round spring form pan and turned it into a coffee glazed spice cake. The subtle flavors of the spices, the pop of the cumin seed combined with the not too sweet coffee glaze are scrumptuous, and it’s vegan!   It even prompted a round of applause from the lovely group here at the Bog.  So, go ahead and be adventurous, you won’t regret it!


2 1/2 CUPS WHITE SPELT FLOUR                                                                                                                                                                                               1/2 cup dark brown sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                                 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda//////1 tsp. baking powder                                                                                                                                                                1 tsp. ground cinnamon////1/2 tsp. ground cloves////1/2 tsp. ground coriander/////1 1/2 tsp. cumin seed                           1 1/2 cups soy milk                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1/2 cup apple pear spread or prune butter                                                                                                                                                                           2 Tbl. good vegetable oil

Grease a 10″ spring form pan. Heat oven to 180c or 350F.  Stir all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Slowly add wet ingredients until all is well blended. pour into pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool on rack, remove from pan and glaze.

Coffee Icing                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               2 cup icing (powdered) sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                       1 Tbl. soy spread                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       3 Tbl.strong coffee                                                                                                                                                                                                                               mix all together to form a smooth glaze. optional: 2 Tbl. cocoa powder                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Vegan Blueberry Tea Bread

The next time you need  a lovely tea bread why not bake one that is delicious and good for you!   Substituting unsweetened applesauce for refined sugar makes this bread  suitable for diabetics, vegans and those with gluten free diets. The natural sweetness of the apples is all you need.  And, the kids will love it!  Blueberries are a great source of Vitamins A,E and C, fiber,  beta carotene, anti-oxidants and magnesium.  I added a Tbl. of ground flax seed which are packed with Omega 3’s, one of the richest sources of essential fatty acids.  A sprinkle of sesame seeds added to the crumb topping adds iron, calcium, and B vitamins, important for vegetarian diets. And, it’s gluten and dairy free and has no eggs, which makes it ok for vegans. Enjoy with a nice cup of tea.

Blueberry Tea Bread    – Preheat oven to 180 or 350 (depending on your country!) sliced-cake

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce, 1/4 cup canola oil, 3 cups gluten free bread flour, such as brown rice flour or a gf bread flour mix. 2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. baking powder, 2 tsp. grated nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. allspice, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.1 tsp. vanilla, optional: sprinkling of brown sugar.

Mix together flour, flax, baking soda and baking powder. In a small bowl combine applesauce, oil, vanilla and spices. Add 1/2 of the blueberries into the wet mixture and combine with dry ingredients. Fold in the rest of the blueberries.

Pour batter into 2 greased bread pans and sprinkle with sesame seeds and brown sugar, if desired. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.