Carrot and Dillisk Bread #BreadBakers

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My decidedly very un-Irish self has always had a soft spot for all things Irish, including Mr. Dough, whose face alone belies his Irish heritage. So we do our part each year around St. Patrick's Day (which, from what I understand, is a much bigger deal in the US—especially New York—than it is in Ireland) to celebrate the Emerald Isle in a fitting way—with food. Food that always includes a classic Irish bread—and I don't mean the abomination known as the green bagel. This year though, I was kind of over endless variations on soda bread and thought I'd try something new, so with great reluctance (insert sarcasm font here), I bought a couple of new cookbooks specifically about Irish breads. Thumbing through, this one immediately caught my eye—Carrot and Dillisk Bread—mainly because I had no clue what dillisk was. Enter Google: Dillisk, also known as dulse, is seaweed. 

Now somehow, when I think of cuisines known for their use of seaweed, Irish doesn’t jump to the head of the line. Japanese, definitely. Irish, not so much. But Ireland not only has a long history with edible seaweed (going back to 1200 BC!)—most especially as a famine food during the Great Potato Famine, when it provided life-saving sustenance to coastal peasants—but harvesting seaweed for multiple uses, including fertilizer as well as food, is fast becoming an important industry in Ireland. (Wait a minute. Fertilizer AND food? Who else is old enough to remember the classic Saturday Night Live skit for new Shimmer? “It’s a floor wax!” “No, it’s a dessert topping!” Just me then? Okay…)

But back to the bread… I was good this time and ordered my dillisk—a North Atlantic seaweed—from local sources in Maine/Canada rather than buying the stuff from Ireland, because who knew when it would actually arrive. Like most quick breads, this one is super easy. I didn't quite know what to expect taste-wise, a little sweetness from the carrots and a salty tang from the seaweed maybe? The texture is dense and moist, it has a slight aroma of the sea and the taste? Well, color me surprised but it tasted just like…cornbread. Yes, cornbread. Go figure. Certainly unexpected but a very pleasant surprise indeed. This is definitely a bread that will go into regular rotation and one that I'd highly recommend trying—forget about those damned green bagels!

This carrot and dillisk bread is my contribution to this month's #BreadBakers theme: Irish Breads, hosted by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm. Thanks Wendy! Don't forget to check out the links below to see what the other talented bakers came up with.

Carrot and Dillisk Bread

Ingredients

  • 25 g dried dillisk (dulse)
  • 110 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • a pinch of salt
  • 50 g granulated sugar (optional)
  • 250 g white spelt or all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsps baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and grease and line a 1 lb. loaf pan.
  2. Soak the dillisk in warm water for about 7–10 minutes, then drain, reserving a bit of the soaking water, and chop finely.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the first 6 ingredients together. 
  4. Sift in the baking powder and flour, folding gently until incorporated. If the mixture seems to dry (it should be a fairly thick batter), add a little of the reserved soaking water.
  5. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 50–55 minutes.
  6. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Notes

I thought I'd try chopping the dillisk first before soaking. Yeah, good luck with that. It was nearly impossible. In its unhydrated state, it's fleshy and rubbery and even after trying to cut it with my sharpest knife and pulsing it in the food processor, it was a no-go. Once it's soaked, the texture completely changes and chopping it up was easy-peasy.

Slightly adapted from Irish Bread: Baking for Today by Valerie O'Connor

#BreadBakers March: Irish Breads

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

Buckwheat, Blackberry and Saffron Drop Scones #BreadBakers

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These buckwheat, blackberry and saffron drop scones (that would be pancakes to those of us on the left side of the Atlantic) are ridiculously good. Fluffy little morsels with tangy bursts of berries and a hint of saffron and honey. And if this post had a theme song, it would be the brilliant Tom Lehrer's "Masochism Tango." Because I'm totally torturing myself with them right now. Lest you think I'm into weird stuff and run away, let me reassure you… No, as good as these babies are, I chose this month to do the Whole30, which, if you haven't heard of it, is a food "reset" thingy where food groups like legumes and dairy and grains and alcohol and sugar and ACK! gluten are verboten for 30 days, and that means I. Can't. Eat. Them. Nice timing. Could I have signed up in January (it's a big thing in January because resolutions) along with the rest of the world? No. I have to be a rebel. So there they are, looking unbearably delicious, staring at me, tempting me, mocking me. Yes, torturing me. But I'm hanging in. That which does not kill us makes us stronger. Bleh. 

Pancakes are the theme for this month's #BreadBakers challenge, chosen by Mayuri of Mayuri’s Jikoni, who, I'm pretty sure, chose it just to taunt me. (I kid, Mayuri. Honest.) I could easily have bagged it, but A. I have a habit of continuing to bake and cook when I can't eat (ask me about the time I hosted three dinner parties back in the 80s while I was on that stupid liquid diet), and 2. I've baked these many times and they're just too good not to share. 

Pancakes are the perfect food for those of us with the attention span of a flea and/or instant gratification issues because, for the most part, you can be stuffing your face in under half an hour. Plus, you can make them as large or small as you want without messing things up like you can if you don't have the right size cake pan or whatnot. And the big bonus if you make them small, like I do? Smaller means you can eat more because they have fewer calories. Right? Right. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Alternative facts and all.

I'm telling you that you need to make these RIGHT NOW. (Unless, of course, you're an obsessive twit like I am and need to order special ingredients from overseas first—see below.) I guarantee you'll thank me. All I ask in return is that you send some "atta girl!" thoughts my tortured Whole30-ish way. At least until next month when I can once again revel in glutenous gluttony and face plant into a giant plate of these pancakes.

Buckwheat, blackberry and saffron drop scones

Ingredients

  • 100g white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
  • 75g buckwheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 40g golden caster sugar or granulated sugar
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch of saffron strands
  • 100ml / 3.5 oz. milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 1-2 handfuls ripe blackberries (depending on size), slightly crushed.
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the egg, milk, honey, vanilla and saffron. 
  2. Add the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt to a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. 
  3. Pour in the liquid mixture and whisk together, then add in the blackberries and stir.
  4. Pour in the melted butter (should still be hot) and again, stir to combine.
  5. Heat an electric griddle to 350°F or a skillet over medium heat, then drop the batter onto the griddle (I used a medium cookie scoop), flatten a bit if needed, cook for about 2 minutes, then flip over and cook for 2 minutes more. (The batter should not have any wet spots.)
  6. Serve warm with butter and honey or jam.

Adapted from Delicious Magazine

Notes

The original recipe used only all-purpose flour but I started messing around with it, first using half whole wheat, then all whole wheat and so on. I thought about using buckwheat flour one day when I only had buckwheat honey in the cupboard and thought I'd give both a try. I liked the combination so much I've been making them that way ever since, ending up with this mix of buckwheat and white whole wheat. It's a great little recipe for experimenting with different flours and fruit.

The original recipe also called for golden caster sugar, which has a slight caramel-y flavor and isn't really a thing in the US. You can easily substitute regular granulated sugar with no problem. Unless you're like me and you HAVE to have every impossible-to-find weird ingredient. I ordered the real thing and it took so long to get to me that I forgot why I ordered it in the first place. Do not be like me.

I used a medium cookie scoop to portion out the batter but you can make them any size you like.

#BreadBakers February: Pancakes

Check out the Pancakes from different parts of the world that our fellow Bread Bakers have baked this month:

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

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These pistachio, rosewater and cardamom shortbread cookies…aren't half bad. Now you're probably thinking that "not half bad" isn't exactly a ringing endorsement but you've got to consider the source. Which would be me. A lifelong hater of all things nut and a person who would rather be stuck in a sulphur pit than a subway car full of women who've doused themselves in rose perfume. So when I say that cookies with nuts and rosewater aren't half bad, it translates to "OMG! ARE THESE, LIKE, THE BEST COOKIES EVAR, OR WHAT?" 

I've harbored a major hate for nuts my entire life—it's both a taste and a texture thing. I can pick out a nut blindfolded, they'll seriously ruin whatever it is I'm eating and yes, even at my advanced age, I'll make a face and spit 'em out. But let's face it, the world isn't kind to the nut averse. They're EVERYwhere. In EVERYthing.  So at least once a year, I'll make an attempt to get over my aversion. And after decades of trying, I've gotten to the point where I can just barely tolerate pistachios and cashews and that's it. I'll occasionally eat them out of hand but still can't eat them mixed into food. So of course, when the theme for this month's Creative Cookie Exchange was Nuts in Cookies (I knew it had to come sometime), and we had the option of NOT baking with nuts, I went ahead and baked with them anyway. Glutton for punishment, that's me. Especially when cookies are also made with rosewater.

Oppressively heavy floral scents are another of my (many) dislikes, with rose at the top of the list. I know that when used with a clunky hand, rose essence in food can be gag-inducing but when used sparingly, it was a bit of a revelation to me. It's not heavy or overly floral at all. In fact, I'd describe the flavor as citrus-y and I've actually become a fan. So in searching for a nutty cookie when I came upon these, I figured the rosewater and cardamom—and the crunch of a good shortbread, probably my favorite cookie—could help disguise the pistachios. And they did. Almost. 

Since I know I'm biased, I brought a big batch of these to work so they could be scrutinized by the Official Shaggy Dough Taste Testing Team and they were an unqualified hit. Everyone loved the shortbread texture and the flavors (pistachio, rose and cardamom are a very Persian combo and these cookies were originally inspired by Nowruz, the Iranian new year). Three dozen cookies barely lasted til lunchtime. And dare I say that when I made the second batch over the weekend, someone who will remain nameless (moi, but I'll deny it) was seen nibbling on more than one. So yeah, not half bad.

Be sure to check out the links below to see what the nut-loving Creative Cookie Exchange bakers came up with.

Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
  • 1 tsp rosewater
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salted, shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped (see notes)
  • sparkling sugar (optional)

Directions

  1. Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream at medium speed for about one minute.
  2. Add the sugar, rosewater and cardamom and mix on low speed. As soon as the ingredients come together, increase speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes. The mixture should be light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the flour and mix on low until just incorporated. The dough will look a little crumbly but don't overmix.
  4. Add the pistachios and again, mix on low until just incorporated.
  5. Divide the dough onto two sheets of parchment or wax paper and form each half into a log, about 12" long. (See notes) Roll up the paper and twist the ends closed.
  6. Chill for 1–2 hours or until completely firm.
  7. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  8. When ready to bake, slice each log into 1/4" pieces and place about 1" apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment or silicone mats.
  9. Bake for 18–20 minutes or until the edges are just slightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
  10. Optional: Before slicing roll each log in sparkling sugar.

Notes

The first time I baked these, I used pre-shelled pistachios. The second time, I shelled them myself. I thought there was a big difference, both in taste and appearance. The ones I shelled were larger, had a fresher, more pronounced taste and looked more…pistachio-y. (They were greener.) It was a time-consuming pain in the butt to shell them all—and I sent more than a few of them flying, much to the delight of the dog (we didn't let her eat them)—but I think it was worth it.

I also divided the dough in two the first time and ended up with cookies that I thought were a little small in diameter. I got a little more than 3 dozen cookies. The second time, I made one log about 2" in diameter and ended up with about 2 dozen. It's really just a personal preference but I just like larger cookies. There was no difference in the baking time since the cookies were still 1/4" thick.

I have a method of rolling cookie logs that I was struggling to describe so I looked online to see if I could find a video. This one from Martha Stewart is a good 'un. It's a great method and it really does help your cookies stay round. 

Even a nut hater needs a nut grinder. Just because.

Recipe source: The Pomegranate Diaries

#CreativeCookieExchange for December: Nuts in Cookies

Nuts in cookies are a tradition celebrated all over the world—and Creative Cookie Exchange has joined the party!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made: