Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Irish Oat Cookies

Never underestimate the power of an oat. Especially if that oat is in an Irish Oat Cookie! While these cookies are not what you traditionally think of when you think of Irish cuisine, they do have a very Irish history.

The History

Thanks to the Celts who immigrated from Mainland Europe, oats have a very long history in Ireland. Oats were a staple crop in the country from pre-historic time until the 17th century. While potatoes replaced oats as the main staple, oats made their comeback during the Great Potato Famine. Oats were cheap to grow and leant itself to many different recipes.

Oatmeal was the most obvious way to enjoy oats. So much so, that oatmeal was used as a way to pay rent. Butter and salt was eventually added and the Irish discovered a way to make oat bread. However, when honey and sugar were added to the mix, the Irish soon realized that they could use oats to enjoy the sweeter things in life. Both scones and biscuits (cookies) were soon being baked in Irish kitchens across the country.

The Cookie Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp (3 grams) firmly packed orange zest
  • 1 tsp (6 grams) vanilla bean paste
  • 2 1/4 cups (212 grams) old-fashioned oats
  • 1 3/4 cups (219 grams) unbleached self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup (44 grams) steel-cut oats
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

The Making of Cookies

  1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugars, orange zest, and vanilla bean paste at medium speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together old-fashioned oats, flour, steel-cut oats, and salt. Add oats mixture to butter mixture all at once; beat at medium-low speed just until combined, stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
  4. Using a 2-tablespoon spring-loaded scoop, scoop dough, and roll into balls. Place at least 2 inches apart on prepared pans; press to about 3/4-inch thickness, pinching closed any cracks and smoothing edges, if needed.
  5. Bake in batches until edges are golden, 12 to 16 minutes. Let cool on pans for 2 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on a wire rack placed over a parchment-lined baking sheet.

The Glaze Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) crème fraiche
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (22.5 grams) fresh orange juice

The Making of the Glaze

  1. In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients until smooth and well combined. Use immediately.
  2. Place the glaze in a small pastry bag or plastic bag; cut a 1/4-inch opening in tip or corner. Drizzle glaze onto cooled cookies as desired; let stand until set, about 15 minutes.

Full disclosure; these have become my favorite cookies. It’s nearly impossible to eat only one Irish Oat Cookie!

Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

1-2-3-4 Cake

What if I told you that the saying isn’t “easy as pie” but “easy as 1-2-3-4 cake”? You don’t believe me? Well, maybe that isn’t the saying, but baking this cake is as easy as pie. Oh, and for the record, I don’t believe at all that making a pie is easy, but that’s another post for another day.

The History

If you’ve never heard of a 1-2-3-4 cake, that’s okay. It’s really just a basic yellow cake with chocolate frosting. The cake was given its name thanks to the number of ingredients that it required; 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs. The recipe is believed to have written down somewhere in the mid-1850s and really took off in the 1870s. Over the years, there have been some tweaks, including the addition of leavening agents. The recipe that I am sharing today is about as basic as they come. It is courtesy of the “American Cake” cookbook by Anne Byrn.

The Cake Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups cake flour (make sure to use cake flour…it makes a difference!)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Baking of the Cake

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 9″ round cake pans with butter and dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour, and set pans aside.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and blend with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Set aside.
  3. Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-size bowl. Add a third of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar, beating on low speed until incorporated. Add half of the milk, and blend, then another third of the flour mixture, then the rest of the milk, and finally the remaining flour mixture and vanilla and blend until combined and smooth, 30 seconds.
  4. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans, and smooth the tops. Place the pans in the oven, and bake until they are lightly browned on top and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center, 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Place the pans on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pans and give the pans a gentle shake to release the cake. Invert the layers once and then again so they rest right side up on the racks to cool completely, 30 minutes.

The Frosting Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) lightly salted butter
  • 4 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Making of the Frosting

  1. Place the butter in a medium-size saucepan (I actually used one a bit larger) over low heat. When the butter melts, stir in the cocoa and milk. Let the mixture come just to a boil, stirring, and then remove the pan from heat. (If the mixture starts to separate, take it off the heat and proceed to the next step.)
  2. Stir in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until the frosting is thickened and smooth.

*Frosting note – I found that one batch was not enough to frost the entire cake. The frosting is best used still warm. I suggest making one back to frost the bottom layer and sides, then another batch for the top layer and sides.

Assembling the Cake

Place 1 layer on a cake plate or platter. Spoon frosting over the top. Place the second later on top, and frost the top and sides of the cake. Slice and serve!

Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Scottish Shortbread

I’ll be the first to admit that lately I’ve been slightly obsessed with my Scottish heritage. I’ve always been proud of my 32% Scotland on my AncestryDNA results. When I deciding where I wanted to travel in 2022, Scotland was at the top of my list for that reason. So, to prepare, why not dive right in to my Scottish-ness (that’s a word, right?). Therefore, today I’m baking Scottish Shortbread with my Scottish ancestors.

The History

Scottish Shortbread got its start under the name “biscuit bread”. This “bread” was a result of leftover dough from bread making. It was dried out in a low oven which resulted in it being called a biscuit, which means “twice cooked”. Eventually the cooks realized they were onto something and replaced the yeast in the bread dough with butter and shortbread was born. Scottish historians attribute the popularity of Scottish Shortbread to Mary, Queen of Scots who was very fond of Petticoat Tails. These biscuits were a thin, crisp, buttery shortbread originally flavored with caraway seeds.

The Process

When looking for a recipe for Scottish Shortbread, I hit all the predictable cookbooks. You know the ones by Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, and of course, my extensive collection of Great British Baking Show cookbooks, but none of those recipes felt right. I didn’t have an actual recipe that had been passed down, so I did what any good baker/genealogist would do. I googled Scottish Shortbread recipes. The recipe I found is from the website https://www.recipetineats.com/

The Ingredients

8oz unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1 cup)

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup powdered sugar (or icing sugar)

2 cups plain/all purpose flour

The Baking

Preheat oven to 325F (standard) or 300F (convection)

Butter and line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper with overhang

Beat butter until smooth (or use very soft butter and a wooden spoon)

Add powdered sugar and beat until combined

Add half the flour and beat until mostly combined. It should resemble wet sand.

Beat in the remainder of the flour. Use your hands to bring it together into a smooth ball of dough. Knead lightly if needed.

Roughly press down into a rectangle shape, then transfer into the pan. Press into the pan, but don’t press too hard! (It will make the cookies firmer)

Bake for 20 minutes until the edges are a very light golden and most of the surface is still pale gold.

Remove from oven. Working quickly, cut into desired shape and prick all over with a fork.

Return to the oven for 8 minutes or until the surface is light golden – not browned.

Turn the oven off, crack it open and leave to cool for at least one hour in the oven.

Remove from oven, use the paper overhang to remove the biscuits, and enjoy your Scottish Shortbread!

Please don’t judge my crooked cutting!
Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Brown Sugar Saucepan Blondies

If I’m being honest, I have never been a fan of Blondies. So, when I came across this recipe I didn’t immediately feel the need to bake them. I kept searching for a different recipe to try. As I continued to search, this recipe kept coming back to my mind. Maybe it was time that I finally time to give Blondies another try.

The history of Blondies started during World War II. Women were looking for an alternative to Brownies since chocolate and white sugar were being rationed. It was time to get creative. Originally called “Light Colored Brownies” by Mrs. Alexander George (a home economics teacher turned newspaper columnist), these so-called Brownies replaced white sugar with brown sugar and left out the chocolate completely. As Blondies evolved, bakers included butterscotch chips, pecans, and many other ingredients to make them their own.

Needless to say, after trying these Blondies, I am now a big fan!

Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, if desired

How-To

  1. Place a rack in the center of the over, and preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour a 13×9 baking pan and set it aside.
  2. Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir until melted. Add the brown sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the granulated sugar and stir until well combined, 1 minute. Let cool sightly.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-size bowl. Add a third of the flour mixture to the saucepan and stir to combine and bring down the temperature of the butter and sugar mixture, 30 seconds. Add half the beaten eggs and the vanilla. Stir to combine, 30 seconds. Add another third of the flour mixture, stir to combine, then add the rest of the eggs, then the last of the flour, and stir until smooth. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with pecans, if desired. Place the pan in the oven.
  4. Bake the Blondies until nut brown around the edges and just firm in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. You do not want to overbake.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven, and place it on a wire rack to cool. Score the Blondies into pieces with a sharp knife. When completely cool, slice into pieces and serve. These Blondies keep covered at room temperature for up to 4 days and in the freezer for up to 4 months.

(recipe c/o American Cookies by Anne Byrn)

Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Grandmother’s Coca-Cola Cake

My grandmother was not the type of woman to pass down recipes. It isn’t because she didn’t want to. It’s more because she never really followed a recipe. Whenever any would ask how to make a particular dish, her instructions were basically “a pinch of this, and a dash of that until it looks good”. She made some amazing dishes, but my favorite (and, luckily the one she actually wrote down) was Coca-Cola Cake!

The recipe in my Grandmother’s handwriting.

Nobody knows exactly where Coca Cola cake originated.  Some say it was by a housewife looking for a new spin on a chocolate cake.  Others say it was created by Coca Cola themselves as a clever way to market their drink in other ways.  The only thing everyone can agree on is that it was invented in the South.  The Coca Cola Company’s headquarters are, after all, located in Atlanta, Georgia.

Marshmallows and chocolate?! Yes, please!

Coca Cola cake it not made like a traditional cake.  If you find it a bit lumpy at moments, that’s okay!  Also, when you are finished with the batter, it may appear a bit runny.  That’s okay too!  While this cake may have some unusual steps, it’s tough to mess it up.  That’s the best thing about this recipe…even the mistakes taste yummy!

The finished product!

A note before you get started, the frosting will be applied to the cake while both the cake and frosting are still warm!

Ingredients (batter)

  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup Coca Cola
  • 1 cup Butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups Marshmallows (I use mini marshmallows)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla

How to make the Batter

  1. Grease and flour 9×13 inch cake pan and set aside
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Stir to combine.
  4. In a saucepan, combine cocoa, Coca Cola, butter, and marshmallows and bring to a boil.
  5. Combine the boiled mixture with the flour/sugar mixture and set aside.
  6. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla.  Add to the mixture in the large bowl.
  7. Pour mix into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes.
  8. Cake will be ready when a toothpick comes out clean.

Ingredients (frosting)

  • 1/2 cup Butter (1 stick)
  • 3 tablespoons Cocoa
  • 6 tablespoons Coca Cola
  • 1 box Confectioner’s Sugar
  • Optional: 1/2 to 1 cup Nuts (use your preference for type of nuts and how much)

How to make the Frosting

  1. In a saucepan, bring butter, cocoa, and Coca Cola to a boil.
  2. Stir in the sugar and mix well.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the nuts.
  4. Spread over the cake while both are still warm.

You’ll want the Frosting to set before you serve it.  Once it does, dig in and enjoy!

A selfie with my Grandmother

Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Baking with My Ancestors: School Lunch Peanut Butter Cookies

I don’t know about you, but I have been doing a lot of baking during this stay at home time.  I love to bake anyway, but having to stay home on the weekends is making me more creative in the kitchen. Last week, I decided to take my baking skills to Facebook Live and share some recipes.  When deciding what to bake, I wanted to include my love of genealogy and history.  If you know me, then you know that baking and history are my two biggest passions.  Any time I can combine the two make me a very happy girl!

I stumbled across this recipe and read the history behind it.  It seems that peanut butter cookies (and this recipe in particular) became very popular during the Great Depression.  A time I feel that we can all relate to at the moment.  Peanut Butter became a star because it was a great source for protein and B vitamins.  Vegetable shortening was used because it was much less expensive than butter.

Peanut Butter cookies can thank lunch room ladies for their new-found popularity during the Great Depression and the years following.  Women were going to work and many of them found employment in the lunch room of schools.  The lunch ladies wanted an inexpensive, but nutritional, way to give the kids a treat.  Enter the peanut butter cookies.  Cookies were made in bulk on Monday and stored to be used through out the week.  The cookies had a longer shelf life than the average cookie, which lended itself to the penny-pinching mindset of the time.

Below, you’ll find a recipe for the School Lunch Peanut Butter cookie.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!  I’d love to see your finished product too!  Post a picture in the comments or on Social Media!  Make sure to tag @coolgirlgenealogy

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (can be light or dark)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons for pressing into the top of the cookies
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

How-To

  1. Place rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375F.  Set aside 2 ungreased baking sheets.
  2. Place the peanut butter, shortening, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until creamy, about 1 minute.  Add the vanilla and egg, and beat on medium-low until the mixture is smooth, about 45 seconds.  Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  3. Whisk together the sifted flour, soda, and salt in a medium-size bowl and turn this into the peanut butter mixture.  Beat with the mixer on low speed until the dry ingredients are just incorporated, 45 seconds to 1 minute.
  4. Drop the dough in 1″ pieces spaced about 3″ apart on the pans.  Press the top of each ball twice with a fork dipped in the remaining granulated sugar, creating a crosshatch pattern.  Place one pan at a time in the oven.
  5. Bake the cookies until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the pan for 1 minute, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

(recipe c/o American Cookie cookbook)

Posted in Baking With My Ancestors

Baking With My Ancestors – Irish Brown Bread

As I was making the list of all the baked goods I wanted to make for this new series, Irish Brown Bread was at the top.  It’s sooo good and sooo easy to make!  While I was in Ireland a few years ago, I ate Irish Brown Bread for breakfast every day.  It’s tasty with butter and jam, but even on it’s own, it’s yummy!

When people think of Ireland and bread, the mostly think of soda bread.  I’ll admit, I did too…until I tried the brown bread.  Irish Brown Bread became popular in 1840s when refined baking soda was introduced to the country.  The bread became ingrained in the every day lives of the people in Ireland and very important to the Irish culture!

After I got home from Ireland, the first thing on my list was to figure out how to make authentic Irish Brown Bread.  I found a few examples online, but I felt like they weren’t just right.  I found a bakery on Instagram, Kelly Lou Cakes (@kellyloucakes) and just happened to find her making the bread in her Insta-stories.  I went out on a limb and sent her a message asking her to share the recipe.  I wasn’t expecting anything in return, but to my surprise, she shared it!  So…below is Kelly Lou’s recipe for Irish Brown Bread…straight from Ireland!

IMG_0956

Irish Brown Bread Recipe

Ingredients

(note the measurements are in weight/European)

  • 700g Coarse Wholemeal Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Wheat Germ
  • 2 teaspoons Bran
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 800mL Buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tsp Oil

Steps

  1. Line 2 loaf pans with parchment paper.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. Mix the Flour, Germ, Bran, Baking Soda and Salt together.
  4. Add the Buttermilk and Eggs.  Stir to combine.
  5. Add the Oil and still until just combined.
  6. Pour the bread mixture into the two loaf pans
  7. Bake for 50 minutes or until bread is a golden brown.

That’s it!  When cooled, slice and enjoy it!  If you have any questions about the recipe, feel free to send me an email!