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Visit us at one of our three store locations to find Irish Jewelry, Claddagh Rings, Irish Sweaters, Irish Foods, Guinness Products, Waterford and Belleek.

Call us at one of the numbers below or use the accompanying form to contact us.

The Irish Boutique - Long Grove, IL (847 634 3540)

Paddy's on the Square - Long Grove, IL (847 634 0339)

The Irish Boutique - Crystal Lake, IL (815 459 1800)

 

847 634 0339

The Irish Boutique is an Irish import store that has been located in the Chicago land area for over 40 years.  The shop stocks a variety of products ranging from Irish jewelry, crystal, china, food, sweaters, caps, t-shirts and a wide variety of Irish gifts. 

Cooking Blog

Visit our blog to read about Michelle Barry's adventures in cooking and eating Irish cuisine and to learn about new products and upcoming events. 

 

Is Cake Still Cake When Looks Like Something Else?

john barry

Christmas cake french toast

Happy New Year! No crazy resolutions requiring willpower and acclimation to deprivation here. And no certain answer to the existential questions that still haunt us all. But we’re not worried. We started 2019 with cake.  Literally. As in cake for breakfast. This brilliant idea was not mine (gasp). The credit belongs to Paul, though I was more than willing to bring it to life in the kitchen.  

Christmas cake

We had a gorgeous Italian Christmas cake leftover from our Christmas festivities that we weren’t exactly sure what to do with. The cake itself was light and airy, not dense or breadlike, and it had a wonderful aroma, reminiscent of almonds or some kind of liquor possibly? I wish I could put my finger on it because it was heaven.

Still, after eating pie for breakfast for a few days, it didn’t feel right to eat cake for breakfast for the next few, well, at least not while it still looked like cake. Paul came up with the idea of turning it into french toast because it had that beautiful texture of brioche - which makes the best french toast. I decided to turn it into baked french toast since it’s easier (and how I typically give leftovers the “french toast treatment”). So easy in fact, that there is no “recipe” at all. Here’s what I did.

I took the cake, cubed it, placed the cubes in a casserole dish and let them sit out all day to dry out a little. Then, just before bedtime, I mixed up some eggs (6), milk (2 cups), cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar (not very much because I was starting with cake!) and poured it over the cubes, making sure they were completely saturated. I drizzled about a tablespoon of cream over the top before covering the dish and putting it in the fridge to soak overnight. When I woke up in the morning, I pre-heated the oven to 375F and baked the french toast, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.

cake cubes
eggs
soaking cubes

The result was pretty decadent since it was, um, cake.  Actually, not just cake but cake plus eggs, milk, cream and a little sugar. But let’s not dwell on the details. The important part is that it was SO good. Especially with some bacon on the side to cut the sweetness. The kids, who weren’t into the cake when it was just cake, felt differently about it as french toast and went to town on it. Which I guess makes me mom-of-the-year.  Look at her, she somehow convinced her kids to eat cake and custard for breakfast and they agreed! They even enjoyed it. Woo Hoo! How does she do it? Again, details.  Let’s not get distracted by them.  Isn’t it more fun to think about the fact that you can have your Christmas cake and eat it too? For breakfast no less. It made a perfect one for our last couple of lazy days home for the holidays. Sure, it’s not an everyday breakfast, but I would make it again in an instant for a brunch or even for Christmas. I can imagine just sliding it into the oven while presents are being opened like I’ve done in the past with these cinnamon rolls. Or, if you must, you could make a nice whiskey sauce or creme anglaise and serve this as a dessert (AKA bread pudding).  That would really bring things full circle. Oh the irony…

Christmas cake french toast

Happiest Happy New Year Wishes to everyone.  Be on the lookout for more Irish food in 2019!





Cookie Party

john barry

The calm before the storm…

The calm before the storm…

So lately I’ve been wondering if there are any Irish Christmas traditions that we are missing out on. I know I could google it, but with the internet, I always think it’s tough to figure out which traditions regular people really honor. How do I find out about those? I’m sure it would be really easy for me to find out just by asking Paul’s cousins but I always forget. Anyway, I’ve heard that in Ireland people leave a Guinness alongside that plate of cookies they set out for Santa (or “Santy” as some say).  I’m not sure whether this is true or not, but it sounds like a lovely tradition.

cookie party

I’ve actually been baking cookies like a crazy person in preparation for the cookie party that I promised my kids we would have. We invited a bunch of friends over and set the table with tons of sprinkles, candy, different colors of frosting and of course, cookies. I made chocolate sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies and vanilla sugar cookies in all different shapes and sizes.  Some even had little holes in them so that they could be used as ornaments.

I learned a lot from this experience. Mostly, that I would have to set my borderline-compulsive disdain of waste aside and drink more wine if I wanted to survive the day.  Turns out, the 4 and under set have no concept of restraint - which resulted in a few of them covering the cookies in a pool of frosting and sprinkles until you could no longer recognize what was underneath. The 7 to 12 year olds definitely took more pride in their work, which made me happy, because sometimes, as a parent it’s nice to see what you have to look forward to.  

cookie party

In the end everyone seemed to have fun. And my house came out shockingly unscathed by the amount of cookies, frosting, sprinkles and drinks circulating. Nothing a quick once over with the vacuum didn’t take care of.  

The cookie recipes came from all of my favorite sources:

These two enjoyed the dough remnants as much as the cookies.

These two enjoyed the dough remnants as much as the cookies.

All of them were easy to make and roll out. I made most of them ahead of time and stored them in the freezer until the night before the party. It’s important to wrap them well and keep them in airtight containers so that they don’t pick up any weird smells or condensation from the freezer.  I stacked mine in plastic freezer bags and placed those in plastic containers (which has the added benefit of preventing breakage e.g. when you are rummaging around the freezer looking for a frozen pizza) and had no issues whatsoever.

I ate way too many. Still, I know I’ll be happy to get out some of the leftovers to eat with my Guinness on Christmas Eve.





Almond Pear Cake

john barry

IMG_20181110_135106.jpg

So it turns out having four kids five and under is busy. It doesn’t really “feel” busier than three, but it must be.  See, I notice it more in the things that don’t get done because I have more priorities to sift through and more goes by the wayside. So while I’ve been managing to get home-cooked meals on the table most nights, taking photos of them, writing down recipes, even trying new recipes has mostly not happened. Evenings are chaotic.  It all is. But it’s also fun. And hard to believe how much the kids have grown up in a few short years. They are able to offer more and more help in the kitchen and everywhere. I’ve also noticed a gradual change in their eating habits. Isla eats a lot these days and Eve has been surprising us by eating all kinds of stuff she never did before, broccoli, mushrooms, celery, etc. Noelle likes everything and Emmett, always a good eater, gets a little better each week.  I’m looking forward to the day when they all eat less like toddlers and I’m hopeful that it might be somewhat soon.

IMG_20181110_122709.jpg

One food we all like is this cake. Well, in the end at least. Emmett swore he wasn’t going to like it before he even tried it because it wasn’t chocolate (he made me promise that he could have candy for dessert instead - ever the negotiator). Of course, he ended up being obsessed and claiming all of the leftovers for himself. I wonder what his kindergarten teacher thought of me sending him to school with a slice of cake in his backpack.  “Mother of the year?” “She must be French?” Hopefully the latter. Either way, I’m so glad I remembered my little trick of making an extra to stash in the freezer.

almond pear cake 3

I made this simple Almond and Pear Cake for Paddy’s birthday this year. It’s really an almond cake with some sliced pears on the bottom - the top when flipped over. It doesn’t taste strongly of pear but is definitely almondy if you like that sort of thing. I’m a sucker for anything with almond paste.  It’s also one of those cakes that gets even better if you let it sit for a day. Which is great if you are having a dinner party and have other dishes to focus on. We also had rack of lamb, green beans with almonds and brown butter and potatoes, though by the time we sat down to eat, food was the last thing on our minds.

That’s because Paddy had gone to church that evening for some kind of event and was supposed to get to our house around 5pm, according to Paul.  When 6pm rolled around and he was nowhere in sight, Paul got worried and started to drive around looking for him. Meanwhile, I was grilling my brother-in-law John about where he could be, whether or not he had a cell phone with him, where the church was, when the meeting was - all questions he couldn’t answer. Paul did know what church it was and had already called. They told him that the meeting ended an hour earlier which only worried him more, so he set off for the church.  

A little while later, Paddy waltzed through the door without a care in the world, talking about how the meeting had run quite long. Classic! Relieved, we all felt silly for being so worried, after all, Paddy has been navigating the world for several decades, most of them before cell phones and gps. The funny thing is, this kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME with the Barry boys. I’m so glad Paul’s sister CeCe has moved back to Chicago to commiserate with me and help keep everyone in line.

The benefit of this little scare was that I think it made us all a little more grateful for another year of happiness and good health with Paddy.  We love him so much! Even more than cake.

Almond Pear Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe pears

  • 1 cup cake flour, divided

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/3 cups caster or superfine sugar

  • 7 ounces almond paste

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature and cut into 1-tablespoon cubes

  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature


Instructions

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line two six-inch (or one 8 or 9 -inch) cake pans with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

Peel and slice the pears. Arrange them in the bottom of the cake pan.

Whisk together 3/4 cup of cake flour, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of the cake flour until the almond paste has mixed with the sugar and forms a sandy texture.

With the food processor running, add the cubes of butter one at a time, followed by the almond extract. Process until the batter is smooth and light.
Add the eggs one at a time, processing after each addition.

Add half of the dry ingredients and pulse until incorporated. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients pulsing a few times again until just incorporated.

Pour the batter over the pears, then bake the cake in the center of the oven. Check it after 40 minutes rotating in the oven.

Watch it closely, mine took 55 minutes but it can take as long as 70 minutes depending on the pans you use, your oven etc.

When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen it from the sides. Let the cake cool completely, then invert it.

Wrap in plastic and keep at room temperature until you are ready to serve.