Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Luck of the Irish, Wearing of the Green and Guinness

A purple shamrock plant; I have three in my yard, and love them!

I've talked a lot about my Italian family, but the other side of my heritage is Irish.  My grandmother on my dad's side was one of 11 children (holy cow!) and came to Boston in the early 1900's from Connemara near Galway to work as a domestic for the Cabot family (of the Henry Cabot Lodge family)

When she made enough money she sent it home to bring her next sibling, her sister Maureen, (later renamed Mary) to Boston.  These women worked hard, and although they were used to hard work, they also had a lot of ambition and they didn't mind serving other people.  

The best story from this side of the family was about the next two girls, who came over together, Annie and Elizabeth.  They got to Boston, after a horrific (I can't even imagine steerage in those days) sea voyage, and were told the Irish quota was full, they would have to go they turned around, went back on the same ship, only to leave again several weeks later from Ireland to return and finally be granted entrance. 

For years, they would tell this story, embellishing it as they drank their whiskey and ginger-ale which they would offer small children at 10 a.m. Hard work was a hallmark of the memories I have of these women; even as a teenager I saw them come home after several days at their jobs to sink into a chair, rub their feet and put them up, exhausted beyond what I could comprehend, but still with great stories to tell about the household they served or reminiscing about the "old sod".  Although I've never been to Ireland, it's on the list, and I can't wait to see the old house where my grandmother was born, I understand it is still standing, a miracle in itself.  

I'm hoping it looks more like this than.......


Tomorrow as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day, I like to remember my Geary Aunts and all their stories about Ireland.  They made it sound like a magical place, but I know it had to be a hard life, and even harder to leave your parents and all you've known to go to a new world.  

People always ask me if we have corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's day, and I have to be honest, I never remember my grandmother making it, she would usually do lamb (mutton actually) with gravy that you could skate across it was so greasy.  Corned beef and cabbage isn't one of my faves, so I usually make lamb, or Shepherds' pie or something that I could imagine being served in Ireland--I've never met a potato I didn't like! 

I almost always forget to wear green---it's not a color I have in abundance in my closet, so I mostly remember when I see people in their day-glo green shirts.  With a maiden name like Fitz-Patrick, you'd think I'd remember! 

Today, I decided to make Guinness cupcakes.  I had a Guinness cake when I was in London and it was really delicious, but I could never find a recipe; this one is adapted from a few that I found on the internet, and it actually made some dynamite cupcakes.  I made a cream cheese and Bailey's Irish Creme frosting to go along with them, and it's awesome---you could spread it on tongue depressors it's so good!  

Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Creme Frosting

Makes 18

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
1 1/3 cup Guinness or other Irish stout
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tins with liners or coat with non-stick cooking spray. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy, add the eggs, one at at time, and gradually pour in the vanilla and Guinness.  The mixture will look curdled. 

With the machine on low, gradually add the flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda and beat on medium speed until smooth, and well combined.  

Using a large portion scoop, scoop the batter into the cupcake tins, filling 2/3 to 3/4 full.  

Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean and the cupcakes spring back when touched in the center.  Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.

Bailey's Irish Creme Frosting
Makes enough to frost two 8 inch layers or 24 cupcakes

5 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
4 ounces cream cheese, softened, and cut into cubes
2 to 4 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Creme

In a food processor, process the sugar, and with the machine running, add the butter and cream cheese until blended.  Add the Bailey's a bit at a time, until the mixture is spreading consistency.  

Pipe onto cupcakes using a large star tip,or frost using a small off-set spatula.  The cupcakes and the frosting can be frozen for up to 2 months. I think green sprinkles might ruin the effect, but if you have them (I don't) you could sprinkle the cupcakes with them for a bit of wearing of the green! 

Tomorrow I will be flying, so I may not get a chance to post, unless the airline food/service warrants a good laugh....we can all use that right now as we watch the tragedy unfold in Japan.  I wish you all a happy St. Patrick's day!

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