While I am not technically Irish, I have always had a great fondness for the fair people of the Emerald Isle, and even more so, their holiday. Maybe I enjoy St. Patrick’s Day so much because of it’s heralding of spring, or it’s wonderful gastronomical traditions (mmmmm, corned beef and cabbage!!), but most likely it is the requisite booze consumption that most likely fuels my love for this great day. I was inspired this year by a beautiful construction of TheNaptimeChef, Chocolate Mint Fudge Cake Pops. I have been thinking about making cake pops for ages now, ever since I first saw Bakerella‘s amazing creations, but have never really had the motivation. I decided Tuesday this was my moment! So off to the cake supply store I went. Thankfully I did a little research, of which I will share some important tips I found out below.
I did make one significant change from TheNaptimeChef’s recipe. Instead of using cream cheese, I went the Bakerella route and used cream cheese icing as my binder. Three quarters of a standard icing container was just the right amount to give my cake the right dough-like consistency. I think it really added to the taste as well.
Now for a few tips I learned that helped make my first ever cake pops a success:
- Chill: After forming the cake into 1″ size balls, chill in the freezer for 15-20 minutes (can be done in the fridge, but it takes much longer and I was short on time).
- Sticks: Warm your coating chocolate and dip the ends of your pop sticks in it (shake off excess) before inserting into the cake balls. Once you have the sticks in, put back in the freezer for a few minutes.
- Cool: Don’t leave the cake pops in the freezer too long. If they are super cold, when you try to dip them in the chocolate, the cake will expand and crack the coating. If they do spend an extending time in the freezer, just take them out and let the sit at room temp for a bit. You want them cool, but not cold.
- Chocolate: From all the negative things I read, Wilton’s melting chocolate is NOT good for coating. I went to a specialty party supply store to track down Merckens coating chocolates, as recommended by Bakerella and several others. They can also be obtained online. Made for a nice, shiny coating.
- Paramount Crystals: These saved my bacon, big time! Even with using the Merckens coating chocolates, the green chocolate in particular was very thick and not very smooth. Thanks to some recommendations from a cake pop discussion group, I picked up a bag of Paramount Crystals, and they worked great. I just added a few pinches at a time and stirred them into the warm green chocolate until it reached the right consistency. Supposedly you can also use vegetable shorting or vegetable oil, but I have heard if your not careful, it can make your chocolate too runny, make it look dull, and/or keep it from hardening to a good shell.
- Emergency: If one of the cake balls does fall off the stick (happened to several of mine), use a spoon in the chocolate to finish coating it. Then put it, with it’s stick re-inserted, on some wax paper and let it harden. Hopefully the stick will re-attach (mine all did), then you can just dip the top of the pop into your warm chocolate and add your sprinkles or whatnot.
Overall, I am very pleased with how my first cake pops turned out. Also, I have been told by many taste testers that they were quite yummy. The hint of mint was really a key touch. I do caution, these were very labor-intensive. One box of cake mix made approximately 50 cake pops. I didn’t quite get them all dipped (I threw in the towel at midnight), but I got about 40 or so done in a little less then 4 hours. They are a great creative canvas though, and fun to give out to friends as a treat. I am already thinking about a new cake pop idea for Easter!
St. Patrick’s Day is here and I thought I would share one of my favorite Irish recipes with you. Now, I understand there is some debate about the actual geographic origins of Shepard’s Pie and that there is also his brother called Cottage Pie, and who is who depends on who you talk to. I however, firmly stick to my argument that this is an Irish recipe, not because I have a copy of it’s birth certificate, but because this recipe was given to me by a full-blooded Irish descendant, who happened to be my Mother-in-law for a time.
This recipe is both easy and delicious. A claim made by many, upheld by few, and in this case quite true. Now, some might turn their nose because most of these ingredients come from pouches and cans. Certainly, if you have all day to shop for fresh veggies and inexhaustible arm muscles to chop all of them into little pieces, more power to you. I do not however, but I argue even though it does not use fresh ingredients, this recipe still delivers on flavor. I think it’s even better on the second day, once all the juices really have a chance to settle in and mingle together.
Mother-in-Law’s Shepard’s Pie
- 2-3 lbs. Ground Beef
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 can Veg-all Mixed Vegetables, 29 oz (or two 15 oz cans)
- 1 can Bush’s Baked Beans, 28 oz (or two 16oz cans)
- 2 packets of instant mashed potatoes
- salt and pepper to taste
- Saute diced onion in a skillet. Once onion starts to turn transparent, add ground beef. Cook ground beef, crumbling it as it browns, until all pink is gone. Season with salt and pepper.
- Drain onion and beef mix and add to a very large mixing bowl.
- Start preparing the liquid for the instant mashed potatoes.
- While liquid is coming to temperature, add veg-all and baked beans to bowl with beef and onions. Mix well.
- Transfer mixture into baking dish (I usually end up having to use two baking dishes for it all) leaving a 1/2 to 1″ empty space below the rim.
- Finish preparing the mashed potatoes. Spoon potatoes on top of beef and vegetable mixture, covering entire top of baking dish.
- Bake at 400º for 20 minutes or until mashed potatoes become golden brown.
So, if you didn’t have an Irish meal on the menu for tonight, or didn’t have anything yet on the menu, stop by the store and grab these few things, and you can have yourself an ‘authentic’ Irish dish in no time at all! Erin go Bragh!