Amarena Cherry Almond Loaf

Makes 1 loaf



  • 1 cup ground almonds, or almond meal
  • 1 ¼ cups, and 1 Tablespoon All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons Amaretto almond liqueur
  • 1 cup Amarena cherries, drained and cut into halves


  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Amarena cherry syrup
  • 1 teaspoon melted salted butter
  • 2 teaspoons whipping, or heavy, cream

To decorate

  • Toasted flaked almonds
  • Additional Amarena cherries, drained



  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Prepare 9” x 5” inch loaf pan with baking spray, or grease with butter, and set aside until needed
  3. In a bowl, combine the flour, ground almonds, salt and baking powder. Whisk together well
  4. Beat the butter with the sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition
  6. Add the almond liqueur and mix to combine
  7. Add ½ the flour mixture and mix briefly
  8. Add the remaining of the flour mixture and fold just until no flour spots remain
  9. Toss the cherries in 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour and fold in the batter
  10. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake for about 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center. *If the loaf begins to brown too much before it has completed baking, cover it loosely with aluminium foil
  11. Cool 15 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan. Allow to cool completely before glazing


  1. Whisk together the powdered sugar, cherry syrup, and melted butter until just smooth
  2. Add in the cream one teaspoon at a time until you can pour the glaze

To finish

  1. Drizzle the glaze over your cooled loaf
  2. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and dot surplus Amarena cherries to your liking
  3. Slice and serve

Loaf will keep best for up to three days at room temperature in an air-tight container


Christmas Couronne

A Christmas Carol holds a play in my household as a cornerstone of Christmas. In fact the 1984 version starring George C Scott is held in such high esteem as THE quintessential version that it heralds the “official” start of yuletide festivities on December 1st for us. Each time there is a new version I look forward to seeing how each of the ghostly visitors will be portrayed. My favorite being the largest of the all- the bountiful and exhuberant Ghost of Christmas Present. Maybe it’s their jovial grasp of transient life and joie de vivre? Or maybe it’s that they are a harbinger of plentiful – cornucopia overflowing with festive bounty. This is what brings me to this recipe- the couronne.

So many things about it that instantly makes me think of the Ghost of Christmas Present. From it’s wreath shape, to the fluted edges blossoming with sweet, festive fillings, to the sweet, heady flavor of marzipan (always a signature festive flavor for me). Consider it in the same vein as that other Christmas classic- stollen, alebit not as heavy I find. The braiding can be a little bit tricky to master – I’m not kidding when I swore at one point it must be like wrestling an octopus. Filling will fall out- just accept it. It is not a testament as to your prowess, it’s just inevitable. Any loose stray filling can just be sprinkled back over the fully shaped dough and nobody, aside from you and the kitchen walls, will be any the wiser.

Although this couronne is good for a week in an airtight container, it really is at it’s best up to three days after baking.



  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 stick butter  
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cups Bread Flour 
  • 2 1/4 tspn yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbspn salt
  • 3 Tbspn and 1 tspn sugar divided
  • Zest 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup Thompson raisins
  • 1/4 cup cherry wine (or orange juice for kid-friendly)
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and roughly copped
  • 1 cup almond marzipan

To glaze and decorate

  • 1/3 cup apricot jam
  • 1 cup icing sugar 
  • 1 tspn water
  • 1/4 tspn rum or rum extract 
  • 2 Tbspn Flaked almonds, toasted 


  1. The night before you want to make the couronne, in an airtight container or jar combine the dried fruits, cherry wine and vanilla extract and mix well. Seal and set aside for the fruit to soak up the liquid, occasionally shaking/ stirring the mixture
  2. The following day, in a small pan combine the milk, butter and cinnamon stick. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until the butter has melted fully. Remove from heat and set aside to cool until tepid
  3. In a small bowl mix together the yeast, warm water and 1 Tbspn sugar until combined. Set aside for 10 minutes until frothy
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, remaining sugar and salt
  5. Add in the frothed yeast mixture and the butter/ milk (depending on the humidity of your kitchen you may not need all of the butter/ milk mixture. Start with 3/4 of it and add more slowly if needed)
  6. Knead with the dough hook attachment for 6-7 minutes until it comes together as a dough. Continue mixing until the sides of the bowl are clean and the dough is soft. It should stop feeling sticky and have a smooth exterior
  7. Transfer the dough to a large pre-oiled bowl, cover with cling film and set aside to prove in a warm place approximately an hour
  8. When the dough has about doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Without knocking it back, roll out the dough into a rectangle roughly 13x10in in size
  9. Sprinkle the soaked plump fruits over the surface of the dough
  10. Scatter the chopped pecans over the surface of the dough
  11. Break/ tear the marzipan in to rough pieces 1/2″ to 1″ in size. Scatter these pieces over the surface as well
  12. By the time you’ve finished the surface of your dough should be covered with soaked fruits, pecans, and marzipan
  13. Roll the dough tightly like a Swiss roll along the long edge so you end up with a sausage shape approximately 13″ long and transfer the roll to a large lined/ prepared baking sheet.
  14. Cut the roll in half lengthways, all the way along it’s length. Turn the roll lengths so that the cut layers are exposed on top. Keeping the cut layers to the top overlap the two lengths of dough together forming a simple braid.
  15. Form the braided length into a circle shape and join/tuck the ends to form a ring shape. *I use a heatproof greased/ oiled can or circular bowl placed in the middle to wrap the dough around to help give the circular shape
  16. Cover the couronne ring and set aside in a warm place for 30-40 minutes to rise, until the dough springs back quickly when lightly prodded
  17. Preheat your oven to 425F
  18. Bake the proved couronne for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool
  19. While the couronne is cooling, heat the apricot jam with a splash of water in a small pan over a medium heat until runny. Pass through a sieve to remove any pieces of fruit, then brush the sieved jam all over the warm couronne to glaze. Set aside to cool completely
  20. For the icing glaze mix together the icing sugar, water and rum (extract) to form a runny glaze. Drizzle over the cooled couronne and scatter with the flaked almonds
  21. The couronne will keep for up to one week at room temperature in an airtight container

St. Patrick’s Day Recipe Bundle

This bunch of recipes started as an idea where I wanted to do something drawing inspiration from my childhood in Ireland to my current life here in Toronto. It also helped that St. Patrick’s Day was impending so that provided a nice motivational kick. I’ve included three (or should it be four?) recipes here as frankly I couldn’t decide which to include for a single recipe post. However, I do think it works quite nicely to chart the influences on my passion for baking. I shall try to keep the background blurb short as I have to admit not being a fan of rambling anecdotes myself on recipe posts (“Seriously Janice- get to the recipe already! No one actually cares about your traumatic experience with bangs and how it rekindled your childhood love of popovers…)

In the meantime have a great St. Patrick’s Day. Eat (plenty); Drink (responsibly) and Be merry (it goes without saying).

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibhe!


Traditional Plain Soda Bread w/ Blueberry, Rosemary & Juniper berry conserve

This is where I began. Well, I mean my love of baking. Soda bread was the first recipe that my mom showed me how to make in the kitchen. The bread is simplicity itself with  little or no baking skill required. The conserve recipe is my substitute for the sticky jam jars of childhood. If you asked me to sum up childhood memories of baking it would be of freshly cut warm plain soda bread, slathered in butter and jam. And now I pass it on to you to make your own memories.

Plain soda bread


  • 3 1/2 cups All purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk*



  1. Preheat oven to 450°F
  2. Line a tray with baking parchment and dust lightly with flour. Set aside until needed
  3. In a large bowl combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Whisk to combine and break down lumps. Make a well in the centre
  4. Pour in most of the buttermilk
  5. Using one hand stir the flour into the liquid from the outside of the bowl, turning the bowl as you do. Continue until the mixture comes together in a soft dough that is not too wet or sticky (you may need the remainder of the buttermilk here)
  6. Turn the dough out into a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for a few seconds. Don’t overknead here- you just want to do it enough so that it holds it shape. Don’t do it to the extent that you would with standard bread dough!
  7. Using your hands, lightly floured, pat the dough into a round shape about 2 inches thick. Transfer to the floured baking sheet
  8. With a knife (I use a bench scraper) score a cross into the top of the loaf, so that it goes almost all the way through the thickness and over the sides of the loaf
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 15mins then reduce the heat to 400°F and continue baking for an additional 20mins until cooked. The baked loaf will be deep golden in color and sound hollow when the bottom of it is tapped
  10. Remove and cool on a wire rack
  11. This type of loaf will cool with a hard, crispy crust. If a softer crust is desired wrap a clean kitchen towel around the hot loaf and allow it to cool


*If you don’t have buttermilk to hand you can make your own by combining 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar in a jug. Stir to combine and leave to sit for 15 mins. After 15 mins the liquid will have thickened slightly and small curds can be seen. Use in the recipe as required. Any remaining milk can be stored in the fridge.


Blueberry, rosemary & juniper berry conserve


  • 4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoons dried juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary (6 inch length apx)


  1. In large pot combine the blueberries, juniper berries, sugar, lemon juice and water
  2. Stir over a medium heat until the mixture becomes loose and the berries start releasing liquid
  3. When the berries have soften and you see more liquid add in the spring of rosemary, ensuring it is submerged in the liquid
  4. Continue over a medium, stirring occasionally, for 30mins until the fruit has broken down and slightly thickened
  5. Remove from heat, transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature and infuse
  6. When cool place in a sterilised jar. Serve with traditional soda bread



Báirín Breac (Irish Barmbrack)

As a kid I hated dried fruit. Hated it with that primal fervour only a child can manifest when presented with something they don’t like. Not only was barmbrack out- also Christmas cake, fruit cookies and anything else harbouring any sign of a shrivelled morsel. Interesting then that as an adult I can have a hankering out of the blue for something with dried fruit. Perhaps making up for lost time? Whilst more traditional to see it at Halloween, barmbrack for me is synonymous with my roots in Motherland Hibernia. Here I’ve made some additions and substitutions- mead in addition to the traditional tea steeping fluid to give a little extra indulgence; Red Fife flour to add an extra layer of nuttiness to the loaf; and cranberries as, even after all these years, candied peel still abhors me. 

Makes 1 loaf


  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cup black tea, freshly made
  • 1/4 cup mead
  • 3/4 cup dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 cup All Purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup Red Fife flour (or substitute wholewheat)
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg, beaten

To finish

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water



  1. Put the raisins, sultanas and cranberries in a large heatproof bowl, pour over the tea and mead. Stir to combine ensuring all the fruit is wet. Leave to soak overnight, or minimum 6 hours, stirring occasionally 
  2. Heat the oven to 350°F and grease 4.5″ x 8.5″ loaf tin pan and line with baking parchment
  3. In a second bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, spices and salt, making sure you break up any lumps in the sugar, then stir in the fruit mixture (including liquid), beaten egg and vanilla extract. Mix well to combine
  4. Tip the loaf mix into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 80 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. (If the top looks to be going too dark or burning on top towards the end, cover loosely with foil)
  5. Take out of the oven, leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out on to a baking rack
  6. Whilst the loaf is cooling make the sugar syrup.
  7. In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water. Heat the sugar and water over a high heat until the sugar has been dissolved. Bring to a boil and continue stirring over a high heat for 1 minute
  8. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before applying to the loaf
  9. When the loaf has been turned out on to the rack, liberally brush the top and sides with the cooled syrup
  10. Allow to cool fully to room temperature before slicing and serving
  11. Serve slathered in fresh butter and with a hot cup of tea for the quintessential Irish experience.
  12. Store the baked loaf wrapped in wax paper, or baking parchment, in an airtight container. The taste and texture of the remaining loaf will improve over time becoming more “fudge” like.img_3501


Irish Cream Nanaimo Bars

While the previous recipes had their roots firmly planted in childhood memories and influences, this is a blatant (and heady) nod to the influences of my current home. Numerous Canadian baked goods have won me over – butter tarts; beaver tails; Pouding Chomeur but the Nanaimo bar truly hits my sweet Achilles heel. And how do you make something that perfect better? Why by adding booze of course! More specifically Irish Cream. Take your pick of the ones available out there but my preference is for the stalwart that is Baileys. Not that I’ve made trays of liqueur riddled sweet bars in order to research. Of course not!

Makes 24


Bottom Layer

  • 1/2 cup of salted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup of sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, chopped and toasted

Middle Layer

  • 2 cups of icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup of butter, softened
  • 2 -3 tablespoons of Irish Cream liqueur, I use Baileys
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch

Top Layer

  • 3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 separate tablespoons of butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x9inch baking pan with parchment paper
  2. For the bottom layer, in a medium bowl, combined the sugar and melted butter. Stir until the sugar is nearly dissolved. Add in the graham crumbs, shredded coconut, cocoa, chopped chocolate and walnut pieces. Combine well. Add in the beaten egg and again mix well to combine
  3. Press the mixture into the lined baking pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, remove and set aside to cool (I usually cool mine in the fridge as i make the middle layer)
  4. Whilst the bottom layer is cooling prepare the middle layer
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer (paddle attachment fitted) combine the icing sugar, softened butter, cornstarch and liqueur. Beat on slow until all ingredients are combined and then increase the speed to high for a few minutes until the mixture is whipped and fluffy. Spread the whipped mixture evenly over the cooled bottom layer. Place in the fridge to cool while you make the top layer
  6. Combine the semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon of butter in one heatproof bowl and the white chocolate chips and the other tablespoon of butter in another heatproof bowl. Melt both bowls of chocolate, one at a time, set over a pan of hot water. Spoon dollops of each melted chocolate over the cooled middle layer and using a knife spatula or spoon swirl together to evenly coat the top of the mixture
  7. Place in the fridge and chill for minimum 2 hours before slicing (4x 6) and serving.
  8. Keep the bars refrigerated for up to 3 days in a closed container, or frozen for up to 3 months