10 days in Ireland

The Long Hall at Trinity College
Kegs at the Brazen Head
Guinness at the Gravity Bar on St. Patrick's Day
Christ's Church
Flowers at Cornucopia
Flowers
Leftovers from St. Paddy's
Temple Bar

DUBLIN

Aside from our time spent in North Antrim, Dublin is my favorite place in Ireland – the city is full of character and the locals are cheeky and extremely entertaining. We spent four days roaming aimlessly through crowded streets, soaking up the city’s history and filling our bellies with delicious Irish food.

Eat
The Winding Stair – hands down, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. If you visit Dublin and miss this place, you’re a fool.
Cornucopia – hearty, vegetable loaded eats
Kitchen – Thom and I have made it a priority to have a special date night here each time we visit. The atmosphere is super cozy and the chef is willing to accommodate each and every diet.
Queen of Tarts
Brick Alley Café – cozy up to a table in the back and order a coconut hot chocolate

Drink
The Brazen Head – second oldest pub in the world. Established before the Magna Carta was issued!
Guinness Storehouse – I don’t care if you don’t like Guinness, this place is a must visit. Especially on St. Paddy’s.
M O’Briens
Baggot Street Mile – highly concentrated area of pubs. Thom, my dad, and brother visited a majority of the pubs the night before St. Paddy’s and.. had a damn good time.

Go
Grafton Street – we didn’t do much shopping, but the shops are filled with pretty things.
Dublin Castle
George St. Arcade – market filled with a lot of quirky stuff you don’t need.
Sleep
We stay at the Waterloo House any time we’re in Dublin. The breakfast is filling and the house is located a brisk 15 minute walk from the city centre. The rooms are nicely sized, king beds are comfy, and the house has a very cozy feel. I think it’s one of my favorite things about the city.

Dunseverick Castle
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Thom crossing Carrick-a-Rede
Basalt columns at Giant's Causeway
Dunluce Castle
Cedric at Dunluce Castle

NORTH ANTRIM

You need at least two nights up in the Bushmills/Ballycastle area if you want adequate time to see everything North Antrim has to offer. Aside from sightseeing, there isn’t much to do – but you’ll likely be so worn out that you won’t have it in you to rage at a pub all night.
Eat
Thyme & Co – surprisingly good (for Ireland) coffee

Drink
Sleep
Craig Cottage never lets us down. Rosemary, the head lady, is an absolute gem and goes above and beyond. During our first trip two years ago, Thom got washed over by a wave at Giant’s Causeway and she washed/dried all of his clothing. And prepared him tea and warm biscuits. She’s the kind of person you want taking care of you while you’re in the North.

Stuff at An Pucan
Coffee with poppa at Pura Vida
Fancy wrought iron fence
Scones at Griffin's Bakery Cafe
Latin Quarter, Galway
I spy a handome guy in the window
Floral arrangements on the street

GALWAY

Galway is a coastal city situated on the Western side of the Republic. There isn’t a lot to do as far as sightseeing is concerned, but it’s a great stopover before heading to the Aran Islands. Many of the pubs have live Irish music, and there are a handful of quaint restaurants scattered throughout the city centre.

Eat
Kai Café and Restaurant – sources local, organic produce daily
Pura Vida coffee house
Revive Café – best latte I had the entire trip
Drink
An Púcán – live music every night after 9

Go
Sleep
We stayed at a terrible place during our first visit two years ago, but this time we stayed at the Park House per recommendation of a friend. It was enjoyable, but I think I’ll put a bit more effort into searching for a B&B next time around.

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
View from the top
Beamish
Foodie
Alley in Limerick
Mickey Martin's

LIMERICK

I wouldn’t necessarily say Limerick is a must-see, but we stopped over due to the weather being not so great for visiting the Aran Islands. It was nice to have a day with nothing to do, so we wandered the streets and I spent too much money on candy and baking powder and pretty sprinkles.

Eat
The Grove – vegetarian eats; open until they run out of food
Jack Mondays Coffee House
Fitto Cafe – Perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. At the corner of Roches/Anne Street.

Drink
Mickey Martin’s – local pub with a great atmosphere and old men who sit outside and blow you kisses as you leave.
Flannery’s Bar

Go
Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
King John’s Castle to open summer 2013
Dunnes Grocery Store – I spent a good hour just staring at the pretty packaging and loading up on candies not available in America (crispy M&Ms, dark chocolate KitKat, real Haribo bears, etc).

Sleep
The George Boutique Hotel is a favorite. I’m not usually a hotel person but I love the central location of the place, as well as the chic style. There’s a restaurant in the lobby and they have outstanding service. Like, deliver balsamic vinaigrette to your door two minutes after calling reception and asking for it, good service.

Devenish Island
Kilronan Castle
Until next year, Ireland

HONORABLE MENTIONS

We didn’t make it to the Aran Islands this time because of the weather, but it’s an absolute must if you plan on visiting Ireland. We went during our first trip and fell in love. Be sure to grab a knit sweater from the Aran Sweater Market and hire bikes to see the Island. We stayed on Inishmore, but if you have four or five days free, hop around to see each of the Islands. Accommodations (on Inishmore) aren’t the greatest, but what do you expect on an island of only 400 people?
The Cliffs of Moher should also be on your list, but like the Aran Islands, we didn’t head that way due to weather. Doolin is a nearby village and you can take the ferry from there to the Aran Islands – but only if weather permits.

If you’re looking to stay in a castle, I highly recommend Kilronan Castle (pictured above). It’s a great place to stop when breaking up the part of your trip from Northern Ireland back to the Republic. Enjoy breakfast and dinner in the restaurant (although dinner costs a pretty penny), and go for a morning run around the grounds – you won’t be disappointed.

We did the Ring of Kerry and the Southern part of the Republic our first go around and weren’t impressed – which likely has something to do with the fact that we were visiting in March, before anything had bloomed. We weren’t fans of Cork so I don’t recommend going there for anything besides kissing (or licking, if you’re Thom) the Blarney Stone.

Random tips:
– Hire a car to get around the country. Tour busses are for sissies.
– Tipping in crispy M&Ms is acceptable when you have no Euros.
– Not tipping at all is also acceptable.
– You will not find soy milk (soya) at a coffee shop in Bushmills.
– Speaking of coffee, Irish coffee is not good. Think of briny truck stop coffee, but worse.
– You’ll be hard pressed to find a B&B/hotel for less than $100 a night.
– You’re looking for the toilet, not the restroom.
– Fuck is word you’ll hear often. Embrace it.
– Meat and potato restaurants are more than willing to accommodate special diets.

More photos can be found here.

Sweet potato cinnamon rolls with boozy caramel glaze

Sweet potato cinnamon rolls with boozy caramel glaze

I suppose it’s important to preface this with the story of my brother. And how for a brief moment he entertained the idea of meeting us in Dublin over St. Patrick’s Day weekend to surprise our father – because Thom and I surprising him with tickets to Ireland wasn’t a strong enough recipe for a heart attack, as it was. I probably shouldn’t joke about heart attacks because my dad eats a lot of butter. Whatever you picturing right now, multiply that by ten.

I kid, but the man likes his butter. And who am I to tell him to eat less of something that’s capable of clogging his coronary arteries and starving one of the most vital organs in his body of blood and oxygen? I have a lot of nerve, caring about the overall health and well being of the man who will eventually become the grandfather of my children. But that’s not the point. This is about my brother and his plans to visit Ireland, remember? Well, the plans fell through once he realized he had prior obligations with work. Which annoyed the shit out of me because he works a lot and I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like. He loves what he does so I shouldn’t complain, but sometimes I do because I like spending time with my brother more than twice a year. Which means I should probably go back to Ohio more often. But who really wants to go back to Ohio more often?

Anyway, this is no longer about my brother. This is about us and how we got into Dublin at 8AM Friday morning, with a Thom who was adamant about getting a SIM card before we left the airport. So after he ran my dad around Terminal 1 looking for the Vodafone store, he came back with a working mobile device and we were on our way, in a taxi with a gray haired Irish man who has never stepped foot off the island. (I think it’s worth noting that he has plans of visiting the US in a few years, so it’s really not as pitiful as it seems.) He dropped us at our B&B and we were told by the head lady that she could hold our bags, but our rooms wouldn’t be ready until noon. I was a little irritated, but it was my fault as I’m the one who dropped the ball on informing her of our early arrival.

We be mixin'
We be cuttin'
Sweet potato cinnamon rolls
Boozy caramel glaze

Thom had other plans, anyway. Plans that involved a long walk through the city, around Stephen’s Green, and to a side of Dublin I had never seen before. We passed four or five establishments that looked like they’d be able to feed a person with dietary restrictions such as my own, and I started getting grumpy because I needed food. And coffee. And just when I was about to be all SERIOUSLY DUDE WE’VE BEEN WALKING FOR 25 MINUTES AND I’M TIRED AND MY FEET HURT AND I REALLY NEED SOMETHING TO FILL THIS EMPTY BELLY, we rounded the corner to see my brother standing in front of Cassidy’s Pub with luggage and the biggest, stupid grin on his face.

In typical girl-who-grew-up-with-five-brothers fashion, the first thing I did was stop and shout NO FUCKING WAY! And just when I was about to start crying (sleep deprivation, hormones – you know the deal) I ran toward him and went in for a hug, and thought about how he deserved a good ass kicking for lying to me. But also the Brother of the Year Award because he got me. He got all of us (with the exception of Thom) good.

Psst! Photo updates here and here.

Sweet potato cinnamon rolls with boozy caramel glaze
Sweet potato cinnamon rolls with boozy caramel glaze
Sweet potato cinnamon rolls with boozy caramel glaze

Notes: I use canned sweet potato puree but fresh puree should work as well. I’ve also made these with pumpkin and they’ve turned out great. Feel free to replace the sucanat with brown sugar if that’s all you have on hand. If you’re not into boozy caramel glaze (that’s a shame), substitute a simple glaze of powdered sugar, non-dairy milk, and a spoonful of molasses – it’s my go-to glaze when I’m too lazy to make anything else. I bake these rolls in a jumbo muffin pan (two!) because I like when they’re perfectly round. But you can bake them in a regular square baking pan, you’ll just need to cut them into 12 pieces instead of 9. And bake them for 16-18 minutes.

SWEET POTATO CINNAMON ROLLS WITH BOOZY CARAMEL GLAZE

Dough
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water, 105-110˚F
1/4 cup vegan butter
1/2 cup cane sugar
3/4 cup sweet potato puree
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
3 1/4 cups unbleached flour, plus more for rolling
1 tsp fine sea salt

Filling
3 tbsp vegan butter, softened
1/2 cup sucanat
2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Glaze
1 can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1/2 cup sucanat
1-2 tbsp Irish whiskey

Lightly oil a large mixing bowl; set aside. Add the water to a small bowl and lightly stir in the yeast; add a pinch of sugar and set aside until foamy (15-20 minutes). In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then stir in the sugar, sweet potato and milk just until warm and sweet potato has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for 10-15 minutes (if you don’t let it cool, the heat from the mixture will kill the yeast). Add 3 cups of the flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment; mix for 10-15 seconds. Add the sweet potato and yeast mixture, then mix dough on medium-high speed for 6-7 minutes. If the dough is not pulling away from the sides of the bowl, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. I achieved a perfect dough with two additional tablespoons. But if you live in a humid climate, it’s likely you’ll need to add the full 1/4 cup. Once the dough has finished kneading, transfer it to the prepared mixing bowl, cover with a towel, and store in a warm part of your house until the dough doubles, about 2 hours.
Lightly oil two 6 cup jumbo muffin pans; set aside. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough out into an 18×12 rectangle. Spread with butter then cover with brown sugar and cinnamon. Starting at the long end, tightly (seriously, I said tightly!) roll the dough into a log, then cut it unto 12 even pieces. Transfer the rolls to the prepared pan, leaving even space between. Cover pan with a towel and allow the rolls to rise for one hour. Bake at 375˚F for 12-14 minutes. Allow to cool in pan.
To make the glaze, start by opening the can of coconut milk and separating the thick, white milk fat from the water. Add 1/4 cup of the coconut water to a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Whisk in the sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-6 minutes, whisking only a few times, then stir in 1 cup of the coconut milk fat (you may have more or less, depending on your can of coconut milk – that’s ok). Reduce the heat to medium and boil the mixture for 5 minutes, whisking every minute or so. If you added less than 1 cup of coconut milk fat, you’ll want to cook the mixture for an extra minute or two. Off the heat and stir in the whiskey. Transfer the glaze to a glass jar and drizzle over warm cinnamon rolls. You can store the rolls in an air tight container for up to three days (I recommend not drizzling with glaze until ready to consume). Glaze can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Yield: 12 rolls

Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

I drank my first Guinness atop the Storehouse in Dublin exactly two years ago this Sunday. It was then that I decided I didn’t particularly care for Guinness, but I did like the view from the Storehouse. Despite the gray clouds and fog that lingered over the city, it was stunning. Almost like Dublin was built for the gray. I also liked watching the men in kilts, and how they swayed ever so perfectly with their every step or turn. It was hypnotizing, almost. A nice respite from the pint of bitter syrup that set in front of my face, begging to be drank. But I just couldn’t do it. So I pushed my beer over to Thom’s side of the table and declared that I was not my father’s daughter. Because she would love and bathe in Guinness. And so that night we stumbled home drunk and I emailed my dad to tell him the unfortunate news surrounding my Guinness experience; how I hoped he wouldn’t disown me But seriously how does anyone drink that stuff?

He didn’t disown me (thank goodness) but he did write back saying how much he wished he could have been there with us, and that it was his dream to drink a Guinness at the top of the Storehouse on St. Patrick’s Day. I remember the words like it was yesterday: You’re living my dream.

That struck me in the gut. And not in a good way. Why am I living his dream? That’s not fair. I want him to live his dream. And so Thom and I spent an entire year devising a plan to surprise my dad with a trip to Ireland so that he could finally live his dream of drinking a Guinness at the Storehouse on St. Patrick’s Day. And in May of last year, we purchased the tickets and made it final; there was no turning back. Except there was because I bought travel insurance like any level headed person does when they do something as bold as buy their dad and step mom plane tickets for a surprise trip to Ireland.

Is Sharebear even going to like Ireland? I asked. Who cares, we’ll get her drunk, said Thom. 
Dutch processed cocoa powder
Irish whiskey ganache
Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting
Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

When it came time to surprise them with the trip, I started getting cold feet – wondering if it was too over the top and how we were going to break the news without stepping on toes on Christmas Eve morning. So we pulled them into the kitchen – my dad and step mom – and handed them a card. On the front it simply said THANKS, and the inside was filled with run on sentences about how much we’ve appreciated their unconditional love and massive support over the past half decade. And how we’d like to repay them with plane tickets to Ireland.

Their faces? Priceless. So here we are heading back to Ireland for our 2nd biennial St. Patrick’s Day trip, but this time with my other favorite man in tow. And for you? Well, I have a delicious post lined up next week – but for now I’ve got boozy cupcakes.

Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting
Chocolate stout cupcakes with Irish whiskey ganache + Irish cream frosting

Notes: Do not (DOOOOO NOOOOOOT) substitute natural cocoa for the Dutch processed cocoa. I mean it. You also cannot use Hershey’s special dark cocoa in this recipe, as it’s a blend of both natural cocoa and Dutch processed cocoa. You can, however, use special dark cocoa in this recipe – just replace the punkin ale with extra stout Guinness. Because it’s vegan (unlike regular Guinness). If you’re not into the tofu, you can substitute two flax eggs for it. But the cupcakes aren’t going to be nearly as tender as the tofu version. Just sayin’.

UPDATE: Apparently North American bottled Guinness extra stout is no longer considered vegan due to suspicion that bottlers practice a filtration process that uses the bladders of some fish.

CHOCOLATE STOUT CUPCAKES WITH IRISH WHISKEY GANACHE + IRISH CREAM FROSTING

Cupcakes
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 cup cane sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup non-GMO canola oil
1/2 cup Guinness extra stout
1/4 cup non-dairy milk
6 tbsp soft silken tofu, blended

Ganache
4 oz good quality dark chocolate, chopped
6 tbsp non-dairy milk
2 tbsp Irish whiskey

Frosting
1/2 cup vegan butter
1/4 cup non-hygrogenated shortening
2 1/4 cups powdered cane sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp espresso powder
1/4 tsp unsulphured molasses
2-3 tbsp Irish whiskey

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt; whisk and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the oil, stout, milk, and tofu. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; whisk just until combined. Do not over mix. Fill cupcake liners with 1/4 cup of batter. Bake at 350˚F for 16-17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the ganache by adding the chocolate to a small mixing bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil then pour it over the chocolate. Let stand for 2-3 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Stir in the whiskey and set aside.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, use a grapefruit spoon (or cupcake plunger if you’re fancy) (I’m not) to remove a small circle from the middle of each cupcake. I made mine big enough so they held about 2 teaspoons of ganache. Fill the centers with ganache then transfer cupcakes to a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
While the cupcakes are chilling, prepare the frosting by creaming the butter and shortening on high speed for about 15-20 seconds. Sift in the powdered sugar, cocoa, and espresso powder then continue mixing, on high speed, for 30-45 seconds. Mix in the molasses and whiskey; blend on high speed until light and fluffy. If the frosting is still a bit soft, sift in 1-2 tablespoons of tapioca starch. Or more sugar, but I’m not a fan of overly sweet frostings.
Once the cupcakes are ready to be frosted, spoon about 3 tablespoons of frosting onto each cupcake and smooth with the back of a spoon. Store in an air tight container for up to three days. Cupcakes made with flax eggs will only keep for two days.

Yield: 1 dozen cupcakes

Caramel apple crumb pie

Caramel apple crumb pie

It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and The National pandora station is playing much louder than it should at this hour. I’m hunched over the dining room table, crying because I can’t sleep again. Crying because I wish I had a better relationship with my mother. Crying because my hormones are so out of whack that I can’t do anything but cry. Hands in my hair, tears on the table; I wipe the snot from my nose with the sleeve of my robe, and make a mental note to throw it into the wash because it’s been used as a hankey far too many times this week.

Ha, I just said hankey. My Oma would be proud.

In typical hormonal lady fashion, I got up from the table and started frantically looking through the kitchen for something to consume. Chocolate? Too early for chocolate. Gin? It’s definitely too early for gin. Vanilla almond butter? There isn’t any. So after five minutes of going back and forth between the pantry and refrigerator, I came out with a bag of trail mix, a can of coconut milk, and my mind set on making caramel sauce. Which probably wasn’t the best idea because I stood over the pot of caramel feeling sorry for myself, picking salty raisins from the trail mix and cursing the person who decided to add milk chocolate morsels to a perfectly good bag of nuts and raisins. So to make up for not being able to eat the milk chocolate morsels, I licked the whisk each time I gave the caramel a good stir. I thought I deserved it. Maybe I did.

Making spelt dough
Caramel apples
Caramel apple crumb pie in the making

When the caramel finished cooking I transferred it to one of those pretty weck jars and let it cool on the counter while I continued picking through the trail mix. Every once in a while I’d scoop a fingerful into my mouth, but enough was enough so I topped it and put it in the fridge. Out of sight, out of mind – until I opened the refrigerator to retrieve my coffee creamer and noticed droplets of condensation forming along the bottom of the lid. And so I removed it; quickly and carefully to ensure none of the droplets contaminated my perfectly golden sauce. Except you and I both know a little bit of water isn’t going to do a bit of harm to a jar of caramel sauce. But try telling that to an overly emotional basket case at 6AM. Then again, don’t. She’ll probably bite your head off.

The caramel sat on the counter for a good 45 minutes while I went back and forth, trying to decide what I was going to do with it. And since eating it from the jar with my finger wasn’t an acceptable option, I dove head first into making apple pie. Without hesitation I started cutting butter into flour, apples into slices, and more butter into equal amounts of flour and brown sugar. I had everything jamming at once and, although I was completely out of my element, it kind of felt good to get everything a little bit messier than usual. That, and now my unkempt kitchen resembled the way I felt on the inside; we were one in the same, me and the little kitchen.

I continued laboring over the pie; channelling all of my sadness into the crust, frustration into the filling, and shame into the topping. And wouldn’t you know? One hour later my oven gave birth to the most beautiful apple pie I had ever seen in my almost 25 years on this planet. The kind of pie you want to put on display at a county fair. But also the kind of pie you want to take into the closet and stuff into your face.

Caramel apple crumb pie
Quickest caramel sauce

The pie never made it to the county fair. And thankfully, our closets are so full that even if I wanted to take it into one of them, I couldn’t have. I can’t decide if I should curse the full closets or be thankful for them. Probably the latter, as orderly closets may have resulted in some seriously terrible things. Like a stomach ache and not being able to go number two for a week. I mean, that’s never happened to me but I imagine if I ate an entire pie it probably would. I also imagine not being able to go number two for a week would be one of the most miserable weeks of my life.

Anyway. We swept the pie away to the mountains where it was served warm, after dinner, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. One scoop because someone got a pint of vanilla ice cream instead of a quart. For six people. Scratch that, five – I don’t eat their kind of ice cream. I also didn’t eat pie because I had two too many servings of lemon butter pasta for dinner, which inconveniently hung out in my belly for a good four hours before deciding to make room for pie. And so just before midnight, I found myself standing in the immaculate kitchen of the rental house, eating a piece of pie straight from the pan. Which, from that point forward, was referred to as the Best Apple Pie Ever. Ever. I mean it when I say this is the kind of pie you write home about; the kind of pie you’ll regret not having on your Thanksgiving dinner table. This is the kind of pie that gets devoured by six people in less than 18 hours because this pie is comprised of all things good in the world.

Caramel apple crumb pie

Notes: If you’re looking at this pie, thinking it seems rather pretentious with its spelt crust and caramel innards and crunchy crumb topping – I assure you, it’s not. In fact, I’d venture to say caramel is the best thing to happen to an apple pie. And crumb topping? Second best thing. The spelt flour was my effort to balance out the sugar content, but feel free to substitute unbleached flour or whole wheat flour. I know the long ingredient list and novel of instructions probably makes you think this recipe is a lot of work, but it’s not. And even if you feel like it is, the reward is more than worth it. This pie is out of this world good, and the only downside is that it’s best within two days. But aren’t most pies?
CARAMEL APPLE CRUMB PIE

Dough
1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1 tbsp whole cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
10 tbsp vegan butter, cold
4-6 tbsp water, ice cold

Crumb topping
3/4 cup whole spelt flour
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup whole cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
6 tbsp vegan butter
1/2 cup rolled oats

Filling
6-8 medium apples, a variety is best
Juice from half a lemon
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup caramel sauce

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Place bowl in the freezer and chill for 15 minutes. Do not skip this step. Once the flour mixture is chilled, use a pastry cutter, or two knives, to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stick the bowl in the freezer for another 15 minutes to get the ingredients nice and cold. Once chilled, add water 1 tablespoon at a time and mix the dough using your fingertips. Your goal is a dough that’s firm but slightly sticky – and adding too much water will result in a tough dough (I added 4 tablespoons). Knead the dough for a minute then pat it into a disc, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to two days.
While the dough is resting, prepare the crumb topping. Whisk together the flour, sugars, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, or two knives, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix in the oats then cover mixture with a damp cloth (or paper towel) and set aside.

Once the dough has rested for an hour, line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough out into a large circle, about 1/4″ thick and fit it into a floured 8-10″ pie pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 
While the crust is chilling, prepare the filling. Peel the apples and cut them into 1/2″ thick slices, then into chunks. Drizzle with lemon juice; set aside. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, tapioca starch (use an extra tablespoon if your apples are super juicy), and cinnamon. Add apples and toss to combine. Pour the caramel over the apples then mix to evenly coat; set aside. Remove the crust from the fridge and sprinkle the bottom with about one tablespoon of flour (to ensure it doesn’t absorb too much of the liquid from the filling). Fill with caramel apples (there are a lot, but they settle during baking) then spread the crumb topping evenly over in two layers; press the first layer firmly to pack, then sprinkle the remaining crumbs. Trim the edges and decorate crust with finish of your choice. Bake at 375˚F for 15 minutes, then remove pie from the oven and carefully cover the crust with foil. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the crumb topping is golden brown. If you’re not anywhere near the 20 minute mark and the crumb topping starts to brown too much, simply place a piece of foil on top of it; do not seal it, just sit it on top. Transfer pie to a wire rack and allow it to cool for at least 6 hours. Refrigerate in a not-so-air-tight container for up to two days. Crumb topping may soften, but will return to its previously crunchy state after a few minutes under the broiler (make sure you cover the crust with foil).

Yield: 12 slices

Easy caramel sauce

Easy caramel sauce

I’ve been looking for a way to make caramel sauce that is less involved than my other recipe. Because I don’t have time to wait around for 25 minutes, watching as coconut milk and sugar evolve into golden, syrupy goodness. And you probably don’t either. In the amount of time it takes for a pot of caramel to come to life, you could watch a rerun of The Office. Without the commercials. Or you could clean the kitchen. And when you’re done with that, maybe organize all of your stuff in the bathroom? No? Fine. But I really don’t think it’s necessary to have two dozen replacement razor heads or a year’s supply of bio-rutin supplements or three different conditioning treatments taking up precious bathroom real estate. Speaking of conditioner, maybe you could take a shower? And wash your hair while you’re at it because not washing your hair for four days is gross. I don’t care if you’re trying to protect your cylindrical filaments from the arid Colorado climate. It’s not cool to go on a hair washing strike when you share a bed with another human being. Your hair is dirty. Wash it.

Did that get weird? That kind of got weird. Anyway, I’m not saying we should ditch the old recipe entirely (ok, maybe we should), but this recipe is nice to have on hand when you don’t have half an hour to devote to making caramel sauce. It’s also nice to have on hand when you want to make caramel apple crumb pie at the eleventh hour. Like, maybe later this week?

Easy caramel sauce in the making
Easy caramel sauce in the making
Easy caramel sauce

Notes: Feel free to use brown sugar or muscovado sugar in place of the whole cane sugar (sometimes found under the brand name sucanat). I use whole cane sugar because a) I’ve got a lot of it hanging around my kitchen and b) it’s a nice alternative to highly processed brown sugar. Which actually starts out as whole sugar, but has the molasses removed for processing and then added back at the very end. Are you making a weird face? I did too when I first found out. So just buy the natural stuff, yo. Oh, and say you forget to whisk your caramel for a few minutes and it burns and sticks to the bottom of the pan. But you don’t find out until you go to whisk it and burnt flecks of caramel ruin your perfectly golden sauce. No worries! Simply pass the caramel through a fine mesh strainer a couple of times then place it back on the stove (in a clean pot, of course) to finish cooking. Crisis averted!

EASY CARAMEL SAUCE

1 13.6 oz can full fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
1/2 cup whole cane sugar

Start by opening the can of coconut milk and separating the thick, white milk fat from the water. Add 1/4 cup of the coconut water to a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. Whisk in the sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-6 minutes, whisking only a few times, then stir in 1 cup of the coconut milk fat (you may have more or less, depending on your can of coconut milk – that’s ok). Reduce the heat to medium and boil the mixture for 5 minutes, whisking every minute or so. If you added less than 1 cup of coconut milk fat, you’ll want to cook the mixture for an extra 2-3 minutes. Off the heat, then transfer the caramel to a glass jar and cool on counter, uncovered, until the caramel reaches room temperature. Refrigerate for at least four hours before using; caramel will thicken as it cools. Will keep for up to one week.

Yield: 2/3-1 cup caramel sauce