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Monday, March 29, 2010

Baking Tip...

As many of you know, we make many different kinds of scones and muffins, one trick that we do, is to grind a whole citrus fruit in the food processor to add to our muffins and can use every bit of the fruit that way and intensify the citrus the moment i am loving the blood oranges that we are getting in, I know they are Italian and the carbon footprint isn't the best, but at least they are from the EU.... they make a beautiful orange juice by the way!

Elaborating on Taylor's post...

Yes, taylor was right!!! what a bloody nightmare...the one good thing was everyone in the cafe had their food...we also have a gas stove, so we were still able to cook most items on the the dark, in silence...not the best...but thanks to Diva's great customers, they understood! And on top of that my electrician in shining armour came to save the day, i thought for sure we would have to colse...but what happened next was out of the blue!!
We got SWAMPED! i am not joking, i couldn't believe the amount of people that were here on Sunday, i thought that we would be busy, but nothing like it was...sold out of everything! Thanks to the kitchen satff for getting creative with what we had left to sell...and my daughter,Madison, who was fasting that day and a bit light headed, she did a grerat job given the circumstances...
So, that is the first weekend under our belts!! YAY, it's all downhill from here.
Oh, yes, and thank you Barbara for coming down at 1 a.m to turn the alarm off...
Now, back to the opening party...what a success!! thank you to all who came and to all of the artist's who participated...the art was brilliant...
on the food side of things we served our new "Diva Lite" cupcake, mini mexican chocolate cake and some bruschetta made with our lovely wheaten loaf...we also served a blood ornge lemonade and a prosecco punch with Forage and Find's, Wild Gorse cordial! It was de'lish...
Ok, that's me done for now, I have to go and proof the new menu, ring the insurance company in regards to the break in, go to the bank, ring my accountant, pressure wash the rubbish bins, do the recycling, go to the kinsale advertiser to put in a new ad for the week, clean my house, make dinner...hmmmm, you get the idea....also working on my next blog item.."The hidden costs of a cafe" so, for those of you who are interested in having a cafe, this one will be for you!
TTFN...(ta ta for now)


Sunday, March 28, 2010

sugared fruit decor

wedding cake we did in november 09. polka dots and sugared fruit/rose petals, it turned out really nice.

fire alarm

last night while writing our last post. the fire alarm went off, at around 12:00am!
the building has a alarm system for the 3 spaces that share the property (us, 1 apt, and ena's hair salon.) and the landlord is the only one with a key. so... i phoned shannen, then she phoned the landlord, then the landlord woke up, then the landlord got herself dressed and had no idea how to fix the alarm. but in the end she showed up, (thanks. barbara!) and we got the three alarms to shut off. the weird thing was, i didnt burn anything, this time. and nothing was on fire! weird.

but thats not all.

today during service, busy day loads of customers in and out. the power cuts out, and the alarm blows again! what?!
turns out our coffee machine wasnt connected right and blew the main power switch, which resulted in complete cut off to us and enas hair salon. what a mess.

electrician on wednesday. hope he can fix us up! we got the cafe going again in the end. but, theres nothing like a bit o drama, to stir up a bit of fun to an already busy day!

im glad i wasnt there. maybe shannen will elaborate later? just thought i would report.

over and out.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

pink vanilla frosting

Baking tip:

use a kitchen timer.

could save lots of greif and sadness, for the delicious things you are baking.

theres been countless times, where we've been jammers to the wall in the cafe with some tasty meringue tartlets baking. bam, someone forgets to set the timer, we lose track of time, and its charcoal briquet on top of that lovely french lemon cream. what can you do? nothing, just use a timer!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Gluten makes miracles

i dont know why gluten is getting a bad rap these days....?
theres nothing medically proven that shows gluten being linked to heart desease, or anything else. except with people who are allergic. maybe its not gluten that we should blame...

this is just a theory (with some evidence), but i think gluten allergies are just one of the many consiquences for eating over proccessed foods. humans have only recently begun messing with molecular structures in our foods. and now more and more people are discovering illnesses related to those foods. but for millenia we have been eating gluten, think of pasta, i mean really! pitas, sourdoughs, .... they've been there for awhile.
as for homogenized milk, gm foods, hormoned stuff meat, over proccessed wheat: they have not.
so is gluten to blame?
maybe its ourselves , or maybe our choice to make food something that it was never meant to be...
shelf stable, flavorless, lacking vital enzymes, nutritionally barren, jetsetting, and ethically scary

thats my rant today.

i was just so over come by the beauty of tonights bread, i had to say something on its behalf.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

yeah just quadruple the butter!

so its the first night baking bread and croissants for the year. and i think i put way too much butter in the croissants! theres another one in the oven just to make sure.... cause the one i just had was like a plug of butter!

we had our opening party/exhibition tonight. it was PACKED! its great to know we have loyal supporters out there! we served prosecco punch with wild flower cordial, blood orange spritzers, L.A. lite cupcakes, croistini, mexican chocolate cake , and couldnt keep the plates full!
we sold loads of art, which 20% of sales go to the little lambs school india that shannen volunteered at with my neice madison. so i think we accomplished alot!

so far the croissant looks perfect....

at the moment im waiting to pull the potato loaf out of the oven. also for tomorrow theres, our delicious diva house loaf, butter blossoms(pretty blossom bread rolls for soup), bread sticks, rosemary olive bread with maldon sea salt, and of course irish brown bread.
im leaving the puff pastry for tomorrow nights work. thinking about a pear and honey pastry.....

the croissant is much better! im still going to decrease the butter layer a bit, so we dont send anyone into cardiac arrest! so for now they are even more butter delish than they ever will be....
next time i might just triple the butter?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Making the menu...

So.... for about 2 years we have been trying to decide what is the best way to let people know what there is to eat at Diva...should we just use a chalkboard or have a proper menu? well...we have kinda been doing both...I will start with the beginning...

For those of you who don't know, the original cafe was in Kinsale, back then my idea was mostly a coffee house, ten years ago in Ireland it wasn't that common to have the "coffee house" environment, we had the, cakes, cookies and a few cold drinks..but then the public wanted more of cafe thing, LUNCH... So, to bring the people in, we added salads, wraps, soup and sandwiches...all of this was then made at my house and then brought to my tiny cafe...and it worked! The cafe was always busy and people loved what we had to offer....we didn't have a menu, it was all written up on a chalk board...there were 4 salads to choose from 2 sandwiches and 2 wraps that were served hot. And it pretty much changed every day, so the chalk board was good.

Then, my lease was up and I made the brave move to head out to the countryside by the, that was a different situation all together, but the main difference was we had a proper kitchen. The place was small, so i was thinking I would do a little gourmet store..everything to take away...keep it simple..that was the plan....but my customer's did not have that plan in mind, they wanted the same Diva they knew in Kinsale...

Thanks to the help of my landlord's construction began, the yard out the back was turned into a kitchen and the old kitchen was then turned into more seating..we went from being able to seat 8 people to being able to seat 25.

That was great...but now, I had to decide how to proceed with the we change it daily? or make a proper menu with specials on the board? what happened was both...a year and a half ago, I printed up a few things on a plain piece of was getting towards the end of the season, so i wasn't going to put too much effort in to it... My plan backfired...a food critic decided to grace us with her presence, she took one look at my piece of paper and walked out!! Never mind that we had a beautiful quiche made with local organic leeks and cashel blue, a lovely organic black bean and pumpkin soup and I had tasty cakes and cookies on the pastry case ready to be, no...she looked at my homemade menu and walked out the door.. Well, the only thing I have to say is she missed out. Later on in the week a chef from a Michelin rated restaurant tasted our brown butter mixed berry tarts and said they tasted amazing...he even asked me how we made them! I also think she didn't like our "vibe"...she was looking to have her ass can read her column in a Irish newspaper.. we won't name any names


So, today, I sat for 3 hours making a menu... I am having it printed... It will look professional... You never know, food critic's might take us a little more seriously...


PS... this past year I did have a better menu, it was laminated and it had a cool boarder and our logo...we still had our chalkboard to deal with the stuff that wouldn't fit onto my homemade menu, the professional one will have it all in one neat little package...let us know what you think!

Friday, March 19, 2010

break in!

hey...the cafe got broken into...broke our cash register...messed up the place and stole 3 trays of eggs!!...the culprit was caught yesterday....with a check written to the three trays of eggs in his fridge..remember crime does not pay!!!
he also stole our tip jar...
good thing the cafe is closed!

Monday, March 15, 2010

painting floors

floor paint is something else altogether! a stinky tar consistency, (liquid plastic) that after while gives you a funny feeling of well being and happiness. i should probably wear a mask next time! it looks good though, just have to leave it for two days then finish the stencil border. we are trying to save janes bautiful stencil work from last year, without having to redo it. so its a bit tedious. luckily the cafe is small enough. it took around 3 hours. glad its over!

im looking forward to the opening party on the 25th. there'll be some great art and yummy food. im also looking forward to actually baking as a JOB again, not just at home. the recipe testing is alot of fun, though. i think the new schedule is really going to work. and ill get to bake undesturbed, instead of trying to get everything done during opening hours, and help customers. maybe more time to be inventive!

im going to go come down off these paint fumes now.

heres a pic from last year of the stencil work we are trying to save

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Brown Butter and Apple Tart

mothers day!

we made mum a late season apple tart with brown butter custard.
browning butter makes a custard transform to a new nutty and deep flavour.
we rolled out the crust filled with sliced late season irish apples, and poured the silky custard filling on top, spread a handfull of chopped almonds and pumpkin seeds around the edge and baked to a golden brown.
not a slice was left!

happy mothers day!

Baking Tip
brown butter:
(Use with nearly any recipe that calls for melted butter)

to brown butter: slice butter thinly and fry over med heat. when butter starts to froth and become nutty in aroma, with a brown color, remove from heat and add to your baking recipe.
great for muffins, scones, breads.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

weekend in Schull...and tonight trying new recipes!

so, as taylor wrote..we too (my daughters and myself, no boys allowed) went away for the weekend to my friends guesthouse, Grove House, in Schull. We arrived to a fire blazing in the sitting room and a lovely warm atmosphere. Our room was so cozy, that we decided to have a little snooze before dinner.
Dinner was fab... I had brill with a beautiful saffron sauce, vegetables cooked to perfection... since Katarina hails from Sweden the girls had to have her Swedish meatballs, always a good choice. The meal, the atmosphere of the dinning room was divine..the rest of the night was spent sipping wine in front of the fire and listening to one of the guests playing the baby grand piano...after a good nights sleep, we woke up to sunshine and an amazing breakfast! If anyone is looking for a place to get away to, Grove House is it!! visit:
So, tonight Taylor and myself have tried a few new is a fudge made with Parsnips! It's pretty good...sounds weird but it works.. the next success was a practically fat free vanilla cup cake.and it's gluten free...we used rice flour, so those two will be on the Diva baking list for sure...the next cupcake was a chocolate one, but we used way too much booze(brandy)... we are also using butternut squash in replacement of butter, but i think we need to adjust that as well. the cupcake was filled with a blackberry jam, which was nice..but overall this cupcake needs a little bit of work...
The other thing I tried was a salmon and leek cake crusted with sesame seeds...and that was super yummy..
tomorrow i am going to try a grilled romaine either ceasar salad or a grilled romaine with a cashel blue dressing and chopped toasted of them will be on this seasons menu, but which one?!
ok, I have to chauffeur taylor home's getting late...
peace out

just back from west cork

after the big day in the kitchen we decided to head down to the tip of the beara peninsula for the night. we stayed at dzogchen beara, the buddhist retreat center just past castletownbere. a beautiful spot, and affordable. there were 4 of us so we booked the family room in the hostel (40euro total). the center is right on the clifftops, and the free morning meditation we went to over looked the atlantic. its definately worth the trip down! after the meditation the road took us to the windy healy pass, which is something straight out of lord of the rings! one of my favorite places to go to feel "away." we also popped down to kenmare and the lakes of kilarney, just to top off the weekend. ireland is really one of the most unique places of the world. im so glad im living here!
now were back to the kitchen and preparing the garden for spring.

(the right pic is a field being burnt at dusk in allihes, cork.
and the left is our scarf being blown horizontal at healy pass)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Potato Bread!

well....i have to say the potato bread was the success story of the day! yes, taylor was right, it did look like a blob, and we did have to add more flour than we thought...but when that baby hit the hot steamy turned into beautiful golden crusty loaf...and tastes amazing! it will be one of our daily bread's for sure..
over the next few days we will be taking a break from baking, and doing the more boring side of the cafe painting, installing new lighting, refinishing the floors...looking at new ways to use our space in the kitchen...until the next time...
PS photos of our bread session will be up on monday!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

orange fig brioche au tette.

baking tip of the day:

bring your ingredients to room temperature, before starting your baking. to spare your cake batters from seizing up from cold milk or eggs. keep your butter fluffy!

test day 1 complete

so we made a few dough balls, a funky danish, and baby sandwich loaves. the most unexpected tribulation was a huge potatoe gobb! shannens idea, we used maris pipers not russets, maybe thats why it turned to a glob. i had her put twice as much flour in as the recipe, and its .... rising as we speak. fingers crossed!

our major success was the croissant! so good. crusty golden and flaky soft on the inside. just going to bump up the portion size next time. we ate the samples, so we good only take a pic of one. : )
our house loaf came out perfect as tried and true its been. the olive loaf is chewy and moist, also too small.
going to try the traditional danish recipe next. shortcuts dont always make better pastry!

its all apart of the proccess. which in hindsight we covered alot of ground and have a better idea of what we are in for. thinking about changing the baking to a night shift instead of a 2 am shift!

will be posting a pic soon! now what do we do with all of this bread? .....



day two...the mixing, forming and baking of the breads!

today we came into a warm kitchen!! Yay! we got smart and turned a little heater on in the kitchen...bread likes warmth...
so, danishes are in the oven, about to pop out in five min..that took an hour to complete...I will add that i am not using a traditional danish dough, but a quick version of...we will see, i will try the traditional version next and see if we can taste the i am making an almond blackberry..
the others breads have taken over an hour just to we wait..
the timer has just gone off for my little gems to pop outta the oven!
will let you know what we think...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

puff pastry..... so crispy

pear honey and thyme puff pastry

this super delicious pastry is completely handmade (puff pastry and all), using a recipe from my pastry school days.
baking tip of the day:
scalding milk (heating till steamy) before adding to bread neutralizes milk enzymes that fight off the vital gluten (strechyness) in bread making. if you dont scald the milk, your bread will not rise efficiently. be sure if adding milk to a bread recipe, to cool it to room temp first!
love your yeast!

day one...making the starters...

today we have come into a freezing cold cafe.
we are making the starters for: croissants, danish, a beautiful wheaten loaf, kalamata olive bread, butter dipped fluffy dinner rolls and a sweet potato sandwich loaf..the sweet potato loaf is the same as a white sandwich loaf with a hint of the beautiful sweet potato colour...
it is bloody freezing in here!! i don't know about you in the rest of the world but this has been the coldest winter in Ireland in like, 50 nose is cold and my fingertips are numb while typing this!!
for those of you that are interested on the savoury side of the cafe, we will be introducing a new concept to Diva...borrowed from one of our favourite cafe's in Seattle, the Coastal Kitchen...each month we will feature food from a new country or a region in a country.. for example, we will be opening the cafe with our feature month being Tex-Mex. We will be changing the dishes daily and will have sweets and savouries, as well as music....
Another change to our menu will be a small plates section... for those of you who might only want something small to eat...we will keep ou posted on the new items on the menu...
In addition to our world food spotlight and small plate section we will continue to serve up your favourite Diva dishes!
sweet potatoes are roasting. ttfn

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bread??? Hmmmm.. How are we going to do it in a small space?

so, after my winter break, i have decided it's time to get the ball rolling...maybe i should say rolling pin..? and start baking bread!! along with croissants, danishes, scones, puff pastry, brownies, cakes...and....the list goes on and on... the problem?
taylor and i have been thinking a lot about the use of space in the cafe kitchen and how we can increase our output in the same small space...
also, will we sell all of our tasty delights??
stay tuned...and see how we progress....

bread. can we do it?

we are setting on a new endeavor to bake the community fresh artisian bread in our bakery. before now we were baking the bread for our own use, but popular demand has inspired us to send the loaves out to the world....
the goal is to be up to 40 loaves and sell them in the day. we'll see! waking up before dawn? no problem!
we're having the test day on wednesday. so far the list is:
diva house loaf
irish soda bread
butter dipped dinner rolls
sweet potato sandwich loaf
moroccan olive boule

im getting hungry just listing them!