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St. Patrick's Day 2006
Baking Inspired by the Emerald Isle
By Kelly Snowden

In Ireland, people observing Lent are allowed to break their fasts for one day: St. Patrick’s Day. This traditional feast is typically celebrated in Ireland, and the world 'round, with pitchers of Guinness and plates of corned beef; any Irish meal should include rich pastries and hearty breads as well. Two pastry chefs from the Boston area have given us baking recipes inspired by the Emerald Isle, which can be served in a more sophisticated style than what you find in your average pub. And we offer them here to help you include a nod to St. Patrick’s Day on your own menus.


Pastry Chef Liz O’Connell of Harvest
Irish Soda Bread
Guinness Cake
Irish Bread Pudding

Pastry Chef Molly Hanson of Excelsior and Grill 23 & Bar
Caraway Tea Cake
Rhubarb Pie


Pastry Chef Liz O’Connell, who can trace her heritage back to Ireland, has been making Irish Soda Bread ever since she first entered the kitchen. Every year she bakes it on St. Patrick’s Day, but she can’t even remember where the original family recipe came from. The recipe included here isn’t the one she grew up making, but it is the one you will find in the breadbaskets at Harvest, where she works in Cambridge.

”When I made it growing up it was more of a tea cake,” Chef O’Connell says. “The one here is more of a bread, which is more traditional Irish.”

Chef O’Connell’s grandparents visit Ireland every year, and O’Connell herself has been there twice. The Guinness Cake recipe was inspired by a similar dish her grandparents sampled one year in Galway. Chef O’Connell added her own touches to it with cocoa and a hint of orange.

Bread pudding is a staple around Ireland and the United Kingdom, and Chef O’Connell took a special interest in it after working in London at Mosimann’s, the official caterer to the Royal Family. Her Irish Bread Pudding follows tradition with apples, cinnamon and whiskey, which in Irish means “water of life.”

“They love their puddings over there,” Chef O’Connell says. “And there’s plenty to choose from.”

With a name like Molly Hanson, you might assume that our other pastry chef is Irish as well, but she’s not. She used to work at Harvest with Chef O’Connell, and the two remain good friends. Chef Hanson now works at Excelsior and Grill 23 & Bar in Boston, not far from where she grew up in New England. Her Caraway Tea Cake recipe isn’t the overly sweet afternoon treat you may expect. It’s buttery and rich, to be sure, but the pungency of the caraway seeds makes it a tangier, less conventional accompaniment to a warm brew.

Her other recipe, for Rhubarb Pie, begins with traditional Irish scone dough, baked on top of rhubarb.

“It’s like scones baked on fruit,” Chef Hanson says. “The rhubarb can be altered quite a bit according to your tastes, depending on how tart the rhubarb is.”

Early season rhubarb is available now, and Chef Hanson got hers for recipe testing from Whole Foods. In the earlier part of the season, rhubarb tends to be lighter and slightly stronger. If you cannot find rhubarb near you, simply substitute apples seasoned with cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg – or make up a filling of your own.


   Published: March 2006