Thursday, September 24, 2009

To Arthur!

Today is the 250th birthday of Guinness.
250 years.
A quarter of a MILLENNIUM!
That's a lot.

Of course I have some connection to Guinness and to Ireland in general.
Ireland was my first destination when I started to travel, I went there two summers in a row as a student to attend English classes and it was the first gateway through which I saw what was in the world other than my neighborhood.
A few years later, when I was 23, a series of events led me to go there for a month by myself, I went wherever my nose led me and learned how to muddle through public transportation, B&Bs reservations and unforeseen events with noone's help.
I felt truly at peace for I think the first time in my life sitting on a bench in Galway, looking at the ocean.
It has been such a rewarding experience!

The family that hosted me the first time I went to Dublin was so young and funny that we kept in touch for some years to follow. The guy was a baker, known in the area for a very special brown bread, the recipe coming from the wife's family.
I miss them a lot, and I miss that bread.

When I got married I picked Ireland as a honeymoon destination because I wanted my husband to see the places and meet the people that had meant so much to me, I felt like he couldn't fully know me if he didn't go there.
And in our honeymoon, being finally not alone and of age, Guinness played quite a part. Above all, I learned that it's true what they say, a pint tastes different depending on the pub in which you're drinking it.

Oh, and now I really wish I could hop on a plane and go there once again!

To celebrate Sir Arthur Guinness, I baked two desserts, one from a cookbook I bought in Ireland and one I spotted on a blog a few months ago but kept for the occasion.

The first is a Guinness cake, it resemble a lot one of those British puddings, it envolves melting butter and brown sugar in some beer

then adding a ton of fruit peel and pinenuts and mixing with flour

It's not something you can do one day for another: after the cake is baked, it has to be kept in aluminum foil and for 3-4 days it will be washed down with a few spoonfuls of THE dark beer.

In the end you get this fully flavoured pudding cake that will spin your head at the first taste:

Maybe even too fully flavoured: we are not afraid of a good glass of beer, but a full slice of it really goes straight to your brain. So what I did was to cut it in big french fries size pieces and roll them in a mix of sugar and cinnamon.

The second baking tribute were some Guinness cupcakes I found on the Big City, Little Kitchen blog, an adaptation of a Nigella's recipe.
I just had to twist slightly the recipe using whole yogurt instead of sour cream, but as for the rest I followed it.

Unlike the pudding/cake, these are not at all strong, you barely taste the beer in there (there's so much cocoa!), and they are soft and smooth like few cupcakes I've had before.

Now, my 6yo was a bit disappointed he wasn't getting the usual muffin for his snack at school.
He kept asking why on Earth did I put beer in it, so that he couldn't have it.
And actually all this celebration isn't all that family friendly, we'll probably have to wait after bedtime. The fact that my kids are good in not pushing for what they know is seriously not for them doesn't mean that we have to wave and display the stuff under their nose.

But you'll have time, son, your time will come even too soon!


  1. Letter in today's Irish Times:
    Madam, – So we’re to celebrate Arthur’s day today (Weekend Review, September 19th). Celebrate, is it, the dozens and dozens of breweries that were taken over and closed down by Guinness over a couple of hundred years, destroying Dublin’s great brewing heritage and creating the farcical situation where virtually every pub in Ireland has the same half-dozen bland, mass-marketed beers?

    I prefer to celebrate with a real drink – and there are several brewpubs in Dublin which have just that. That’s what we should be celebrating – a far superior alternative to a monopoly that has been forcing its over-rated product down our throats for far too long. – Yours, etc,

  2. Dear Barm, thank you for your comment.
    You may be certainly right and I will go for sure in a microbrewery next time I'm in Dublin.
    Unfortunately it's been 12 years since my last time there, so I hope you will understand that we have quite a different point of view, here: Guinness is a piece of Ireland outside of Ireland, whether you like it or not, and my post was clearly about personal memories.
    Maybe posting this letter on the facebook wall where you found the link to this post would have reached more people.

    I will check your blogs out, they look quite interesting!