A Good Cappuccino (is Hard to Find)

Cappuccino A cappuccino should be a decadently frothy, silky concoction with a strong coffee hit. It’s a coffee drinker’s drink as opposed to a latte, which is for those who like their coffees weak. With a good cappuccino, the foam should be as much a sensation as a taste – a vehicle for the espresso. Unfortunately, it is rarely so. It is one of the most abused espresso bar drinks in Ireland.

The cappuccino is thought to derive its name from the Capuchin monks, or more specifically their hoods – capuccio. In Italy it’s generally a breakfast drink, but elsewhere is enjoyed all day long. The proportions are generally agreed to be 1/3 espresso, 1/3 milk, 1/3 foam.

It is unusual, however, to get more than a few millimetres of foam on a cappuccino in most cafes in Ireland. This has to do with over-heating the milk – I have talked about the importance of milk temperature before, and a general lack of care. In fact, there is often no difference between a latte and a cappuccino except the powdered chocolate.

In our shops, we generally like to think of cappuccinos slightly differently from the proportions above, which we consider slightly misleading. We don’t like the three elements to be separate but rather espresso with frothed milk that has doubled in volume but stays intact. Scalded milk with some egg-white-like foam perched on top doesn’t do it for us.

Frothing MilkInterestingly, this time of year it’s harder to froth the milk. As the cows go off a diet of grass and start eating silage, the protein levels in the milk fall. We have noticed the difference in the past few days. The milk bubbles become larger and less stable (see right), and they tend to readily collapse again.

Since we use a dairy that renowned for its fresh taste and that doesn’t alter or stabilise its milk, we feel the change acutely. It is possible to get milk that is controlled for protein, and I have seen it in more and more cafes in Dublin, but the taste definitely suffers.

So I guess we just have to take even more care and look forward to the cows on the grass again!

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Baking Cupcakes

Chocolate cup cake I have never baked cupcakes before, but coming across Chockylit’s cupcakeblog made me want to give them a try. We were a little shy on cakes from our baker today in the shop, so I decided to go baking, and above are the results of my efforts using the cupcakeblog’s recipe for chocolate mint cupcakes.

It is amazing what is out there in the world of blogging, and some of the recipes for cupcakes on the above blog are truly interesting, especially the ones using herbs and flowers. There’s even an ice cream cupcake. Definitely something to try soon…

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It’s too Early for Christmas!

Dunquin Christmas Fair Ok – you might expect Christmas music in New York shops by this time of year. The residents of that fair city have always been unashamed about getting jump on Christmas shopping, which is perhaps one of the reasons for the multitudes of Irish heading over there for their Christmas gifts and goodies. For all I know the music has started up in Dublin and Cork as well.

Dunquin Christmas Fair 2However, in Dingle it’s always been more relaxed – not much bother until a last-minute-panic spree of spending on the 23rd of December (definitely my modus operandi). The early birds around here tend to head to the aforementioned New York, Dublin, or Cork for stocking stuffers, leaving the rest of us in a happy state of denial.

So it was definitely surprising to wander in on a thriving Christmas fair in scenic Dunquin in the hallowed halls of the Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhoir (the Blasket Centre) before we’ve even reached the middle of November.

Maybe the Christmas fair has always been so early in Dunquin, and I certainly can be absent-minded about such things. But for me it’s far too early to think about Christmas shopping when I’m still munching my way through the leftover Halloween candy!

The music was from Maire Begley’s Chrismas DVD, which is definitely a good gift, and there were lots of cute kids selling baked goods as well as vendors with the usual candles, pottery, and woodwork. But I fled without so much as chewing a mince pie.

For me, it’s just to early! (For everyone else, the fair is also on tomorrow).

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Getting Lost is Getting Harder

Global Positioning System My brother has installed a GPS in the ice cream delivery van, and I tried it out for the first time today. I don’t think this particular model is the top of the line, and it’s a bit cumbersome in terms of adding your destination. However, it sure makes getting lost difficult, especially in a city. It’s also great if there is a traffic diversion or heavy traffic that diverts you onto confusing and poorly sign-posted Irish back roads.

I highly recommend that anyone doing a lot of driving for sales or deliveries (who doesn’t already have one) part with the couple hundred euro…

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Last Taste of Summer

Ice cream with tayberry sauce I have written about Sweetbank Farm several times, the fruit farm in Wicklow. Well, their bushes and trees are long since plucked, but we did freeze some of their tayberries earlier in the season, and I pulled out the last trays of them to make a big vat of sauce. (If you also froze some berries and want a recipe, I gave one here for blackberry coulis)

In any case, we’re serving it up warm with ice cream in the shops, and it goes especially well with Irish cream liqueur ice cream. My brother Sean has been playing around with serving it with a piece of plain sponge, whipped cream, and ice cream, and customers have been loving this ready-made dessert…

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Good Cooking Chocolate

Valrhona Gastronomie Baking ChocolateWe have decided to bring some good quality cooking chocolate into our shops because it is so hard to find in Kerry. We’ve started with two types of Valrhona baking chocolate.

A big part of our philosophy in terms of making ice cream or anything else is that good ingredients will make a good product.

I know that is a bit of a cliche, but it is true. All the cooking technique in the world wont cover inferior ingredients.

Especially for home cooking and baking, it won’t cost you that much more to source high quality ingredients, and the difference in the final product will be immense.

So if you’re setting out to bake some brownies or make chocolates, chocolate sauce, hot chocolate, or anything else of a chocolate persuasion, please use good chocolate as a starting point!

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Sheridan’s @ Arnotts

Sheridans at Arnotts With all the excitement of going to Paris, I forgot to write about a new development in the Dublin food scene. The most excellent Sheridan’s Cheesemongers have taken a space on the lower ground floor of Arnotts department store, and I visited before I flew out. As well as their tantalising cheeses, they have a great selection of tasty treats (including our ice cream!) Anyone on the North side should have a look in…

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Playing in Production

Ice Cream Truffles Today was most enjoyable as we were lucky enough to have Monsieur Frederic in production, sent from one of our suppliers, Odaios Foods.

Fred with Ice Cream Truffles

We had asked for suggestions for improving my ice cream truffles (they had happily received the samples we sent up) and in enhancing the decoration of our ice cream cakes. They have an interest in such things, since they are also our distributor on the East coast, and they kindly sent a very helpful consultant chef.

Sean Kieran Production

For the truffles, I made a base of passionfruit and peach schnapps ice cream, and we filled it into chocolate shells, then rolled them in toasted coconut or cocoa. Quite tasty indeed.

Then we moved on to decorating ice cream cakes, playing with enrobing the whole cake in chocolate.

Fred was full of ideas, and it was the first time in ages that both my brother and I were together in production with the pots and the pans. We should have more days likes these!

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