Tue 30 Nov 2010
I know I’m turning Irish because this is yet another blog post about the weather, and everyone knows that the Irish are obsessed with weather. But it’s snowing here. Snowing. Considering I hail from a place where it never snows, I can’t NOT write about it.
Waking up to see a winter wonderland outside your window is something us Angelenos only dream of, so when it happened the other day I was as giddy as a kid at Christmas. As I pulled back the curtains I could see that everything had a good dusting of lovely white snow and as the sun rose the powder sparkled like flecks of sparkly diamonds. I actually gasped at the sight. Of course as I came to find out in the coming day, marveling at the snow from the comfort of my hotel room is totally different than the reality of being in and dealing with the cold wet stuff outside.
This way to a mega-challenging climb; His & Hers hiking boots.
I was in Westport, County Mayo, for a weekend getaway with my boyfriend when the snow fell in the middle of the night. From our breakfast table, the view was breathtaking, but I soon realized that I would be out there and up there because we had plans to climb Croagh Patrick that morning. While I hiked plenty in Los Angeles, this mountain would be a major effort on a nice day, but in the snow? As my mountain climber partner ogled the peak with visible excitement (he scaled the Alps on his last holidays) I did my best to contain my nervousness. I’m always up for a challenge, I told myself, and I refuse to be the wimpy American girl in this scenario (amazing the crazy things you’ll do for pride…and for love). I laced up my hiking boots, bundled up my goose down jacket and told him I was ready to face Croagh Patrick.
X marks the spot: The ridge I managed to scramble to, as pointed out by this fabulous illustration.
The first half-hour was relatively smooth, despite the craggy, loose rocks underfoot. But when we hit the really steep and snowy part things got a bit rough…well, for me. Even with a pole I slipped a few times, though I somehow managed to catch myself before falling flat on my butt. I’ll admit there was a certain amount of complaining and maybe even a whine and perhaps even a foot stamp or two (while his back was turned, naturally) but somehow I managed to climb up to the ridge between the two peaks before he realized the only way he’d get me to the top was to strap me on his back and carry me. It was so cold I couldn’t feel my face and so windy that the hot tea we poured from the thermos into the cup just blew away and turned to ice particles (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a touch), but the view at the ridge was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Blue skies, snowy peaks and Clew Bay glistening in the sunlight. It was truly mind-blowing to say the least.
In a lot of ways, the climb mirrored my journey here in Ireland. When I moved here 9 months ago, I was wide-eyed and a little nervous but purely optimistic. As you’ve read yourself, I quickly realized how difficult adjusting to a whole new culture could be and I think it’s safe to say there’ve been some tantrums along the way (remember my whole “quay” pronunciation rant?). There have been more than a few sleepless nights and even a meltdown or two. But now that I’ve crossed the hump, I know it was all worth it. And even with Ireland’s economic crisis and the bitterly cold winter, all I see is blue skies ahead. It’s truly mind-blowing, to say the least.
These Latin sandwich cookies, Alfajores, are the perfect winter treat with a cup of tea. The dusting of powdered sugar makes them look like little snow biscuits, and the lovely dulce de leche center (with a hint of orange) is sweet and gooey and delicious. Makes a great gift. Enjoy! Recipe adapted from the one by the lovely and talented Matt Armendariz.
360 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
165 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
250 grams granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
200 ml milk
50 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 can condensed Milk
1 teaspoon of orange liqueur
Powdered sugar, for serving
Preheat oven to 177 degrees C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and continue mixing until well combined, about 1 minute. Working in batches, add flour mixture; mix until well combined. Add milk, orange juice, orange zest and vanilla; continue mixing until a dough forms, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a tablespoon or a small ice cream scoop, drop dough onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking, until golden, 10 to 14 minutes.
Transfer cookies to a wire rack until completely cool. In the meantime, make your dulce de leche from the condensed milk: Remove the label from the can and poke two vent holes at the top of the can. Place the can into a pot of water (hole side up) with the water coming up to about a quarter inch of the top of the can. Put pot on stove and turn on the heat and let the water simmer gently for about 1.5-2 hours, adding more water as necessary. When finished let it cool and then open the can, then stir in the orange liqueur. When cookies have cooled completely, spread the bottoms of half of the cookies with dulce de leche; sandwich together with remaining cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Just before serving, lightly sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, if desired