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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Angel Biscuits and Tipsy Blackberry Jam inspired by The Godforsaken Daughter

Angel Biscuits and Tipsy Blackberry Jam inspired by The Godforsaken Daughter
The Godforsaken Daughter is the story of thirty-three year-old Ruby, and how her life is turned upside down and shaken after the death of the father that she was so close to. The story is set in Northern Ireland in the recent past (think IRA and bombings), mainly in a small farming town, with Belfast and the isle of Innisfree playing small roles, as well.

Ruby Clare is a bodacious red-head with a sturdy body and hands from working the fields with her beloved dad. Much reference is made to her size 16 as "fat", which was the one thing in the story that bothered me to no end. You'd think she was Cinderella the way she dealt graciously with a nasty mother and pair of sisters.

Without giving away too much, I'll say that after her father's death, Ruby discovers a mystical box that once belonged to her grandmother (her dad's mammy). Tucked inside was a crystal ball, a deck of tarot cards, a book, and a handful of things that worked with them. With these discoveries came a voice (literally), and a means for Ruby to connect with her spirit.

This story contains quite the merry ensemble of characters. There were gentle souls like Ruby, Jamie, Rose, and Paddy. There was also a vicious trio that made up Ruby's remaining family, Martha and the twins May and June. The supporting cast was a mix of townspeople, a priest, a nosy busybody, townsfolk, a psychiatrist and his missing wife, and a man who thought he was John Lennon reincarnate.
Angel Biscuits and Tipsy Blackberry Jam inspired by The Godforsaken Daughter
Though I wouldn't classify this as a "foodie read", there was plenty of food to be found within the pages. Of course there was mention of potatoes, whiskey, and Guinness (it is set in Ireland after all)—but there was also sponge cake, shepherd's pie, sherry trifle, fig roll, fish and chips, ham sandwich, scrambled eggs, nutty apple crumble, cottage pie, and a gravy chip (what the heck is that?). Then there were flaky knobs (don't google those two words together - I'm pretty sure that's not the flaky pastry Rose and Jamie were so fond of), iced fingers, corned beef coddled hash in pickled bread sauce, lasagna, and spaghetti bolognese. I'm not even counting the herbs, berries, and drinks mentioned in the book.

Hmmm...maybe it is kind of a foodie read.

You've probably noticed that I was inspired to make a batch of Angel Biscuits and (very) small batch Tipsy Blackberry Jam after reading The Godforsaken Daughter. You know, if you glanced at the pictures. Or the title. Anyhoo. Almost halfway into the book, Ruby tells "the mother" (she's really referred to as "the mother" quite often, which makes me snicker) that she is going down to the woods to pick blackberries to make some jam. Martha and Father Kelly question the truth in that statement since it's still "a bit early" for blackberries.

Though she doesn't actually pick any blackberries, she does use some blackberry leaf since it was powerful and special to the Goddess. Plus, blackberry brambles are a favorite hiding place for faerie folk—and how can I resist that inspiration? I added a wee tipple of whiskey to the jam, as a nod to the "bitta whiskey" that Jamie tells Biddy (the café owner) to add to Ruby's tea after a particularly trying moment.

I had a small bag of blackberries hanging out in the freezer and put together a tiny batch that would be perfect slathered on some warm biscuits...which I made with thoughts of Ruby and Jamie eating them in the mornings before they go out and work the land. I can just see Ruby pulling a pan of them from the oven...

Angel Biscuits
Tall, fluffy yeast biscuits that are perfect with a meal, or as a meal with fresh jam slathered on them.
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Angel Biscuits
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 20 minutes (active), 2 hours (inactive)
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Keywords: bake bread breakfast vegetarian soy-free butter buttermilk

Ingredients (2 1/2 dozen)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water (110° F)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 625 grams (5 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter, divided
Combine water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl and let stand until creamy, ~5 minutes.

Whisk the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and use a spoon or knife to drop the shortening into the bowl in little blobs. Use a pastry blender (or your finger tips) to combine everything until crumbly.

Add the yeast mixture and the buttermilk to the bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until combined and no dry bits remain. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, but up to 5 days.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Prepare a pan; a cast iron skillet, baking dish, or pie pan will work (just choose one big enough for the number of biscuits you want to make). You can also line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead a few times. Gently pat the dough into a circle that is 3/4" to 1" in thickness. Fold the dough in half. Pat it out in the same manner and fold it again. Pat it out one more time and use a 2-inch round cutter to cut out biscuits and place them into your chosen pan with the sides touching.
Angel Biscuit Dough
Reroll the scraps and continue to cut more biscuits (or wrap remaining dough tightly to use later). Brush the biscuit dough with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter.

Slide into preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush the hot biscuits with more melted butter as soon as you remove them from the oven; serve.

I've tried making these in both large batches (10-inch skillet that held 18 biscuits) and small batches (6-inch skillet that held 8 biscuits)—I think the small batches cook up better.

-biscuits slightly adapted from Southern Living Magazine, November 2014

Tipsy Blackberry Jam (very small batch)
Make this extra small batch of jam when you only have a few berries on hand. Perfect for slathering on warm biscuits.
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small batch Tipsy Blackberry Jam
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 13-15 minutes
Keywords: simmer condiment nut-free soy-free vegan blackberries

Ingredients (1/2 cup)
  • 5 ounces blackberries, fresh or frozen and slightly thawed
  • 2.5 ounces superfine sugar
  • fresh lime juice
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
  • pinch of vanilla sea salt (or regular sea salt)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whiskey
Use a muddler or wooden spoon to crush the berries in a small pot. Add sugar, the freshly squeezed juice from about 1/8th of a lime, and mint sprigs; bring to a boil. Reduce to a steady simmer and cook for 13-15 minutes, stirring often.

Remove mint sprigs and discard. Stir in pinch of salt and whiskey. Pour into a 4 ounce jar. Store in fridge once cool.

This recipe makes a very small batch, just enough for spreading on biscuits for a meal. You can multiply it, if you wish.
Angel Biscuits and Tipsy Blackberry Jam inspired by The Godforsaken Daughter
The Godforsaken Daughter by Christina McKenna

The Godforsaken Daughter

author: Christina McKenna
publisher: Lake Union Publishing
source: TLC Book Tours
soft cover: 396 pages
"foodie" read: Not really, but it has a few food mentions and plenty of inspiration (Ireland!).

random excerpt: Ruby inspected the image of the woman more closely. There was something about it that appealed to her. Then she realized what it was. The woman's body was just like hers, heavy and solid. She could have been looking at her own naked self. p. 120

teaser (from tlc book tours page): When Ruby Clare’s father was alive, they happily toiled together on their small dairy farm in Northern Ireland. Since his death seven months ago, Ruby—thirty-three years old, plain, and plump—has become a veritable drudge for Martha, her endlessly critical mother. Then comes the day when Ruby finds her late grandmother’s old suitcase in the attic. Among its strange contents: a slim, handmade volume called The Book of Light.

The deeper Ruby delves into its mysterious pages, the more confident she feels. But Martha, convinced that her newly empowered daughter must be possessed, enlists the help of psychiatrist Henry Shevlin. Henry is unflappable on the surface, yet inwardly he’s reeling from his wife’s unexplained disappearance the year before. As Ruby undergoes therapy alongside other local patients, including lonely bachelor farmer Jamie McCloone, all their lives intersect in unexpected ways. And Ruby, alone for so long, finds the courage to connect—with Jamie, with Henry, and with her own loving, indomitable spirit.

about the author: Christina McKenna grew up on a farm near the village of Draperstown in Northern Ireland. She attended the Belfast College of Art, where she obtained an honors degree in fine art and studied English in postgraduate studies at the University of Ulster. In 1986, she left Northern Ireland to work abroad. She has lived, worked, and painted pictures in Spain, Turkey, Italy, Ecuador, and Mexico.

further author info: website | facebook

recipes inspired by the book: Angel Biscuits and Tipsy Blackberry Jam

Would you like to win a copy of The Godforsaken Daughter? If so, simply answer this question in the comment section below (mandatory entry):

Do you have a favorite Irish book, author, writer, poet, story, legend, or movie? Let me know who/what it is in the comments section below.

After you've commented with your answer, be sure to record your entry in the rafflecopter widget below. Completing this mandatory entry will then open up optional ways to get more entries into the contest.
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This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada only. Submissions will be accepted through 11:59 pm ET on Monday, April 13, 2015. One winner will be chosen via random draw and notified via email within 48 hours of the close of this contest, and given 24 hours in which to respond. If no response is received within that time frame, a new winner will be chosen. All entries will be verified (if the mandatory comment is not received, yet the box is checked, all entries by that person will be voided).

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.