Friday, April 15, 2011

Lipsmacking Blarney Kisses - Mwah!

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Sometimes a kiss will leave your heart pounding. Sometimes a kiss will leave your legs trembling. Sometimes a kiss will make your head spin. If all three sensations occur at once, and you begin to speak with unaccustomed expressiveness, there is only one possible explanation: you have just kissed the Stone of Eloquence (aka the Blarney Stone).

The experience goes something like this:
Stroll through beautiful blossom-filled gardens that line the approach to the 15th century tower.

Blarney Castle, Co. Cork
Next, climb the steep, narrow, shadowy spiral of stone that could loosely be described as a staircase - but could more believably pass for a curly ladder, with steps worn to a smooth shine by 500 years of history.

Don't look down!
By the time you have ascended 6 hair-raising flights, your heart is galloping and your legs are shaking – from exertion or from terror or both. Now all you have to do is lie on your back on the parapet and wriggle over the edge. Don't worry, a friendly Irishman will grab a hold, preventing you from falling to your death.
There follows an enormous backbend (lucky you took those ballet/yoga classes eh?) as you pucker up and slap a kiss on the legendary blue stone – which is embedded much further down the battlements than you originally thought. If your eyes aren’t squeezed shut with fright, you’ll get a fleeting view of the perfect green lawn 6 storeys below. Eeeek!

The stone from below, (just above the top window);            "Don't look down";

Before you have time to panic, you are helped to your feet. You did it! Wait a few moments and pretend to admire the astounding view while your heart rate returns to normal and your head stops spinning.
Now all you have to do is get back to ground level, via another terrifyingly whirly flight of stairs.

Here is my latest creation – the Blarney Kiss. It is a walnut shortbread, with a toffee/caramel embedded to represent the stone, and a white chocolate x on top for the kiss. Whimsical? Yes,  but be sure to pack a few of these when visiting the Stone of Eloquence. You'll be grateful for the sugar hit as you make your way back to the ground.

Have a kiss and a cuppa!
For approximately a dozen kisses you will pre-heat the oven to 170°C
175g butter, softened
80g caster sugar
200g plain flour
50g corn flour
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of fine table salt
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons iced water
approximately 12 soft toffees/caramels
75g white chocolate

1          Place the butter and sugar in a food mixer or a large bowl and mix together until fluffy and paler in colour.
2          Mix in the plain flour, corn flour, vanilla extract, salt, chopped walnuts and iced water and mix just until the ingredients come together in a ball.
Press a toffee 'stone' into the centre of each
3          Roll the ball of paste out on a floured surface to an oblong roughly 7mm / ¼ inch thick and using a knife dipped in flour, trim to a neat rectangle.
4          Cut the paste into rectangles large enough to frame the toffee/caramel which you are going to embed in the centre of each - making sure to push the toffee into the paste but not all the way through. Transfer to a non-stick (or lightly floured) baking sheet. Squash any off-cuts into a ball and re-roll.

5          Bake the cookies in the pre-heated oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until the biscuit is evenly golden and the toffee has melted.
6          Transfer to a cooling rack. When cold, melt the white chocolate and using a piping bag (or a freezer bag with a tiny corner snipped off) place an x (the kiss of course!) on top of this melt-in-the-mouth shortbread.

These are not sophisticated, but they are Mwah!
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  1. Hester! This is tooo goooood. I can't wait to bake them. And gosh, what a beautiful inspiration behind the recipe (or in front of?).

  2. I love it, Hester. Very clever; What lovely looking kisses ;-) I've never done the kissing of the Blarney stone but you've given me inspiration to go there one day. Great pictures! Was scared just looking at them for you...

  3. Yes, those spiral steps would get me all giddy as well. A love old castle this one and bickies look great as well.

  4. That castle/staircase reminds be of the burana tower in Kyrgyzstan.

  5. @Three-Cookies - how interesting that you should say that. When we visited the site, we discussed the central-Asian feel of the tower. It is very possible that the architecture was influenced by Kyrgyzstan as people travelled much more then than we give them credit for.

  6. These look fantastic. I absolutely could have used one when I got finished smooching the Blarney Stone. They don't like to tell tourists what they're REALLY fixing to do :)

    Great recipe, thanks for sharing!

  7. @Parsley Sage - you are absolutely right - there is no indication that it is going to be terrifying. Also with 400,000 people slapping kisses on a few square inches of stone every year, you'd wonder ...

  8. Wow, what a climb and view down the stairs and building. Kinda scary but beautiful, I want to go. I love that this was the inspiration for your delish cookies. Have a great weekend!

  9. Your blarney kisses are just adorable! I'm not sure I could do that whole back bend thing -- you were brave!

  10. Hester, you must have done the Blarney kiss before because you have already been endowed with the gift of gab! What a jaw-dropping post that ends with a mouth-watering shortbread! Your the best food writer of Ireland I have to say!

  11. How cute Hester! Lovely kisses! I love walnuts and white chocolate is my husband's favourite! Perfect for us! Your pictures and stories make me wish I could visit your beautiful country. Maybe next time I come to Europe!!! :-)

  12. Even the thought of those steps is making my head spin. I think I prefer your edible 'Blarney Kisses'

  13. Love that you turned your experience into a cookie! Great read and photos! Cookies sound delicious too!

  14. Your version looks delicious! I was fortunate to visit Ireland when I was about 15 or 16 with my high school, and one of the highlights of our trip was getting to visit Blarney Castle & kissing the Blarney Stone. :) Unfortunately for me, though, on the way back down those steps, I had a panic attack and your photo brought back those memories! I laugh about it now, but I had a friend in front of me holding my hand and a friend behind me holding my hand & both of them telling me to breathe & that it was going to be OK, all the way down the steps. When we got back out on the grounds, I kid you not, I sank to my knees & kissed the ground!

  15. Oh. My. Goodness. I LOVE this post!! Those stairs look so scary - I had no idea that you had to go so high up for a kiss! And your cookies sound absolutely delicious. I love the combo of toffee, white chocolate and walnut. Num num. Thanks, Hester!!

  16. Wow! What a hair-raising experience! I love this post. My husband's mother came here straight from Dublin in her early twenties when she married his dad. He's always wanted to go visit.

    Love the cookies too!


  17. What fun pictures! Mwah! I love it :D. And I love that putting an X on a cookie = a kiss!!!

  18. oh those do look like the perfect treat to have with tea!

  19. these look great!!! great idea.

  20. that castle is beautiful! i wish i could visit it some day...

    And these cookies look so tasty. i am a sucker for anything with caramel...hehe

  21. Those pictures are beautiful! What an awesome experience. The cookies look scrumptious too :)

  22. Lovely post and great recipe! I can not wait to bake them!


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