Some time ago, perhaps after my first trip to Ireland but sometime before we went back to get married nearly two years later, I discovered and began reading Farmette, a lovely blog by Imen McDonnell. I was taken in by her story – after all, I too fell in love with an Irishman and married him – but mostly I was looking for a brown bread recipe (this one is the one I found there, the one my husband prefers and the only one I use now).
On our Aer Lingus flight to Dublin en route to get our marriage license in July 2014, we watched Small Green Fields, which I’d seen teased on Farmette. And then later that year we got married at Ballyvolane House, where McDonnell co-hosted a photography workshop last spring. All my worlds colliding! (But then Ireland’s a small world.) Anyway it seemed logical to buy The Farmette Cookbook a few weeks back and I am happy to recommend it.
I made the colcannon recipe at St Patrick’s Day and my husband requested it again at Easter, where it went over very well. It’s dead easy to make, even if it does involve peeling a number of potatoes (a task I hate). For Easter dessert I also made the coffee-walnut cake (though in my case it was coffee-pecan cake owing to the very large amount of South Carolina pecans in my freezer) and this Smoky & Salty Buttermilk Vanilla Fudge, which I’ve become obsessive about in the three days it’s been in my life. So we’re going to talk about it.
I’ve never made fudge, ever, not even the kind you make with marshmallow fluff. But I own a candy thermometer and live recklessly so I thought – why not? I think I did all right for a first time around – although before next time I’ll need to replace my hand mixer. It gave up on life recently so used my stand mixer, and while it all came mostly right in the end, the metal bowl retained a lot of the mixture’s heat and I think that may have impacted the final product. I had no complaints, however, from my family.
Do be warned that if you go to four stores in search of smoked sea salt (which doesn’t seem like it should be hard to find), and you eventually find birch-smoked salt at Whole Foods, it will be $11 and you will be annoyed about this. But you might buy it anyway (or you could forgo the “smoked” part of the recipe and just use sea salt).
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup cultured buttermilk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 T honey
1t vanilla extract
1t vanilla bean seeds
1/8 teaspoon smoked sea salt, plus more for decorating
Line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving generous overhang on the long sides; set aside. Heat all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter and sugar are melted, about 3 minutes. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer, 8 to 10 minutes (the mixture will be pale gold and smell faintly of toffee). Carefully pour into a medium bowl and, using an electric mixer on a medium-high speed, beat until cool and thickened (it will be stiff and matte), 5 to 8 minutes. Scrape the fudge into the prepared pan; smooth the top and sprinkle with smoked sea salt. Let it sit at least 1 hour before cutting into pieces. Can be make up to one week ahead of time. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature until ready to serve.