When Covid-19 hit, it was at the height of communion season and Trisha O’Flaherty, who runs A Touch of Magic, had cake order after cake order cancelled.
“Communion season is like Christmas for confectioners. It sets you up for the year but it crashed, and I could either have crashed with it, or think outside the box,” said Trisha, who also runs a kids baking club.
“I’m a huge fan of Cork artist Will Sliney and at the start of the pandemic I saw his hashtag #wewilldraw and I thought why not #wewillbake?”
That planted a seed for Trisha, who says she likes having purpose in life, and she embarked on her now well-publicised ‘100 Days of Lockdown Baking.’ That saw her deliver an incredible run of 100 live baking demos for kids (and adults!) online every morning at 10am, and in a gesture of great generosity deliver her goodies to those on the frontline afterwards.
“I think I was probably the first person in the county to do banana bread,” she joked.
She started out taking it one day at a time, with a view to simply helping children relax through baking, and to give parents even five minutes peace. She had absolutely no idea she’d end up with fans from all over Ireland, the U.S, New Zealand, Australia Italy, UK and Philippines and would get messages from parents saying she’d literally helped to save their sanity. Her audience has grown from a modest 10 at the start to well over 200 live viewers a day, and several thousand who tune in later.
“A lot of Irish people started tagging relatives abroad, saying thing like ‘Oh, isn’t that the same recipe granny used?’ and things like that which is lovely,” said Trisha, who is originally from Blackrock.
In fact, her own granny, Sheila Stanley, was the inspiration for lots of recipes and Trisha said she’d regularly phone her mum Hilda O’Herlihy to check ingredients.
“I have a repertoire from 30 years of baking and I did lots of traditional stuff and people were loving that,” said Trisha.
Since #wewillbake live videos began, 600 eggs, 85kg of flour, 70kg of sugar, and 40kgs of butter have been cracked, beaten, and whipped to comfort the nation at her own expense with no sponsor. Her most popular demonstration was a two minute cup cake, and anything chocolate went down a complete treat.
But to accommodate the sporadic shortages of flour, she also included lots of oat and porridge based treats.
While Trisha is an award-winning baker, she admits she wasn’t at all tech savvy before the pandemic and had to enlist two of her daughters to help record her videos.
Lucy, aged 17, and Sophie, aged 13, took it in turns to record their mum’s energy packed demonstrations, which are anything but traditional and see her regularly break into song.
“I actually used to do Joe Wicks’ workout before my demos. I love the energy he exudes and the way he bounces around the screen so it was a way of psyching my own self up! I also love food so I have to work it off!” she said.
Going forward, Trisha says she’s unsure what the immediate future holds for her business.
She started out making cakes from her own kitchen, having been motivated to launch the business first day when she couldn’t find a christening cake for her eldest daughter, and for the past number of years has been operating from Cork County Council Incubator Kitchens in Carrigaline.
“I’ll have to wait and see. Classes will probably be postposed until next year, and there’s no point going in to the unit with just one order; you have to be able to justify turning the key.”
Trisha who is also mum to Darragh, aged 10, and and Katie, aged 20, said she’s reluctant to resume working from home as her family life is busy. But more positively, she said the pandemic has completely rekindled her passion for baking.
“I feel now that we’re all part of a community. It’s helped me realise how much I love to teach and that I’m not shy in front of a camera,” said Trisha, who is thinking about bringing out an eBook of all 100 recipes.
Having started out with one subscriber to her YouTube channel in April, she now has nearly 500 and says her ultimate ambition would be to have a TV slot. Stay tuned as it’s probably only a matter of time.
Oh, and as she says herself, don’t forget to clean as you go!
Contact Trish on 0872136579, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, see www.atouchofmagic.ie or follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/atouchofmagiccork/
- Pre-heat your oven to 180C and line your cookie tray with parchment paper.
- Whisk your egg and your brown sugar until light and fluffy, takes about 3-4 minutes in a mixer.
- While you’re waiting, melt your chocolate and butter. I like to melt my chocolate first in the microwave for about two minutes in one minute intervals and leave rest.
- Do the same with the butter but with one 40 second burst, just enough to melt and then combine the two.
- Pour your melted butter in on top of your melted chocolate, combine until mixed thoroughly.
- At this stage your egg and sugar mix should have changed colour to a light coffee colour and whipped to a soft mouse like batter.
- Pour your melted chocolate and butter mixture into the egg mixture and continue whisking on slow speed until blended.
- Combine all your dry ingredients and then sprinkle in on top of your egg and sugar mix.
- Using a spatula you can scrap down the bowl and add your chocolate chips and stir in.
- Leave your cookie mixture now in the fridge to chill and do it’s ‘thang’ for at least 20-30 minutes.
- Using a cookie scoop, scoop out some cookie dough and dollop on to your tray. You should have four or five cookies per tray well spaced out as they spread when baking. Do not flatten the cookies once out of the scoop as they will flatten themselves as they bake.
- Put in your pre-heated oven for 11-12 minutes and no longer. You want that soft centre and crinkle crunch on the outside.
- Leave on the tray for two minutes after baking before you remove as these are very soft cookies and floppy when taken out first.
- You will go crazy waiting for these cookies to cool but wait....wait for it.
- Transfer your cookies to a rack and leave cool for 15 minutes before trying one.
180g Plain Flour
100g Cold Butter (Salted)
1 egg yolk
50g Caster sugar
2 or 3 Tablespoon cold water (I used two)
100g Caster Sugar
2 Tablespoons Cornflour
Juice of 2 large lemons ( approx100ml)
200ml Orange juice (I used juice of one large orange then made up the rest with carton orange juice) 85g Butter (Diced)
3 egg Yolks + one full egg (whisked together )
200g Caster Sugar
4 Egg whites
2 teaspoons cornflour (gives that lovely marshmallow fluffy centre)
- Pre heat your oven to 180C and grease your 9” loose bottomed flan tin.
- Put the flour and cold butter into a bowl and blend between you fingers, method I use is ‘Show me the money’. Blend the butter and flour between your fingertips and as you do you flatten the butter into small pieces as it blends and disappears into the flour like breadcrumbs.
- Add your sugar.
- Make a well in the centre of your flour butter mix and add your egg yolk.
- Sprinkle the cold water around the bowl and use a butter knife to blend in a criss cross pattern across the bowl to represent your mixing blade. I don’t use my hand until I can see the pastry come together in clumps, the colour changes too as the butter is mixed and egg yolk to a pale yellow.
- Now’s the time to go in with your hand like a claw and mix the dough, keep your hand stiff as you move around the bowl and the pastry will come together in a clump. You can start a gentle knead with your hand still in the bowl to bring the dough together. Pastry done ... Ka-Boom!
- Sprinkle some flour on your worktop and roll out you dough. Now any normal person would let this pastry chill for 30 minutes but then again I’m not normal.
- Roll out your dough immediately to fit your round 9” flan tin , using the rolling pin, roll up and down and move the pastry around, so up down and turn it around, so just think from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock and twist the pastry each time so it doesn’t stick on your worktop.
- Use the rolling pin as a guide to roll the pastry back on to the rolling pin so you can lift in place and cover the tin. I use a 9” loose bottomed flan tin. Prick the pastry base with a fork on the base and along the sides.
- Now you can chill the pastry for 30 minutes to an hour to settle so the pastry doesn’t shrink when baked.
- Pre-heat your oven 180C while you’re waiting....
- Bake the pastry case ‘blind’ which means ... place some tinfoil directly onto the flan tin to create a blanket of foil and weigh down with either ceramic beans or dry beans or even rice.
- Bake for 15minutes, then take out of the oven remove the foil (be careful as the foil is hot and the beans are mobile!!!) and bake for another five to eight minutes until the pastry is pale golden and cooked.
- When the pastry case is completely cold, fill with your prepared filling.
- Place your cornflour and caster sugar in a saucepan and give it a good blend to get out any lumps and bumps.
- Slowly add in your lemon juice to blend along with your orange juice and set on a low heat to thicken. This will only take a few minutes on a medium heat.
- Once the mixture comes to a slow boil and bubble this will activate the cornflour and your mixture will thicken.
- Immediately take it off the heat and slowly plop your butter into the pot bit by bit melting into this delicious lemon soup!
- Whisk your egg yolks and gradually add some of the hot lemon filling into your egg mix first to prevent a scrambled egg pie! (If you were to put the egg directly into the hot ‘lemon soup’ the egg would immediately start to set and you will have little nibs of cooked egg floating in your meringue filling like scrambled egg... not on my watch!) Now that you have mixed a little hot ‘lemon filling’ into the egg mixture you can now slowly add all the egg mixture back to the rest of the lemon filling and bring it back to the heat to thicken up.
- The lemon filling is too runny so the egg now needs to cook off and thicken up.
- The meringue filling is done once it plip plops (that’s a real word!) off your spoon You need to see a ‘Plip plop’ off the spoon, or spatula.
- Turn off the heat and transfer the delicious lemon filling into your prepared pastry case. Leave cool.
- Must leave the filling cool for a least an hour before you whip your meringue topping, if you were to add your whipped meringue at this stage when the filling is hot you will deflate your meringue.
- Meringue Topping Ingredients 200g Caster Sugar 2 Teaspoons Cornflour 4 Egg whites Method:
- Make sure your mixer is deliciously clean any hint of grease spells disaster for you meringue!
- Drop a few squeezes of lemon into the bowl and wipe away with some kitchen paper will get rid of any grease.
- Whisk your egg whites on medium until you get a frothy foam, slowly add your caster sugar until you get soft peaks, little by little until. Once absorbed turn the mixer up a little and now add your cornflour. Another good whisk and your egg whites will turn glossy and shiny, perfect!
- Cornflour once added will give that spring spong marshmallow texture to your lemon meringue pie.
- Scoop and dollop out your meringue on top of your prepared pastry shell with your lemon filling and slather your meringue with your palette knife to fill in all the cracks and crannies so no peek-a-boo spots left for oozing lemon filling to escape.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until your crisp lemon meringue pie is golden and glows!
- Leave set and cool for 30 minutes before you dive into the pillowy