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November 29

St. Brendan of Birr

St. Brendan of Birr


Saint Brendan of Birr (died c. 572) was one of the early Irish monastic saints. He was a monk and later an abbot, of the 6th century. He is known as "St Brendan the Elder" to distinguish him from his contemporary and friend St Brendan the Navigator of Clonfert. He was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, a friend and disciple of Saint Columba.

Brendan studied at the monastic school at Clonard Abbey, a sixth century abbey with some of the most significant names in the history of Irish Christianity.

Brendan was one of the 12 students who studied there under St. Finian, who became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

Brendan later founded the monastery in Birr in central Ireland in about 540 and served as its abbot. He was known as a holy and hospitable man with an instinctive ability for the judge of character. Considered one of the chief prophets of Ireland, he earned the title “Prophet of Ireland.”

Brendan attended the synod of Meltown, in which St. Columba was brought to trial over his role in the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne in 561. Brendan defended Columba, which led to the more lenient sentence of Columba’s exile rather than excommunication. Their friendship resulted in important connections between Birr and the Columban foundations.

Upon Brendan’s death, it was said that Columba saw a vision of Brendan’s soul being carried away by angels. Columba celebrated a memorial mass for his departed friend and supporter.








St. Brendan’s Monastery

Birr Castle

Castle in Birr, County Offaly, Ireland



Chocolate Lace Sandwich Cookies


  • 1/2 cup (115g; 1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 2/3 cup (130g) packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 3/4 cup (75g) almond flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) light or dark corn syrup or milk*

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • optional: 1/2 cup Nutella or melted chocolate (see note)


  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan on low heat. Once melted, add the
    brown sugar, almond flour, salt, and milk/corn syrup. Cook and whisk
    until sugar has dissolved and ingredients are completely combined,
    around 3-4 minutes. (Note: If melted butter is separating from the
    mixture, remove the pan from heat and vigorously whisk until it is all
    combined again. It will eventually come back together.)

  2. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract. Mixture will be grainy
    and shiny. Allow cookie dough to sit and thicken for about 5-10 minutes as the oven preheats. The mixture will thicken as it cools down.

  3. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

  4. Drop scant teaspoonfuls (1 scant teaspoon of mixture per cookie, not Tablespoon) 3 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 6-8 minutes until golden brown around the edges. The edges and centers will sizzle and bubble as the cookies bake!

  5. Allow cookies to cool for 5 full minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Cookies dry and crisp up as they cool.

  6. Once cool, enjoy cookies or sandwich with Nutella or melted chocolate. To sandwich, spread either Nutella or melted chocolate onto the bottom of one cooled cookie and sandwich with another. See recipe note if using chocolate.

  7. Cookies without Nutella/chocolate filling will stay fresh covered at room temperature for 1 week. Cookies with Nutella/chocolate will stay fresh covered at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for 1 week.


  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Baked cookies, with or without Nutella/chocolate filling, freeze well up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature, if desired, before serving. You can prepare the cookie dough in steps 1 and 2, cover tightly once cooled, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature, then continue with the recipe.

  2. Special Tools: Whisk | Measuring Cups | Silpat Baking Mat | Baking Sheet | Cooling Rack

  3. Almond Flour: I like using Bob’s Red Mill brand almond flour, found in the baking aisle of major grocery stores. If you can’t find almond flour in the store, you can make your own by simply pulsing almonds until they reach a gritty and rough flour-like consistency. Instead of almond flour, you can use the same amount of oat flour. (Buy oat flour or pulse whole oats into a flour.) All-purpose flour isn’t ideal because the cookies will not spread or caramelize. Some readers have used coconut flour, but note that the taste and texture is off. I strongly recommend almond flour.

  4. Either 1 Tablespoon of milk or corn syrup works in this lace cookie recipe. You need a liquid and the resulting cookie tastes exactly the same no matter which you choose. I prefer corn syrup because I find it makes the cookies just a *little* crispier.

  5. Nutella can get a little messy, so if you’re gifting or traveling with the lace cookies– I suggest using melted chocolate for sandwiching the cookies. Unlike Nutella, melted chocolate will set. Instead of sandwiching, try dunking the cookies in melted chocolate or drizzling the chocolate on top. Whichever way you prefer, use about 6-8 ounces of chopped semi-sweet chocolate. (I like Ghirardelli or Bakers brand, both found in the baking aisle.) Melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave in 15-second increments, stopping and stirring after each until completely smooth. Sandwich, dip, or drizzle onto cooled cookies. Allow chocolate to set completely in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or at room temperature for 30 minutes.

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