Irish Mouths Are Smiling Too

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irishsodabread.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Many holidays have their traditional foods, only eaten for the occasion.  Frequently such dishes are... shall we say... less than thrilling, which makes abstention the rest of the year pretty do-able.  But when something is truly fabulous--like champagne, or Easter ham, or Irish soda bread--why wait for the special occasion to enjoy it again? This St. Patrick's Day I faced my baking disability and associated fears head-on, and made soda bread from a recipe developed by Mrs. Mary O'Callaghan in County Clare, Ireland.

Miraculously it turned out great despite my usual compulsive meddling, and reminded me of how incredibly delicious this stuff is.  A few days after St. Patrick's Day, I tested the luck o'the Irish as a half portion, again with the lazy person modifications, and met with even better success because it didn't take as long to bake through (only 40 min).  I can only conclude that this bread recipe is fool-proof.
As the revised recipe indulges laziness  as well as baking ineptitude, there is no good reason to deprive oneself of this fabulous bread until next March 17th.  The stuff is hopelessly delicious spread just with soft butter, or butter and jam.  Or butter and smoked salmon.  Or Easter ham.  Or sliced Irish cheddar.  Or the controlled substance known as Pub Cheese my friends Kate and Randy evilly introduced me to last week.  Or whatever spreadable substance you are currently nuts about...the sweet crumbly texture and bold sassy crunch of the crust is virtually guaranteed to please.  

What to drink with this manna from Ireland? My favorite pairing with the cheddared-up soda bread so far is a clean sauvignon blanc, like Duckhorn Vineyards or Groth.

Here's the smaller sized recipe I like, with my tweaking:

Irish Soda Bread For Lazy Dummies
(makes one 6.5 inch diameter loaf)

  • 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour, plus one pinch for decoration
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar (mounded up over the edge if you like your bread a bit sweeter)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/8 cup (26 g) cold butter, cut into ¼ inch cubes
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425; spray a heavy baking sheet with nonstick spray.  In a medium-size bowl, combine the flours, the sugar, the baking soda, and the salt. Mix in the butter and work it into the flour until it's in tiny pea-sized bits.  Add the buttermilk and stir it in with your hand until the flour is fully incorporated.  Knead the dough a couple of times in the bowl until it's evenly textured--probably not more than a minute or two.  Shape the dough into a ball, and put it on the baking sheet.  Flatten it to about three inches tall, cut an X across the whole top about ¼ inch deep, and dust it with a tiny bit of flour for that artisanal look. Bake for 40 minutes at 425 or until the loaf is a rich brown, and the underside sounds hollow when you knock on it.  Cool on a baking rack until you can slice it without hurting yourself (5-10 minutes, depending on your pain threshold), and devour as desired.  Sadly, you will have to let it cool completely if you want to cut thin slices.

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ooh, sounds scrumptious and since I'm always looking for yet another vessel to get said Pub cheese into the gullet, I'll have to try this. (and slather it unapologetically)

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