Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day...and another snow storm

So, everybody's home again (snow day #14 for anyone keeping track) due to a storm that dumped another 7 inches on us. This, after we had 60 degree days just 2 days ago.  I like winter, I really do (I grew up in Minnesota, after all, and have Viking blood coursing through my veins, so that should surprise no one), but enough already! Mostly, though, when I'm cooped up inside and it's cold out, all I really want to do is stuff my face with baked goods.  Not cool.  Why can't I crave, say, carrots on a cold day?  I'm sitting here, drinking my tea, pretending it's tastes as good as hot chocolate and feeling a little grumpy.

On the plus side, it's also St. Patrick's Day. The day that everyone is a little bit Irish, even if it's just to drink Guinness.  :-) According to family lore, I actually am a teeny bit Irish.  Unfortunately, I don't have any traditional, handed-down-through-the-generations, secret family recipes to help me commemorate the day, so I had to rely on the internet for help.  I decided to try Martha Stewart's crock pot version of corned beef and cabbage, because I love a crock pot recipe where you can just dump everything in and cook it, but also wanted some Irish soda bread to serve with it.  I did a little research to try and find the most "authentic" recipe (and by authentic, I mean the one that sounded like it had the most history attached to it, because, let's face it, I have no idea what "authentic" or "traditional" Irish soda bread is supposed to be).

Did you know, according to "people on the internet" (whom I assume know more than I do), that traditional Irish soda bread does not have raisins/currants in it?  That it actually only has 4 ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk)?  Neither did I, but I am all for simple, tasty recipes.  So I found this one on that I thought I would try.  I also read that the flour in Ireland (at least in the past) was kind of poor, without a lot of gluten, so some people in current times use pastry flour to replicate that.  I, one the other hand, did not have pastry flour.  But of course, I couldn't just leave well enough alone. So I used a blend of all purpose flour, cake flour and whole wheat flour.

I also found out that corned beef and cabbage isn't exactly the traditional meal for the Irish on St. Patrick's Day, either. WHAT?!?!  Corned beef is the lutefisk of Irish food traditions?? (for non-Norwegian-Americans, lutefisk is a traditional Norwegian fish dish, usually served by Norwegian-Americans at Christmas, but is hardly ever eaten by actual modern-day Norwegians, probably because no one wants to eat gelatinous, re-hydrated, fish that only tastes good if you dump a boat-load of melted butter on top)   My world was rocked today.

 Before baking:


 Just before eating:

But I digress. This post was really going to be about soda bread.  Let me tell you, this bread is so tasty and so easy, you will want to make it whenever you want fresh bread with a meal (say, with soup, for brunch, whatever).  Seriously, it's that easy. Except for the flour blend, I did not change anything from the original recipe. Honest. Okay, I did incorporate a couple of technique-type tips from the comments section into my instructions. But that's all. Really.

"Traditional" Irish Soda Bread

1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (mine was on the "heaping teaspoon" side of things)
1 cup of buttermilk
caraway seeds (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. While the oven heats up, put the dry ingredients in a bowl, then stir with a fork to combine.  Start adding the buttermilk, first about half a cup, then stirring to combine with the dry ingredients, then the other half a cup.  Keep stirring everything together with a fork until it comes together (there might still be some flour left in the bottom of the bowl), then use your hand to knead the rest of the flour into the mixture (I did this in the bowl - no need to dump it out and get flour all over the place).  Pat the dough into a disk and put it in a cast iron skillet. With a sharp, serrated knife slash a cross in the top, then sprinkle with caraway seeds (optional).

Put skillet in the pre-heated oven and bake the bread about 15-20 minutes, until it's lightly golden on the outside and sounds hollow when you thump it lightly with your finger.  Take the skillet out, and, while the skillet is still warm, cover the bread with a 9-inch cake pan for 5 minutes. (This helps keep the outside crust from getting too hard).

Makes one loaf -- 8 nice wedge-shaped slices.  Enjoy warm with some good butter.  :-)

Bonus recipe:

Roasted Cabbage

I had some cabbage that wouldn't fit into my crock pot, so I took those two slices and roasted them in the oven while the bread was baking.  Just toss the cabbage with olive oil, salt and pepper, put on a rimmed baking sheet, then roast for about 20 minutes, until it's starting to get brown on the edges.  Pull out of the oven and sprinkle with a little apple cider vinegar (or not, it's good without it too, but I liked the idea of a not-too-sour sauerkraut flavor).

And here's a final photo of our "traditional" Irish meal:

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