Tuesday, March 24, 2009

125. Irish Soda Bread (p. 601)

I used to think that I liked Irish Soda Bread. Every St. Patrick's Day, I'd pick up a loaf from the grocery store bakery, all wrapped up in plastic covered in cute little shamrocks and sometimes even tied with a little green ribbon. I'd slice thick pieces and slather them with butter and chew ... and chew ... and chew. Sure, it could be a little gluey and dense and ever so slightly soggy. But, nonetheless, I'd eat it every year because it's just what you do on St. Patrick's Day. That's right, I used to think that I liked Irish Soda Bread. But now that I've made this recipe, I know that I love it.

First I sifted together my dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking soda (right, soda bread Adam says slapping his hand on his forehead). I mixed in a little bit of sugar and some healthy helpings of caraway seeds and golden raisins. Finally, I stirred in some buttermilk until the dough was evenly moistened, but still lumpy. (Can I just tell you again how happy I am that I found powdered buttermilk? No more trying to figure out what to do with the rest of a quart of buttermilk. I really think that it's changed my life.)

Then I turned the dough out onto a floured surface, kneaded it a bit and divided it into two halves. This was a little tricky because the dough was very, very sticky. But, I managed to shape the dough into two six inch rounds on a buttered, floured baking sheet. I cut an X into the top of each loaf and brushed them generously with melted butter.

I baked the bread until it had a nice, golden crust. To test for doneness, I took The Book's advice and picked up each loaf, tapped on the bottom, listening for a "hollow" sound. Just like a drum!

The Book says that the bread is best when allowed to sit for a few hours before slicing. Really? I think that it's just a test to see if you have enough will power to look at these golden, fragrant loaves and not tear into them right away. But, I behaved, and let them sit for three hours (but not a moment longer) before eating the first slice. Awesome! The crust was crisp and buttery. And inside, it was substantial without being heavy. The little bit of sugar gave it just a hint of sweetness, as did the golden raisins. The carway seeds lent the bread a nice anise flavor and some textural interest.

I sliced up one of the loaves and brought it to work with me. I left it in the kitchen next to the coffee machine, and it was gone in a matter of minutes. The other loaf was all mine. The Book gives all sorts of great ideas for different ways to enjoy this bread: with bacon and eggs; with smoked salmon. I'll have to make this bread again just to try them, because the loaf I had never made it past the butter dish. I devoured it all before I could think of creative things to do with it. But, it's got me thinking ... how would this be as the basis for a corned beef sandwich. I'm intrigued, but I'll have to think about it.

One thing's for sure, this will be one of the recipes that The Book will just automatically open itself to years from now after being made many, many St. Patrick's Days in a row.

Date Cooked: March 15, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Yay! My italian mother makes a surprisingly good soda bread. It's more like cake. Yum :-)