Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Versatility of Irish Soda Bread

Quick breads which are comprised of batter leavened with baking powder/soda are the ones I made early on in my continuing love affair with a hot oven. The yeasted glories came later. Cornbread, muffins, and griddle cakes, all boasting a hefty dose of levure chimique, topped my list way back then. One day a spunky upstart invaded the kitchen in the form of Irish Soda Bread.

Its fragrant crustiness made bumpy by raisins and caraway seeds along with its humility as it was neither too airy nor too rich won my heart...

...though this spartan aspect does not preclude slathering a wedge with sweet butter.

Or merrily drizzling a lemon glaze*. Or dusting a fine veil of icing sugar. Or filling a split wedge. With what you might ask? How about cream cheese, perhaps lemon curd? And the best tuna salad sandwich I ever had, was made with, you guess it, Irish Soda Bread.

The addition of caraway helps this bread straddle the line between sweet and savoury

makes 6 good-sized wedges
recipe adapted from my culinary bible, Fannie Farmer
  • Flour, plain, white, 16 fluid ounces/280 grams
  • Baking powder, 4 tsp
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp
  • Sugar, 1 T
  • Butter, sweet, 3 T, cut into small pieces
  • Milk, 5 1/3 fluid ounces/1 1/2 dL
  • Raisins, 4 fluid ounces/1dL
  • Caraway seeds, 1 T

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C. Butter a 9 inch/23 cm round pan. Put the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Using your fingers, work the butter into the mixture until it resembles coarse meal which takes just a few minutes.

Stir the milk in all at once to get a lumpy, moist mass. Add the raisins and caraway seeds, blending just enough to distribute them evenly, or as evenly as you can!

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about twenty times to get a fairly smooth, cohesive ball.

Place the dough in the center of the pan and press it to the sides. There shouldn't be any very thin spots, but in general the lumpy shape of the bread is one of its charms. Pop in the oven for about twenty minutes until a golden brown, and when its center springs back just a little when pressed. Cut into wedges of the size desired.

I would be the last one in the world to advise against the butter-melting indulgence of eating it hot from the oven, but when cooler or cool, the crumb is more conducive to making sandwiches. In any case, the raisins and caraway seeds along with an exceedingly tasty crust do a stand-up job of focusing your taste buds.

In the potager, the fall harvest is finally over. The Calm One and I have been conversing for the last month thusly:
Me (huffing and puffing up the sous sol stairs lugging a basket of just picked late-season tomatoes): Okay, these are the last!
Him:  You said that the last time.
Me:  Yes, you are right. Perhaps these are not the last.

I hate when an unusually long growing season makes a liar out of me, especially since we both look forward to topping The Calm One's macaroni and cheese with our tomatoes, sprinkling with even more cheese, then broiling the dish until they become saucy and the cheese bubbly.

The green stuff is chiffonade of basil

As there are no tomatoes whatsoever on the vines, red or green, I can say with certainty, these are the last! Whether or not they all will turn red is another story. So begins the impatient wait for next season's bounty as we do without fresh ones until then.

On the right is a jar of bay leaf cuttings waiting for their eventual potting up

À la prochaine!

*To make a fluid lemon glaze, add lemon juice to confectioner's sugar until you get the desired consistency. For extra punch, stir in some lemon zest.


How to make lemon curd
How to make griddle cakes
Drying bay leaves for culinary use and potting up cuttings


Joe Pastry discussing 'the continental divide', that is, the use of different leavening agents in America and Europe.