Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

When the green-green grass of home appears in March, it's time to check that collection of time-tested family recipes fit for the season. That means soda bread. There are, it seems, as many as spirits in Ireland. (On purpose, the definition of spirits is up to you.)

Heat up your oven to 375 degrees. Here goes:

Irish Soda Bread (Two loaves)

6 cups all-purpose flour (3 white and 3 wheat here. Or 6 white if you prefer.)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups buttermilk

(For those who want an option, add a handful of raisins. They're not in the recipe proper for some 19th Century folks used the term "raisins" in a less-than-complimentary way.)

Add all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. If your mother said: "toss, buttermilk on the side" that works, too. Grab a wooden spoon, if not already in hand, pour all buttermilk into the large bowl, and stir. In no time you'll have a soft dough. Let it be rough at the edges. Tumble dough onto smooth surface, like a counter. Knead, counting thousand one, etc, until you reach sixty to one hundred. This kneading designed to make you feel like a baker, using flour-covered hands, and to evenly moisten dry ingredients with buttermilk.

Divide dough in half, round each portion, and, with hand, flatten top slightly.

Place each loaf on ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle flour on top. Not too much. And, oh my goodness, don't use this step as means to dust-off your hands. Pinch a wee dab of flour from the bag.

By the handle only, grab a sharp knife and make the sign of the Cross with slashes on the top of each loaf.

Allow the loaves to rest for ten minutes. This is the juncture in the recipe where the baker can take a wee nip for the hard part is over, if there's a timer at hand.

Bake in the 375 degree oven for forty (40) minutes. Best to use center rack position. Since ovens vary, the loaves are done when golden brown.

Cool on racks. Enjoy. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Novel, A Body To Bones by Author Donan Berg

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