March is winging by and bringing spring with it. We had a relatively mild winter, so I won’t complain, but still glad to see warm days, birds returning and crocus popping up. I’m hoping house hunting will also pick up. You know it’s slim pickings when your real estate agent calls to apologize there’s not more to offer.
Despite still having to cook in the postage stamp kitchen, I decided to try something new. I did some research on Irish Soda Bread. I never tried any before, because it always looks dry and then there are those pesky raisins. Raisins only belong in bread if there is a large helping of cinnamon/sugar swirl joining them. At least in my kitchen. But when I went looking for recipes, turns out that the raisin/caraway seed concoction is a strictly American invention.
I did find one that seemed to be more authentic and that’s what I went to bake. Before we get to the recipe, let me say this, I’m not sure this is one I would make again. I think I would rather just bake a nice batch of biscuits. But if you need something to get you through a long, cold winter night, I guess I can see the appeal. Cheap enough to make, heavy enough to fend off starvation. Or as a friend quipped, “Heavy enough to be a weapon if you throw it.”
So why include it tonight? Because you should be unafraid in the kitchen. If a recipe fails or isn’t to your liking, all you’ve done is waste a few ingredients. But if you never try anything new, how will you ever discover that new family favorite? And besides, someone might like this one, even though I didn’t.
I think failure is just part of cooking. I’ve burnt the main course with guests waiting, forgot to add leavening to one cake, added too much leavening to another and my first attempt at corned beef turned out more like beef jerky. One time a friend and I almost set her house on fire trying to grill chicken. How about you, what’s your biggest kitchen disaster? Besides potentially drying out the corned beef, what’s on the menu for the weekend?
For tonight, how about I start out with some recipes that did work:
A bunch of different ways to make Corned Beef and Cabbage can be found here.
JeffreyW makes Guinness Irish Stew (pictured above), photos and recipe here.
Really good Biscuits to go with that stew can be found here.
For the pet lovers, I have three fun things for you: JeffreyW introduces us to the newest nursing home resident (scroll down), Zander poses pretty for me and finally a Bixby update where we tackle the troublesome teens (his look in the top photo is really all you need to know).
The featured recipe tonight is a more traditional Irish Soda Bread. This is a rustic loaf and can be baked in a loaf pan or as a rounded loaf in a cast iron skillet. The key is not to handle the dough a lot, once it forms into a ball, place it in the pan, cut a 1-inch deep X in the top (I did several) and bake. The more it’s handled, the tougher it becomes.
Irish Soda Bread
- 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour
- 4 tbsp toasted wheat germ
- 3 tbsp old-fashioned oats
- 2 tbsp (packed) dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 8 tbsp buttermilk powder*
- 2 tbsp chilled butter, cut into pieces
- 2 cups water (add 1/2 cup at a time, using only what is needed)
loaf pan (I used mini pans), well buttered
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
Whisk together the first 8 ingredients. Add butter and crumble together by hand until all the butter is incorporated. Add water in a bit at a time until it forms a soft dough that holds together. Mine took the full 2 cups. You can smooth it and then add to the loaf pan. I left mine a bit more rustic because I was afraid of over-handling it.
Cut 1-inch deep Xs in the top. This makes sure the dense dough cooks through. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until a wooden skewer comes out clean.
This is a very moist, if heavy, loaf because of the buttermilk. You can do an all “white” loaf if desired, just substitute all-purpose flour for the whole wheat. I’d leave in the oats and wheat germ for added flavor.
*why buttermilk powder instead of buttermilk? – because you can keep it on hand and it doesn’t go bad (keep in the refrigerator). You can also make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of milk.
That’s it for this week. Probably try for something very spring-like next week. Until then – TaMara