Thursday, March 18, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Soda Bread

I made this soda bread yesterday, for St. Patrick's Day. The recipe was from the Silver Palate Cookbook, but I made some changes like reducing the sugar and making 2/3 of the total flour whole wheat (I think this bread can take a lot of playing around with different flours). The dough is very wet like a cornbread batter, so it's the easiest of all the three I made to mix. You bake this one in a skillet so you get wedges when you cut it. My version is below. It was an excellent breakfast bread, especially with the currants. It was also a little lighter than the other two, probably because it has baking powder and baking soda and two eggs. We ate it split in half, toasted under the broiler, with lots of butter. I'm not sure which one I like best...sometimes it's nice without currants, like the first two I did. Sometimes it's nice sweet, like the first and third. Don't forget the Kerrygold butter!
Before the recipe, I wanted to mention that I discussed St. Patrick's Day in my ESL conversation group with students from an Asian country and two former Soviet republics. I tried to find out if they had anything equivalent--a holiday that celebrates another country from which many immigrated to their country--but not surprisingly, they couldn't think of any. I did hear about some other interesting holidays from their countries, and about how old holidays promoted by the USSR have given way to new holidays celebrating the now independent republics' much older holidays. There are certainly many complicated reasons that we celebrate the holidays that we do.

"Grandma Clark's Soda Bread," modified
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used 1 cup graham flour and 1 cup white whole wheat)
1 cup white bread flour
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dried currants
1-3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, well beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Smear 1 tablespoon of butter around in a ten-inch cast iron skillet. Melt two tablespoons of butter separately and set aside. Mix dry ingredients together. Add currants to dry ingredients and toss to coat well. Whisk together buttermilk, eggs and melted butter. Add to the dry ingredients and mix just until blended. Do not overmix. Spoon batter into prepared skillet and smooth top with a spatula. Bake until golden brown and puffed, about 1 hour. Cool for ten minutes, remove from skillet, and cool completely on a rack. Cut into wedges to serve.

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