Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Ethnic Diva: Emerald Isle Edition ...

... one day late. I had grand plans for St. Patrick's Day here on Beach Eats, but circumstances being what they were, I'm one day late. No matter, really, I'm Irish every day of the year and its never too late to strut my heritage and bake up a loaf of soda bread. The boxty will have to wait until next year. Stay tuned.

While the raisin bedecked white soda bread may be more common here in the US, that's not what comes to mind when I think of Irish bread. The hearty brown stuff is the bread I fancy. It captured my attention on my first trip to Ireland, back in 1977, and I've never looked back. My family and I arrived in Ireland more than a little green around the gills from the over-night flight on that day long ago. Sensing our collective malaise, our gracious hostess at the B&B quickly healed all ills by serving us gallons of dark, hot tea and the most luscious brown bread imaginable. I'm convinced that bread had magical properties and it has been my favorite Irish delicacy - no, that's not an oxymoron - ever since. I'm happy to present my version of it here for you today.

Brown Soda Bread:
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 and 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 stick of cold, unsalted, butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. pure honey
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, wheat germ, white flour, salt, sugar, cream of tartar and baking soda. Mix well with a wire whisk until well combined. Add the butter and using your hands, or a pastry cutter, blend until the mixture forms a coarse meal. (I like to use my hands and rub the butter and flour together between them until the mealy texture is achieved.) Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the buttermilk and honey. Stir with a wooden spoon until all of the buttermilk has been incorporated and a stiff dough begins to form.

Turn the mixture out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently until smooth, roughly 2 to 3 minutes or so, adding a bit more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Transfer the dough to a buttered, 9 inch, cake pan, pressing down and flattening the dough slightly to fill the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut a large X across the top of the dough. (As seen below.) Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until the loaf has browned and middle of the X no longer looks wet. The fully baked loaf will sound hollow when the bottom is tapped. (Mine baked for @ 42 minutes.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and continue cooling the loaf on a wire rack.

Slice and serve immediately, slathered with good, fresh butter. As written this recipe will yield one, 9 inch round loaf ... and it won't last long. I just dare you to keep your hands off it!

So, how did you celebrate St. Paddy's Day? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!

On Edit: Careful viewers will note that this bread is not in a cake pan ... my cake pans seem to have disappeared. Curious that. I threw it into a glass pie dish and it baked off just fine. :)


Tracy said...

Happy St. Paddy's Day to you, Diva! Glad to have you back. This bread looks so great! I, too, am of Irish descent and I would love to enjoy this bread with some fresh Irish butter and a hot cup of Bewley's Irish Breakfast tea.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Belated Happy St. Pat's to you too, Tracy! Have you been to Bewley's in Dublin? I had tea and some marvelous pastries there years ago. So yummy! You're right, this bread is just begging for some KerryGold and a hot cuppa.

Tracy said...

Yes, I was in Dublin for New Year's of 2001 and I ate breakfast at Bewley's on Grafton Street nearly every day of my 8 day visit. I loved it. I even "smuggled" back a stash of tea so that I could keep enjoying it once I returned home ;)

Missy said...

The soda bread looks great! I have never tried it before!! I am not Irish but I went to a bar and drank some green beverages :)

The Blonde Duck said...

This looks fabulous! I love how it's healthier looking than regular soda bread!

Anonymous said...

Yes another healthy recipe from you again. It's so appreciated. And it's a great reminder that you can eat so many things and still stay mindful of what you put in the recipe.

words words words said...

I love me some soda bread! With soft butter...mmm. My other food delight in Ireland (which despite rumors to the contrary is still pretty uninspiring on the food front) was scones. From the examples I'd had here in the US of A I had no idea that they were supposed to be soft and that they actually tasted good!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Tracy - have you checked to see if Fairway or Zabar's carries the Bewley's tea? I really like Barry's Irish Tea and Fairway does carry it. Not sure how it stacks up to Bewley's but I can't live without it!

Missy - Cheers! Everyone is Irish on March 17th! ;)

Blonde Duck - thanks! I was raised on the more traditional variety ... my grandma Mary makes the best Irish bread in town ... don't tell her but I really prefer the brown stuff. ;)

Duo - I think I've reduced the white flour as much as possible here. I would hesitate to go all whole wheat as the texture may not be right. Still healthy though and I love the wheat germ. Everything in moderation! :)

WWW - yes, with good, soft butter ... heaven! Actually, I had some pretty spectacular meals the last two times I was in Ireland. They're coming along, foodwise, and anything is better than what we ate there in the 1970's. Shudder!

You're so right about the scones ... I rarely eat them here because they're just not right.

doggybloggy said...

that looks good, cake pan or not....I am a budding baker and you make this look do-able

The Diva on a Diet said...

doggybloggy - its definitely do-able! Honestly, soda bread is probably the easiest bread of all to master. No yeast or rising needed, its a no-fail proposition. Give it a try, I think you'll like it - and let me know if you have any questions. Love that you're a budding baker!

Tangled Noodle said...

Diva, you're divine! I fell in love with brown bread during our Ireland trip, too; I would even pass up the complete Irish breakfast in favor of this manna with Kerrygold butter. This is the perfect recipe, combining brown and soda breads. Many, many thanks!!

Juliet said...

Welcome back and happy belated St. Patricks day. Bread looks fabulous. For St. Patricks day I worked (the usual) and had dinner with some friends. Luckily, nobody pinched me. :)

Sass said...

I love how you make each recipe seem so easy...

I actually think I'm going to try this soon. ;)

pixelgal said...

I can't wait to try this recipe since my other one was such a flop. I'll bet it's good with the wheat germ. WWW should try the Irish cuisine now that they've gone upscale (it's almost too bad). The 'chips' can still be found but not much of the boiled potatoes and cabbage. For my corned beef dinner I made the white kind with the raisins for bread. It tasted good but this is healthier. Thanks, kiddo!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Tangled Noodle - you are most welcome! I think you'll really like this bread - its tender and hearty at the same time. Yum!

Juliet - so funny about the pinching ... someone pinched my husband on Tuesday because he wasn't wearing green! LOL

Sass - yes, try it! And let me know if you do. Its really very quick to prepare and sooo good when hot out of the oven.

pixelgal - not sure what went wrong with your first loaf of brown bread ... but this recipe is pretty much no-fail. Its so good I always wonder why I only make it once a year?! Hope your belated dinner festivities went well last night! :)

aoife mc said...

Just perusing through your archives - that bread looks perfect! You've done your heritage proud :)

I've never made brown bread actually but have been threatening to for the last year or two. My granny's is out of this world. She's going to be 90 this year and still when we go to visit she has a few buns baked and always has a fresh batch of her brown bread for us to munch. I'll be using her recipe when I get round to cooking it - soon!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Aoife - thanks so much! I must say it was heavenly. Incredibly moist and tender. How lovely about your gran, she sounds like mine ... she's 98 and still baking up the traditional soda bread as well. (She's from Mayo.)

Actually, she's the reason I never make the white soda bread ... hers is too good and I can't compete!

I hope you'll post your gran's recipe when you get round to baking it. I'd love to compare notes!