You asked for it…Moist and Flavorful Irish Soda Bread!

Ok, I’m not Irish.  As a matter of fact, I consider myself to be a “mutt” although my husband says that I am Italian by marriage.  So suffice it to say that the only reason I ever even thought to make Irish Soda Bread was for our bakery customers who request it for the St. Patrick’s Day holiday.

Over the years I have tried several traditional Irish Soda Bread recipes and most have turned out as expected.  Honestly, I find this type of bread to be on the dry side  and overall unappealing; this coming from a total “bread head”.  This year I decided to continue my quest to find an Irish Soda Bread recipe that was moist and flavorful.  After researching and reading numerous reviews, I decided to try several and came up with a real winner with the recipe I found on allrecipes.com.

This Irish Soda Bread was a breeze to make and is a recipe that I will continue to bake year round.  Both moist and full of flavor, this bread would be a perfect accompaniment to breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.   I made two varieties this week, plain and whiskey soaked raisin studded.  I’ll also experiment with the recipe to see if I can replicate it in a Gluten Free variety.

Note, if you don’t have buttermilk handy you can simply make your own by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of milk.  Allow this mixture to sit for 5 minutes before using.  Making your own buttermilk is also less expensive than buying buttermilk in the store.  I guarantee that you’re not going to be disappointed with this Irish Soda Bread recipe.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, lightly beatenMoist and Flavorful Irish Soda Bread
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda. Blend egg and buttermilk together, and add all at once to the flour mixture. Mix just until moistened. Stir in butter. Pour into prepared pan.
  2. Bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the bread comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Wrap in foil for several hours, or overnight, for best flavor.
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What to Whip Up for St. Patrick’s Day?

I can’t believe that March is almost here and that means “Saint Patrick’s Day” is right around the corner. Last year we learned the fine art of baking Irish Soda Bread and offered Chocolate Stout Cupcake with Irish Cream Buttercream and Mad Vanilla Cupcakes stuffed with Stout Orange Curd.  What uniquely different dessert  are we going to whip up this year?

I think most people think about desserts that surround Irish Cream Liqueur for St. Patty’s Day and it’s a no wonder.  Did you know that this delicious concoction was created by a guy named Joe Sheridan in 1943 at Foynes flying boat base’s at Shannon Airport.  It all happened when a crowd of tired, thirsty and cold passengers wondered in and Joe served them up some hot coffee laced with sugar, Irish whiskey and a generous amount of Irish double cream.  More than 60 years later, this liqueur is now served world wide.

In addition to using some of Joe’s creation in our desserts, I think we’ll also try some other unusual offerings as well.  How does Chocolate Potato Cake and Donegal Oatmeal Cream sound?  In addition to Irish Soda Bread maybe we’ll also bake some Sweet Seed Cake.  I can’t wait to get started.  The best of the best we’ll post in a later blog, but in the meantime I’m sharing a recipe for homemade Irish Cream Liqueur that is fool proof and far less expensive to make than what you find in the liquor stores.

Irish Cream Whiskey Liqueur

1 3/4 c. your favorite liquor (Irish Whiskey, brandy, rum, bourbon, scotch, or rye whiskey)

1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

1 c. whipping or light cream

4 eggs

Day 256/365 - 13 Sept - Irish Cream

Day 256/365 - 13 Sept - Irish Cream (Photo credit: anshu_si)

2 tbsp. chocolate flavored syrup

2 tsp. instant coffee

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. almond extract

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Serve over ice, with club soda or in your favorite dessert recipes. Store tightly covered in refrigerator up to one month. Stir before serving.

Italian Easter Pie…Oh My!

Right after graduating from college, I had the privilege to work with a wonderful Italian woman named Jean.  She was a fabulous cook and her specialties included, of course, traditional Italian dishes.  It was Jean who turned me onto the tradition of the Italian Easter Pie!

Now, I am married to a wonderful Sicilian man whose mother was one of the best cooks on the planet, but the Italian Easter Pie, thanks to Jean, was a recipe that I was able to introduce to them.  In fact, in contains all of their “favorite ingredients”, but what is the history behind it?

Since Easter is preceded by Lent, which is a time of fasting, particularly from meat on Fridays, Easter Sunday is a time to celebrate and indulge.  For Italians, the celebration includes the rich, cheesy, quiche-like Italian Easter pie filled with eggs, cheese and Italian meats.  Depending on the region, Easter Pie has many different names and recipes.  In Naples they call it “pastiera” and it is made with ricotta and whole grains to symbolize rebirth.

Sicilians make it with macaroni, pork, cheese and eggs.  Calabrians prefer ham, sausage, hard cooked eggs, mozzarella and ricotta.  “Pasqualina” as they call it in Liguria contains spinach, ricotta, cheese and eggs.  From Umbria to Marches, the pie is really more of a bread.

No matter what you call it, where and when you eat it or the combination of ingredients you choose to fold into it, Italian Easter Pie is a delicious addition to any brunch, lunch or holiday celebration.

RECIPE

For the crust:

• 2 cups all purpose flour
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• 2 sticks butter
• 2 eggs

For the filling:

• 6 eggs
• salt and pepper to taste
• 8 oz. ricotta cheese
• 2 oz. shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese
• 3 oz. diced  ham, I prefer capicola
• 3 oz. diced salami, I prefer sorpresssata
• 3 oz. diced pepperoni

Directions
To make the crust, mix the flour and salt and place it in the bowl of a food processor.   Cut the butter into cubes and add them one at a time to the dough.  Pulse the food processor just enough to work in the butter into the consistency of a coarse meal.  Add the eggs and pulse the dough until it comes together in a ball.  Cut the dough in half so that one half is a little bigger than the other.  The smaller half will be the top crust. Wrap each in plastic wrap and rest the dough for an hour in the fridge.

For the filling, beat the eggs with the salt and pepper.  Then blend the cheese into the eggs. Dice or  julienne the meat, or put it in the food processor for a finer textured pie and add this to the egg/cheese mixture.  I usually add 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Roll out the larger piece of dough on a floured board until it will fill a 9-inch pie shell. Add the filling. Then roll out the smaller piece of dough until it will cover the top.  Crimp it around the edge to seal it.  Brush with a beaten egg wash and  poke some holes or slits in the top crust to allow the steam to vent.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Pinch me…I’m not Irish, but I love Soda Bread!

Soda breads are a variety of quick bread and are appropriately named since “bread soda”, otherwise known as baking soda, is used as a raising agent rather than yeast.   The ingredients of traditional soda bread are flourbread sodasalt, and buttermilk.  Although, you can get really creative  here and include raisins, seeds, nuts, savory herbs, even oats.  The buttermilk in the dough contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. * I have seen some recipes that replace the buttermilk with live yogurt or even stout.  I wanted to go the traditional route and didn’t have buttermilk on hand, so I made my own by simply adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or you can use lemon juice per one cup of milk.

You can form the bread loaf into the “traditional” round or flatten it and cook it on a griddle for the “griddle cake” form. Whichever shape your Irish Soda Bread takes it is important to resist the urge to over knead this dough.  Only work it long enough to incorporate the ingredients.  This brings me to the best thing about soda breads and is one of the reasons that they began to appear in the mid-19th century in Europe.  Soda breads are easy and inexpensive to make and they are delicious!  Of course the beginning of the 19th century was also when bicarbonate of soda first became available for use.

There are several stories about the significance of the cross made in the middle of the Irish Soda Bread loaf.  Some say that it is the “sign of the cross” and wards off evil spirits.  Others, that the cut in the top of this loaf assists the cooking process by allowing air circulation which in turn helps the loaf rise better.  Most admit that the  cut is an easy guideline for serving even slices.  What I am certain of is that this bread won’t last long on the dinner table.  It’s fabulous, particularly served warm slathered in butter.

The following recipe makes 2 loafs

7 cups unbleached, unbromated flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1-1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

3 cups buttermilk

Sift to combine the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Making a well in the center, add the buttermilk and stir to form dough.  Turn out onto a floured surface and gently knead just enough to incorporate the ingredients. Form into a log and divide in half to form 2 round loafs.  Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cut a 1″ deep cross into the top of each loaf and bake for 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Enjoy!