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Location: Petaluma, California, United States

Jacqueline is an international award winning journalist whose stories about food never fail to tantalize her reader's taste buds.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

The fragrance of baking bread roused me from my sleep.  I quickly showered, dressed and hurried into the dining room of the Waterford Castle where I was greeted with large round loves just baked Irish Soda Bread. What a heavenly scent.  I cut off a hunk from one of the loaves, slathered it with Irish butter and then added a dollop of wild berry jam.  Oh my!  It was delicious.
I was touring around the southeast part of Ireland, tasting as I went along.  The fresh fish were divine, the potato dishes, like Champ, were excellent and the dairy products made with the milk from cow's who dined on the 40 shades of green grass, wild flowers and herbs, was rich and creamy, but that soda bread was by far my favorite.
When I returned to San Francisco I couldn't get Soda Bread out of my mind so I did some research and found a fast and easy recipe for the bread.  I couldn't resist baking a loaf.  Sure enough, the wonderful fragrance of baking bread filled my apartment, snuck under the door and spread itself down the hall.  When the bread was done and cool enough to handle, I cut off a piece, slathered it with Irish butter (I found some Kerry Gold imported from Ireland at my local gourmet shop) and added a smear of my homemade apricot jam.  Ahhhh!  It was lovely.


 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
 2 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional)
 3 tablespoons golden raisins (optional)
 1 teaspoon baking-soda
 3/4 teaspoon salt
 1 1/2 cups (about) buttermilk


 Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly flour baking sheet. Mix flour, caraway seeds and/or raisins, if using, baking soda and salt in large bowl.

Mix in enough buttermilk to form moist clumps.

Gather dough into ball. Turn out onto lightly flour surfaced and knead gently just until dough holds together, about 1 minute. Shape dough into 6-inch-diameter by 2-inch-high round.

Place on greased baking sheet. Cut 1-inch-deep cross on top of bread, extending almost to edges. Bake until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 35 minutes.

Transfer bread to rack and cool completely, if you can wait that long before cutting into it.

Rory O'Connell, (chef and cooking teacher at Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, East Cork, Ireland), explains that the purpose of cutting a cross on top of the bread is scientific, primarily, because it allows the heat to penetrate into the thickest part of the bread, so it assists cooking. And obviously the cross is a cruciform shape, so in a Catholic country that had a resonance—it had the symbolic note of crossing the breads and giving thanks. There was also the expression "to let the devil out of the bread," so it was slightly superstitious. And if you make that cruciform shape on the bread, when it comes out of the oven it breaks beautifully. So you've got the blessing of the bread by putting the cross on it and then you've got the symbolic breaking of the bread.


Blogger Georgene said...

Just in time! This will go well with the wild chanterelle soup made with mushrooms my nephew has collected in the Berkeley hills.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I was making the traditional cornbeef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day and missing a good recipe for Irish Soda Bread. There was Jacqueline to the rescue! As a novice when it comes to bread making, I was rather intimidated and fully expecting this to be a disaster. Just the opposite! It was very easy and the results were as wonderful as Jacqueline described.

6:18 PM  

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