Archive for March, 2010

A Touch of Green

March 15, 2010

The girls are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a touch of green—grass that is!

Yes, the snow has finally melted enough that the chicks are able to leave the pathway and explore the yard. They are so excited! They rush out first thing in the morning, tripping over their morning treat bowl without a backwards glance. Leftover bits of food have no interest for them anymore when there are blades of grass, moist dirt and bugs to devour. Spring is in the air.

I’m celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a loaf of warm-from-the-oven Irish Soda Bread. You must try it, it’s the best soda bread you’ll ever taste. Filled with currants plumped in tea for sweetness, a touch of whole wheat flour for nuttiness and buttermilk for tenderness, the best part is, it’s quick to make. Simply stir and bake and it’s ready to slather with Irish butter in less than an hour.

Irish Soda Bread
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This recipe is by my friend Patsy Jamieson, the former food editor of Eating Well.  It was originally published in Cooking Pleasures magazine and has become a tradition at our house this time of the year.

½ cup dried currants or raisins
½ cup hot black tea
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Heat the oven to 425ºF. Spray a pie pan with cooking spray. Place the currants in a small bowl and pour enough hot tea over them to cover.

Let stand 15 minutes to plump. Drain currants, pressing out excess moisture; discard tea. Crush the caraway seeds with a mortar and pestle or heavy saucepan to release their anise-like fragrance.

Whisk the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the currants and caraway seeds. Whisk the buttermilk, brown sugar and butter together in a glass measuring cup. Pour into the flour mixture and stir with a fork until all the ingredients are moistened.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface several times, form into a ball and place in the pie pan. Press the dough slightly to a height of 1 1/2 inches. Dust the top lightly with flour. Make a small 1/2-inch deep crisscross slash in the dough with a serrated knife.

Although the slash helps the bread expand and bake evenly, legend has it that the slash allows the fairies, or according to some sources the devil, to escape.

Bake 30 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown, sounds hollow when tapped and a skewer inserted in the bottom comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 1 loaf, about 12 slices