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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Dear Folks,

My beef has been corning for 2 weeks, I bought the veggies to go into the crock pot today with the beef and I decided to do a little research on Irish Soda Bread.

As an American of Irish descent (and Polish and English) our family has always fully embraced being Irish and enjoying the holiday for all the hearty food traditions.

Several years ago I started corning my own beef to control the ingredients (I do not use pink salt/aka nitrates) and I wanted to choose different cuts of beef.  Click here for my post on the corning and then cooking recipes.

But I have never made the traditional Irish Soda Bread.  My sister was able to visit Ireland twice, and has made the bread in the past, and raved about the bread severed at the B&B's she stayed at - rustic, brown and hearty.

So to my research - the first recipes which turned up included raisins, sugar, butter, eggs and buttermilk.  Well that sounded like the breads I've bought in the past.  And then I happened on an article about what real Irish bread was.

In a nutshell the traditional Irish bread is one of their staffs of life, along with potatoes, meant to sustain the hard working Irish, and not a dainty served with dinner.

Flour, salt, baking soda (the leavening agent) and sour milk.

The sour milk is an important point.  Anyone who has done research on traditional milk learns that unpasteurized milk goes sour (clabber) - pasteurized milk goes bad.  It is about the natural bacteria present in wholesome fresh from the animal milk vs. processed.

Back in the 1980s a gentleman named Malachi McCormick wrote a book "Irish Country Cooking"and was interviewed around St. Patrick's Day about "Irish Soda Bread" and the buttermilk controversy.

Historically, buttermilk was not widely available in Irish households, he said. To get buttermilk, you had to have a churn, and not all homes did. But sour milk, milk that has curdled, "was a daily act of God" found in even the poorest households. Rather than toss this "spoiled" milk out, Irish cooks used it to make bread.

In talking to my sister she remembered the same article (or similar) and the REAL Irish Soda Bread - which by-the-way, was simply called "Brown Bread".

Today's buttermilk is actually not REAL either, which was the milk, whey and bits left over from churning.  Today's buttermilk is a cultured milk (certainly okay and good) but not the real deal.

So armed, with a reliable recipe from Epicurious  I tweaked the recipe to revert back to the basic Irish concept (whole wheat flour - but I used a white 100% whole wheat flour - not as dark as traditional 100% whole wheat), not caraway seeds (usually another American version), and then I wanted to come up with something to replace the sour milk, and I did not want to do the lemon juice/vinegar in milk routine.

I always have organic yogurt on hand, so I decided to stir in 1/2 cup of organic Greek style yogurt into 1 cup of whole milk.

BINGO!!  I got the most wonderful bread, real bread texture, solid crust and delicious too, spread with organic butter.

This may be our regular bread from now on.  For a number of years I have been working with variations of bread I do not have knead (my hands are simply not up to it).  The texture on this bread is more bread like than the recipes I've created before.

Catherine O'Crowley's Irish Bread

3 1/2 cups unbleached white whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur's)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup organic Greek Style Yogurt
1 cup whole milk
Flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 425.  Lightly flour your baking sheet.

Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a bowl.  Stir yogurt and milk to combine.
Create a well in the center of the flour mix and start adding the yogurt / milk mix stirring with a wooden spoon.  Continue adding all the liquid and combine until the dough holds together.  You may need to use your hands to get the last bit of dry melded into the dough.

Shape the dough into a 6-8 inch circle, place on baking sheet and flatten to about 2 inches high.  Use a knife to score a deep X almost all the way to the sides.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve with good butter, honey, molasses or jam.

Note:  the extra flour on the pan toasted and I reserved in a jar in the freezer for making gravies later on.

I know I can easily add herbs or cheese even raisins to loaves in the future!

I hope you have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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