Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Every year, my family has a traditional Irish dinner on St. Patrick’s day—cabbage, carrots, potatoes and corned beef.  Growing up, I was basically the pickiest kid ever.  I wouldn’t eat the corned beef (and now that I’m vegetarian, nothing has changed there) or the cabbage.  Depending on my mood, I might not even have eaten the carrots.

Over the years, my disdain for vegetables became a love of vegetables, and so right now I am stuffed to the brim with cabbage and carrots and potatoes.

And soda bread.

When I was younger, I tried making some tamed down soda bread (no caraway seeds).  It was somewhat disastrous, and I ended up with a really crunch shell surrounding a gooey, raw center.  This is probably why I have such a deep-seated anxiety about bread-making.  But somehow, miraculously, my soda bread turned out.

The instant I cut into it, I started freaking out because I thought it was still raw.  But no!  It’s fully cooked!  The crust is thick and crunchy, and the middle is so dense that just one slice was almost enough to fill me up.  And the caraway seeds?  Don’t even get me started.  I love the crisp, clean flavor of caraway seeds.

I’ve never had soda bread before, but this sure tasted fantastic.  My brother said that it tasted like the stuff he had in Chicago last year for St. Patrick’s Day, so I figure I must have done a pretty good job.

This bread was super fun (and easy) to make.  As everybody knows by now, usually I’m a lazypants and I’ll use a bread-machine instead of kneading it myself.  But this bread took ten minutes—tops—to throw together, and then it was in the oven.  Plus it let me feel like a little kid again because I mixed everything together with my hands and got reaaaaally messy.

Ingredients (from this recipe):

3 ½ cups flour

2 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional)

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups buttermilk (approximate)

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.  Lightly sprinkle flour on a baking sheet.
  2. Mix together flour, caraway seeds (if using), baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  Mix in enough buttermilk to form moist clumps.  I started with about 1 ¼ cups of the buttermilk, mixed it in as much as I could, and then added a bit more.
  3. Form dough into a ball, and turn onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until the dough holds together.  Form dough into a 6 inch diameter round, about 2 inches tall.  Place on baking sheet and cut an X into the top.
  4. Bake until bread is golden-brown and sounds hollow when thumped, about 35 minutes.

It’s fantastic with butter or even just plain.  Tomorrow I’ll probably try it with some jam—who knows, maybe caraway seeds and jam will be marvelous.

More to come soon, re: St. Patrick’s Day.  Chocolate Guinness cake, anyone?