Don’t you just love to be vindicated in your rightness? The issue was Irish Soda Bread vs. Cardboard. Since ISB is this week’s Tuesday with Dorie Baking with Julia recipe choice, I stood firmly (and, alone) in the beleaguered bread’s corner. My family crowded themselves into the opposite one. Now, look below at my first photo, snapped as I pulled the ISB loaf out of the oven. Add butter and preserves. Is there any question who carried the day?
Moral of the Story: Never bet against Dorie, Julia, and the Lady of this House (me).
ISB is just four ingredients. Most important is the non-perishable bicarbonate of soda (ie bread soda), developed and introduced in Ireland in the early 1800s. Since most Irish families had no ovens, this meant they could make bread in a bastible (lidded, cast-iron pot), laid onto the turf fire. With buttermilk from Bossy the Cow, wheat from their fields for the flour, and salt, an Irish family, for the first time, could make good bread very cheaply every day.
It’s easy to put together the dough which is sticky, soft and malleable. It’s more difficult to turn the dough onto the lightly floured work surface and NOT knead it to death. Think: one minute, knead gently. Ça suffit.
Continuing in the gentleness-mode, pat the dough into a 6-inch disk and slide onto a greased pan or baking sheet. Slash a 1/2-inch deep “X” across the top. The reason for the slash? Take your pick: a religious symbol; to let the fairies escape; to let the devil out; or, to more easily expand and divide into four quarters. As for me, I’m going with the fairy theory.
Three-hundred–fifty degrees and fifty minutes later, the bread was golden brown, the “X” had expanded, and the fairies had flown. Here is when I totally broke the rules. Although Dorie suggests we allow the bread to cool , I decided bragging rights were far more important. Not a crumble was lost in the slicing. Breakfast was glorious. I tried not to gloat.
Here, I think, is the reason ISB gets such a bad rap. Because there is so little fat in this bread, it turns, Dorie explains, “as hard as the Blarney Stone” by the end of the day. For this reason, I wrapped up the remaining 1/2 loaf, grabbed a slicing knife, butter and preserves and dashed to my nearby beauty shop. It was St. Patrick’s Day, after all. I saw there was enough bread to share with all six beauticians and their clients before disappearing into a room with Christine for my own manicure.
What followed, that next hour, was a steady stream of visitors, all throwing accolades and food memories my way. One gal, eyes a-puddle, stepped into the room. “I am channeling my Mother and all the years I spent with her in the kitchen making Irish Soda Bread,” she said. “She has been gone three years but I remember her making it every St. Patrick’s Day. Back East, we’re all Irish, we even have two Irish cops in the family.”
When I asked how mine differed from her mother’s, she replied, as she started to leave the room. “There’s no difference. It’s identical, even the aroma. That’s why I’’m leaving right now…….to cry.”
All in all, it was the perfect bread for the perfect day.
All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his. Oscar Wilde, an Irishman
To see other Tuesday with Dorie Baking with Julia chefs, go to http://tuesdayswithdorie.wordpress.com/. To see the ISB recipe posted by our TWD Hosts Cathy and Carla, go to their terrific web sites: http://myculinarymission.blogspot.com/ and http://chocolatemoosey.blogspot.com/.