thesolitarycook made friends all over the world yesterday. She was hot in Ireland. Definitely warm in the UK, a bit tepid in France, and one soul each in Germany and Australia stuck a respective toe in the water. It isn’t called www for nothing.
Early in the day, via Twitter I came across an interview that “native Galway girl” Móna Wise (http://www.wisewords.ie/ I write, He cooks, The kids make a huge mess) had done with Shiela Kiely who has just published a book entitled Gimme the Recipe. Their conversation begins with Sheila explaining, “Gimme the Recipe is a book written for every day ordinary busy people like me. It’s written for the type of person who ends up in the aisles of the supermarket surrounded by food but without a clue what to cook for dinner. It’s divided into three sections: ‘What’s for Dinner Mom?’, ‘Baking Day’, and ‘Dinner Party’. ” The interview is so friendly, and smart, and generous that I was hooked.
Naturally, I had to visit Sheila’s blog, http://gimmetherecipe.com/, which is every bit as lovely as her book promises to be. From those two, somehow, I can’t entirely remember how, I found my way to Nessa Robbins’s Nessa’s Family Kitchen (gorgeous photography here), and from there to Scotswoman Kellie Anderson’s food to glow (her Lemony Broccoli, Leek, and Tarragon Soup gushes goodness from its very name). All along the way, I dropped crumbs of “so happy I found you” and lots of “follows.” Please promise me that you will take some time and wander through all of these lovely, wise, delicious blogs. And make some new friends.
I mentioned during the journey that I was working on a variation on Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day, and asked if I could send along the recipe for some evaluation by people who I trust to know their way around the subject. Here it is, ladies.
NOUVEAU IRISH SODA BREAD
Makes 1 loaf
I use a blend of all-purpose flour and cake flour in an effort to mimic the soft, low-protein flour grown in Ireland. I added a small amount of mashed potatoes for further tenderness and some good moistness, along with the tender parts of celery for its gentle texture and deeper cooked flavor, and scallions for their deep green and bright flavor.
And about the slashing of the top: “Most soda bread recipes call for an “X” slashed into the top before baking. According to http://www.kitchenproject.com, there are several explanations for this. It may honor the Christian symbol of the cross, or it may be the baker’s way of “letting the devil out” during baking. Most likely, it’s simply a technique for making it easy to divide the bread into four pieces.” To be honest, I’d never thought of it in any of these contexts. In culinary school, I was so thoroughly inculcated with the fact that bread must be slashed in order to direct the direction in which the baker wants it to expand as it rises because expand it will. I’m very happy to have the blinders lifted.
A note on the beer. Do use a good Irish-style lager. It’s going to have a bright quality to both its flavor and color. I used one made by one of my favorite breweries in the beautiful mountain town of Red Lodge, about an hour’s drive from where I live. Fortunately, all the local grocery stores also carry it.
4 fingerling potatoes, about the size of (please don’t take this the wrong way) your middle finger – enough to yield about 1/2 cup mashed
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine-grained sea or kosher salt
1 cup celery and leaves from the tender inner stalks, 1/4″ dice
1/3 cup scallions, green & white parts, 1/4″ dice
4 ounces Greek yogurt (with apologies to the Irish ladies! I make my own and I love it)
4 ounces good Irish-style lager beer
1 tablespoon honey
Additional flour for dusting work surface
- Cut potatoes into 1″ pieces and place in a saucepan with cold water to cover and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, and cook until quite tender, about 15 minutes. Drain using the pan lid to hold back the potatoes, and add butter to the pan. Mash in the pan with a hand masher.
- While potatoes are cooking, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Sift the all-purpose and cake flours, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl. Press any remaining lumps through with your fingers.
- Add the mashed potatoes, celery, scallions, yogurt, beer, and honey. Stir to blend with a spatula or a wooden spoon just until all dry ingredients are moistened.
- Scatter about a half cup of all-purpose flour on your work surface. Use a plastic scraper to pull the dough out of the bowl. You’re not going to knead it as much as you’re going to bring it together into a ball (flour your palms too) and gently toss it in the flour to coat it. When it has a nice round shape, set it on a baking sheet lined with parchment (or dusted with flour). Use a serrated knife to carve either an X or a cross – tomato, tomahto – about 2 inches long in the center of the top.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until surface is deeply browned and you can tap on the more tender center of the X/cross and it feels bouncy, not soft or wet.
- While the bread is baking, clean up your work area.
- When bread is done, remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing.