Soda Bread

My grad school applications are . . . DONE. D-O-N-E. Read my lips: DONE. And I even still have almost a week of break to relax. (Enter a mini celebratory dance here.)

My celebration? A dinner mom and I found in an Irish cookbook called The Country Cooking of Ireland, by Colman Andrews. We found it at the library (I love libraries for cookbooks), found recipes, saved them and waited to make it when we weren't quite so busy. Summer turned to fall, fall turned to winter, and winter turned to now. It's only, what?, six months later? Points for trying?
Anyway, we chose a pork rib Irish stew, carrot and parsnip mash and brown soda bread. It took a lot longer than dinner usually does, but it wasn't hard. It was fun cooking with mom, too. I am also a new convert to Irish soda bread. I LOVE it. I don't know if I've had it before, but if I did, I don't know why I didn't remember it.

Anyway, I was intimidated by the recipe simply because it called for five cups of flour, but when I bit into it I saw why. It's so dense and chewy . . . yummmmmmm.

Brown Soda Bread
from The Country Cooking of Ireland, Colman Andrews

Butter for greasing
4 cups wheat flour (he calls for Irish style . . . I just used plain old whole wheat flour)
1 cup white flour (again, preferably Irish -- I used plain flour), plus some for dusting
1/2 cup steel cut oatmeal, oat bran (or old fashioned oats)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 to 4 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet (or pizza pan) and set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and gradually pour in the buttermilk in small doses, stirring with a wooden spoon until incorporated. The dough will form a ball, and all the flour will be incorporated. It shouldn't be too sticky though. (It should take about 2 1/2 cups of buttermilk, but use more or less till it looks right).
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. With floured hands, shape the dough into a flat round about 3 inches think. Cut a deep cross in the top of the loaf with a wet or floured knife.

Transfer the loaf to a baking sheet (or pizza pan) and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it looks nice and crusty-brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it (it sounds odd, but it works!).

Mine actually looked really good . . . until the last few minutes of baking. Then it kind of morphed. But no matter. It tasted wonderful. Slightly warm with a little butter??? Yum, yum, yum.
Look at the size of this parsnip. Crazy. Can you imagine how long it would have been if it hadn't been packaged in a bag? That is a decently sized parsnip next to it.
And I can see why the Irish sometimes call the carrot and parsnip mash "green, white and gold" or "sunshine". What colors. Good practice for my art subbing tomorrow.
Anyway, here is our dinner. It was fun. It was yummy. It was bonding. It was a good celebration. Now, off to find a gingerbread cookie or something leftover-Christmasy to finish off my celebrating.


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