Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Irish Soda Bread Reimagined

Yesterday Sweetie and I were invited to lunch at the home of friends who had been evacuated during the recent wildfires, but, fortunately, their house was spared and we were celebrating that. About two hours before we were to leave, Sweetie remembered that we had been asked to bring some bread...bread that I had made. With not nearly enough time for making yeast bread, I was trying to think of something that would work when Sweetie suggested Irish Soda Bread. It's a favorite of his and goes together fairly quickly.

I haven't made it for a while and this time I wanted to make it a bit savory to go with the lunch main dish of a luscious old fashioned chicken stew. Herbs seemed just the thing and I had some fresh Italian parsley on the windowsill, and some fresh thyme and rosemary on the porch in a planter. Still, it seemed a bit too ordinary. Then I decided to add a bit of crunch and lots of flavor with finely chopped pecans. A bit of graham flour added more flavor and the lemon juice I added to the soy creamer to sour it was the final touch. This was decidedly not my Aunt May's Irish Soda Bread, even if it started out with her recipe!

A key thing to remember if you make this is that this kind of bread works best with the least amount of handling. Stir just enough to blend dry into wet, then shape gently with your hands into a ball, tucking any dry bits underneath...they will get wet enough that way. Don't forget the traditional cross cut with a knife. It helps the center cook evenly with the rest of the loaf.

A big thank you to Deb and Jim for a great lunch. Best chicken stew ever, plus an interesting salad dressing that I'm going to post later, and delicious pecan pie cookie bars for dessert. Best of all, the friendship and great conversation.

Irish Soda Bread with Herbs and Pecans
based on Aunt May's Irish Soda Bread
makes one large loaf

2 cups (about) whole milk or soy creamer
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat or graham flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
8 oz. (1 stick) cold butter, in thin slices
½ cup pecans, chopped finely
¼ cup roughly chopped mixed fresh herbs - I used Italian parsley, thyme and rosemary

In a bowl combine the milk and the fresh lemon juice. Let sit to 'sour' the milk, at least 5 minutes.

Put the dry ingredients in a bowl with the pecans and herbs; mix well. Dot all over with the butter and cut in well with a fork or pastry blender.

 Add the soured milk and mix just until moist - don’t over handle. You may need to add 2 - 4 more tablespoons of milk or a few tablespoons of flour.  Some dry stuff is OK but the dough should be sticky.

Pat into a round on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Cut a cross on top. Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cool a bit before slicing.

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