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Irish Soda Bread: Take 3.

So I think I’ve kind of started a tradition of baking Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day ever year. This is the third year in a row now that I’ve done it, and it appears that it’s true what they say about the third time being the charm.

once, twice, three times a soda bread.

once, twice, three times a soda bread.

Not that the first two attempts were failures, by any means. But there’s something special about this third one. It’s more golden, its more evenly shaped, and if I’m going to be completely honest, it tastes better. At least I’m pretty sure it does – it’s hard to remember exactly when the last time you’ve eaten something was a year ago. But this one tastes spectacular – and I really don’t remember being quite so blown away by Year #1 or Year #2.

healthy glow.

it’s real, and it’s spectacular.

I can say that it was finally getting the recipe exactly right that really made it stand out this year – and that would be partially true. But the reality is that this year, I used a different base recipe – something a friend wrote on a piece of paper at some point and I found in my binder, stuffed in the front pocket, with a slew of other random and un-filed hand-written recipes, some by me, some by others. The ingredients were pretty much the same, with some of the amounts being a little different, and the method of production being different as well. It was actually much less complicated, and more of a “throw everything in and mix” kinda thing. I like that.

a dough to remember.

a dough to remember.

But as I often do, I had to make a few slight adjustments for things I didn’t have in the house. I did not have buttermilk. But I know that milk + vinegar = buttermilk. I definitely had vinegar; but alas, I had no milk. I thought I did, but there was only half and half. I really wanted to make the bread, and I only had a specific window of time to complete this task in, so, I just plowed ahead, half and half in hand.

I also did not have quite enough raisins. but I’m ok with that and would have probably used less anyway. I had no caraway seeds at all though – and this recipe called for them. So…I just pretended I didn’t even see it, and left them out entirely.

modified.

change is good.

In the end, my modified version of the hand-written recipe yielded a soda bread that was wickedly delicious and gloriously golden.. Hours later when my boyfriend came home from work, the first thing he said was “The house smells amazing!” So, if you’re feeling lucky and want your house to smell amazing too, here’s the recipe. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Irish Soda Bread.

What you’ll need:

3 1/2 cups flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup raisins

2 eggs

1 1/3 cup half and half

1 1/2 tblsp white vinegar

4 tblsp melted butter

1/2 tsp vanilla

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and whisk together. Add the raisins. In a separate bowl,  beat the eggs, then add the buttermilk, butter, and vanilla, and combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the large bowl, and pour the wet ingredients into the well. Mix with a large spatula, until a dough forms. Knead the dough a few times, and shape it into a rough ball. Place the ball on a baking sheet, covered with parchment paper. With a large serrated knife, cut an “X” across the top. Bake for 50 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on March 17, 2014 in bread, holidays, Indulgences, recipes

 

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Baking Crossroads.

I am at a point where I can’t decide what to bake. I have four things in mind, and each sound fantastic in their own way. Each are also very different – some more sweet, some more savory; some more dense, some more fluffy; some look pretty, some honestly, kinda don’t. Three of them I’ve made before; one I have not. One was a request, the others are just because. So…what should I do?? Maybe you can help.

Here are my four options:

#1: Irish Soda Bread.

DSC_1037

This is one I’ve made before (actually twice before). It’s rather light, not overly sweet, kinda crumbly, and full of raisins. It’s also timely, with the pending arrival of St. Patrick’s Day. Did I mention how tasty it is?

#2: Beer Bread.

bread of beer.

bread of beer.

This one I’ve also made before, but apparently have never written about it. I was sure I had posted it when I made it last, although that was about 3 years ago, when I was just starting the blog, so I suppose it was overlooked. So that’s actually giving it an edge here. Also, my boyfriend is obsessed with fancy beer, so I have plenty of fun options to get creative with this time around!

#3: French Macarons.

the mac daddy.

the mac daddy.

I have definitely made these before AND posted about them. I also ate a bunch of them while on my Paris Patisserie Tour, back in the summer of 2012. I haven’t made them since then, and I’ve never made them in colors – only vanilla and chocolate in their natural state. I think because in Paris, they tasted so completely heavenly and looked so beautiful, I’ve been intimidated to make them ever since. I mean, come on – look at these:

the real thing.

the real thing.

Can I do that?? I’m not sure. But maybe it’s time to find out. PS – this one was the request. I do love baking something I know someone really wants…

#4: King Cake.

I have never made this, so i have no photo to provide. I have eaten it, and I have loved every bite. I have researched recipes, but they all seem pretty different, so I’m a little lost at where to start. The one that I’ve eaten and savored sort of reminded me of a cheese danish. But some recipes don’t even have any cheese products in them – so what am I to do?? I did come across one recipe that sounded like it would yield a very close result to the cake I call King. And I love a good experiment. So there’s that.

So, there you have it.  Four very deliciously different paths to head down, all leading to very equally appealing results. What’s a baker girl to do?? Help!

 

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Home Grown Irish Potatoes.

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Ok, so these “potatoes” are actually not grown. They’re not even actually potatoes. They just kinda look like them. Mini potato lookalikes, that taste nothing like their larger counterpart. Nope, there is really nothing potato-like about Irish Potatoes other than an odd bumpy oval-ish shape and a brown coloring (which on the Irish Potato, is cinnamon, not skin).

cinnamon skin.

cinnamon skin.

Irish Potatoes are actually very similar in ingredients and method of production to buttercream icing. Both involve creaming together butter and confectioner’s sugar, but Irish Potatoes also include a bit of cream cheese and some coconut. Two of my favorite things.

potato mixing.

potato or buttercream?

They are also a stiffer consistency then the buttercream icing you’d want to use on your cake. They need to be, so they can be rolled into the classic potato shape they’re named for.

rolled and ready.

rolled and ready.

As I mentioned before, once they’re shaped, they are rolled in a bowl of cinnamon, and completely coated.

cinnamon rolled.

cinnamon rolled.

Finally, they are put in the fridge to set (about an hour or so should do the trick).

potato chillin'.

potato chillin’.

As far as actual recipe goes, I used a traditional Irish Potato recipe that I’ve had floating around for a few years and have used in the past with much success. It went a little something like this:

Irish Potato Candy.

What you’ll need:

1/4 cup butter (softened)

4 oz cream cheese (about half a package)

1 tsp vanilla

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 1/2 cups coconut

cinnamon for coating

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar, and beat until fluffy and icing-like. Add the coconut, and beat until well-blended. Roll into walnut-sized potato-shaped ovals. Roll each in a small bowl of cinnamon, until completely covered. Chill for about an hour. Eat and enjoy!

 

 
 

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Green is the New Biscuit.

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For the first time since I started writing the blog, I have more posts than I have time to write them. The backlog of ideas is getting bigger and bigger, and I really can’t complain – it’s great to have a wealth of material to draw from! For instance, I recently got the idea in my head that I wanted to make biscuits. I honestly couldn’t remember if I had ever made biscuits from scratch before – we may have in pastry school, but I was drawing a complete blank. I know I’ve made those ones in the cardboard tube, where you twist it and it pops open, exposing tube-shaped dough to be cut into equal parts and baked. But I’m talking from scratch. I started looking up recipes online. I found three that were very similar, and also rather simple, which I liked – that meant this was a good base for plenty of experimenting! I decided to start with this recipe from allrecipes.com as a guide, but made a few adjustments and additions (which I’ve included at the end of this post for your baking pleasure) to make it more personal.

a dough like no other.

a dough like no other.

I rolled the dough, and cut it into biscuits with a circle cutter.

a cut above.

a cut above.

I baked them, and shared them with friends.

just grab 'em in the biscuit.

just grab ‘em in the biscuit.

As you may have noticed, I also added swirls of green to these biscuits. The day I was making them also just so happened to be St. Patrick’s Day, so I decided to add a little Irish flair to the fun. These really are great for any day of the year though, and as a breakfast, lunch or dinner item. The beauty of biscuits is that they are extremely versatile.

As promised, here’s the recipe. It’s so simple and delicious. you’re going to wonder why you haven’t been baking biscuits all along.

Green Biscuits.

What you’ll need

2 cups flour (sifted)

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup shortening

3/4 cup fat-free half and half

a few drops green food coloring

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 400. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until it reaches a mealy texture.  Stir in the half and half with a fork. As soon all the liquid is mixed in, Add a few drops of green food coloring. Knead the dough about 10 times, until it forms a ball. Do not over-knead – it will become too tough! Roll dough out onto a lightly floured surface, about 1/2″ thick. Using a circle cutter, cut dough into biscuits, and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Let rest for about 5 minutes, than bake for about 12 – 15 minutes. They’re best when they are warm, but they can always be reheated later on. Makes about 15 – 20 biscuits, depending on the size of the cutter.

 
 

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The Second Annual Baking of the Irish Soda Bread.

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I realized after making Irish Soda Bread for the first time last year for St. Patrick’s Day, that I was going to have to make a tradition out of it. So, last week, I dug right in and attempted to recreate the very same bread I made this time a year ago, using the same recipe as a basic guide. The only difference this year was that I had a sweet new wooden spoon that my mom gave me for Christmas that I hadn’t even used yet, and a shiny new gigantic mixing bowl that I had picked up specifically for mixing doughs.

cool new tools.

cool new tools.

I don’t know if they made the bread any better than last year’s – I really can’t recall how last year’s tasted compared to this years! All I can say is that I do remember last year’s turning out pretty good, and this year’s was actually kinda great. So maybe it really is all in the equipment…

One thing I did remember was that I baked last year’s in a cake pan – so I did that same thing again. It keeps it from getting flat.

cake pans are not just for cake anymore.

cake pans are not just for cake anymore.

It definitely did NOT get too flat – it rose quite nicely and retained its round-ish shape, like a good dough should when it’s baked into bread.

.

shapely bread.

shapely bread.

I will say this – I think I let it bake just a few minutes too long. It didn’t burn, but if i were to do it again, I’d have taken it out of the oven 5 minutes earlier. It was still really tasty, and looked kinda awesome, close up.

DSC_1039

It’s all gone now, so it must have been pretty good. :)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Until next year….

 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 17, 2013 in bread, holidays, special occasion

 

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You say Potato, I say…Candy?

I didn’t realize how easy Irish Potatoes were to make. I also didn’t realize that they were pretty much just a ball of coconut icing covered in cinnamon. I didn’t realize how much I love them. Funny what you don’t realize.

Anyway, I decided to make these this year for the first time. I had imagined they were difficult – not sure why, but possibly because no one I know ever seemed to make them, or discuss making them, so that just led me to subconsciously place them in the “hard to make” category. I was completely wrong. I admit it. I’m wrong sometimes.

Anyway, I had no recipe for these anywhere in any of my books at home, so I googled it, and found this recipe – http://allrecipes.com/recipe/irish-potato-candy/. I thought, “Gee, that sounds too easy. Let me make sure it’s actually the real deal.” So I checked out a few other links, and the recipes were all basically the same. So, I gave it a whirl.

They looked and tasted great. Better than I remembered even the ones in the box tasting! Not only were they super simple to make, they were fun too.

Simple. like Love.

Really good things don’t have to be complicated. We just often think they need to be.

 

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The Luck of the Irish Soda Bread.

Last night, I tried my hand at Irish Soda Bread for the very first time. I used this recipe, from Simply Recipes, with only a couple minor tweaks – I used fat free milk + vinegar instead of buttermilk, and I baked it in a 10″ cake pan.

bread cake?

Anyway, I was nervous, as I know quite a few Irish folk who really look forward to this particular bread, and I didn’t want to let them down. I didn’t. :)

kiss me, i'm irish!

The only small detail I felt could be improved upon was the crispness of the bottom – it was a tad too dark. I let it cook longer than I would have liked, to ensure it cooked all the way through. But it didn’t take away from the overall quality of the bread. “This is a winner!” one bread-eating fan exclaimed. Another would have said the same, except for the fact that he ate about 6 pieces and couldn’t say anything with his mouth full. Compliments aside, I would still like to do a bit of tweaking to really make this bread shine, like the top of the Chrysler building.  As they say, things can only get better!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on March 7, 2012 in bread, holidays, special occasion

 

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