wearing o’ the green

March 20, 2012 § 13 Comments

I try to get peas started in the garden if it’s not too cold, wet or snowy by St. Patrick’s Day. No problem this year! In fact over-wintered kale, collard, spinach and watercress (above) have already poked their heads up along with the usual suspects of sorrel, chives and onions. I went ahead and sowed some greens and radishes along with the pea seeds, so now I’m keeping my fingers crossed for mild end-of-winter-beginning-of-spring weather.

Corned beef and cabbage sounded like way too much food for just the two of us. Grilled lamb chops (yes, it’s that warm), long-cooked broccoli for something green and the last of local potatoes were as close as we got to Ireland to celebrate the day. I did make the Irish soda bread for Tuesdays with Dorie, but couldn’t stay true to Marion Cunningham’s recipe in Baking with Julia (sorry, Marion!). Guess I really made “Spotted Dog” since I added some currants. At least I managed to make bread and not what the Irish would call cake, since I resisted the urge to add butter or an egg! Oh yeah, and I made two smaller loaves and gave one to a neighbor, since Marion warned that this bread doesn’t keep long and would be “hard as a Blarney stone” by the end of the day.

Spotted Dog (yield 2 small loaves)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup currants

2 cups buttermilk*, plus a little extra if needed

*Try to find full fat rather than low fat buttermilk, or use BWJ’s substitution of 2/3 cup plain whole yogurt plus 1/3 cup whole milk per cup of buttermilk. The extra fat will help your soda bread keep a wee bit longer.

Preheat the oven to 450°F and have a sheet pan with parchment ready. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, add the currants and mix so they’re evenly distributed throughout. Add the buttermilk and gently mix with a spatula or bowl scraper so the flour mixture is evenly moistened and you have a rough sticky dough. I had to add a couple of splashes more milk to get the last of the flour in the bottom of the bowl. Turn out onto a floured board and divide in half by eye. With floured hands, quickly and gently form into two rounds and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet, patting into their final shape. Cut a deep “X” on top with a wet knife and place into the oven. Immediately drop the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for about 40-45 minutes (you may need to drop the temperature a little more towards the end of baking to prevent over-browning). When done, the loaves are well-risen and browned, the “X” no longer appears moist and the bread sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Combine all the dry ingredients together (you can leave out the 1/2 cup of rolled oats and use white or whole wheat flour in its place). Add the currants to the dry mix now to avoid the extra kneading of mixing them into the dough at the end. That gadget is a dough whisk I got from King Arthur Flour; it works well to mix stiff doughs like this one.

Only mix until a rough dough forms (over-mixing will make your bread tough), divide and shape into rounds, score the tops deeply with an “X” which helps the center of the bread bake through. You can also bake one large loaf; extend the baking time by about 10 minutes and lower the temperature again sooner if the loaves brown too quickly.

The second loaf made a yummy “almost spring” gift for our neighbors. And if you love to bake bread, my next post have info on two bread challenges starting up right away. So Follow Me, or if you can’t wait, check out Mellow Bakers from my Blogroll. More baking fun and learning coming your way!

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