Sunday, March 15, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Menu and Irish Soda Bread

I won't be home Tuesday night, so we had out corned beef and cabbage dinner tonight. Very yummy. Corned beef, cabbage, mashed potatoes and soda bread.

St. Patrick's Day has always been important in my family, but it's funny how I have modified the menu over the years. Growing up, Mom always bought the pink pre-corned beef at the grocery store. She cooked it and then added in the cabbage. We always had the "new" potatoes, which were always red and if we were lucky then they were small. For dessert there might have been green jello. I don't remember there being anything else.

Now that I am an adult I have figured out that I do not get along well with the chemicals in store bought corned beef. They give me headaches and a general sense of malaise. Not pleasant feeling at all. So, several years ago I started seasoning a beef brisket myself several days in advance. This year I tweaked the seasonings and I think it made it even better. Then I proceed with the cooking just as Mom always has. I do the cabbage the same as Mom. Joe doesn't like boiled new potatoes and I'm still working on establishing "our" traditional potato dish, so this year I made mashed potatoes. That leads me to the soda bread. Some years I've made a quick bread variant that was ok, but Joe was never crazy about it. This year I tried something made from yeast. It's really more of a raisin bread, but it's great. Soft. Would probably make a good sandwich bread.

Last year Mom sent me one of those magazine/cookbooks that they sell by the register at the grocery store. It was called Taste of Home Irish Food & Fun. The original recipe can be found on their website here. My comments below are italicized.

Irish Soda Bread




TIME: Prep: 30 min. + rising Bake: 30 min.


  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°) (I will admit that I do not precisely measure the temp. I microwave 8 oz of liquid for 30 seconds in a Pyrex measuring glass. Less liquid for less time; more liquid for more time. I then check it by sticking my clean finger in it. Totally scientific, huh?)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 cup warm buttermilk (110° to 115°) (I used the powdered buttermilk and reconstituted it per the package)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour (I needed more)
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins (I used regular raisins that I soaked in hot water until plump. I drained off the liquid after soaking.)


In a large bowl (I used my Kitchenaid stand mixer with the flat beater here), dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1 tablespoon sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Beat in the buttermilk, butter, salt, baking soda, 1 cup flour and remaining sugar until smooth. Stir in raisins and enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface (I kept in my mixer and switched to the dough hook.); knead (I used Speed 2 and added flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking to sides of bowl. The bowl did have a little bit of dough sticking at the bottom.) until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes (At this time the raisins were pretty beat up, so there were little bits throughout the dough. May want to consider adding in the raisins near the end of kneading if you are concerned about keeping the raisins intact).

(After kneading, I cut the dough in half and froze one half for later use. Note to self: the yeast will be groggy upon awakening so be prepared for extended rise times.)

Place in a greased bowl (I used the same mixer bowl), turning once to grease top. Cover (I like a clean kitchen towel, but plastic wrap will allow you to see the progress) and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes. (If your kitchen is cold, try this trick: turn your oven to the lowest possible setting (mine is 170 F) and a timer for exactly 1 minute. When the timer goes off, turn off the oven and put the dough inside.)

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead for 2 minutes (This I do by hand and I stop when the dough becomes difficult to fold over itself). Shape into a round loaf. Place on a greased baking sheet (I used parchment). With a sharp knife, cut a 1/4-in.-deep cross on top of loaf. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes (even the half loaves) or until golden brown. Remove from pan to cool on a wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf (or 2 small loaves).

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