Irish Soda Bread {TWD-BWJ}

Although I’ve recently had to cut back on my baking/blogging commitments, I’ve been toying with joining the second round of Tuesdays with Dorie since it was announced. I bought the book Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan a while ago but hadn’t made anything from it yet. So when a group was announced to regularly bake recipes from the book, I was sorely tempted to join. What finally tipped the scales was the fact that there would only be two recipes per month, and members are only required to post one of the two. A once a month commitment fits even my schedule, so I decided to jump in.

The other thing that helped me decide was the second recipe for March: Irish soda bread. I love Irish soda bread and make it regularly, especially around this time of year. In fact, by the time I saw this pick for March 20, I had already made two soda breads: one from a Bob’s Red Mill mix and the other Irish whiskey soda bread from my friend Michele’s blog. I ended up taking these loaves to work, where they were both big hits, so I needed to make another loaf for home for St. Patrick’s Day. What better way to ease into TWD than baking something I was going to make anyway?

This is a very simple recipe. There are only four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The dry ingredients get whisked together, then the buttermilk is stirred in and the whole thing is formed into a loaf. After slashing the top of the loaf with the traditional cross-shaped pattern, it goes into a 375°F oven for about 50 minutes.

This loaf baked up beautifully and looked like a traditional soda bread. We had already had dinner by the time I made it, so I ate a piece of the bread with butter for an evening snack. It came out a bit dry for my liking. I didn’t check the temperature of the loaf during or after baking, so I’m not sure if it overbaked or if that texture was to be expected. There is almost no fat in the bread, so I’m not surprised it came out kind of dry.

As far as the flavor goes, it was just so-so. The buttermilk gave it a nice tang, but otherwise it was a bit bland. Of the three soda breads I made this week, this came in third in both flavor and texture. Others have reported liking it more than I, so I might try it again sometime. But for now, it’s definitely not a contender to become my go-to soda bread recipe.


Leek and Potato Soup {FFwD}

This week for French Fridays with Dorie, I made Leek and Potato Soup. This soup is simple, delicious, versatile, and comforting. It’s easy to throw together — once you chop some onions, garlic, leeks, and a potato, all you have to do is put it all together. There are quite a few variations suggested in the recipe, and you could easily come up with many more, making this a great recipe to have in your repertoire, as the possibilities are endless.

This soup is perfect for wintry weather days, but it can also be served cold in the spring or summer. And it can be served chunky, smooth, or somewhere in between. If you can’t find a variation of this soup that you like, you don’t like soup.

To assemble the soup, I began by cooking onion, shallots (my addition), and garlic in butter over low heat. I added leeks, potato, thyme, sage, chicken broth, and milk, and seasoned with salt and white pepper.

I brought the soup to a boil, lowered the heat, covered the pan partway, and simmered the soup for 40 minutes, until the vegetables were soft. I decided to purée the soup in the pot with my immersion blender. I left a few chunks in it, but for the most part, it was smooth.

After ladling the soup into a bowl, I topped it with freshly ground black pepper and white truffle oil and served it with Irish brown bread made with Irish wholemeal flour from King Arthur Flour.

This soup is easy enough to make on a busy weeknight, versatile enough that you can probably make it with ingredients you have on hand, and so delicious that you will want to make it again and again.

Irish Soda Bread Muffins {ModBak}

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about the Quick Breads section of The Modern Baker is that the breads really are quick. For example, in the 15 minutes it took to bake the ginger scones, I mixed up the butterscotch scones and had them ready to go into the oven as soon as the ginger scones came out.

So even though I usually save my baking for the weekends, the other night after work I decided to throw together Irish soda bread muffins. I got back from walking the dog at 7:30 was relaxing in my chair by 7:50, having mixed up the muffins and cleaned the kitchen. Yes, kids, when Nick Malgieri says “quick”, he means it!

This simple recipe consists of flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, caraway seeds, unsalted butter, sugar, egg, buttermilk (I substituted buttermilk powder and half-and-half), and currants. After assembling the ingredients, I lined the muffin tin with paper liners and preheated the oven to 350° F.

Next, I mixed the dry ingredients (other than the sugar) in a bowl, then whisked the butter and sugar in a separate bowl. I mixed in the egg, then half the cream, half the flour mxture, then the rest of the cream. I tossed the currants with a little flour, added them to the batter, then folded in the rest of the flour.

I found that an ice cream scoop was the perfect size to fill the muffin tins. I baked the muffins for 30 minutes, then cooled them in the pan.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this was another wonderful recipe. The muffins were delicious — slightly sweet and very flavorful. I especially enjoyed them with a little butter and fig preserves.