Easy Irish Soda Bread {recipe}

“Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone;  it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” – Ursula K. LeGuin, The Lathe of Heaven

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!  As most folks associate St. Patrick’s Day with green beer and Leprechauns, I am most excited because today is the day before (drumroll please)….my Birthday!! Woohoo!

I have fond, vivid memories of my mom bringing my grade school class St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes to celebrate my birthday, beautifully decorated in emerald green icing and clovers. (But that’s a different blog post!)

Tonight I am invited to my friend’s home for traditional corned beef and cabbage. Yum!! I volunteered to bring the Irish Soda Bread. Easy enough! Since we have some great bakeries in town I will just swing by the bakery, drop a couple bucks and I’m on my way.

Huh?? NONE of the bakeries baked any Irish Soda Bread?? (Or green cupcakes worthy of Mom!) So, I checked my calendar. Yep, I have the date right, March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day.

Determined and dressed in my green shirt I headed to the grocery store bakery section. Whaatt?? No Irish Soda Bread (and of course no green cupcakes!!) Ugh!

Now I was on a mission!!  I searched the baking aisle for Irish Soda Bread mix. Let’s see… there are mixes for honey wheat, white, multi-grain and even sweet Hawaiian bread. But no Irish Soda Bread mix!

Off to the frozen bread section…Garlic Bread, biscuits, French bread, and dinner rolls. But no Irish Soda Bread. Seriously? (Is today really April Fools Day?)

More determined than ever, I grabbed some buttermilk and Irish butter and headed straight for the checkout.  The cashier accidentally gave me 3 cents extra change. She said, “It must be your lucky day!” Yep! Lucky Lisa!

“Unique to Ireland, Irish Soda Bread is a traditional product of a poor country. Made with only the most basic of ingredients: flour, baking soda (used as a leavening agent instead of yeast), soured milk (buttermilk) to moisten and activate the soda, and salt. A cross was cut on the top before baking to ward off the devil and protect the household.”

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Easy Irish Soda Bread

(adapted from Simple Recipes)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30-40 minutes

Yield: One loaf

Ingredients:

4 to 4 ½ cups flour (I used King Arthur’s All Purpose Flour)

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 Teaspoon salt

1 Teaspoon baking soda

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into small pieces)

1 cup currants or raisins (I used currants)

1 large farm fresh organic egg, lightly beaten

1 ¾ cups buttermilk

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place rack in center of oven.

Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.

Using your (clean) fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Add the raisins or currants.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk to well. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until dough is too stiff to stir.

Dust hands with flour, then GENTLY knead dough in the bowl just enough to form a rough ball. (Add a bit more flour if dough is too sticky.) DO NOT OVER-KNEAD!

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf. (Note: dough may be a little sticky, and should resemble a shortcake biscuit dough)

Work dough until it just comes together. Again, DO NOT OVER-KNEAD!

Transfer dough to a baking sheet. Score top with an “X” shape.

Bake in middle rack until bread is golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35-45 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a long wooden skewer into the center. If skewer comes out clean, bread is done.

Remove baking sheet and bread from oven. Allow bread to sit on sheet for 5-10 minutes. Move bread to a wire rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Ingredients for Irish Soda Bread

 

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Add currants to flour mixture.

 

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Gently knead the dough

 

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Score the top with an “X” – Removes evil spirits and allows the center to bake.

 

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Tada!! How’s that for Luck of the Irish!!?

Do you have a favorite traditional recipe you use for special occasions?

Photos by Seedy Lawyer.  All rights reserved.

Just Peachy! [Pie Recipe]

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“An apple is an excellent thing – until you have tried a peach.”

George du Maurier (1834-1896)

I’ve always wanted to have a big ole peach tree. Yet it’s too hot to grow peaches in Florida. In North Carolina, it’s too cold. But in South Carolina, it’s Peachy Keen!

Recently, I was driving down the Interstate in South Carolina, and signs were everywhere:  Fresh Peaches!  There were more Peach signs than Speed Limit signs!  I got a whiplash checking them all out. Drooling, I had to stop!

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Ripe, sweet, juicy peaches are sure to put a Big Smile on your face.

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Summer is peach season. Supermarket peaches (flavorless hard baseballs) don’t hold a candle to just-picked-from-the-tree peaches, like these beauties from Ragan Orchards in Inman, SC.

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The girl at the Ragan Orchard stand was a real peach and even set up my own taste test!  August Prince peaches (larger, yellow skin, melting yellow flesh with an acidic tang) versus O’Henry peaches (bright red and orange skin with a sweet and juicy flesh). Of course I bought both types!

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My first bite: As sweet as the perfect summer day.

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I even got to check out the peach trees at the orchard!  Really cool!

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“I really love your peaches, I want to shake your tree.”

I was hooked! I loaded up my car with peaches like Santa packs his sleigh with presents. Like a human Pac Man, I chomped on my just-plucked gems all the way back to North Carolina. Amazingly, some peaches survived for my homemade Peach Pie. Mmmmm!

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The addition of fresh rosemary adds a touch of savory, almost buttery taste to this sweet treat. For a more intense flavor, I replaced some of the sugar with pure local honey (from the orchard). Tapioca thickens the pie and cooks up clear. Tradition holds that peach pie is lattice-topped, which adds beauty and allows some moisture to escape during baking. This summer treat is Just Peachy!

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Savory Peaches and Cream Pie

Adapted from Ready, Set, Dough! By Melanie Barnard

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

½ cup sugar

¼ cup pure honey

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

3 Tablespoons heavy or light cream

One 15-ounce package refrigerated folded Piecrusts

6 cups fresh peaches, peeled and cut into ½ inch thick slices

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove and reserve 2 teaspoons of the sugar. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, honey, tapioca, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, rosemary and lemon zest. Stir in the peaches and any peach juice.  Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes to soften the tapioca.

Keeping one crust refrigerated, unfold the other crust and ease it into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate. Spoon the peach mixture into the crust, spreading evenly. Dribble with 2 tablespoons of the cream.

Unfold the remaining pie crust and place onto a floured surface. Use a small, sharp knife or pizza wheel cutter to cut the crust into ½ to ¾ inch wide strips to create a lattice topping.

Brush the lattice with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cream and sprinkle with remaining reserved 2 teaspoons of sugar.

Bake the pie on the lower rack for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 400 degrees F. Bake for 15 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F. Carefully remove the pie from the oven, place a 14-inch square of foil on the middle rack, and move the pie to the center of the oven. Place the pie on the foil and bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is golden brown, about 15 minutes more.

Cool the pie on a rack.  Then serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Tips:

*If available, use a variety of two peaches for a more complex flavor.

**To peel peaches, place peaches in a pan of boiling water for 30 to 45 seconds. Remove with thongs and run under cold water.  Use a small knife to loosen the skin, then slip the peel from the peaches.

***If the edges of the pie begin to darken during baking, lightly cover edges with foil to prevent burning.

***

How sweet it is! Homemade Peach Pie! Want a slice? (or two…)

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I’m bringing a slice of my pie over to the party at Fiesta Friday #31.

Do you stop at roadside farm stands? What is your favorite Peach recipe?

All original photos courtesy of Seedy Lawyer.  All rights reserved.