I’m not the kind of person who obsesses over holidays. Holiday obsession seems to be a uniquely American phenomenon– you know, rushing to get out the Christmas decorations during the last week of November, wearing head-to-toe green for St. Patrick’s Day, planning a costume months ahead for Halloween. As I’ve demonstrated on the blog, I do celebrate these days, but all in the name of fun (naturally Christmas has more meaning than just fun; I’m referring more to the non-religious holidays). Perhaps some would argue that making jelly-filled “vampire cookies” for Halloween is a bit over the top… but what can I say, I love baking! And that brings me to my point– while I don’t get ultra-excited over holidays, preparing for weeks in advance, once the day is upon me I do feel somewhat festive, and I usually want to bake something appropriate.
St. Patty’s Day was a week ago, and I absolutely could not get the thought of Irish soda bread out of my head. I’d only had it a few times before, at a little Irish cafe in Bethlehem, PA and in Dublin last spring, but I knew I liked it. I love its unique flavor. I don’t know how to descibe it except that it must be the taste created by the leavening effect of combining baking soda with buttermilk. That probably doesn’t make any sense… at any rate, it’s different and I like it.
What also doesn’t make any sense is how long I waited before trying to make this stuff. It is dead easy and quick. No yeast! No proofing the dough! Just a quick mix, a quick knead, and into the oven for 30 minutes. I used this recipe, and I should quickly apologize because it isn’t the most traditional soda bread– the recipe includes honey, oats and raisins (I omitted the latter). Next time I promise I’ll make it plain (just flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt). I’d also like to find a good basic recipe for brown soda bread, which feels so wonderful and rustic.
I think my too-hot oven make it rise quickly in the beginning, creating that ripped-open effect on one side
But back to bread I made last week. It was delicious. I love the thick, hard crust on soda bread, as it doesn’t threaten to scratch off the roof of your mouth like the crust of a baguette. I love the dense, chewy texture of the inside. And the flavor… let me put it this way: while bread often just serves as a vehicle to get other things into your mouth, I was reluctant to put anything on this bread other than a touch of butter because I didn’t want anything to cover up its flavor. It was that good. Also, I think the honey in the dough helped keep it soft for a few days. I stored the bread in a resealable plastic bag, eating slice after slice all weekend, and the texture was still lovely on Monday (although during this time the crust softened up as well).