Sunday, April 6, 2014
Sometimes, life gets in the way of the good stuff... like baking.
I tried to take up jogging this year -- good exercise, get healthy, lose some weight, yeah, great plan. And it looked like it was going pretty well... until late February, when I sprained my foot on a treadmill. I ended up on crutches for a week and a half, and then in a walking cast, and then weaning down to just a limp, and now, I've finally gotten rid of the limp, thanks to my awesome physical therapist, and I'm working on strengthening my ankle and hips and training myself to stand and walk correctly (who knew you could be doing such basic things incorrectly your whole life?), and I'm hoping to be able to walk and then jog again soon.
But what does this have to do with baking? Well, if you can't stand for long periods of time, or you can hold yourself up on crutches but can't carry anything across the kitchen 'cause you need both hands to hobble around, no baking happens. So I haven't been making a whole lot lately. But I did manage to try out a new soda bread recipe recently, while my husband and I were putting together a "late-Patrick's Day" dinner for ourselves, a week or so after the holiday. And this is the first soda bread recipe I've made that I actually liked, so I thought I'd share it.
Before anyone jumps down my throat, yes, I know this isn't an authentic Irish recipe. Authentic Irish soda bread is... bland. It's bread, a basic, boring bread you can use to sop up the juices from an Irish stew. This is Irish-American soda bread, bastardized from the Irish but really quite tasty. There wouldn't be raisins in authentic soda bread, and there definitely wouldn't be orange zest... but hey, we all eat General Tso's chicken, and that's not authentic Chinese food, but it's still tasty. As long as you don't try to pass off something as authentic when it isn't, I don't see the problem.
Irish-American Soda Bread
Adapted from Ina Garten
4 c flour
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter, cut into small chunks
1 3/4 c buttermilk
1 tsp orange zest
1 c raisins or currants
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and butter. Turn on the mixer to low speed and walk away for a while, until the butter is thoroughly mixed in and you don't see any chunks of it remaining. (You could probably do this with a hand mixer or a pastry blender, but I imagine it would take way longer. Or you could do it in a food processor, if you don't mind the annoyance of having to wash the processor when you're done.)
2. In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, egg and orange zest and whisk together. Pour this into the mixer and mix to combine.
3. In a bowl, mix the raisins with a couple of tablespoons of flour, just to get them coated. Mix these into the dough.
4. Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a bit, just until it comes together.
5. Form the dough into a ball and place it on a sheet pan. Cut an X in the top with a knife.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the loaf makes a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of it.