(The Best) Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

For something so simple as Irish Soda Bread, there certainly are a lot of recipes out there for making it.   Luckily for me, I have a recipe for the best ISB I’ve ever tasted and so it’s the one I keep returning to time after time.

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Generally speaking, Irish Soda Bread recipes seem to fall into two categories; those with raisins and those without.  Most all of them call for caraway seeds.  Since I am not fond of caraway seeds, I always leave them out, but we love the bread with raisins.  They add just a touch of sweetness.

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This recipe was submitted by a church member when we were putting together a recipe book of favorite recipes by women of our church.  It contains raisins and NO caraway seeds.  Besides the usual baking soda and buttermilk combination, this version has three eggs in it also, so it raises up nice and tall.  It will fill a 9-inch round pan to the top, with a nice high crown.  The eggs also make the texture of this bread more cake-like.

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When I have this bread around I want to keep having a piece, with coffee, with tea, with just about anything.  I especially like it in the morning with some fruit for breakfast.   Making this bread only once a year for St. Patrick’s Day is way too long to wait to enjoy this wonderful bread.  Once you taste it you will want to make it much more frequently than that.  I promise you’ll be craving it all year ’round.

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Butter spread on warm bread makes it just a little better!!

 

BEST EVER IRISH SODA BREAD

Yield:  1  9-inch round loaf, approximately 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (I used white whole-wheat flour)IMG_9406
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, chilled
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, chilled
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease a 9-inch round cake pan.

2.  Whisk together all the dry ingredients, flour through sugar.

3.  Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until well combined.

4.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the buttermilk and combine well.

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Lightly beat into the flour mixture.  Stir in the raisins.

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Place dough into the prepared pan.

5.  Bake in 350* oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the bread has risen and the top is golden brown.  A knife inserted into the center of the bread should come out clean.

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Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing.  Serve warm.

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SOURCE:  Feeding the Flock

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Whole Wheat, Rosemary and Tomato Focaccia

Whole wheat, tomato and rosemary focaccia.

Whole wheat, tomato and rosemary focaccia.

On the day of the “Great Blizzard” (that wasn’t), I made this Focaccia bread to go with the Lasagna soup.

Around here we love Focaccia, in fact we love homemade bread of any kind.  This one is so flavorful with the addition of herbs (oregano) and sun-dried tomatoes in the dough, and rosemary and olive oil brushed over the top before baking.  Add some garlic and parmesan cheese and Whoo-hoo, this is one fabulous bread.

I use my bread machine to make the dough, then once it has risen, take it out, roll it out thin on a pizza pan or baking stone and let it raise for about 30 minutes.  Indent the top all over with your fingers, then brush with olive oil and minced garlic,  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and crushed rosemary.   It will bake up golden brown, crispy on the outside, and soft and doughy on the inside.

This bread is so easy to make and is a great accompaniment to soup or a salad.  The use of whole wheat flour makes it more healthy (because of the fiber), and cornmeal in the dough gives it a nice crunch.  We really like this bread.  I hope you will too.

WHOLE WHEAT, ROSEMARY, AND TOMATO FOCACCIA

Yield:   Makes a 1 pound bread

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup milk ( fat-free is OK)IMG_9055
  •  1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup bread flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 Tbsp. snipped, sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

For the Topping:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. snipped fresh rosemary OR 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed

Directions:

1.  In the container of a bread machine, layer in the ingredients, according to the manufacturer’s directions.  Select “dough” cycle.  When the cycle is completed, remove dough from machine.

2.  Spray a work surface lightly with oil, place the dough on it, and cover it.  Let rest for about 10 minutes.

Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.

3.  Preheat the oven to 400*F.  Grease an 11 to 13-inch pizza pan, or pizza stone.  Roll out the dough to fit the pan.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes or until nearly double in size.

Dough rolled out on a pizza stone.

Dough rolled out on a pizza stone.

4.  With 2 fingers, make indentations all over dough.  Combine  the 2 Tbsp olive oil and garlic; drizzle over the dough.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and rosemary.

Make indentations with your fingers all over the top.

Make indentations with your fingers all over the top.

Drizzle with olive oil and minced garlic.

Drizzle with olive oil and minced garlic.

Sprinkle with cheese and rosemary.

Sprinkle with cheese and rosemary.

5.  Bake in a 400*F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm or cool.

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SOURCE:   Bread Machine Bounty

Grapes, You Need Them!

Grapes,  juicy and sweet.

Grapes, juicy and sweet.

Grapes are ancient.  So ancient that some vines have been growing on this planet long before people arrived.  In certain areas of Italy there is still evidence of late Bronze Age vineyard posts used to train grapevines.  Over the years we’ve been trying to find  ways to make them bigger and sweeter.  Some of the grapes I see at the market are so plump and ripe, I just want to reach out and grab one or two for a juicy bite.  Don’t you?

Red, purple or green, plump or petite, grapes are a healthy pop-in-your-mouth snack.  I love grapes when they are cold as a refreshing way to cool off.  And when we travel, I like to bring along a big bunch of grapes to snack on.  One 3/4 cup serving of grapes is a good source of vitamin K, providing 25% of your daily needs.  Recent studies suggest that Vitamin K reduces the risk of bone fractures, particularly in older women.  Other studies have shown the benefits of having a glass of red wine to reduce the risk of heart and artery problems.  Grapes, particularly red  and black ones, are also rich in antioxidants.  So we know about their benefits, and we eat grapes fresh as a fruit/snack, or drink their juice fermented as wine,  but how many of you cook with grapes?  I’m not taking about making grape jam or jelly, but really incorporating them into a main dish, side dish or salad.

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I’m guessing not many people would even think of cooking with grapes.  Small and juicy with a hint of acid and sweet, they make perfect partners with some foods.  In the weeks ahead, I would like to introduce you to some recipes that utilize grapes in ways you may not have  considered.

Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

Grape and Rosemary Focaccia

The first one is this recipe for Grape-Rosemary Focaccia.  Scattered over the top of the focaccia, the grapes subtly sweeten each bite.  The sweet/salty combination of grapes, Parmesan cheese and rosemary is surprising, and delicious.  It can be served with a soup, or salad, as a dinner accompaniment in place of dinner rolls, or as an appetizer.  To make it quickly, use prepared whole wheat pizza dough from your supermarket, fresh or frozen.  If frozen, defrost thoroughly in the refrigerator or at room temperature.  Open the bag to give the dough room to expand, i.e. “rise”, prior to stretching and shaping.   Once the focaccia is prepared, allow it to sit at room temperature for about half an hour for another small “rise” before baking.

GRAPE-ROSEMARY FOCACCIA

Yield:    Makes 12 servings

Whole wheat pizza dough, grapes, rosemary, and Parmesan cheese.

Whole wheat pizza dough, grapes, rosemary, and Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough, preferably whole wheat
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves or 1 tsp. dried
  • 2 cups seedless grapes.  ( If large ones, cut in half.)

1.  Position rack in upper third of oven;  preheat to 425 *F.  Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

2.  Working on a lightly floured surface, pat and stretch dough with damp hands into a 10 by 12-inch oval.  If the dough will not stretch easily, let it rest for 10 minutes, then stretch it again.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

Stretch dough out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with cheese.

Stretch dough out on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with cheese.

3.  Drizzle the oil over the dough;  sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and rosemary.  Arrange grapes on top and press lightly into the dough.   At this point I let mine sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to give the dough a chance to rest and rise again a little bit.

Add chopped rosemary and grapes.

Add chopped rosemary and grapes.

4.  Bake until golden around the edges and some of the grapes have burst,  18 – 25 minutes.   (Note:  Mine was done at 15 minutes, so watch carefully,)   Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving.  (The grapes will be very hot inside.)

Golden brown with a heavenly aroma after baking.

Golden brown with a heavenly aroma after baking.

Serve warm with additional olive oil for dipping.

Serve warm with additional olive oil for dipping.

SOURCE:    Eating Well

Apple Oat Cinnamon Bread

Apple-Oat Cinnamon Bread

Apple-Oat Cinnamon Bread

Dear readers, I have a confession to make.   I am a bread snob!  I am mildly ashamed to admit it, but it’s true.  I am a person who loves bread, but not white bread, only artisanal or whole grain breads will do. For me, white bread is boring, bland, Blah!  Therefore I either buy my bread at a good bakery, or make my own.  That is what led me to make this wonderful bread that contains apple, oats and cinnamon.

The cloudless blue sky and brisk air this week has made me think of the kids gone back to school, and getting lunches ready. When I was in grade school I always brought my lunch, carefully packed by my mother.  One of my favorites was her homemade raisin bread with peanut butter and jelly or cream cheese and cherries.  I considered myself lucky to be one of the “brown baggers”, not one of those kids who purchased weekly lunch tickets, which entitled them to “hot lunches”.  No sir, the sloppy joes, canned corn, tuna noodle casserole, applesauce , and jello were not for me.  I much preferred Mom’s carefully handcrafted sandwiches, or sometimes hot soup in a thermos bottle.

So now when September rolls around, I remember those days and long for home baked bread.  After a summer of grilled chicken and Caesar salads, it’s time for my comfort food,  the sandwich.

Apples and oats both team up happily with cinnamon, so why not put them all together in a soft, tasty loaf?  A touch of maple syrup sweetens the loaf, while walnuts add crunch.    A slice of this, toasted for breakfast is wonderful, and of course, sandwiched with peanut butter and jelly it can’t be beat.

APPLE OAT CINNAMON BREAD

YIELD:  16 – 18 slices

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flourIMG_5099
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1  1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2  1/2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup nonfat milk powder
  • 2 Tbsp. potato flour, (optional, for softer texture)
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup finely diced peeled apple (about 1 medium apple)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts  (optional)

1.  In a large mixing bowl, or in the bucket of your bread machine, combine all of the ingredients, mixing and kneading to make a fairly smooth (though quite sticky), elastic dough.  I used my bread machine set to the “dough” cycle.  If you’re using a mixer, knead for about 7 minutes at medium speed;  the dough will never completely clear the sides of the bowl.

2.  Transfer the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and allow it to rise for 1 hour or until it’s quite puffy.

3.  After the first rise, gently deflate the dough, and shape it into a 9-inch log.  If using a bread machine, remove dough, deflate and shape as described.

After first rise form dough into a 9-inch log.

After first rise form dough into a 9-inch log.

Place dough into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.  Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap.  Allow the loaf to rise until it’s crested about 1 inch over the rim of the pan, about 1 hour.

Cover with greased plastic wrap and put in a warm place to raise again.

Cover with greased plastic wrap and put in a warm place to raise again.

What you see here is my loaf inside the microwave, on a heating pad set to “low”.  Close the door and keep it warm inside.  You’ll get a beautiful rise for all your yeast dough(s).

Mine rose really high!!

Mine rose really high!!

4.  Bake the bread in a preheated 350*F oven for 45 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil after about 20 minutes, to prevent over-browning.**  Remove bread from the oven when its internal temperature registers 190*F on an instant-read thermometer.  After about 5 minutes, turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

**A work of caution here:  When you tent the bread with foil, be sure the top has baked enough to hold itself up, else the weight of the foil may cause the loaf to collapse.  You can see in my pictures that is what happened to mine.  Prior to putting it into the oven it had risen beautifully, but because the dough is “airy”, it had not baked enough to hold itself up before I covered it with the foil.    The excess dough rolled to the sides and down over the edges of the pan, giving the bread a “flat-top”.   A lesson learned!  It still tasted fabulous, though.

Everything about this bread is so good;  color, flavor, texture.

Everything about this bread is so good; color, flavor, texture. (Except the “flat top”.) 😀

SOURCE:   King Arthur Flour

O’Rourke’s Irish Brown Bread

O"Rourke's Irish Brown Bread

O”Rourke’s Irish Brown Bread

With yesterday being St. Patrick’s Day, I cooked the traditional meal of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots. and along with it I made this recipe for Irish Brown Bread.   Neither Mr. D. nor  I have a drop of Irish blood in us, yet we love this meal and I always make it  for St. Paddy’s Day.  This bread is not the usual soda bread that is frequently served with this meal, but more closely resembles the soda breads made in Ireland back in the day when such things as caraway seeds and raisins were too costly for ordinary folks to afford.

Enjoy it with a cup of tea and some fruit for an afternoon snack.

Enjoy it with a cup of tea and some fruit for an afternoon snack.

My recipe comes from a gentleman named Brian O’Rourke who is the owner of O’Rourke’s Diner in Middletown, Ct.  This old-time diner is a fixture on Main St and has been there for years. It has been featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  It is only open for breakfast and lunch, and on weekends there is always a line of people out onto the sidewalk and up the street waiting to get in.  When you are finally seated it is hard to chose your order because everything Brian cooks is so scrumptious.  He is a very generous man when approached by any group or organization for fund raisers; and so when the diner was severely damaged by a fire a few years ago the people of Middletown held fund raisers for Brian to help him rebuild the business.  When one of the local churches was putting together a cookbook of local, favorite recipes this is the one that Brian contributed.

O’ROURKE’S IRISH BROWN BREAD

Just a few ingredients with baking soda being a prominent one.

Just a few ingredients with baking soda being a prominent one.

YIELD:    Makes 2 small round loaves

INGREDIENTS

  • 2  1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup bran or wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon salt.  ( I usually use about half this amount.)
  • 2  1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 Tablespoons ( half stick ) butter
  • 1  3/4 cup buttermilk

1.  In a large bowl combine flours, bran, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder and mix well with a whisk.

2.  Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.  Stir in buttermilk and mix until dry ingredients are moistened.  Do not over mix.

3.  Shape dough into two round loaves and cut a cross in the top of each one.  This allows for expansion. Place on a greased or paper-lined baking sheet.

Shape dough into two round loaves.

Shape dough into two round loaves.

Bake at 375*F  for 40 minutes.

Fresh out of the oven, crusty and warm.

Fresh out of the oven, crusty and warm.

This bread is best served warm with lots of sweet butter to slather on it.

Butter melts into the warm bread----good beyond description!

Butter melts into the warm bread—-good beyond description!

I like that it makes two loaves, one that I freeze for later, and one that we eat right away.  This time as I made them I added raisins to the dough for one of the breads, just for some variety.  Either way  they are delicious with a tender crumb almost like a muffin.

The texture is similar to a muffin.

The texture is similar to a muffin.

SOURCE:     Brian O’Rourke,  O’Rourke’s Diner

Spiced Pumpkin Cornbread

Spiced Pumpkin Corn Bread

This is the cornbread recipe I made to go with the Southwestern Lentil Soup.  It’s a little unusual in that it contains pumpkin, but it makes the cornbread so moist.  The added spices also give some additional flavor and were a nice complement to the soup—like they were made for each other.

I almost overlooked this recipe as it was on a magazine page that was an advertisement for Kenmore Products, and credit for  the recipe was given to Cliff Hagerman.  So I would like to thank Mr. Hagerman for his recipe; its a little unusual, but we really liked it.

SPICED PUMPKIN CORNBREAD

SERVINGS:  about 9

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry jerk seasoning  ( I did not have any on hand so I used Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming, the same seasonings I used in the Lentil Soup)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

2.  Whisk together the flours, baking powder, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk in cornmeal.

3.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs lightly.  Whisk in pumpkin, brown sugar, oil and molasses. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Batter poured into a 9-inch square pan, ready for the oven.

4.  Pour batter into a 9-inch square, greased baking pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cornbread is browned and surface springs back to the touch.

Golden brown, hot out of the oven.

I served it with soup but this cornbread would also be a good accompaniment to chili.

SOURCE:     Magazine clipping, ? the source.