Luck O’ the Irish

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Like most Old World meals, Irish Soda Bread grew out of poverty and what was available. Traditionally made with flour, soda, buttermilk, and salt, this loaf is still a humble indulgence. This version incorporates a small amount of cake flour to soften the crumb and is baked in a cast-iron skillet for a craggy, crunchy crust. You’ll feel the luck of the Irish when you take this golden-brown bread out of the oven. The recipe follows:

Makes 1

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together in a large bowl. Add softened butter and use fingers to rub it into flour until completely incorporated. Make well in center of flour mixture and add 1 1/2 cups buttermilk. Using a fork, work buttermilk into flour mixture until dough comes together in large clumps and no dry flour remains in bottom of bowl. Add up to 1/4 cup extra buttermilk if mixture is still dry. Use your hands to gently shape dough into a 6-inch round.

2. Transfer dough to a 12-inch cast-iron skillet (if you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, transfer dough to a baking sheet). Score a deep X on surface of loaf, and place in oven. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Remove from oven, brush with melted butter, and let cool at least 30 minutes.

Perfect with Irish Stew and a cold pint.

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Butter Me Up

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This yummy bread gives you a light texture, mild sweetness, and clean flavor. A simple treat on its own, but almost soporific with warm butter and jam. However you enjoy this crusty comfort, it is sure to win you over. The Baker’s Percentage for this bread is as follows:

Total Flour                          1,000 g                        100%

White Flour                           900 g                          90%

Whole-wheat Flour              100 g                          10%

Rolled Oats                           200 g                          20%

Levain                                    200 g                          20%

Water                                     350 g                          35%

Buttermilk                             350 g                          35%

Honey                                      30 g                           3 %

Salt                                           24 g                          2.4%

This bread is pretty straight forward. Just add the oats and honey in at the Mix and continue on through the Bake. The only trouble you may have is the hydration level of the dough. Depending on how much liquid the oats soak up in the Mix, a little more water might be needed. The addition of buttermilk will tighten up the crumb, so don’t be afraid to make the dough a little on the loose side.

As good as this bread is on its own, it would be no sin to make French toast or bread pudding out of an entire loaf. Just the opposite – a buttered binge.