06 March 2011

"Irish for a Day" Soda Bread

Top o' the day to ya, Darlin'!
Well, it's that time of year again.  We all wear green for the day, and I, with just enough Irish blood to give me  pale skin and freckles, choke down our annual corned beef and cabbage dinner.  Your father and brothers love this meal, which makes it worth the effort.  The one redeeming feature of the March 17th meal for me is soda bread served with a less-than-healthy smear of Irish butter.

My recipe is far from authentic.  If you've been lucky enough to land an Irish lad, dance a jig right over to Mrs. Leland's blog for a genuine, bona fide Irish loaf.   "Irish for a Day" soda bread, while not technically Irish, features a flaky, buttery crust encasing a light-textured loaf with a sweet, creamy-moist crumb. Who could possibly resist?

I usually divide the recipe into two loaves and freeze one, but on St. Paddy's Day, only a giant golden loaf will suffice.

"Irish for a Day" Soda Bread

4 cups flour, reducing by 1/4 cup if you use half white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl, and cut in butter.  Stir in buttermilk and egg.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead just 6-8 turns.  Form into a ball, and then flatten it slightly. If it is too thick in the center, it will not bake properly.   Place on baking sheet, and use a serrated knife to cut a 1/2 inch deep "X" across the entire top.  Brush with a mixture of:

1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter

Place in center of oven, and bake 45-50 minutes until loaf is golden brown and pick inserted in the center comes clean.  Continue to brush with the remaining buttermilk/butter mixture throughout baking.  If the loaf is getting browned before the center is done, tent with foil.  Cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing and eating.  Be sure to call it a bonnet, not a loaf!

Traditions -- from first snow donuts to family fun night -- are an integral part of creating family unity and a sense of belonging.  Food  accompanies many of these traditions, strengthening their impact by appealing to the five senses.  As a mom, you are often the one responsible for creating and upholding the traditions that your children expect.  Don't neglect or despise them:  they are the stuff memories are made of.

If God has chosen a different path than marriage and motherhood for your life, holidays are the ideal time to bless those with whom you serve.  Bring a loaf of soda bread and some Irish honey butter to your workplace, host an Irish night at your home for the teens in your church, or set up up an Irish feast for a young couple in your home and go to their house to babysit their kids while they enjoy the alone time.  Pray and ask God who you can bless, and use the "excuse" of a holiday to brighten and encourage another person's heart.  Part of being a blessing is learning to receive the hospitality and love of others, too.  If you're invited to another Christian's home for St. Paddy's Day go join in the fun, even if it doesn't fit perfectly with your schedule.

I be lovin' ya, sweet colleen,

P.S.  You can fold in a cup of raisins if you like, but the Page men give me a hard time about dead flies in their baked goods every time I add them, so I've learned to leave them out.

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