Last Friday was St Patrick’s Day, or as my dear, dead friend used to refer to it, “Amateur Night.” How did we celebrate this oddball holiday of glitter shamrock hats, rude tee-shirt sayings & excessive consumption of radioactive-green beer here at Chez Herkes? Decadently.
Spouseman had an extra nap, it being his max-fatigue day at the end of the radiation treatment week. I made soda bread, sort of.
For background, you should know I can trace ancestors to both the North & South of Ireland, I wore orange on March 17th most of my childhood, and I was raised to know that American celebration of this “Irish” holiday has as little to do with Eire as Easter does with bunnies. Possibly less.
Nevertheless, I can get behind any excuse for indulgence in the gray pre-springtime. Even a pseudo-holiday is sufficient permission for baking experiments.
I found a delicious recipe on Smitten Kitchen for Soda Bread Scones and promptly messed with it to a) use ingredients I already had, and b) NOT require using a mixer. Here’s the result. I blame my friend Tess for the booze part. Her soda bread recipe involves whiskey. I wanted part of that action, but the mini-loaf recipe I cribbed didn’t have any whiskey in it. Enter ingenuity.
Not-Really-Irish Soda Bread for the Not-really-Irish Holiday
Step 0. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and put parchment on a half-sheet baking sheet. Or two smaller ones. Or four teeny ones…you get the picture. The main thing is the parchment. Or cooking spray. Non-stick. That’s the thing.
1. In a small bowl, dump 1 c. cranberries* to soak with a splash of hot water and a hefty splash of sweet whiskey–Irish, bourbon or blended, maybe rum, NOT SCOTCH OH GWADS NOT SCOTCH. I have a lot of bourbon lying around (long story) so I used that.
2. Sift together in a Really Big Bowl (I’ll explain later):
- 3 1/2 cups-ish of all purpose flour
- NOTE: I wish I’d been taught to bake using a scale but I wasn’t, so I don’t have the reliable flour-by-weight measures for you. I start with 3.5 cups and set aside a half-cup for putting on my hands when kneading and in case the humidity goblins are mischievous and the dough is unworkably sticky.
- 2 tsp baking powder (which is baking SODA plus cream of tartar, ICYWW)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 c. sugar
3. Add in and work into dry ingredients with fingers or pastry blender or fork :
- 1/2 stick butter (aka 4 tbsps) diced into bits. Keep at it until it’s throughly worked in. “Like coarse meal” the cookbooks say. Whatevs.
4. Mix together in any large-enough receptacle:
- 1 egg or egg white ( I can taste yolk in baked goods and leave it out any time I know it won’t affect the baking chemistry. Like here. Your choice.)
- 3/4 cup milk.
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt (See, no need for buying WTF “buttermilk” or curdling milk with sour, nasty vinegar… ew. Yogurt. Plain.)
5. Tip the wet ingredients + the boozy fruit into the dry ingredients and stir — gently, scraping from the outside of the bowl and scooping up from the bottom — until everything is just mixed enough there’s no dry flour showing and the fruits are decently distributed.
6. Now….this is where every other recipe said, “turn dough onto a floured work surface and knead five or six times to form into a flat round.” NOPE. I am FAR too lazy to scrub countertops before and after, so this is where the Really Big Bowl comes in. I flour up my hands and knead the dough in the bowl. Easy-peasy.
This kind of “kneading” is not an exacting process or a long one. Work the dough until you can just make it hold a proper shape. Too much kneading and the baby goes blind. Er, I mean the dough toughens up and you get scones like hockey pucks.
7. Cut the dough round into eight wedges with a sharpish blade (yes, in the bowl)
8. One by one, mush the wedges into rounds you can glob onto the baking sheet. You can tell from the phrasing this isn’t going to be more sticky than neat&tidy, right? Right.
Cut crosses in the tops if you want them to look fancy. It works. I was impressed
9. Bake 20-ish minutes (I set the timer for 18, ended up being 22 total, parchment slows baking time a bit.)
If you really want to get fancy, melt some butter, swish in a bit of whiskey and drizzle the combo over the tops of the cooling mini-loaves. I didn’t bother. I was too busy eating one of them still steaming hot from the oven.
They were tasty. Lovely bite of bitter soda and tart tang from the yogurt, bourbony-cranberries sweet enough without overwhelming the dough. Yum. They keep for a couple of days and toast beautifully.
*Yes, cranberries. I despise currants, the traditional fruit found in soda bread. Spouseman loathes raisins, the traditional sub-in for currants. We both like cranberries. You could leave out the boozy fruit & sugar entirely and the bread still would be scrumptious.
Postscript: remember, when I’m not massacring recipes, I’m writing books. You can buy my books on Amazon & other online retailers. Or order paperbacks from your local bookstore or library, even. I even have links here on the blog. Go figure.