Happy dreary Monday. We are covered in overcast clouds and bleak, blah-ish weather and I am so ready for spring, flowers, and mild temperatures. Cabin fever is for real, folks.
Every weekend, I like to bake at least 2 different recipes. I have so many cookbooks and food magazines and want to try so many recipes, so I’ve made baking a priority each weekend. My friends and co-workers think I’m crazy because I bake for a hobby (clean up and dishes scare people away). If I could bake for a full time job, I totally would! I love even more the styling, photographing, and editing part of it, too. It’s such a fun creative outlet!
Since Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up, I decided to do some bread baking. When it comes to any food that is a cultural staple, I always like to research recipes to learn a little more about the food and the significance of it. In my quest to find the most authentic soda bread recipe, I stumbled upon a nicely written article by David Lebovitz on Irish Brown Bread. He visited an inn in Ballymaloe, Ireland and had a one-on-one brown bread making session with the owner. The article goes into detail about the significance of the bread, the kind of flour and method used to make it, and a good recipe to follow to make it at home.
On a side note, David Lebovitz is my “first”. He was the very first blogger I ever followed and read consistently. In fact, I’m pretty sure at the time when I was reading his blog years ago, I didn’t even realize it was a blog and probably didn’t even know what a blog was. To me, it was just a nice website about a pastry chef that lived in Paris who shared all of his wonderful recipes. His cookbooks are amazing and he has a recipe/memoir of his life in Paris that is such a good, light read that will make you want to move to Paris, enroll at Le Cordon Bleu and become a famous pastry chef.
I made the Irish Brown Bread recipe that he shared on his blog and it turned out beautifully. It was really quick and easy to make, which I am all about these days with two crazies running around. It is a yeasted bread, which might scare some away, but rest assured when I say it is not hard at all. Quick rise times (like 30 minutes total), no kneading, no flouring your counter and making all sorts of messes. I would highly recommend this recipe, eating it fresh out of the oven with a generous smear of good Irish butter and jam.
- 3 1/2 cups whole wheat, stone ground flour (Bob's Red Mill or King Arthur Flour)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups warm water, divided
- 1 tablespoon dark molasses
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- Mix the flours with the salt in a bowl.
- Pour 1/2 cup of water into a small bowl and stir in the molasses, then add the yeast, stirring a couple of times. Let stand until it starts to foam on top, about 5-10 minutes.
- Pour the yeast mixture and the remaining 1 1/2 cups water into the flour and stir until a batter is formed, which will have the consistency of oatmeal. Let stand 10 minutes.
- Spray a nonstick 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and cut a piece of parchment or wax paper to line the bottom of the pan. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a spatula or if it’s sticky, dampen your hand and use that then drape a kitchen towel over the top (so it’s not pressing down on the dough, but just lightly over the top) and let rise in a warm place until the dough reaches the top of the pan, about 20 minutes – although it can vary so just keep an eye on it.
- Before the dough has almost reached the top of the pan, preheat the oven to 450ºF. When the dough has reached the top of the pan, bake the bread for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, decrease the heat to 400ºF. Run a knife around the outside of the bread to release it from the pan, tip the loaf out of the pan, remove the parchment paper, and place the loaf upside down directly on the baking rack and let bake another 15 minutes, or until done. The bread is ready when you tap the bottom and it sounds hollow. Let the bread cool on a wire rack before slicing.