Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bread for the Irish or Spotted Dog

I met Catherine Fulvio at the Cordon d'Or Culinary Awards in 2007. She runs a bed and breakfast with her husband and a well known cooking school in Ireland. We discussed Irish Soda Bread and I learned from her that the recipe I bake is actually "spotted dog" because I add raisins. Irish soda bread was developed as a result of poverty since it's simply made from flour, baking soda and buttermilk. The bread most familiar to Americans contains sugar and possibly eggs and is much richer that the Irish version.
Here's my recipe from Baking Basics and Beyond. I far prefer Irish Soda Bread to green beer to celebrate St. Patrick's Day but a pint of Guiness fits a celebration, too.

Irish Soda Bread

I add golden raisins because their sweetness contrasts with the tangy buttermilk and adds an extra layer of flavor to the bread.

Makes 2 loaves

                        3 cups all-purpose flour

                        1 cup whole wheat flour

                      1/2 cup sugar

                        1 tablespoon baking powder

                   1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

                      1/2 teaspoon salt

                      1/2 cup butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

                   1 1/2 cups lowfat buttermilk

                        1 cup golden raisins

Heat oven to 375°F with oven rack in middle. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet.

Combine flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces.

Add buttermilk and stir until clumps form, making a sticky dough with ragged edges. Stir in raisins.

Place dough on a well-floured work surface. Dust your hands with flour and knead gently 8 to 10 times or toss dough a few times like a pizza until it just holds together and is no longer sticky. Add a little flour as needed.

Gather dough together and cut roughly in half. Pat each half into a round loaf about 7 inches across. Place both loaves on the cookie sheet. Cut an "X" in the center (to let the fairies out).

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until deep golden brown with pebbly tops, no longer moist on the surface, but moist inside. Cool loaves on wire cooling racks. Allow loaves to cool at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Baker’s Notes: You can substitute two 9-inch round cake pans for the cookie sheet to help the loaves keep their round shape without changing baking time.

Because this is a sticky dough, you may need to add 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour than in other recipes.

Secrets to Success: You don’t need to mix very much when adding the raisins, as the kneading will distribute them.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tastes of the Southwest

Everything I've read says not to apologize for not posting but it's been so long I do apologize. We've been traveling and I have been learning about foods of the Southwest, specifically in the Phoenix area.

Yesterday we attended the Heard Museum Indian Art Fair and Show. The quality of the art was superior and it was fascinating seeing the many ways of expressing the Native American culture. Having mostly attended art fairs in the Midwest, the style of art from clay Navajo  masks, to exquisitely woven baskets with intricate designs, and delicate beading used for adornments and many examples of silver jewelry made us plan to attend again.

I sat in on a food demonstration by author and food writer, Carolyn Niethammer, featuring wild foods of the SW. Tepary beans were domesticated by native American tribes and have been used as food since pre-Colombian times. They are cooked in the same way as other dried beans, but usually require longer cooking. She made Tepary Bean Bruscheta but pureeing the cooked beans with lots of fresh basil and spreading on toasted bread. The beans didn't have much flavor but the basil came through and the tapanade used as garnish. The Heard Museum Cafe also serves a Tepary Bean Stew.