Irish Soda Bread
Just when you thought we'd forgotten and moved on... Breakfast Week 2006 continues (and concludes)...
For some reason we were possessed to celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year, so we threw an Irish brunch. Between the two of us we have exactly one ounce of Irish blood (I've been known to claim 1/32nd or 1/64th Irish heritage, though the facts behind this claim are sketchy to say the least). Our guests didn't exactly amount to the Hibernian League either. One of them started spouting off about having Black Irish blood midway through the afternoon, but that was only after the whiskey started getting passed around. Stranger still, we threw our St. Patrick's Day brunch two days after St. Patrick's Day, on Sunday the 19th.
Okay, maybe our St. Patrick's Day brunch wasn't that big of a mystery. We'd both been reading the Saveur special issue on Ireland intently, and Montreal is home to one of the oldest St. Patrick's Day parades in all of North America, and this year's parade (the 182nd) was held on Sunday the 19th, and we were looking to have some folks over for brunch anyway, so I guess things did kind of add up. Neither of us really buy that old line about everyone being Irish on St. Patrick's Day, and we're not real big on face-painting or those big green Madhatter's hats you unfortunately see dudes wearing from time to time around March 17th these days. We love a good breakfast, though, and we're all for the Irish culinary renaissance, so we threw a brunch instead.
freshly baked Irish soda bread
Irish salmon gravlax
sour cream with Zubrowka
triple ginger scones
Irish breakfast tea
The menu was a big hit. The warm loaves of Irish Soda Bread were a great way to get things started right--they were a perfect morning bread: quick, simple, a bit rustic, satisfying. As people started to tear into the gravlax we served the colcannon cakes and the boiled eggs. The colcannon cakes are a great way to make use of leftover colcannon from the corned beef feast you might have had the night before and they made a nice break from hash browns or homefries--and, as it turns out, they were particularly good with the Zubrowka-laced sour cream, which had been meant exclusively for the gravlax. Aside from "Irish tea"--tea with cream, sugar, and a shot of Jameson's--we finished the meal with a 1-2 punch that would have made Jack Dempsey blush: Triple Ginger Scones and Mineola Marmalade.
Our Irish Soda Bread/Breakfast Bread recipe came from the March 2003 issue of Saveur, which also had an extensive spread on Ireland.
Irish Soda Bread/Breakfast Bread
2 3/4 C bread flour
2 3/4 C whole wheat flour
1 3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter, softened
2 3/4 C buttermilk
2 tsp pinhead oatmeal
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Whisk the bread flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the buttermilk, stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Dust your hads with flour and knead the dough with the heels of your hands until the dough is semi-smooth. This should take about 1 minute. Divide the dough in half. Shape each piece of dough into a 6" round. Cut each dough round into 3 equal triangles and arrange on a large ungreased baking sheet 3-4 inches apart.
Beat the egg and 1 tsp of water together in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the triangles with the egg wash and sprinkle each with a little oatmeal.
Bake the loaves until deep golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped, about 1 hour. Set aside on a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Triple Ginger Scones
This is one of Michelle's favorite recipes. They're delicious and they always turn out perfectly, but be careful because they also have the power to bring people to tears (tears of joy, thankfully). The recipe she uses is a slight variation on Rose Levy Beranbaum's Rich and Creamy Ginger Scones from The Bread Bible. Michelle's annotated the recipe in her copy as follows: "the best." Enough said.
Rich and Creamy Ginger Scones, a.k.a. Triple Ginger Scones
12 tbsp unsalted butter, cold
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp grated ginger
2/3 cup crystallized ginger, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tsp heavy cream
1 tbsp sugar
Cut the butter into 3/4-inch cubes and refrigerate for a minimum of 1/2 an hour, until very firm. Whip the cream until soft peaks form when the beater is lifted. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400° F. Place an oven rack at the middle level and set your baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, salt, grated ginger, and lemon zest. Add the butter and rub it between your fingers until the mixture resembles fine meal. Stir in the crystallized ginger. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Add the whipped cream to teh well and, with a rubber spatula or a dough scraper, stir the flour mixture into the cream until all of it is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl just until it holds togeter, then turn it our onto a lightly floured counter. Knead it about 8 times, until you can shaped it into a smooth ball.
Cut the dough in half. Shape each half into a smooth ball, press it into a 3/4-inch-thick disk about 6 inches in diameter, and wrap well with plastic wrap. Freeze for 15 minutes, or refrigerate for 1 hour.
With a long sharp knife, cut each disk into 6 or 8 wedges. Brush the tops with the heavy cream and sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Lift the wedges onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches between them.
Place the pan on the hot baking stone or baking sheet and bake the scones for 15-20 minutes, until the edges begin to brown and the tops are golden brown and firm enough so that they barely give when pressed lightly with a finger. Check the scones after 10 minutes of baking, and they are not browning evenly, rotate the baking sheet from front to back. Do not overbake. They will continue to bake slightly when you remove them from the oven and they're best when slightly moist and soft inside. With a spatula, transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool completely.
Once again, these scones turned out wonderfully. They were amazing just by their lonesome, maybe even a little bit better with some additional butter, and possibly even better still with a little of Michelle's mineola marmalade. Of course, the marmalade was pretty impressive on the soda bread, too.
If you're not familiar with Mineolas, they're one of the new citruses on the block. Part of the tangelo family, all of which are tangerines crossed with some other citrus fruit, Mineolas are tangerines crossed with grapefruit. This recipe is very straight-forward and it works like a charm. Making marmalade has never been so easy. This recipe produces a sweet-sour preserve with none of the pithy bitterness most "serious" marmalade lovers prize. Mineola marmalade is a perfect preserve for kids or those trying to build themselves up slowly to "serious" marmalade snobdom.
400 g Mineolas
200 g sugar
1 lemon, juiced
Boil the Mineolas in enough water to cover in a medium-sized widemouth saucepan for 1 1/2 hours. Drain, chop finely, add the sugar and the lemon juice and boil gently, stirring frequently, until the setting point. Place in sterilized jars and can.
Mineola season is just about over. Act fast.