I’m not sure when St. Patrick’s Day became what seems to be a National holiday with all the fanfare of Thanksgiving – just swap the stuffing and potato carbs for beer carbs – but I’m all in favor of a day that encourages the baking of bread. Irish Soda Bread, to be exact. I decided to go for it.
Baked goods are by far my favorite treats. I do enjoy ice cream, but if it’s got gluten, I’m all over it. Croissants, eclairs, layer cake, bread… The problem is that I’m not a very good baker. I’m a good cook, but the intuitive, “add a bit of this, a pinch of that” method that makes for a delicious pot of spaghetti sauce does not transfer well to baking. Baking is science. Chemistry to be exact. And there is math involved, which is where it all falls apart for me. Spoiler alert: the bread was edible, pretty good under the ¼ inch of butter I put on it, but I’m not posting the recipe here because results might vary. I can’t be sure you’ll screw it up the same way I did.
I’m single, so I wanted to make Irish Soda Bread for one. I knew I would eat it until it was gone, so a single serving was the best way to go. Traditionally, Irish Soda Bread calls for raisins or currants, but I didn’t have any of those. I did, however, have dried cherries. And chocolate chips.
I found a mini-bread recipe at Once Upon A Cutting Board. I had to scroll down down down past all her friggin’ pictures for the recipe, but I decided to set aside that resentment. Her recipe said it made 2 mini-loaves, so I cut the recipe in half. That’s where things got dicey. It calls for ¾ cup white flour and ½ cup whole wheat flour. (Side bar: there was no reason for me to use whole wheat flour in my Irish Soda Bread. The ‘make it healthy’ ship had sailed the moment I decided on candied cherries and chocolate chips.)
If you take ¾ and ½ and add them together and then divide by half you have to find the common denominator and then multiply by the inverse of the numerator and, well, I lost interest. I tossed a big scoop of flour into the bowl and added the other dry ingredients, but it looked like too much for a mini-loaf so I scooped some out. Alas, you simply cannot go rogue when baking. When I added the liquid there wasn’t enough of it to make dough, so I poured in more milk until it became a sticky ball.
Kudos to Once Upon A Cutting Board. Irish Soda Bread traditionally calls for buttermilk, but buttermilk comes in a big ole half gallon jug. Knowing that, the author gave us a hack. If you’re single, and neither you nor the cat likes buttermilk, you can make a reasonable substitution with whole milk and vinegar.
Between then and the above photograph, there was some baking, but I didn’t set a timer. I pulled it out and stuck a toothpick in it after about 20 minutes. My understanding is that you can tell a baked good is done when a toothpick comes out clean. But I kept stabbing chocolate chips, so it never came out clean. I put it back in the oven and kind of forgot about it, but thank goodness, the damage was limited to a too-dark and too-hard crust. It was tough to slice. And biting into it was less than graceful, but I ate it.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!