Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hearty Irish Breads

Happy St. Patty's Day! In honor of St. Patrick's Day I thought I would repost the delicious bread recipes we enjoyed while in Ireland. Don't forget to wear green today!

I know I have mentioned this in another post, but in September we took a trip to Ireland. My husband Brandon, my friend Ginny and her husband James, and another friend Jen all ran the Dingle marathon. I am so proud of them for accomplishing such a feat. It takes a lot of dedication and determination to train for and complete a marathon. Jen's husband Mike ran a 1/2 ironman in Galway the following day in terrible weather. It was so inspiring to see athletes push their bodies to such extreme limits. What did I do you ask? Well, I had a very important task for which I have trained for the past 16 years. I was the official babysitter for the race. It was exhausting! haha! 

Before our vacation I had spoken to several people that had been to Ireland and everyone talked about how beautiful it was and how they wanted to go back one day. So I anticipated a good time and looked forward to seeing the beautiful countryside. Everything I was told was true, but one thing everyone failed to mention was the food. It was awesome! I don't know if it was because it was a nice change from Italian food, but regardless we loved it.

Some tradition Irish foods we enjoyed were stews (beef or lamb), fish and chips, hamburgers, scones, and, my favorite, brown bread and soda bread. The older boys and men enjoyed the traditional Irish breakfast which includes poached eggs, bacon, sausage,  and black and white pudding.

During the marathon Mike and I took the kids to get breakfast. My oldest son and his friend ordered the traditional breakfast. We were sitting at a different table, but I overheard the waitress mention that pudding came with the meal. When she brought the plate I didn't see anything that looked like pudding. I thought she would bring it out later, but when she didn't, I asked about it. She said the boys had already eaten it. She explained that it was the dark round food on their plate. My son thought it was sausage and asked the waitress what it was but she didn't want to tell them. After clearing the table she finally told them that is was sheep's blood!! The looks on their faces was priceless!

I could go on and on about the food, but I really want to share with you my favorite food from our trip. The bread was AMAZING!! The most popular breads in Ireland are soda bread and brown bread. The bread was so flavorful and hearty. In Dingle we stopped at the most charming little market. There was fresh bread, homemade jams, sweets, cakes, brownies, chocolates and many more homemade yummies. They were also selling fresh fruits and veggies, and sausages from the grill. There were even some handmade wool sweaters and accessories. Of course, I was most interested in the food. I was drawn to a bread booth with a beautiful assortment of bread. I asked for some traditional Irish bread. In a perfect Irish accent the merchant suggested the soda bread. I bought a huge loaf and carried it with me in my purse for the next several days munching on it whenever I got hungry :)

Here are some pics from the market.

After returning from our trip I was determined to find recipes for soda bread and brown bread so I searched the internet until I found a couple that seemed authentic. The Irish versions call for few ingredients. Some of the recipes I found online included raisins or sugar. Although these additions may be delicious, they are not traditional. I think these two recipes come really close to the bread we ate in Ireland.

Irish Brown Bread
Prep time: 10 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 6-8
Yield 2 loaves 
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup quick oats
½ cup wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
1 ¾ cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey

1.       Heat oven to 425°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix flours, oats, wheat germ, baking soda, and salt.
2.      Whisk together buttermilk and honey.  Add to flour mixture; stir to combine until soft dough forms.
3.      Turn dough out onto floured surface. Divide in half. Shape each half into a round loaf. Place loaves 3 inches apart onto prepared baking sheet; bake 10 minutes. (I baked mine in a bread loaf pan.)
4.      Reduce temperature to 400°F. Continue baking 10 minutes longer or until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool 15 minutes.

Nutritional facts per 117g
Calories 321.7
Fat 2.9g
Sugars 9.5g

Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Prep time: 15 mins
Total time 1 hour
Serves: 8
Yield: 1 loaf

4        cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1-1 ½ cups buttermilk

1.       Heat oven to 425°F. Brush a baking sheet with melted butter or spray with non-stick spray.
2.      Combine dry ingredients in a deep bowl. Gradually stir in 1 cup buttermilk, beating constantly, until dough is firm enough to be gathered into a ball. If dough crumbles, add up to ½ cup more buttermilk, 1 tbsp at a time, until it holds together.
3.      Place on a lightly floured board and pat into an 8-inch flattened round loaf.
4.      Place loaf on baking sheet and slash a ½ inch deep “X” into the top of the dough with a small sharp knife.
5.      Bake at 425°F for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden.
6.      Serve hot.

Nutritional facts per 94 g
Calories 239.7
Fat .8
Sugars 1.6g

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