Tag Archives: bread

Inventing Coffee Cake

Do You REALLY Live Here?

My Life As A Pilgrim

(the title of my yet to be written memoir….)

Chapter Six

Travel, travel back in time……..

And then there was the day we invented coffee cake.

Since most of Europe wasn’t all that into coffee in 1627, it’s really much more impressive then it sounds.

But we were young…..and we knew so little

me 1981 Joe Carlin

Seriously, young. What I looked like c. 1981.

baking bread Jean-François_Millet_1854 Kroller-Muller Museum

What I thought I looked like….Millet, for want of a 17th century role model (then – remember – no internet!)

It started out simply as baking.

Bread.

We baked and baked and baked. We baked just about everyday. We learned a lot about bread very quickly. But we did not know that there were actual 17th century instructions for bread. And we had the assumptions of the 1970’s – remember the Bi-Centennial? – to guide us.

Plat-bread-1

We didn’t know about this recipe. No internet. Not that many books on food history.

Basic bread – Four ingredients.

Flour. Water. Salt. Leaven.

We got it.

'Still life with a glass of Rhine wine, bread and fruits' by Sebastian Stosskopf (Alsatian painter, 1597-1657), 1644

We made bread that looked like the bread in the 17th century paintings.

And we learned to use the wood fired oven, before EVERYONE had a wood fired oven. And we were good at it. We saw the potential to use pizza as a training tool to learn about the wood fired oven.

Massive buy-in. Who wouldn’t want to help for pizza?

We got….a little bored by four, just four, always the same four, ingredients…

So we started

…..adding things.

Many things you can add to bread and they rather disappear in the loaf, at least visually.

A little sugar. We used brown sugar then  – because we didn’t have sugar loaves and most of us didn’t know we should want them.

still-life-with-fruit-and-sugar-loaf_unknown_about-1720

1720

Brown_sugar_examples

Because obviously brown sugar is more Oldie- Timie, right?

Butter. To make it richer.

A little milk Ditto.

A few eggs….why not?

chickens-at-Plimoth-Platation

Got hens? Use hen-fruit!

Not all at once, not every time, but more things, more frequently.

And then a few spices crept in.

cinnamon

Cinnamon

Ingwer_2_fcm

Ginger

Muscade

Nutmeg

ClovesDried

Cloves

Hmmmmm – that could be a song…..

Of All the Birds

Of all the birds that ever I see
The owl is the fairest in her degree:
For all the day long she sits on a tree
And when the night cometh away flies she.

Tu whit — Tu whoo,
To whom drink’st thou? — Sir Knave, to thee.
My song is well sung, I’ll make you a vow
That he is a knave that drinketh now.

Nose, nose, nose, nose,
And who gave thee thy jolly red nose?
Cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg and cloves:
that gave me my jolly red nose.

 

And then

 

Raisins.

More properly, raisins of the sunn.

Grape_Rasins_plus_Zante_Currants

Raisins and Currents – both are dried grapes, just different sized grapes.

The thing with raisins, is that everyone can see them.

Sometimes they are mistaken for flies….sometimes they concealed flies…….but with raisins you’ve made raisin bread, and everyone knows what that is.

So you learn to put the raisins in last and pull the un-raisined dough down around them….

We thought we’d made cinnamon raisin bread. But really, we had re-invented Gervase  Markham’s Banbury Cake.

Banbury_Cake_Gervase_Markham_1615

Because we didn’t know there were perfectly good cakes we could have made without any slights of hand and amazing feats of prestidigitation.

This was all in 1981 and 1982….it was Michael Best’s edition of The English Housewife where we saw the error – and genius – of our ways.

That wasn’t until 1986.

Markbested

We didn’t see it as coffee cake, or think of it as coffee cake, and certainly didn’t call it coffee cake. Bread . It was Bread.

UNTIL a day in 1981…in the fall….and a reporter for the Boston Globe was there when we were taking the loaves out of the oven and asked if it was coffee cake.…..

apearce

1981 – Abraham Pearce in the 1627 Village. This was the story the papers had come for. Or Thanksgiving. They were always there for Thanksgiving.

We neither agreed nor disagreed.

We may have pointed out a passing flock of geese overhead. Or those hens squawking about….and goats, we probably pointed to the goats, frolicking and gamboling as goats do…..

Perhaps another housewife threw the dishwater out her door, yelling, “Ware Slops!” like we used to do.

We may have sung…..

We all held our collective breath until the picture ran in the paper. The coffee cake was merely identified as bread, although if you looked close you could see the raisins…..

Just another day making history.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Bread, Cake, Perception ways, The 17th century, The 1980's

Horn Bread

I’ve been reading Suosso’s Lane by Robert Knox

Suosso's Lane cover

and this is Bob

Bob Knox

Bob and I were neighbors once upon a time; he also has a day job as a correspondent at the Boston Globe.

The book is about Bartolomeo Vanzetti  and some about Nicola Sacco (as in Sacco and Vanzetti – ring any bells?)

 

Sacco Vanzetti

Suosso’s Lane is a real street in North Plymouth and Bartolomeo Vanzetti lived there.

Suoso Lane street

It’s in North Plymouth, and small enough to hardly read on most maps

But all this North Plymouth talk has gotten people nostalgic for foods that they remember from North Plymouth.

Foods like Horn Bread

hornbreadNorth Plymouth

This was when the 3A Cafe was making Horn Bread. North Plymouth horn bread is a little different from other sorts of horn bread.

This is Italian Horn Bread:

horn bread600px-Coppia-ferrarese_con-pezzi

This is from the same part of north Italy that bakers of North Plymouth came from.But when you move, things change.

The only recipe I could find for this horn bread is not quite right.In one part, because it was written by someone who is not a recipe writer; but also because this was a baker’s bread and that makes it difficult to copy in a home kitchen. It’s not the talent of the baker – it’s the equipment and the scale.

Here’s a link to The Fresh Loaf discussion of Horn Bread – check out the star bread, too.

Here’s a link to a North Plymouth Horn Bread story from several years ago.

Check Robert Knox blog and read Suosso’s Lane.

And if you have a source for homemade horn bread, please share!

horn_bread

1 Comment

Filed under Bread, Italian

Punkin Bread Puddin

Last week, after making Indian Pudding and Sops of Pompion for the Mass Bay masses….I found I had rather a lot of sops of pompion left.

There are some things that can be re-heated and be just fine…but OTHER things need to be re-imagined to turn into something else altogether to eat.

Let’s start with the sops……..

Here’s the 17th century recipe for the sops…..

To butter Gourds, Pumpions, Cucumbers or Muskmelons.

Cut them into pieces, and pare and cleanse them; then have a boiling pan of water, and when it boils put in the pumpions, &c. with some salt, being boil’d, drain them well from the water, butter them, and serve them on sippets with pepper.

– 1675. Robert May, The Accomplist Cook,

RobertMayTheAccomplishtCookFrontispieceI’ve never tried this with gourds or cucumber or even muskmelons – only pumpkins.And my pompion/pumpkin/punkins  in this case were pre-peeled butternut squash from the grocery store.
In Austraila butternut squash is called butternut pumpkin...confused yet?

In Austraila butternut squash is called butternut pumpkin…confused yet?

I cut the pumpkin into smallish cubes, and dropped it into a pot of boiling, salted water. When it was tender I drained it.

Just like macaroni.

I toasted sliced Thirded Bread from Plimoth Plantation’s  Plimoth Bread Company. For the Boston event I carried both elements separately and finished the sops when I got there to Boston:

Put ample butter in a frying pan, add the cubed, boiled squash and saute until heated, golden and just starting to get a little not quite mushy, but most definitely soft. Spread the pumpkin and butter on the toasted bread – I cut each slice into halves or thirds to make it easy to eat as an appetizer.. Sprinkle the tops with fresh ground pepper. Easy. Serve. Great with beer.Or with soup. Once you have it, you’ll figure out how it fits into your life.

And then the leftovers ( a late 19th century term) …..otherwise known as the relics or the orts……to PrestoChangeo into

PUDDIN

  1. Take your pumpkin sops and eyeball them. You should roughly equal amounts of bread and pumpkin. There were some pears that were a few minutes past peak, so they got cut up and added to the mix. With a whole grain bread you’ll need to add a little more moisture. If you have an enriched type bread, not so much to worry.You can break the pieces up or keep them very large to be broken up in the serving.
  2. The liquid is going to be about equal to the mass of the bread and fruit (technically, pumpkin is a fruit, so is squash) so plan panage accordingly.
  3. The bottom half of a granite ware roasting pan was my choice

    The bottom half of a granite ware roasting pan was my choice. Any type of baking dish you can put in the oven will do.

    Butter the pan very well. Then butter it again even better. As Julia Child has said, “Add more  butter”. The butter keeps it from sticking and the butter will help the edges brown and crisp up nicely and just improve everything.

  4. Mix equal amounts of milk/cream and/or half and half with beaten eggs . We used 6 eggs, but four would be enough for a smaller amount. I’m thinking the ratio is 1:1:1:1 – bread:fruit:eggs:milk. If you have juicy fruit (peaches, say, not the gum) keep that in mind when sloshing in liquids. It’s very forgiving. A little longer in the oven helps dry it out.

    juicy-fruit-vintage-packaging

    Commercial Break!

  5. Mix the eggs and milk together with the bread and fruit. Now is the time to think about spicing…..if you don’t know how to pumpkin spice…….pumpkin pie spice
  6. Or you could go with something different….Ginger, cinnamon and some anise seeds are good. Nutmeg on top another good choice.  Or orange peel and fennel seeds…..
  7. Drizzle honey all across the top. Be generous, like the caramel on a sea salt caramel latte generous.
  8. This whole thing can sit while the oven heats up…helps every little thing to soak up and get it’s act together, working out the melody and the harmonies so it can stand up and sing when it time to serve it.
  9. Bake in a 350° oven until heated through and has crispy edges and a knife in the middle comes out dry and not dripping.
  10. Enjoy hot, warm or cold.

Now if you had Pumpkin Bread….you could also make a different Punkin Bread Pudding again…

1 Comment

Filed under Autumn, Bread, Recipe

Loafing Rabbits

It’s the first of August….

which is also known as Lammas

or Loaf Mass

bunny-bread-hot-dog-buns-16pk-1sm

Rabbit

bunny-bread

Rabbit

bunny bread Andrew

Rabbit

Leave a comment

Filed under Summer

Flat Bread Journal

A year of baking flatbreads – on the griddle. That’s what I want to do this year.

English Muffins are probably the flat-bread that has most recently been on your plate

English Muffins are probably the flat-bread that has most recently been on your plate

Part of my inspiration was the reading this

52 loaves

He bakes every week for a year, trying to perfect one recipe – but I’m looking for range, not just depth

And that inspired me to pick up this….

The Bread Journal

The Bread Journal -A Year of Weekly Baking CHART YOUR PROGRESS toward baking the perfect country loaf in this weekly baking journal. Lists, check boxes and prompts provide a satisfying record of every decision. That’s what it says, I kid you not.

Which begs the questions:

  1. When did bread become perfect?
  2. When did the country loaf become the ideal?

But I digress…

I’ll start with English muffins and move on to oatcakes and farls, to tortas and testa and spend some time with Johnnycakes – these are my jumping off points,  the beginning, so  it’ll be interesting to see where this will go.

I’m starting with English muffins because I’ve made them before, and I have a variety of recipes for them. Some call for more of a batter and muffin rings, which I’ve pretty much left behind, and others call for rolling and cutting with a biscuit cutter, which I can easily live without, and most of the rest are a dough that is cut into pieces that are rolled into individual little loaves that are them cooked up.

And then there’s the griddle issues…..

mine is cast iron

cast iron griddle - 12 " - I bought this either at Charlie in North Plymouth or at the Bradlee's that was in Kingston - it was over 30 years ago, so it all blends together

cast iron griddle – 12 ” – I bought this either at Charlie in North Plymouth or at the Bradlee’s that was in Kingston – it was over 30 years ago, so it all blends together

Even if it weren’t perfectly fine and familiar, the temptation for a soapstone griddle…

Isn't this pretty?

Isn’t this pretty? How much would this weigh? I could lift griddles instead of kettle-balls as a get-fit program…

is tempered by the expense of something new, and expense in time as trying to figure out how it works, and how to make it work better, as well as the cash outlay – and then there’s whatever the shipping would be to move a hunk of stone to my doorstep….all expenses I can well do without for the now, and for a good piece of now to come.

And this is the first English Muffin recipe I”ll be trying. It may be the first English muffin recipe I ever tried.

The Better English Muffin

1 C milk

2 Tbl and then 1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

3 Tbl butter

1 ¼ C warm water

2 packets dry yeast

2 ½ C whole wheat flour

2 ¼ C AP flour

¼ C wheat germ

Cornmeal

  1. Scald the milk and add 2 Tbl of brown sugar, the salt and the butter. Put aside and cool to lukewarm.
  2. Stir the 1 tsp of brown sugar into the warm water. Sprinkle in the yeast, stir again and wait for it to bubble and froth.(about 5 minutes)
  3. Mix the flours together with the wheat germ in a large bowl.
  4. Gradually mix in the lukewarm milk mixture and then the yeast mixture.
  5. Knead until it forms a soft dough. If the dough is sticky, add a little more flour.
  6. Put the dough in a covered bowl and let it rise in a warm place 15 minutes.
  7. Punch the dough down and divide into 16 pieces.
  8. Roll each piece into a ball.
  9. Place each little dough ball on a cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet.
  10. Press down on the dough to flatten them, about 3” diameter circles. Cover and let rise for another ½ hour.
  11. Heat a griddle on high and grease lightly with butter.
  12. Place dough circles on hot griddle and cook for 5 minutes each side.
  13. Cool on a wire rack.
  14. Before serving, split each muffin in half with a fork, toast thoroughly and butter.

Ruth Ann Manners and William Manners. The Quick and Easy Vegetarian Cookbook. M. Evans and Co: New York. 1978. Pp.118-9.

3 Comments

Filed under Bread, Journal, Recipe

Stuffing? Dressing? Filling? Farce?

They’re all other ways to say:

‘Pudding in the belly’

Which is, as they say in the 17th century,

“Good Belly Cheer”

If it’s any comfort, even in the 1600’s they  sometimes called it stuffing and sometimes called it dressing….and had a few other variations just to cloud the issue even more.

There was not any Stove Top in 1620.

Larry is an actor and not an acual pilgrim - he's far too hipster for the real Pilgrim Crowd - and he's not really hip enough to be hipster, but that's another story

Larry is an actor and not an actual pilgrim – he’s far too hipster for the real Pilgrim Crowd – and he’s not really hip enough to be hipster, but that’s another story

Anyhow –

Om een jonge Henne te vullen.  (A young hen to farce)

Neemt geraspt Witte-broot/ en 3 harde doren wan Eyeren kleyn gewreven/ met wat geroockt Speck/ geroockt Vleesch/ wel kleyn gesneden/ dan gestoten Folie/ Peper/ Gember/ en een weinigh Saffaraen; en alles wel onder een gheroert/ de Hen daer mede gevult/ dan gestooft met Boter/ Wijn/ Water /gaer zijnde/ wat Verjuys en Saffraen in het sop gedaen/ dan opgerecht.

Rose, The Sensible Cook. p. 62-3.

and now in modern English

Take a grated White-bread, and 3 yolks of hard-boiled Eggs, mashed fine, with some (smoked) Bacon, and (smoked) Meat, chopped very finely, then ground Mace, Pepper, Ginger, and a little Saffron; all well stirred together, the Hen is filled with this, then stewed with Butter, Wine, Water.  When done some Verjuice and Saffron is added to the broth, and then it is served

The word “smoked” (geroockt) exists in this context in Dutch in 1627.  English meat, similarly prepared, seems to be referred to as “hung”; the term “smoked” isn’t used until the end of the 17th century.  Although the effect is the same, the intent, at least in England, was not to flavor, so much as dry, the meat. kmw

Sensible Cook in Dutch

The original

Translation by Peter Rose

Translation by Peter Rose

and now perhaps in modern English:

Stuffing recipes are really hard -most stuffing isn’t a recipe…..

6 cups of bread crumbs (I pulsed good bread through the blend, and kept some of it a little chunky, I like some texture)

3 hard boiled egg yolks (snack on the whites because the smells of this coming together may make you a little peeked

1/2 a pound of smoked bacon, diced

14 oz smoked kielbasa or other smoked sausage (14 oz is the size of the package – it’s not a magic number)

Mace – the spice:

Mace

It also comes in powdered form – it’s the outer casing of a nutmeg, so use nutmeg if you don’t have mace.

also Pepper and Ginger. Saffron if you can afford it. Total spice might be about a tablespoon. It should have some smell over the meat. The bread absorbs a lot of flavor, so don’t be afraid.

Because every other stuffing/dressing etc from the 17th century I looked at called for it, I added 3 whole eggs, beaten, a 1/2 stick melted butter and then some broth to moisten it. A little  wine would not be amiss at this point, especially  since I don’t know anyone who is boiling their Thanksgiving turkey….although……

The broth I bought that I’m loving this November

college Inn white wineand this cooking wine was convenient and not too salty

Goya Cookng wine

Put the whole batch in a buttered 9′ casserole and bake, covered for  1/2 hour at 350º and then 1/2 hour uncovered.

The First Thanksgiving probably looked a little more like this then what we're accustomed to seeing

The First Thanksgiving probably looked a little more like this then what we’re accustomed to seeing

This Turkey would taste great with this stuffing. Or Dressing. Or Pudding in it's belly or....

This Turkey would taste great with this stuffing. Or Dressing. Or Pudding in it’s belly or….

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Autumn, Recipe, Thanksgiving, The 17th century

National Home Bread Baking Day

is today.

 

keep-calm-and-bake-bread-62

It’s easy. Really.

Four Ingredients.

Flour. Water. Salt. Leaven.

No machines.

And you can do it on whatever your schedule is.

Really

REALLY.

REALLY.

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoë François . If you don’t know them, let me introduce you. They have a blog on their website. They have a book for Gluten Free. They have another for pizza. And one for whole grains.

AB5first

This book came out in 2007, and for a change, I got it while it was new. It meant we ate fresh home-baked unless I choose to try bread from someone else. No longer stuck with grocery store bread because, because, because….

You mix up the dough once, toss it in the fridge, and take out a lump to bake when you need it.

Genius.

Further back in time, back in the dim, dark ages of the 20th century, Laurie ColwinLaurie Colwin had written  of a similar approach, but in essay form, and I had tried it and then forgot. AB5 has step by step instructions and photographs and is perhaps the most basic of basic bread dough making that I have ever read. And I read a whole lot about bread and dough.

good bread when you want and need bread

good bread when you want and need bread

So, stop reading already – go make some dough!

Jeff and Zoe - you'll be on a first name basis with pretty quick

Jeff and Zoe – you’ll be on a first name basis with pretty quick

The Master recipe is on the website… I’ve got loaves to form, see ya soon!

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Bread, Influencers

Onion sops and other stories

onion art design

I suffer from Stir The Onions Syndrome.

STOS
I admit it.
If someone is cooking anything – even just a few onions in the pan – I have an irresistible urge to take the spoon away from them and stir.

Even if the onions don’t need any stirring. I often have the spoon before I can think that maybe, just maybe, other grownups are perfectly capable of stirring their own onions. I’ve have done this totally unawares, until I find myself with the spoon, and no memory as to how it got in my hot little hand.
It’s not about the cook. Or the spoon. Or even about those onions, it’s about all onions.
Onions as the base of so much food.
Onions as the root of cooking.
Onions as the prelude smell.

What comes after the onions?
onion art

But onion sops.

Not sobs,

from Onion Tears, although I have cried me a river of onion tears,

but sops. Quick sops Biblical backstory – a piece of bread dipped into something

26Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.

King James Bible

You know, like sippets,

Solomon's Sippets - available in Austrailia

Solomon’s Sippets – available in Austrailia

but larger

Sippets?

Yes, sippets. Sippets good.

Like tostes.

Toasting Fork - toasting old school

Toasting Fork – toasting old school

A sop of Onions

Take and slice your Onions, & put them in a frying panne with a dish or two of sweete butter, and frie them together, then take a litle faire water and put to it salt and peper, and so frie them together a little more, the boile them in a lyttle Earthern pot, putting to it a lytle water and sweet butter, &c. You may use spinnage in a like manner.

Thomas Dawson. The Second Part of the Good Hus-wives Jewell. Falconwood Press: 1988.p. 7-8.

(Thomas Dawson is soooo cool – how many different ways can YOU spell ‘little’?)

Meanwhile, Last Thursday……

Culinary Insights |  Plimoth Bread Co, Tani Mauriello and Kathleen Wall | 4:00

Join Tani and Kathleen under the Culinary Insights tent on Thursday for a glimpse of all that awaits us this weekend (Sept 25-28) when Plimoth Plantations reveals the renovated and expanded Craft Center and all-new bakery, Plimoth Bread Co! Their program, A Toast to Bread, introduces us to sippets, sops and toasts. Not sure what those are? Come to the market on Thursday and find out!

New Plimoth Bread Co. at Plimoth Plantation Craft Cent.
How do you #icrafthistory?
#iservehistory
Drinking Peasants by Pieter   -notice the onions hanging by the fire - Those braids or plats are known as  Traces. Onion Traces.

Drinking Peasants by Pieter -notice the onions hanging by the fire – Those braids or plats are known as traces. Onion Traces.

Leave a comment

Filed under Autumn, Bread, Recipe, The 17th century

Muffings (English implied)

Wicked Way-Back Wednesday

English muffings from the 18th century.

For version for a 21st century cook, see Paula Marcoux’s Cooking with Fire

Cooking with Fire by Paula Marcoux

Cooking with Fire by Paula Marcoux

To make Muffings and Oat-Cakes.

To a buſhel of Hertfordſhire white flour, take a Pint and a half of good Ale-yeaſt, from pale Malt, if you can get it, becauſe it is whiteſt ; let the Yeaſt lie in Water all Night, the next Day pour off the Water clear, make two Gallons of Water juſt Milk warm, not to ſcald your Yeaſt, and two Ounces of Salt ; mix your Water, Yeaſt, and Salt well together for about a quarter of an Hour, then ſtrain it and mix up your Dough as light as poſſible, and let it lie in your Trough an Hour to riſe, then with your Hand roll it and pull it into little Pieces about as big as a large Walnut, roll them with your Hand like a Ball, lay them on your Table, and as faſt as you do them lay a Piece of Flannel over them, and be ſure to keep your Dough cover’d with Flannel ; when you have rolled out all your Dough begin to bake the firſt, and by that Time they will be ſpread out in the right Form ; lay them on your Iron ; as one Side begins to change Colour turn the other, and take great Care they don’t burn, or be too much diſcolour’d, but that you will be a Judge off in two or three Makings. Take care the middle of the iron is not too hot, as it will be, but then you may put a Brick-bat or two in the middle of the Fire to ſlacken the Heat. The Thing you bake on muſt be made thus:
Build a Place juſt as if you was going to ſet a Copper, and in the ſtead of a Copper, a Piece of Iron all over the Top fix’d in Form juſt the ſame as the Bottom of an Iron Pot, and make your fire underneath with Coal as in a Copper: obſerve, Muffings are made the ſame Way ; only this, when you pull them to Pieces roll them in a good deal of Flour, and with a Rolling-pin roll them thin, cover them with a Piece of Flannel, and they will riſe a proper Thickneſs ; and if you find them too big or too little, you muſt roll Dough accordingly. Theſe muſt not be the leaſt diſcoloured.
And when you eat them, toaſt them with a Fork criſp on both Sides, then with your Hand pull them open, and they will be like a Honey-Comb ; lay in as much butter as you intend to uſe, then clap them together again, and ſet it by the Fire. When you think the Butter is melted turn them, that both Sides may be butter’d alike, but don’t touch them with a Knife, either to spread or cut them open, if you do they will be as heavy as Lead, only when they are quite buttered and done, you may cut them acroſs with a knife.
Note, Some Flour will ſoak up a Quart or three Pints more water than other Flour ; then you muſt add more Water, or ſhake in more Flour in making up, for the Dough muſt be as light as poſſible.

(The intial transcript came from Celtnet – then I added the random caps and italics from the Prospect Books edition.

Read more at Celtnet: http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/glasse-wine-brewing-bread-17.php
Copyright © celtnet)

“First Catch Your Hare…” The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. A Lady (Hannah Glasse). Facsimile of the first edition, 1747. Prospect Books, 1995. p. 151.

2 Comments

Filed under Books, Bread, Recipe

Irish Breads

There’s more than one way to loaf around in Ireland…..

Soda breads

White and Brown

Brown Soda Bread

Brown Soda Bread

Soda Bread in farls - a griddle cake

White Soda Bread in farls – a griddle cake

Oatcakes

Irish Oatcakes (they're not just in Scotland or Wales)

Irish Oatcakes (they’re not just in Scotland or Wales)

Blaa

Waterford Blaa - in the Irish Food Guide

Waterford Blaa – in the Irish Food Guide

and Cakes.

This is called Irish Bread with Golden Raisins, but really it's tea cake, even if it shows up in The Boston Globe and even if Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven say bread - it's cake

This is called Irish Bread with Golden Raisins, but it is really not bread, even if it shows up by that name  in The Boston Globe and even if Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven say it’s bread – it’s cake.

Most of what will be passing for Irish bread this week is actually cake – tea cake and seedy cake. If it has sugar, butter, seeds or raisins in it – it’s a cake and not a bread. It’s delicious and delightful, please enjoy,  allowing  me my Marie Antoinette moment by letting you all eat cake, but bread is bread and all that added stuff is cake.

Oatcakes have morphed into a kind of biscuit – or cookie – for the most part and are probably the most traditional bread of Ireland, although not the most famous. Oats and griddle baking go back to the medieval period when Ireland was saving civilization for the world. Don’t believe me? Read Thomas Cahill.    How_the_Irish_Saved_Civilization

Blaa is a sort of yeasted white bread roll, perhaps named from the Norman ‘blanc’ when they stopped in to conquer  Ireland. Recently it was a headline in a New York Time travel article, Dining in Dublin from Boxty to Blaa ( http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/travel/dining-in-dublin-from-boxty-to-blaa.html?_r=0 ) which includes  In November, I spent a week in Dublin eating my way through some of these restaurants, most of which opened in the last few years. It was my fourth visit to this stately city of Georgian townhouses and lively pubs, and I’ve never eaten better.”  a sentence I hope to make my own some day.

Soda Bread is the kind of bread that screams “Irish Bread” in the month of March around here. It is a bread that is leavened with baking soda and not yeast. Commonly referred to as “quick bread” they go together quickly – no rising time – and are ready as soon as they come out of the oven. Many of them are best warm….and are improved the next day by toasting, because they do stale up almost as quickly as they cook.

Because milk is an important part of the Irish diet – it’s called the Emerald Isle because of all the grass that grows there, which I great fodder for cows, so the butter and beef of the country is not a cliché, but an important part of the culinary landscape for centuries – Soda bread is often made with sour milk or butter milk. The slight acidity level of this liquid actually makes the soda work better.

The classic Soda Bread is a pound of flour and a pint of sour milk, a spoonful of soda and a little salt. Mix together, form into a rough ball, slash a cross into the top to allow the steam to escape the middle so it bakes all the way inside OR to divide it into quarters, or farls, for griddle baking.  The cross  has no religious significance, or if it does I’d like to see a reference from someone who isn’t a detractor about the superstitious Irish. But in typical Irish fashion, we accept the venom of our detractors into as compliments. thus confusing them, and then start to believe our own press. Sigh.

And now for a recipe that isn’t particularly Irish in it’s origins, but turns out a really nice loaf in American kitchens.

Irish Whole Wheat Soda Bread

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour (four cups of flour is roughly a pound – measure it by weight if you have a scale…..)

1 Tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon double acting baking powder

1 ½ -2 cups buttermilk (2 cups is a pint, and a pint’s a pound the world around….)

  1. Combine the dry ingredients. Make sure there are no lumps in the soda, it’ll leave dark patches in the bread. I toss it into a bowl and use a whisk to combine everything.
  2. Add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough.
  3. Knead it until it comes together, maybe for a minute or two. It should be firm, velvety and able to hold it’s shape.
  4.  Form into a round loaf and place on a greased cookie sheet (or on a silpat on the cookie sheet). IF the dough is a little slack and starts to schlump on the sheet, butter a 8-inch cake pan or casserole dish and bake in that to give the bread it’s form. (How do I know this? You know how I know this)
  5.    OR in a genius move from the current Martha Stewart Living Good Thing: form the dough into 16 equal pieces and place on a lined cookie sheet – YES – Irish Bread in Individual Loaf Form!!!! I’m planning to freeze it at this point, and then making as much bread as I need at any given moment. (Marthastewart.com/soda-bread http://www.marthastewart.com/1055131/pull-apart-soda-bread)Or divide into farls and bake on a griddle and let me know how it works for you.
  6.    Bake in a 375° oven for 35-40 minutes. The loaf will be brown and have a hollow sound when rapped with your knuckles. 
  7.   James Beard let the loaf cool before slicing….let it cool at least a little, it makes it easier to slice. Slather with butter…maybe some marmalade….with bread like this who needs cake?

From James Beard. Beard On Bread. Alfred A. Knopf. 1973. pp.164-5

James Beard

James Beard

1 Comment

Filed under Bread, Holiday, Irish