Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Let’s Bake.

MV S3674-LR Irish sodabread muffins-680

St. Patrick’s Day greetings from the cafe kitchen. Like people all over the world, Irish or not, we always join this annual celebration of Ireland and its rich culture. Part of which, of course, is the food.  

Ages ago I found a quick, simple and delish recipe for classic Irish Soda Bread in The Joy of Cooking. I made some tweaks, loved the results, and it became a St. Patrick’s Day tradition. I’ll be making it again tonight and wanted to share it with you.

But what about those muffins in the banner? Irish muffins? Well, sometimes you just want to change things up, try a new spin on a traditional treat. Enter Irish Soda Bread Muffins, a happy find from the King Arthur Flour website: https://www.kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/irish-soda-bread-muffins-recipe. 

That green Irish fairy dust on my muffins above is matcha powered sugar. To make it, simply mix matcha tea with powdered sugar.

Here is my Irish Soda Bread recipe. It makes one small loaf as in the photo.

MV6706-2021-LR Irish Soda Bread-680

My Eclectic Cafe Quick Irish Soda Bread

Adapted from recipe in The Joy of Cooking

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (125 grams) flour: 1 cup white whole wheat, 1 cup unbleached all-purpose
  • ¾  teaspoon baking soda
  • ½  teaspoon kosher salt (I use Diamond)
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil (or 3 tbsp olive oil + 3 tbsp chilled unsalted butter)
  • ½ to 2/3 cup nondairy buttermilk (See Preparation below)
  • 1/3 to ½ cup golden raisins – or other raisins you prefer (optional) 
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • Turbinado sugar (large, coarse-textured cane sugar crystals) for sprinkling 

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. I bake this bread on a pizza stone. If you choose that method, be sure to preheat the stone along with the oven. You can also use a greased bread pan or 8-inch cake pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and sugar.
  3. Make the buttermilk by mixing nondairy milk (such as almond, cashew, coconut) with ½ tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Give mixture about 15 minutes to curdle and be ready to use.
  4. Using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers, cut the olive oil (or olive oil and butter) into the flour mixture until the texture is crumbly. (Kerry Gold unsalted Irish butter is my favorite for baking.)
  5. Stir the raisins (if using) and caraway seeds into the flour mixture.
  6. Gradually mix in the buttermilk. Use enough so that the mixture is moist, not dry. Use your hands to fold over a few times to make sure all ingredients are well-combined. No yeast-bread-type kneading required. (Lightly oiling your hands to fold and form the dough works better than flouring them.)
  7. On a floured board or piece of parchment paper, form the dough into a round loaf. Cut a cross on top, letting it go over the sides so the dough won’t crack during baking. Brush the top with water or nondairy milk, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar for a nice crunchy crust.
  8. Bake on middle rack of oven for approximately 40–50 minutes, or until the top is a rich golden brown. Be sure to check during baking, as time will vary with your oven.
  9. This recipe makes a small loaf just right for our household of two. It’s most delish served warm. Cool briefly on a wire rack before cutting. Great with orange marmalade or that Kerry Gold butter.

Note: I didn’t find the precise recipe I adapted online, but this one with shortened directions comes closest to it: https://sites.google.com/site/jfhrecipes/home/recipes/joy-of-cooking-irish-soda-bread

The original is from The Joy of Cooking, 1964 edition, © The Bobbs-Merrill Company Inc., Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker authors.

For those like me who didn’t get to bake earlier, these recipes –– especially the bread –– come together quickly, so you may still have time to get them in the oven.

If not, don’t wait until next St. Patrick’s day: The bread and muffins are great any time you crave the wonderful caraway flavor that distinguishes Irish soda bread.

Copyright M. Vincent 2021. All photos copyright M. Vincent.

Limericks: Can You Write Just One?

Limericks remind me of that brilliant Lay’s® potato chips slogan launched in 1963: “Betcha can’t eat just one.”

Here’s an ad from Lay’s marketing campaign with the slogan, featuring actor Bert Lahr (perhaps best known as the cowardly lion in the film, The Wizard of Oz):

Lays Chips Lahr Devil Ad

Like eating that first chip, composing limericks can be devilishly difficult to stop. They’ll pop into your head at the slightest provocation, and if family or friends are fond of them too, you can find yourself caught up in a lively spate of limerickal exchange. But why not? It’s food for the brain and calorie-free.

A Little Limerick History

A poetic blog post I read this week and a St. Patrick’s Day-inspired limerick contest that later arrived in my email sent me down the green limerick road for a bit of research as well as writing:

Chaco Canyon emerald hiking Brad Nixon 4042 (640x451)

I knew some limerick history, but was curious to find out more – including whether the city of Limerick in Ireland gave the limerick its name. From a recent article in The Irish Times, it appears that question is unresolved. The author presents various theories, as well as other historical tidbits from his book, The Curious Story of the Limerick.

One sure connection between poem and city is the annual Bring Your Limericks to Limerick international poetry competition organized by the Limerick Writers’ Centre. The 2018 event will take place from August 24 – 26.

Mention limericks and most people will think of Edward Lear, the English artist and poet who’s been called the father of the contemporary limerick. Here is a well-known example:

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!—
Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard.”

While Lear popularized the form, beginning with his illustrated A Book of Nonsense, published in 1846, he didn’t invent it. I was interested to find that the form emerged earlier than I imagined and well before Lear’s time.

In an article about famous limericks, Allison Vannest says the form probably came to life on the streets and in the taverns of 14th century Britain, which seems a likely time and venue. Others say it debuted as early as 1260, though it wasn’t called a limerick until the 1890s.

The limerick has been used by a range of writers, including James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Pynchon, and even Shakespeare. It appears as a drinking song in Othello, Act II, Scene III, for example:

“And let me the canakin clink, clink;
And let me the canakin clink.
A soldier’s a man;
A life’s but a span,
Why, then, let a soldier drink.”

Guidelines for Composing the Limerick

Here is the basic structure for this humorous five-line rhyming form:  

  • The last word in lines 1, 2 and 5 must rhyme
  • The last word in lines 3 and 4 must rhyme
  • Lines 1, 2 and 5 should have 7–10 syllables
  • Lines 3 and 4 should have 5-7 syllables

My St. Patrick’s Day Limerick

When the limerick challenge appeared in my email, I was thinking about Irish soda bread, which I like to bake for St. Patrick’s Day. As a result, this limerick popped into my head:

Keep Calm and Cut a Slice
Some look upon carbs with a loada dread
But why be afraid of this soda bread?
It’s low sugar, whole wheat
And a fine Irish treat
So grab butter and jam, and full speed ahead.

MV 6706-LR Irish Soda Bread (640x625)

And so it begins. Now, I can’t help but take on that challenge … 

Ready to create your own limerick?  Betcha can’t write just one. 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Copyright M. Vincent 2018

Lay’s is a registered trademark of Frito-Lay North America, Inc.

The Lay’s “Betcha” advertisement is intellectual property of Frito-Lay, and not to be reproduced for commercial purposes.

Green limerick road photo copyright Brad Nixon 2018, used with permission.