Irish Soda Bread

This is my go-to recipe for Irish Soda Bread. It comes from the falling apart Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (paperback, Bantam, 1987) my dear friend M gave me when I bought my house 25 years ago.

Irish Soda Bread
Servings: 8
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, plus time for the loaf to cool

Ingredients:

  • 335g all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. fine salt
  • 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds (see note)
  • 55g (1/3 cup) raisins
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease the bottom of an 8” round baking pan.
  2. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into 12 small pieces, sprinkle across the dry ingredients, and cut the butter into a flour for about 3 minutes. The butter should mostly disappear into the dry ingredients.
  3. Add 3/4 cup of buttermilk and stir it in. If there is still dry ingredients in the bowl or a ball hasn’t been formed then add a bit more buttermilk and stir. The dough shouldn’t be damp.
  4. Knead the dough a few times within the bowl. Then transfer it to the prepared pan. Cut an X about 1/2″ deep across the top of the loaf.
  5. Bake until well-browned, about 45 minutes. If you want to check the internal temp. you want to reach ~205°F.
  6. Remove baking pan to a cooling rack and remove the loaf from the pan. Cool at least 1 hour before cutting.

Notes:
Ted insists Irish Soda Bread needs to have caraway seeds. I don’t really remember that flavor in Irish Soda Bread. So add them if you like and leave them out if it’s not your cup of tea.

Fresh Blueberry Scones

I picked up some fresh blueberries at the megamart and woke Sunday morning with a hankering for scones. Baking with fresh fruit is always a little different from their dried cousins (such as the dried cranberries in these scones), plus I had no heavy cream, so I improvised.

Fresh Blueberry Scones
Servings: 4 (2 scones each)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon (I used Ceylon)
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. half and half, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • extra sugar for sprinking before baking

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 9″ round baking dish with parchment and coat the sides of the pan with baking spray.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add the butter to dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender to work the butter into the dry goods. After 3-4 minutes or so the butter should be well cut into the dry goods and the dry goods should look grainy.
  4. Add 3/4 cup half and half and the egg to the dry ingredients. Use a wide rubber spatula to gently mix the dough until it just comes together. A bit of flour in the bowl isn’t a problem.
  5. Add the blueberries and carefully combine them with the dough.
  6. Empty the dough into the prepared pan. Press the dough into a 9″ round circle within the pan. Cut the dough into 8 wedges (I use a bench scraper).
  7. Brush the dough with the remaining half + half and sprinkle generously with sugar.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking. The scones are done when an instant-read thermometer reads 205°F when inserted.
  9. Move the pan to a cooling rack and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the scones. Place a plate on top of the pan and up-end the pan/plate to remove the scones. Remove the parchment and return the scones to the cooling rack for another 5-10 minutes.
  10. Serve warm, with a bit of butter or jam. Or allow to cool completely and wrap individual scones in a double layer of plastic wrap to keep for 3-5 days.

Notes:
I think baking these in the pan helped them have a slightly better rise than the free form scones I have made. The fresh berries definitely benefited from the extra sugar.

Most scone recipes tell you to blend the butter and dry ingredients until it resembles small peas. No amount of blending has given me that result. When the butter is no longer sticking to your pastry blender feel free to move on to the next step.

Popovers

Last March my husband and I spent a few days in Portsmouth, NH with no purpose other than explore a place close to home where we had never spent any significant time. While there we found a nice breakfast place named Popovers on the Square which had, among many other tasty things, really nice popovers.

[Popovers]

Christmas morning I woke up with a desire for some popovers. Luckily the ingredients are pretty basic, we own a popover pan and my go to cookbook, Joy of Cooking, has a simple recipe. So here is a simple treat for you to enjoy.

Recipe under the cut

Cranberry Tangerine Scones

I woke up wanting scones and so I made them. This recipe, with slight modification, comes from Ocean Spray.

Cranberry Tangerine Scones
Servings: 4 (2 scones each)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 27 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • a pinch plus of cinnamon (I used Ceylon)
  • a pinch plus of ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Craisins (or other dried cranberries)
  • zest from 1 tangerine
  • extra sugar for sprinking before baking

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a 1/4 sheet pan with parchment.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Add the butter to dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender to work the butter into the dry goods. After 5 minutes or so the butter should be well cut into the dry goods and the dry goods should look grainy.
  4. Add 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons cream, egg, Craisins and tangerine zest. Mix until dry ingredients are moist and the dough holds together when compressed..
  5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball. Pat into a circle 3/4-inch thick; cut into 8 wedges.
  6. Place on cookie sheet. Brush with the remaining heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
  7. Bake 12 minutes, rotating the sheet pan half way through.

Notes:
My husband prefers tangerines over oranges so that’s what we have in the house this time of year.

For me “a pinch plus” means something like a sixteenth of a teaspoon. I use the tip a teaspoon handle to reach into the jar, grab a small amount of the spice and add it to the bowl. Both spices here are really background notes that you may not taste in the final product. I think they help enhance the other flavors.

The directions from the original recipe suggest that the flour, et al and butter, once cut in, will look like small peas. Mine didn’t even after 10 minutes of hand blending with the pastry blender. It looked more like flour mixed with rice with some bigger pieces amid the flour. So don’t fret if you don’t see small peas.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Some days you just want something sweet to munch on. These cookies are fairly easy to make, at least they are if you have a big stand mixer. One of the things I like about them is they stay reasonably soft even days after baking. Not that the lot of them tend to last for days. 🙂

C is for Cookie

Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Recipe under the cut

Brightly Colored Cakes

One of our regular Saturday night attendees turned 4 while we were off at a wedding reception last weekend.  We decided to have a cake for him this week and Ted experimented with paste food coloring for the first time.  The results were bright and Muppetesque.

Here’s a shot of the cake just after they came out of the oven.

The lighting wasn’t great where I took this shot of the assembled cake.

A Slice of Colorful Cake!

The filling between the layers is butter frosting mixed with blackberry jam. There is also a layer of blackberry jam spread over the layers to add a bit of extra blackberry yumminess. Multi-colored sprinkles finished off the top of the cake.

Herb Beer Bread

We decided quite late in the day that we wanted to add some bread to the Saturday night dinner menu. My first thought was corn bread however we lacked sufficient milk to make it work. So we turned to beer bread. Beer bread uses leavening agents (such as baking powder) instead of yeast. This recipe produces a fairly dense bread.

Herb Beer Bread

This recipe is based on one I originally found on the Hannaford Supermarket website. Their link no longer works; this one appears to be a similar recipe. Really it was useful for the ratios of ingredients since we didn’t use onions or rosemary.

Recipe under the cut

Maple Syrup Cake

I appear to be on an exploration of snack cake. Today I wanted to make something to use up some of the excess of grade B maple syrup. Grade B maple syrup is darker in color and grade A. Grade A is typically served with breakfast cakes (pancakes, waffles, etc.). Ted and I find grade B more flavorful; while some may use it solely for baking or cooking we use it for breakfast and more.

Based on a recipe from Joy of Cooking for "Honey Cake".

Maple Syrup Cake

This recipe is based on one for Honey Cake in Joy of Cooking.

Recipe under the cut

Spice Cookie Bars

When I need to make dessert my mind first goes to chocolate. Alas I married a man who is not as fond of chocolate as I. Life is full of small compromises and one of mine is I don’t just make chocolate cake for dessert.

I found the recipe for Spice Cookie Bars at our “local” Penzeys Spice. We make a short pilgrimage a couple of times a year to their Arlington (MA) location to restock the pantry. One of my favorite parts is that they have jars of all their spices & blends available for customers to open, sniff and get a sense of the differences between 3 types of ground chile. They also have recipe cards randomly placed around the store with their products.

The resulting bars had a spongy quality that remind me of hermits. From the way they disappeared from the plate I’m guessing that folks like them a lot.

Recipe under the cut