Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Wearing of the Green

Come to find out that M. doesn't like corned beef. Admittedly, corned beef is not my very favorite either, but once a year on St. Patrick's Day? Absolutely.

My mother always made a large Irish meal every March 17th: corned beef and cabbage, Irish beef stew, soda bread. Maybe she was trying to make our childhood in Salt Lake City more cross cultural; it's more likely that it was a Catholic celebration of my brother Patrick's Saint Day.

As an adult I have spent one memorable St. Patrick's Day in Dublin, have married friends who met twice on St. Patrick's Day (it's a long story), and a dear, dear friend who turns thirty today. I don't rush to the store for green garlands, but I do have a small bit of sentimentality about this springy holiday.

And I was looking forward to starting a new tradition of a bang up Irish meal in our new home. M. loves cabbage and potatoes and an Irish feast seemed very, very logical. Until we hit the corned beef snag. No matter how much I tried to convince him, he wasn't going to eat corned beef.

But this afternoon I donned my green sweater and decided my mini-celebration of St. Patrick's Day was not going to be stopped. There might not be corned beef, there might not be cabbage, but there would be soda bread, by God there would be soda bread.

And it turns out we might make a tradition yet. As I write the soda bread cools, the potatoes boil, the Irish music spins on the cd player, and we're drinking... pinot noir.

And in my head? Fond memories of St. Patrick's Days past play again and again.

Irish Soda Bread, based on my mother's recipe.
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 stick butter
2 teaspoon caraway seeds
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons milk

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter until the mixture is well combined and the butter is the size of small peas. Stir in currants and caraway seeds and add buttermilk slowly. Mix until dough is uniformly moist and liquid has been well incorporated into dry ingredients. Knead by hand for one minute.

Shape the dough into a round loaf and place on a greased and well floured baking sheet (or on parchment). Cut an X into the top of the loaf and brush top of loaf with milk. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Serve for breakfast or tea.... or if you simply can't wait, toast a small slice and eat it for dessert.

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