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Knead to please this St. Patrick’s Day

If you’ve been reluctant to make bread because you don’t want to mess around with yeast, then this recipe is for you.

Can bread with a chewy, craggy crust and a tender moist interior cost less a dollar? Yes! This truly qualifies as frugal and fabulous.

Making soda bread is a proud tradition among the Irish. While we might make soda bread as part of our St. Patrick’s Day celebration, we should remember soda bread was the hearty sustenance of the working man created out of necessity.

Unlike most bread which is made with yeast, soda bread relies on baking soda to leaven, or rise. The wheat grown in Ireland is very soft with low protein, similar to cake flour, and doesn’t rise well using yeast. But it’s perfect for making soda bread.

Here’s where the purists get annoyed. There are no raisins in soda bread. Hardworking Irish families couldn’t afford lots of sugar, butter and currants. The bread we commonly call Irish Soda Bread is technically “Spotted Dog” a kind of sweet tea cake. But the moniker swap is understandable because spotted dog doesn’t sound very appetizing. There is actually an organization – “The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread” that is very serious about defending this tradition.

I have visions of an angry, Irish mob with pitchforks trying to find Pahrump on a map. So, I’d better get it right.

TRADITIONAL IRISH SODA BREAD

Time: One hour yield: One loaf or 4 to 6 servings

4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 ¾ cups (14 oz.) buttermilk or soured milk – see below

If you’re going to “sour” milk instead of using buttermilk, mix 1 ¾ cups milk with 1 ½ tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice. Let this rest for 5 minutes. It should look slightly curdled. If it’s not, then add a bit more vinegar or lemon.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl sift and combine the dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle and add buttermilk, mixing by hand or with a fork to form a sticky dough. Place on floured surface and lightly knead, just enough to bring it together into a round. Resist the urge to over knead or the bread will be gummy.

Form a round flat shape and cut a cross in the top of the dough to bake more evenly (and let the faeries out).

You have choices for how to bake this: You can bake this in an oiled but not pre-heated cast iron skillet, in a greased and floured round cake pan or on a greased baking sheet. They all work.

Bake for 40-to-50 minutes. When done, the bottom of the bread will sound hollow when tapped.

I like to brush the crust with melted butter but that’s just me. Serve warm, slathered with butter.

Erin go bragh!

Frugal Festivity contributed by Patti Diamond author of Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!, www.divasonadime.com. Join us on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom

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