Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Shortly after graduating from college, through a random turn of events I got to meet my long-time friend, Nina Roux, in Ireland. It was December, cold and rainy, and in less than two weeks we covered a lot of ground. It turned out to be a fabulous trip and it supplied me with many vivid memories:
1) Seeing Fungi the dolphin in Dingle.
2) Hearing Van Morrison 's "Into the Mystic" playing on a radio in an outdoor market while buying a knitted wool hat to keep me warm.
3) Coloring in a coloring book late into the night in a youth hostel in Galway while Nina Roux was busy at the mirror tweezing something-or-other in front of a wide-open window.
4) Eating Irish Soda Bread and cheese while sitting on a park bench looking out over Dingle Bay.

I have never been able to find anything that matched that bread. I don't suppose I ever will either, since I imagine the circumstances contributed to its greatness. And while this stuff I made was technically very good, it was probably doomed to be a disappointment from the beginning.

This recipe for Irish Soda Bread came from the book Baking Illustrated by Cook's Illustrated Magazine. It was like a really big scone - crusty and buttery on the outside and surprisingly rich and soft on the inside. The ingredients included a mix of all purpose flour and cake flour, two tablespoons of sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, buttermilk, and two tablespoons of butter. I think the buttermilk was very noticable - you could smell it while it was baking, and maybe that was what made this bread seem as though it were loaded with butter.

This bread would be good with vegetable soup. I ate three pieces and put the rest in the freezer.

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