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Irish soda bread

Published March 16. 2011 05:00PM

Irish soda bread doesn't need yeast or a lot of kneading. You can make it in a food processor then finish it up with a bit of hand kneading. Younger cooks would enjoy making this bread with a big bowl and spoon rather then kneading.

Homemade bread in 45 minutes to an hour is a temptation hard to resist. It is the perfect accompaniment to Irish stew for St. Patrick's Day.

Green butter spread adds that wee bit of Irish to this warm wholesome loaf. I created it after thinking through the idea of adding spinach or loads of fresh green herbs to the bread itself.

To keep the spread a little more heart healthy, I added extra virgin olive oil with fresh parsley and dill. This spread is like a refreshing promise of spring.

Irish soda bread

Makes 1 (7 to 8-inch) round loaf.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cups whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats or Irish oatmeal (uncooked)

Additional oats for coating loaf and spreading under bread for baking

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or 1 1/2 cups regular milk warmed slightly in microwave with 1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar stirred together and allowed to sit for a couple of minutes to curdle) or plain yogurt

Option: Substitute 1/2 cup cake flour for 1/2 cup all-purpose flour.

Place dry ingredients in the work bowl of food processor and pulse, or mix together by hand in a large bowl. Pour milk into feed tube slowly while processor is running. Keep pouring until dough starts to form a ball that begins to roll around the bowl. Stop adding milk and process a few seconds longer.

Turn out on lightly floured surface and knead with floured hands until elastic and smooth (2 to 3 minutes). Sprinkle a few oats onto the surface. Press dough into oats to coat outer surface. Form into a plump ball about 5 or 6 inches across. Sprinkle oiled baking sheet or parchment with about a tablespoon of oats. Place bread on top of oats. Let bread rest about 5 minutes.

While dough rests, adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Use a sharp knife and cut across the top with two slashes to form a cross. Make the cuts about a half-inch deep. Place bread in oven and bake 40 minutes or a little longer. Use an instant thermometer and check internal temperature. It should read about 200 degrees. Bread should sound hollow when you thump the loaf.

This bread does not keep well, so plan on using it within one day. Wrap in wax paper to store. Slice for toast or re-warm bread wrapped in foil in a 350-degree, preheated oven.

Cook's notes: Substituting cake flour for a fraction of the flour in this recipe makes the flour more equivalent to European flour. Standard all-purpose flour is mostly made from hard red winter wheat with an ample amount of gluten. European flours are made with soft wheat ideal for baking and pastries that require less gluten.

Green butter spread

Makes about cup

1/2 cup or 1 stick softened butter

cup olive oil

1/2 cup loosely arranged parsley sprigs with larger stems removed

cup dill sprigs with larger stems removed

While bread is baking, place butter and olive oil in work bowl of food processor or bowl. Process or stir until smooth. Add parsley and dill sprigs to processor. Pulse to chop leaves and blend into mixture. Do not over pulse.

Transfer to serving container. Chill until ready to spread.

If mixing by hand, finely mince parsley leaves and dill, removing larger stems before mincing. Stir into olive oil and butter mixture, distributing evenly.

This spread will keep in the refrigerator 3 to 5 days.

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