Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Soda Bread - Part 1

If you follow The Well-Fed Newlyweds on Facebook (and if you don’t, you should), you know that I embarked on something of an Irish soda bread baking frenzy this week. Don’t ask me why; I’m not even sure myself. You see, for one thing, I’m not remotely Irish. I also don’t get into celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, so that can’t be it either. If I had to guess, I’d have to say my baking spree was brought about by this month’s Bon Appétit magazine.

In the March issue, Bon Appétit features an article written by Andrew McCarthy. Yes, that Andrew McCarthy, the actor, and former Brat Packer. Apparently he does some writing these days, and in the latest Bon Appétit, he chronicles his quest for the perfect Irish soda bread. I was intrigued, as I respect the significance of a culinary quest. (I may have undertaken one or two myself over the years.) I thus made a mental note to try out what he determined to be the ultimate soda bread.

And then it got really interesting. I think I was sort of brainwashed. Being the week of St. Patrick’s Day, I was bamboozled with images and articles about Irish food, Irish soda bread in particular. I’m an easy target for a promising sales pitch (I’m afraid to watch infomercials for fear of buying everything), so I was quickly drawn in. Irish soda bread had me firmly on its hook. So I picked three recipes (choosing to ignore the question of how the two of us would possibly eat that much soda bread before it went stale), and I got to work.

I started with the recipe that started it all, the recipe from Bon Appétit called Mrs. O’Callaghan’s Soda Bread. It seemed easy enough, with few ingredients and a simple preparation. Alas, one man’s dream bread is apparently another woman’s flop. The dough was dry and crumbly, barely coming together to form a loaf. The finished product wasn’t much better. The crumb was dense with a dry, gritty texture. I also found the bread to be overly sweet. It ended up in the trash, which almost never happens. Normally I wouldn’t waste your time telling you about a recipe I did not enjoy, but I wanted to let you know about this one, in case you read Bon Appétit and were thinking about trying out the recipe. (If you are curious, you can find the recipe here.) Tomorrow I will post the recipe for my second attempt at Irish soda bread – using a different recipe, of course.

Note: When I went online to find the link to this recipe for you, I noticed that the recipe had been changed significantly from the one originally published in the magazine. Apparently my lackluster results were shared by pretty much everyone who tried the recipe; the reviews were terrible. As a result, Bon Appétit revised the recipe, changing everything from the ingredients used to the bake time. While I don’t think I’ll be giving this recipe another go, if you use the revised recipe, you might have better results.

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