Sunday, September 27, 2015


For the month of September Meredith from the Poco Loco Olsons challenged us to experiment with soda bread. Here is the link to the Daring Bakers Challenge as presented to us. I am so excited to share this recipe with you as a truly quick bread that is delicious.

There is a lot of history to Irish Soda bread which was not, according to many sources, developed by the Irish. Here is a link to The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. It gives a good reading on the history of soda bread.

Here is a link to a site that is called European Cuisines and discusses Soda Bread. I found it very informative about the European take on Soda Bread.

There are many variations on soda bread and the ones considered true soda breads are quite plain. The dough rises through a chemical reaction between the soda and buttermilk. Adding dried fruit or orange zest or nuts does make a tasty bread but these are considered tea breads, not soda breads.

The bread is crazy easy to put together. Irish soda bread is a good one to teach children for a first baking experience. The hardest part is waiting for it to cook as the bread needs about 45 minutes to an hour. I am happy to report that eating a slice as soon as it is cool enough to handle is a delightful reward for patience.
 I was amazed how delicious the bread was because I was a big skeptic.. I thought it would be really dense and heavy tasting. Instead the bread was light, bright tasting and very tender. Having some sharp cheddar cheese and a dab of orange marmalade made my afternoon tea a real pleasure.
The bread does not keep though and after a day, its fate was croutons which I tossed in olive oil and lots of herbs so it tasted completely different.

Having great success with Meredith's recipe, I thought I would experiment with others to get some perspective. I found a web site that was so interesting,I bookmarked it. It is the  called Bord Bia-Irish Food Board and they had a recipe for Brown Soda Bread that I just had to try. The bread tasted very different than Meredith's recipe. It was a bit heavier and rich tasting with a hint of sweetness from the honey. I am thinking some rum soaked raisins mixed into the batter would put it over the top for taste and make a wonderful morning toast. I put some local jelly on it, Dalby Farms Strawberry Butter. It is really a jelly, not a butter but it was so smooth and creamy tasting with a powerful strawberry flavor, that the mouthfeel was definitely butter.

I am keeping Meredith's recipe handy. I love fresh bread with dinner, especially stews. As Autumns is giving us cooler evenings, I am looking forward to whipping up a loaf of this bread to get those delicious broth from a hearty vegetable soup.

Irish Soda Bread (I halved this recipe to make a smaller loaf)


  •  2½ cups (625 ml) sour milk or buttermilk
  • 2 cups (500 ml) (300 gm) (10½ oz) whole wheat four (see note above on how to measure flour) 
  •  4 cups (1000 ml) (600 gm) (21 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour (see note above on how to measure flour) 
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) baking soda 
  •  1 teaspoon (6 gm) salt

 1. Preheat oven to hot 450°F/ 230°C/gas mark 8 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
 2. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. (I do this by hand, but you could use a mixer if you’d prefer.)
3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
4. Pour the sour milk/buttermilk into the well.
5.Mix the dough until the flour is completely incorporated. (It will be very stiff. I find it helpful to knead the dough by hand a few times while it is still in the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated before moving on to the next step.)
6.Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet.
7. Pat or roll the dough into a circle shape that is approximately 1 inch (2½ cm) thick.
Using your fingertips or the blunt end of a wooden spoon handle, make several dimples in the top of the dough. (This is very similar to the technique used when making focaccia bread.)

8. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated hot oven and bake for 30 minutes.
 9. Reduce the heat to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Pull the baking sheet out from under the dough, so the parchment is directly on the oven rack. Bake for 10 more minutes or until the top is golden brown.

 Traditional Brown Soda Bread

  • 250g whole wheat flour
  • 200g all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 350 ml buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Optional Topping: 1 tablespoon sesame seeds or pinhead oats
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. 200 degrees C(400F)
Mix the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. combine the egg with the buttermilk and honey, then mix into the flour. Add more buttermilk if the batter seems dry-it should be a soft dough. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bread pan. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds or oats, if using.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour- it will sound hollow when it is fully cooked.( Evelyn's tip: use an instant read thermometer to determine doneness and the temp. should be around 200 degrees F.)Remove from the pan and wrap the bread in a clean dish towel to keep the crust soft. I did not do this step because I like the slight crunchiness of the exterior.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pickle Time

We had a good summer here in my corner of New England. There were enough hot days to be lazy and defect to the beach, enough rainy days to keep the garden alive and many sunny days to walk the dog, use the grill to cook meals and get the house repaired from last winter's  storms.

Currently,  I am watching the Summer's bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables shift to Fall at the farmers market.  So, it is time to get those Summer vegetables in a jar and saved for future meals that will remind us that it was warm here for a while . It is pickling time at my house. I am new to making pickles. I have a crazy fear of botulism that has steered me from canning things and causes me to scrutinize every jar and can I buy at the store. But I pulled up my big girl panties this year and gave it a whirl.

I made two kinds of pickles this year. My garlic pickles are refrigerator pickles and I can toss them together with a little effort. They are the preferred pickle of the men in my family. I also made Bread and Butter pickles. They are like pickle candy. They are sweet and crunchy. There are onions in there to break up the cucumber overload. Now, I cannot imagine tuna salad without those pickles mixed in with a little mayonnaise.  I preserved these pickles in jars because I want to share them with those I cherish. My mother gave me this recipe with the understanding that I will not share it. So, I will only list the Garlic Pickle recipe here. I will say that there are a lot of Bread and Butter recipes out there that look a lot like my mothers so I think that it is not  unique(sorry mom). I will give a hint about the brine. Use equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and granulated sugar...and add some mustard seed. From there, experiment with flavors that appeal to you. Although I love my mothers recipe just as it is, I am tempted to throw a little hot pepper in the brine just to heat it up a bit.
Bread and Butter Pickles await the hamburger!

The garlic pickles are not sweet. They are garlicky, of course, and a bit sour. They are the best side dish to a Reuben sandwich and pulled pork. Because I am busy scarfing down the Bread and Butter pickles, the garlic pickles are mainly a weekend treat eaten by my hard working hubbie and guests. I think it would be easy to preserve these as well but I just give my cherished ones the recipe and encourage them to make their own. They are not hard to make and they do look very cute in a big jar.

Garlic Pickles

5 pounds pickling cucumbers
1/2 gallon  water
1 cup kosher salt
5 cups water
1/3 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons pickling spice
2 sprigs dill, or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
4 cloves garlic
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Put the cucumbers onto a clean glass container. Add the next two ingredients to make a brine. Cover and let sit 7 hours or overnight.

2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes to make the pickling mixture. Turn off the heat and let the brine sit for a moment.  Drain the  cucumbers and rinse with cool water, Drain well. 

3. Pack the cucumbers into a clean glass jar. I rinse the jar with hot water  before adding the cucumbers so the jar won't break when I add the hot brine. Pour the hot pickling mixture over the cucumbers. 

4. Allow the pickles to stand uncovered until room temperature. Cover and chill until ready to eat. 

5. These pickles can be eaten as soon as they are cool but they are better after two weeks.

Note: you can process(can) these pickles. See my thoughts below about the canning process. Also, this recipes halves easily in case you do not have a lot of pickling cucumbers..

Now it is time to talk about canning those pickles. I was not sure I was going to like canning so I did not buy any fancy equipment for the process. I used Weck canning jars that I bought years ago when they were not trendy so they were inexpensive. I did buy new bands for them.  I used a towel in the bottom of my stock pot to buffer the heat from the bottom of the pan so the jars would not crack. I got that tidbit from the Internet and while not ideal, it does work. Last week, I gave in and bought a canning pot with a removable rack that has handles. I love it.
For canning, I found that there is a method for each type of container that you use and each product you want to process. Researching as much as it took to relieve my fears helped enormously so I really recommend that you read as much as you need should you want to can your food. I started with pickles and now I am moving on to barbecue sauce. I have a good recipe that is not forbidden  by "mama law" to share. I will keep you posted but meantime,  try your hand at some yummy pickles.
Yes, I know it is a little sad how this canning pot looks amazing to me. Thanks for understanding.:)